In August 2012 we rolled out the first phase of our 1:1 program at Forrester High School in Edinburgh. This post, which details the planning phase, is the first of five posts which will explain what we did at each stage of the project, sharing any lessons that were learned along the way.
What is 1:1?
I am sure most people reading this blog will know the definition, but I have been asked what it actually means a couple of times recently. The term 1:1 refers to the ratio of students to computers, and means that every student in a school has their own “computer” device. As things stand at Forrester we have technically only reached a 1:1 ratio with one of our year groups, but our strategy is to scale up the program to ensure that all students in our school have 1:1 device access within 2-3 years.
Although 1:1 means ensuring each student has their own device, there is really an additional requirement to make this work effectively. It is unrealistic to assume that any technology available today can be used to its full potential without also having access to the Internet. That’s not to say that there aren’t a fantastic range of educational apps and programs which can run without Internet connectivity, but access to the web is critical in order to get the most from a 1:1 program.
The Edinburgh schools’ network is managed centrally. At the end of 2011 it was announced that all primary and secondary schools would have wireless network facilities provided as well as increased broadband provision. This initiative gave us the green light to go ahead plan how we would implement a 1:1 strategy for our school. We started off by taking the ferry to Islay to meet with Ian Stuart from Islay High School where they have had a 1:1 initiative in place for 4 years. The trip gave us the opportunity to see good practice and to reflect on how our 1:1 model would look. I would definitely recommend visiting other schools to see how they have implemented 1:1 even although different schools will have different starting points and requirements.
Platform / Device
I considered a variety of different devices when thinking about 1:1, from iPods Touches and mobile phones, through to netbooks, Chromebooks and laptops. Over the past 18 months I have reached the conclusion that tablets are the best suited device for classroom use. They are portable, becoming relatively affordable, have wifi access and can be installed with a range of free or low cost apps suitable for supporting learning. Clearly there are some things which a tablet will not be capable of, but our strategy has also been to retain a number of “ICT suites” of desktop computers which can be used for higher end tasks such as software development, video and audio editing etc.
Having made the decision to roll out tablets, the next consideration was to choose a platform – Apple or Android. The obvious choice was Apple – the iPad has been rolled out in 1:1 programs across the world, and has a wide range of educational apps supporting it. But Apple is a closed environment and there are known difficulties in managing large scale Apple device roll-outs. Android on the other hand offers an open environment which I felt would make it easier to set up and configure multiple devices in a school.
We trialled a number of tablet devices, but the one which we thought the most suitable for school use was the Toshiba AT-100. It was reasonably priced and looked as though it was quite a rugged device, suitable for a school environment.
At the time of making this decision, that tablet market was changing at pace, and still is. I have been comfortable with the view that choosing a tablet platform and model one year does not mean that this will necessarily be a fixed environment for subsequent years. I think that schools need to consider the most appropriate device at the time of purchase, but also be prepared to change that position in the future simply because the world of mobile computing is changing so quickly.
The roll at our school is nearly 700 and it would not be practical or financially feasible to consider a 1:1 roll out for every student from day 1. Instead we decided to focus on an individual year group. Initially we considered using a funding model where parents are asked to buy into a lease scheme paying around £10-15 per month over a period of two years for their device. However, there were concerns that politically this could be viewed as asking parents to pay for their children’s education and so this idea was shelved. From our visit to Islay, we were interested to learn just how much money they had been able to save in terms of photocopying when moving to 1:1. It was clear that these would not be initial savings, but over time we felt it would be possible to fund the project by reducing photocopying across the school and providing materials electronically. Given this, we decided to pay for the initiative through school budget in the first year, although we later received additional funding from our local authority to pilot the roll-out.
Having decided to roll out the initial 1:1 program with a single year group, we needed to decide which one. In Scottish secondary schools our students attend up to 6 years of education, with the first year (S1) students beginning at age 11-12. Students can choose to leave at any point between the end of S4 and S6.
We also had to consider a realistic lifespan for the devices we were going to purchase. I believe that a tablet device being used in a secondary school environment should have a maximum lifespan of 3 years (we are of course used to dealing with technology in schools which is no longer fit for purpose and which can often be 6+ years old!).
Given all of these factors, we took the decision to make S1 our initial cohort for implementing 1:1. This would allow us to apply the same strategy over subsequent years and within a 3 year period we would have provided all of our S1-3 students with their own device. This strategy does however leave us with a problem in the senior school (S4-6). It does not seem practical to issue our senior students with a tablet device on the basis that they may leave school within a year. Although we have yet to reach a decision on how to manage this, I am continually brought round to thinking that the best solution would be for our senior pupils to bring their own devices into school (BYOD). Clearly there are potential issues with BYOD in schools in terms of device specification, ownership, insurance etc. However, at the moment we are not yet ready to implement BYOD in the senior school because we still have a limited bandwidth, but this is something we will be looking at later in 2013.
More posts on our 1:1 Android roll-out
Part 5- Long Term Review