MET:One-to-One Computer Programs in the K-12 Classroom

From UBC Wiki

The One-to-One Computer Program is also known as the:

  • Laptop Program
  • 1:1 Laptop Integration
  • One-to-One Laptop Initiative
  • Laptop Initiative
  • Laptop Program
  • Connected Classrooms Program
  • Anytime Anywhere Laptop Learning Program
  • Laptop Deployment Program
  • Freedom to Learn Program
  • Emerge One-to-One Laptop Learning Initiative
  • High Access Computing Program
  • Ubiquitous Computing Initiative
  • Wireless Computer Project
  • Canadian Mobile Computing Project
  • Technology Immersion Project
  • Computer Immersion Program

(and many deviations to the terms above)

What is the One-to-One Computer Program?

Laptop Immersion Programs attempt to bridge the digital divide inherent in today’s k-12 educational system. The assumption/affordance is that computer technology has become a necessary function in the global marketplace, and laptops are the optimal resource to leverage student potential in the 21st century classroom.

The basic over-arching premise is to provide each student enrolled in the program/initiative with their own laptop, a classroom to use it, and a teacher able to infuse technology into subject curriculum. In addition, one-to-one teaching and learning environments also supply wireless internet/intranet access, educationally relevant software programs, and (in best case scenarios) teacher training and professional development.

When a student is in a laptop immersion class, personal technology is in their direct proximity- available to supplement, complement, and/or augment traditional classroom resources. It is used regularly and with purpose in a variety of settings in and out of the classroom. As a result, students gain valuable 21st century skills preparing them for the modern world.

The Laptop/Computer Classroom should NOT be confused with the Virtual Live Classroom (VLC) or the Blended Learning Classroom. The One-to-One Laptop Initiative features students in school using laptops in a real classroom setting.


The first one-to-one program began in 1985 with Apple’s Classrooms of Tommorow (Apple Computers, 1990). This first program involved outfitting a classroom with desktop computers on which the students would complete most of their work. The limitation of this programs was that as soon as the students left the classroom they no longer could access the technology. Since the advent of mobile computers, specifically the laptop, educators have seen the potential advantages of staying connected with their students and having the students connected to one another even once they’ve left the classroom. However, during this entire period the value of one-to-one programs have been debated by educators and to this day educators must weigh the financial cost and class disruption against potential educational advantages.

Types of Deployment Programs

Because One-to-One initiatives can be deployed on a provincial, district, or school level, program implementations have taken on numerous adaptations. Though the end result is a One-to-One ratio of technology to student in the classroom, the manner in which students acquire and use these computing devices can differ substantially.

For example, some programs allow students to use their laptops in all curricular subjects, whereas other programs limit their usage to the Humanities or Science classrooms. Some initiatives begin immersion at a certain grade level, while others target the same grade or subject each succeeding year.

As a result of these various implementation strategies, advantages and disadvantages have been observed.

Implementation Strategies and Recommendations for Success

Prior to implementation it is important for schools to research case studies of previous one-to-one initiatives. In doing this schools will ensure that they do not make mistakes previously made elsewhere and also discover strategies that have been successful elsewhere. It is important that the teachers involved in the laptop initiative obtain their laptops well in advance of their students. This will allow teachers to become comfortable with the machines and be better prepared when their students receive their computers. It is also important that teachers are trained to use educationally appropriate software so they have time to prepare their lessons to use these programs before implementation occurs.

The most important strategy for school districts to follow after implementing a one-to-one program is ongoing professional development specifically related to technology in the classroom (Donovan et al., 2007; Lei and Zhao, 2008). This professional development should be address concerns specific to the one-to-one initiative and teachers should have an opportunity to help determine professional development topics (Maninger and Holden, 2009; Donovan et al., 2007). These professional development opportunities should not be limited to the initial implementation of the laptop initiative but should be ongoing in order to address concerns that appear later on in the program (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008).


Educationally it has been found that educators, students, and parents believe the implementation of laptop one-to-one programs to be advantageous in many ways. Schools that have implemented one-to-one programs have seen increases in student organization and collaborative learning (Lei and Zhao, 2008). Improved access information and improved communication between instructors and other students have also been noted. As a result of laptop presence in the classroom students found school more interesting (Zucker and Hug, 2008) and had completed more homework (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008). Students also appreciate the ability to edit their work multiple times and believed that laptops allowed for increased reflection thereby producing better quality assignments (Dunleavy et al., 2007).

