Friday, September 16, 2011

Key Components in 1:1 Classrooms

As we get into the meat of the school year, I started thinking about what are some hallmarks of great 1:1 classrooms.  Whether 1:1 or not, great classrooms may share some characteristics of best educational practice.  However, I have tried to focus on some of the characteristics that are key in 1:1 classrooms.

This statement stands on the premise that a 1:1 environment is inherently different from a traditional paper and pencil classroom.  If you don't agree with that statement then you might disagree with a lot of what I write.  The world continues to change at an accelerated rate and 21st century learning environments are different.  Not only are they different, the continue to change and transform.  So what are some major ways 1:1 classrooms are different from a traditional classroom?

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous
Ironically, although this is probably one of the most poignant changes taking place in the 21st century, it is one that seems to be one of the slowest to be recognized by all stakeholders in the educational process.  Learning is no longer limited to the 8 to 3 school day.  It isn't limited by the classroom location.  Students can learn anywhere at any given time if they have the resources to do so.  In Korea, we are blessed to have tremendously fast internet and wireless access available nearly everywhere.  We also have a plethora of mobile devices that can truly support learning for our students in a variety of modes and mediums.  With trends such as the flipped classroom and blended classrooms, education is just beginning to take advantage of asynchronous tools.  Information on the internet waits for me until I'm ready for it.

Digital Containers
The physical homework tray at the back of the room has given way to the Moodle course, wiki, or website.  Teachers in a 1:1 setting must have a digital container for their class.  This container does much more than collect student work.  It is a hub.  It links to resources.  It facilitates collaboration, dialogue, and communication.  It creates a home base that brings learning together and tracks progress.

Focus on Product
Yes, I know traditional classrooms do this too.  However, 1:1 classrooms dismally fail to achieve the very goals of being 1:1 if they do not get this philosophical pillar in place.  It is not about the laptop being a word processor or just a word processor.  It is about students creating a product so their learning is meaningful to them.  (For more on this, you might want to examine Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.)

Display Student Work
Students desperately want to have an audience.  Students may like their teacher but that isn't really the audience they are looking to please.  They want to share their work with their friends and even family.  Sometimes this is inside the school and sometimes it is outside.  High achieving 1:1 learning environments find ways to celebrate and display student work to a valued audience for the students.  It gives them pride to have their work "published"and inspires them to go above and beyond on their own.

Classroom management and common vocabulary
If a teacher has poor classroom management, it will only get worse in a 1:1 setting.  Give students engaging projects and know when it is time to close the lid and get students off the screen.  The laptop is only one tool available for learning.  It is not the sole avenue of learning.  If this is an area you are working on, I suggest developing common vocabulary across the school such as...lids down, quiet on the set, hands up (no typing), share screens, freeze...just to name some examples.  When teachers set clear expectations that are commonly known in every class, it makes it easier for both the teachers and students.

These are just some of the ideas that stuck out to me.  What is missing from my list?  Are these on the money?  What is your experience?


  1. Darren, could you define 1:1 in the sense you are using it? .... there are different models in practice, right? Could one argue that the now "traditional" 1:1 classroom, where a forced/required use of standardized digital media and mediums are now being replaced by a context where students are themselves choosing and are driving the use of digital tools/media/mediums in a more natural and open model concept? I know several schools who are not traditional 1:1 in that there is no standardization nor forced requirement, yet out of necessity all students in HS and most in MS have laptops in the classroom. Again, no standardization, but in a sense it is more real and natural and useful than a set system. What do you think? Is the mainstream education definition of 1:1 outdated? Is it fake?

  2. Traditional is a dangerous word to use because it can be ambiguous and have different connotations to different people. In hindsight, perhaps I should have made a clearer word choice for a variety of reasons.

    In my experience internationally, I find that many schools have the "open," non-standardized 1:1 setup where students bring a laptop and it doesn't matter what it is. Some schools do this intentionally while many do it because they don't want to upset parents or push a particular "brand" over another. It allows students to bring what they already have and is consumer "friendly" for the school.

    Our 2 campuses are Apple schools. We started as a bring whatever you want and have progressed to the standardized Apple platform. You can read more of this on my blog with previous posts. The primary reasons I am a fan of the standard Apple setup is three-fold: 1) the software integrates so well together that students and teachers spend time on learning, not "tech" problems making it work; 2) students have access to fantastic "creation" tools on the Mac OS which facilitates reaching the higher order thinking skills; 3) teachers have a standard suite of software that they can plan lessons around and know that all students have access without expensive additional purchases. #1 & #2 are more unique to Apple and I'm sure some would argue strongly against my opinion. #3 applies regardless of the platform and I consider a standardized system of greater value in impacting the learning environment than the mixed system.

    So, to answer your question, I see standardization as hugely helpful in designing effective learning experiences and don't see it as outdated as all. Yes, cloud computing has made the platform less important but it still hasn't reached the level of integration and use that makes platform irrelevant as some would argue.

    Thanks for the question. Others are welcome to jump in on this conversation and add their own opinions...

  3. In giving a standardized platform it gives the same opportunity to each child to develop their product. I am a mac fan as well.