How two edtech leaders took on 1:1 device programs

Whether it's reluctant teachers or wealth inequality between schools, districts can face major challenges in getting a device to every student.
kid using laptop
Getty Images

There’s more to creating a sustainable and effective 1:1 device plan than simply handing out devices to students each year, said district technology leaders at the Consortium for School Networking’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon, this week.

Achieving equal outcomes in digital education environments requires different approaches for different schools and often requires additional support from individual teachers, said Andrew Moore, chief information officer for Boulder Valley School District in northern Colorado.

“When I walked into the district, it was an ‘equal’ scenario. So we basically had funds, we allocated out, and then the school principal made the decision on how much of that money goes to student devices and how much of that money goes to teacher devices,” Moore told the conference audience on Tuesday.

Moore, who’s been with his 55-school district for nine years, said the annual distribution of funds for educational technology didn’t adequately address the digital divide, a division among economic and geographic groups in their respective access to digital technologies. Equal distribution of funding for each school didn’t yield equal outcomes in classrooms, he said.


Schools in wealthier areas tended to implement “bring your own device” programs, with a recognition that their students could afford to buy their own smartphones or tablets, he said, leaving more funding left over for teachers to buy themselves expensive laptops, which they often did.

But in poorer schools, more funding necessarily went to paying for student devices, leaving less for teachers’ devices.

“The teachers were working on old laptops — these are the more impoverished schools — and I’m looking at it going ‘this doesn’t make any sense,’” he said.

Moore claimed the equal-funding model was propagating the achievement gap between schools. He therefore established a new funding model in which teachers no longer receive funding for their own devices, but can get them replaced every five years upon request.

Diane W. Doersch, the chief technology and information officer for the Green Bay Area Public School District in Wisconsin, said she had a similar experience dealing with a 1:1 device program, but faced a different challenge and took a different approach.


Doersch said she knew that teachers in her 42-school district didn’t take kindly to district leaders imposing technology requirements on them, but she needed to update her teachers’ desktop computers and provide enough computers so each student had access to their own device. So she did it stealthily.

We did ninja deployment,” she said. “We made all conditions right so there was one device for one student.”

Doersch said she slowly began adding Chromebooks to the schools’ computer carts, which are shared between classrooms, until there were enough for every student. She said the teachers knew about the carts, but hadn’t been using them, so when a teacher complained to her after that, she said she simply told them to take a look at the cart and see that there were plenty of computers to go around.

But Doersch pointed out that just having technology isn’t enough.

“It’s how you use them that’s going to make the difference,” she said.

Latest Podcasts