Parents noted the one-to-one program increased student independence, pride and ownership of their work (Grimes and Warshauer, 2008). One-to-one programs also have encouraged parental awareness of their students’ school work and this has resulted in more parental involvement in their child’s work (Lei and Zhao, 2008). Parents also found that communication between themselves and their students’ teacher had increased as a result of the one-to-one program (Holden and Maninger, 2009).

Teachers and administrators noted increased writing output as a result of the one-to-one initiative (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008). Teachers found there was increased collaboration in their classes (Maninger and Holden, 2009). This increased collaboration agrees with constructivism, which indicates collaboration as one of its core tenets. By encouraging student interaction online teachers have seen better collaborative brainstorming and well thought out answers. Teachers have also found that one-to-one programs have increased student motivation and engagement (Lei and Zhao, 2008) resulting in less off task behaviour and fewer in-class distractions (Maninger and Holden, 2009).

Disadvantages and Concerns

Parents and students have raised few concerns over their students’ involvement in one-to-one initiatives. One complaint from students is that the added weight of the laptop is too heavy in their school bags (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008) but this could be addressed through the use of a netbook or tablet. Parents were concerned that the school might better use money in other areas like books, worried about loss of penmanship and expressed concern about the amount of time spent on the laptops (Lei and Zhao, 2008).

The most concerns regarding one-to-one programs come from teachers. Many of these concerns surrounded how the laptops impacted teachers personally. Many teachers lacked self confidence and were concerned about how they would adapt lesson plans to include technology (Donovan et al., 2007). Teachers also expressed concerns over the amount of time it takes to monitor student activities on the laptops during class time (Dunleavy et al., 2007; Grimes and Warschauer, 2008; Lei and Zhao, 2008). Other disadvantages include uncharged laptops impeding work completion, network connection and technological difficulties, ease of plagiarism and the time lost due to training students in the use of the laptops.

Classroom Management

As oppose to the traditional classroom, ubiquitous technological environments create new challenges for maintaining student engagement in the learning process (Niles, 2006). The distractive quality of a computing device is exacerbated by the presence of wireless technology resulting in continuous access to instant messaging, online gaming, and social media. It is difficult for students to overlook the ‘fun’ and ‘entertaining’ aspect of one-to-one technology in the classroom. However, research indicates that student behavior, responsibility, and maturity drastically improve after a year of program immersion (Alberta Education, 2010). The remedy is not to abandon one-to-one technology; it is to establish the parameters of an appropriate usage policy. The conflict created by new learning models can be overcome (Bielefeldt, 2006). Teachers first need to learn how to maintain the attention of students who have open laptops (Rockman, 2003.) Secondly, teacher must help "students learn about what is appropriate to do in school, rather than in the privacy of their home" (Rockman, 2003, pg 26).

Changing Educational Paradigms.

Image from

Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach (Prensky, 2001). The proliferation of technological and ubiquitous environments over the last few decades has culminated in a digital divide. Calls for educational restructuring show the inconsistency between what is learned in the long-established classroom and what is needed to function in the digital age. Proponents of the One-to-One initiative view this discontinuity as an opening to rethink educational paradigms in the new century (Niles, 2006). They say, “when we talk about computers in education, we should not think about a machine having an effect. We should be talking about the opportunity offered us, by this computer presence, to rethink what learning is all about, to rethink education” (Papert and E. & L. Group. 1990).

It cannot be overlooked how computer technology delivered on a one to one ratio is changing the delivery of information to students, and therefore, requires teachers to think differently about how classroom learning is conducted (Rockman, 2003). Immersing such technology into the classroom also precludes the educational paradigm that technology complements direct instruction by affording a modern learning environment (Reeves, 1998). No longer can it be said that technology is simply a learning tool, something perhaps too dangerous in the educational realm of the classroom. Such pedagogical restructuring is redefining how learners learn and teachers teach.

Digital Literacy in the Digital Age

image from

Today’s students, k-12, represent the first generation born and raised inside the digital world. They are ‘Native’ speakers to a digital language that teachers, administrators, and curriculum designers are not privy. Prenski states that "the single biggest problem facing that our instructors, who speak an outdated language, are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language” (Prenski, 2001, pg 2). The implication is that clinging to (pre-digital age education) often disengages students because they appear impersonal to the way ‘Digital Natives’ think and process information (Brooks-Young, 2007). The discrepancy between how the educational system and its students view and use technology reflects the need for a new kind of literacy, one that goes beyond traditional reading, writing, and mathematical skills ( Niles, 2006).

