Magazine article Technology & Learning

One-to-One Wisdom: Expert Tips on How to Approach Professional Development in Laptop Environments

Magazine article Technology & Learning

One-to-One Wisdom: Expert Tips on How to Approach Professional Development in Laptop Environments

Article excerpt

Laptop computing programs have been in K-12 schools since the 1990s, but in recent months one-to-one learning seems to have reemerged as a top topic in education technology circles. According to Tim Wiley, senior analyst at research firm Eduventures, about 1,000 of the 15,000 school districts in the United States currently have one-to-one computing programs in one or more of their schools. Though he says these represent only "pockets" of progress, it is nevertheless a promising trend.

At the same time, "Administrators are starting to realize that things like technical support and professional development are grossly undervalued," says Wiley. "The one-to-one programs that have been successful have made sure that quality control, data conversion, and professional development were taken slowly and done properly."

Why the need for comprehensive staff development? In addition to adjusting to new technologies, one-to-one educators must learn to reorganize themselves and how they manage the classroom, as well as transform their traditional instructional methods to fit a new environment--one that's more self-directed, project-driven, and collaborative (see for data).

With this in mind, following are some tenets K-12 technology leaders employ when prepping teachers for the challenges and possibilities of one-to-one.


Before you even begin to train teachers for one-to-one, you have to choose them. According to Rae Niles, director of curriculum and technology for Sedgwick Public Schools ( in Sedgwick, Kansas--where all sophomores, juniors, and seniors tote Apple iBooks--technology expertise shouldn't be an issue when it comes to enlisting teachers. In fact, she says one-to-one teachers aren't necessarily technologically savvy. "We don't ask teachers about technology," said Niles. "We ask things like: Do you like kids? Are you strong in your content area? Do you fit in our school? Are you flexible and open to new ideas? If the answers to those questions are yes, we think they can learn the technology."

Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS) is an online supplement to bricks-and mortar classes used by students from 350 schools; many of those students work on laptops. At IVHS, teacher tech skills are a prerequisite. Superintendent Mike Wicks employs a two-step screening process for prospective candidates. First, he requires applicants to submit their materials electronically as an initial gauge of technological acumen. Next, applicants take ISTE's technology assessment test ( If accepted into the program, they then take a six-week course on pedagogy and online learning techniques.


Allowing teachers to first use the technology in their personal lives is key, says Wiley. "If a teacher is going to move into a one-to-one classroom, give that teacher a laptop for the summer and instruct them on how to do something that is applicable to their own lives--like looking for the best travel deal on the Web," he says. "It gives the teacher personal motivation to learn ... once you know how to research the best travel deals, it is only a short jump to science research." To wit: Successful professional development should focus on practical skill sets, not just theory, or bodies of knowledge.


"I can't say enough about planning--planning is crucial," says Calvin Baker, superintendent of the Vail School District (VSD) in Tucson, Arizona, about professional development for laptop programs. VSD is home to Empire High School (, a new school where each student has a laptop and access to digitized textbooks. …

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