It is the aim of one-to-one computing initiatives to address digital age literacy and transform traditional classroom learning for the 21st century. One to one programs help prepare digital natives to compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace because they infuse digital literacy into their study of curricular subjects.

Student Centered Learning

With reference to Lea, Stephenson, and Troy’s definitions of a student centered learning environment, One-to One Laptop Programs articulate the following tenets:

  • the reliance on active rather than passive learning,
  • an emphasis on deep learning and understanding,
  • increased responsibility and accountability on the part of the student,
  • an increased sense of autonomy in the learner
  • an interdependence between teacher and learner,
  • mutual respect within the learner teacher relationship,
  • and a reflexive approach to the teaching and learning process on the part of both teacher and learner.’

(Lea et al. 2003, pg, 322.)

Students enrolled in One-to-One programs experience a shift in the power balance of traditional classrooms (Rockman, 2003). The role of teacher as instructional dictator and master of all knowledge starts to dwindle, whereas student autonomy begins to prosper (O’Neil, 2005). Research shows that laptop programs levitate further toward the right side of the continuum on Table 1.

Table 1: Student-Centered and Teacher-Centered Continuum

Table1.png (O’Neil, 2005, Pg 29).

In a One-to-One classroom, students take on more responsibility over their learning, while teachers loosen the reigns and adopt the role of facilitator. A subconscious policy of information trading and knowledge sharing begins to take shape over the whole classroom. As a result, learners prosper in an atmosphere where they have skills and knowledge to distribute and contribute. ‘Trading’ with instructors affords laptop immersion students a sense of empowerment. For example, when students make presentations about their projects- amplified through Internet accessibility- teachers and peers become audience for information and conceptual knowledge that may be new to the entire group (Rockman, 2003). Developing the competency and confidence to be autonomous learners, collaborating in parallel with peers, and learning to communicate the conclusions of your work are at the core of student-centered learning and are a highly valued set of competencies in the 21st century world.

One-to-One programs have attempted to create a student centered learning environment with considerable success. Alberta’s emerge laptop project discovered that the students’ ability to self-direct their learning is significant (2010). Research behind the state of Maine’s Laptop Immersion program suggests that students enrolled in one-to-one programs readily direct their own learning, report a greater reliance on active learning strategies, and engage in problem solving and critical thinking because of their mastery of technological resources (Gulek, 2005). In the study of British Columbia’s School District 60 laptop project, it was observed: “teachers became facilitators, rather than directors, of students’ learning and that students took on an increased responsibility for their own learning” (Pitler et al, 2004, pg 3).

Laptop initiatives operate under the assumption that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge (Papert, 1993, Pg 25). When learning environments (such One-to-One classrooms) take on a policy of ‘doing’ instead of regurgitating teacher lectured information, it has been proven that student-centered, student-empowered, and student-led learning takes place.

Technology in One-to-One

iPad shown at its home screen

Although the primary method of one-to-one delivery is the laptop the emergence of new portable and cost efficient devices open up opportunities for schools looking towards one-to-one. It is important to note that one-to-one is not limited to laptops but describe students interacting with computers at a 1:1 ratio. These devices include, but are not limited to:

Laptops and Netbooks The most common devices used in one-to-one. Laptops and netbooks offer the most memory and versatility when discussing one-to-one technologies. There are few compatibility problems and no problems when running Flash (like with the iPad or iPod). However, there are concerns with weight (with laptops not netbooks) and durability of these products (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008).

Tablets New tablet technologies such as the iPad also offer potential for education. The availability of cost efficient apps and the mobility of these tools have definite advantages over laptops. Currently schools do have less control over these devices than they would with laptops; however, as this is a relatively new technology newer versions (i.e. the Asus Eee Slate with Windows 7) may allow for more educator control.

Mobile Technologies: iPod Schools have also looked at mobile devices like the iPod as a potential tool in one-to-one. Newer versions include video cameras and when combined with editing software can become a powerful tool. These are also the most mobile of any devices. However, due to their size they are limited when it comes to basic classroom functions like word processing.

Case Studies

One-to-One laptop deployment programs have been undertaken all over the world. Research into these initiatives has been quite substantial and has resulted in numerous case studies and publications. Below are a few examples:

Alberta’s Emerge Laptop Immersion Program

Segwick High School’s One to One Laptop Computer Initiative

School District No. 60 Wireless Laptop Project

One-to-One Computing programs in Virginia

One-to-One Computing programs in Michigan

One-to-One Computing programs in Maine

Fullerton’s School District Laptop Program

One-to-One Computing in US Public Schools

Pennsylvania's Classrooms for the Future Initiative

Student, Teacher, and Administrative Perspectives

In order to fully understand the scope of One-to-One learning environments, it is important to study first hand accounts and testimonials. The links below are a few examples:

American School of Bombay, Bombay, India

St. Cuthbert's College, Auckland, New Zealand

Nashwaaksis Middle School, New Brunswick, Canada

Eastern Townships School Board, Quebec, Canada

Reyburn Intermediate School, California, United States of America

Cincinnati Country Day School, Ohio, United States of America

Munich International School, Starnberg, Germany

Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, Massachusetts, United States of America

Illinois Math and Science Academy, Illinois, United States of America

Hale Middle School, Perth, Australia

Forest Hills School District, Cincinnati, Ohio

Laptop Program in Edgecombe, United States of America

Centennial Campus Middle School, United States of America


Alberta Education. (2010). Emerge One-to-­One Laptop Learning Initiative: Year Two Report. Prepared by the Metiri Group and the University of Calgary for Alberta Education, School Technology Branch. Retrieved Feb. 25th, 2011, from 20final.pdf

Apple Computers. (1990). Apple Computers of Tomorrow Research: Report Number 9. Retrieved from Apple Computers:

Bielefeldt, T. (2006, July 6). Teaching, learning, and one-to-one computing. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Educational Computing Conference, San Diego, CA. Retrieved Feb. 16th, 2011 from

Brooks-Young, S. (2007). Digital-age literacy for teachers: Applying technology standards to everyday practice. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved Feb 24th, 2011 from

Donovan, L., Hartley, K., Strudler, N. (2007). Teacher Concerns During Initial Implementation of a One-to-One Laptop Initiative at the Middle School Level. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 39(3), 263-286. Retrieved from:

Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S., Heinecke, W.F. (2007). What added value does a 1:1 student to laptop ration bring to technology-supported teaching and learning?. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23, 440-452. Doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00227.x

Falken, G. Digital Literacy (Image) Retrieved Feb 25th, 2011 from:

Grimes, D., Warschauer, M. (2008). Learning with Laptops: A Multi-Method Case Study. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 38 (3) 305-332, doi: 10.2190/ED.38.3.d

Gulek, J. C. & Demirtas, H. (2005). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use on student achievement. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 3(2). Retrieved Feb. 20th, 2011 from

Lea, S. J., D. Stephenson, and J. Troy (2003). Higher Education Students’ Attitudes to Student Centred Learning: Beyond ‘educational bulimia’. Studies in Higher Education 28(3), 321–334.

Lei, J., Zhao, Y. (2008). One-to-One Computing: What does it bring to Schools?. Journal of Educational Computing Research. 39 (2), 97-122, doi: 10.2190/EC.39.2.a

Maninger, R.M., Holden, M.E. (2009). Put the textbooks away: Preparation and support for a middle school one-to-one laptop initiative. American Secondary Education. 38(1),5-33. Retrieved from:

Niles, R. (2006). A study of the application of emerging technology: Teacher and student perceptions of the impact of one-to-one laptop computer access. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. Retrieved Feb.24th, 2011 from

Papert, S. and E. and L. Group. (1990). A critique of technocentrism in thinking about the school and the future. Cambridge, MA, Epistemology and Learning Group, MIT Media Laboratory.

O’Neill, G. and McMahon, T. (2005) Student-centred Learning: What does it mean for Students and Lecturers?, in G. O’Neill, S. Moore and B. McMullin (eds.) Emerging Issues in the Practice of University Learning and Teaching, Dublin: All Ireland Society for Higher Education. Retrieved Feb. 23rd, 2011 from

Papert, Seymour (1993). The children's machine: Rethinking schools in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.

Pitler, H., Flynn, K., & Gaddy, B. (2004). Is a laptop initiative in your future? Denver, CO: Mid- Continent Research for Education and Learning (MCREL). Retrieved Feb 20th, 2011 from

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). NCB University Press. Retrieved Feb. 24th, 2011, from

Reeves, T.C. (1998). The impact of media and technology in schools: A research report prepared by the Berelsmann Foundation. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia

Rockman, S. (2003). Learning from Laptops. Threshold. Retrieved Feb. 21st, 2011 from

Whipple, Jeff (2007, January 15). Laptop012 [Image file]. Retrieved Feb. 23, 2011 from Flickr:

Zucker, A., Hug, S. (2008). Teaching and Learning Physics in a 1:1 Laptop School. Journal of Science Education and Technology. 17, 586-594, doi: 10/1007/s10956-008-9125-3