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3 Different Ways To Go 1:1

Confused about which tool is best for you? See how these three districts figured out what was right for them.

As most districts know, simply outfitting kids with the latest devices as part of a 1:1 push won’t boost achievement. Unless you find the right tool to help students excel at learning, you could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on high-tech pencils. Three district administrators told us how they made their ­decisions—and what you need to know to make yours.

The District: Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland
The Device:
HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G2

The Rollout: This year, Baltimore CPS students in grades 1–3 at 10 schools will receive the devices. Then the district will expand the program each year until all of the district’s students (more than 100,000 of them) receive a device in the 2017–18 school year.

The Story: Baltimore County leaders began their conversation around 1:1 by asking what they wanted students to be able to do with the devices. The answer, it turned out, was “A lot.”

Administrators wanted students to have access to a camera to record their learning and decided it was imperative that students be able to interact with apps through an intuitive touch screen. But they also thought it was important that kids be able to type on a real keyboard, especially with the upcoming move toward online assessments. To meet all of their criteria, they turned to the HP EliteBook Revolve, an all-in-one solution that folds from a laptop into a tablet (and back).

“This device really provides flexibility,” says S. Dallas Dance, Baltimore County’s superintendent. “When you get to upper elementary and beyond, students will be typing more, whereas at the elementary level there might be more interactive use of the tablet. Every single student will be able to decide how he or she wants to use it.”

That flexibility extends to teachers as well. Dance explains that instructors will be able to do everything they need to on the Revolve, from projecting their touch screens during class to e-mailing parents to taking notes during PD sessions. They’ll also have plenty of freedom to decide how they want to incorporate the devices into the classroom. Some teachers may want to set up differentiated-learning ­app centers and others may want students to collaborate on typing-intensive writing projects. They can all get what they want.

The district settled on the Revolve in part because its keyboard is attached to its screen, says Ryan Imbriale, director of innovative learning for the district. He notes that some hybrid devices have as many as three detachable parts. “You could see the color run out of elementary teachers’ faces when you talked about three separate pieces,” he says.

The catch? The Revolve is expensive—it retails for more than an iPad and a Chromebook combined. Also, although it features a touch screen, students can’t access Apple’s app store, which many educators still favor.

But Dance says the Revolve can access plenty of great learning apps through the Windows app store and contends that the device justifies its price tag.

“I think school systems do have to weigh cost,” says Dance. “But you don’t want to do it at the expense of what you’re trying to do with the device.”

The Bottom Line: The Revolve will be out of budget for many districts. And hybrid devices are relatively new, so few case studies exist regarding how to best use them. But if your vision for student learning includes both touch-screen apps and typing on a full keyboard, an all-in-one might be the best answer.

The District:
Burlington Public Schools, Massachusetts
The Device:
Apple iPad

The Rollout: The district was one of the first in the country to run a 1:1 iPad program, handing out tablets to high schoolers in 2011. Burlington has expanded the program since. This year will be the first that all 3,700 of its K–12 students receive a device. The Story: When iPads first came on the market in 2010, many school leaders found the tablet’s light weight and long battery life irresistible. Other devices have since closed the gap, but Patrick Larkin, Burlington’s assistant superintendent for learning, says iPads still win out for their ease of use and creative possibilities.

For instance, high school art students in Burlington used iPads to film themselves talking about their projects. Later, when they held an end-of-term art show, those videos were used as a scannable ­augmented-reality feature. In other classes, students have used apps to create their own e-books.

“That’s not to say you couldn’t do this with a laptop, but the workflow is a lot ­easier on an iPad, with the availability of all the apps,” says Larkin. “The iPad is made for this. The cameras on laptops are made for videoconferencing.”

At the elementary level, Larkin says, students use a variety of apps to learn different skills at centers. In middle school, a math teacher uses an app and her iPad’s touch screen to create screencasts of her lessons—this way, students can revisit the videos when they’re doing homework or studying for a test. “She’s never at the front of her classroom,” says Larkin. “Wherever she is in the room, she can use her iPad to write the problem out.”

What’s missing? Most obviously, Microsoft Office and a full keyboard. But Larkin says his students are fine without them. They use Google Apps to write their papers (and receive real-time feedback from their teachers). Some students purchased carrying cases with add-on keyboards, and others even use speech-to-text software to help them with writing assignments.

The lack of a keyboard keeps the iPad small and light, so it can be used naturally as a camera or an e-reader. And Larkin says students have no problem using it to conduct research, even without a full keyboard. He encourages his teachers to direct students to online learning opportunities. “We’re trying to move toward having teachers curate their own material online.”

The Bottom Line: Scope out the best apps, as these will determine much of what students are able to do with the device. Tablets offer true mobility—allowing students to take notes, enter data, snap photos on field trips, etc. But if testing or other demands require a full keyboard, then tablets are out (unless you also provide keyboards for each student).  

The District: Chesterfield County Public Schools, Virginia
The Device: Dell Chromebook 11

The Rollout: The district will distribute Chromebooks to 32,000 students over the course of two years, starting this year with middle schoolers. Next year, the program will expand to include high schools.

The Story: In a pilot program, the district tested Chromebooks (laptops that run on Google’s Chrome OS operating system) alongside tablets, as well as more traditional Windows-based laptops. The Chromebook won out, says Matthew D’Ascoli, the district’s manager of instructional technology, in part because the device allowed teachers and students to do what they were already doing—only more quickly and at a lower price point.

“It fit seamlessly into our schools, and we found deep adoption by our teachers and our students,” D’Ascoli says. “They’re very, very fast, and the cost makes them advantageous for a school setting.”

Because of the quick boot-up time and connectivity, students in an English class can open their Chromebooks and start to peer-edit one another’s work on Google Docs within seconds, adds D’Ascoli.

The simplicity of the devices is ­another selling point. Because anti-virus security is built-in, and Google automatically pushes software updates to the laptops, maintenance is minimal. Class time isn’t constantly interrupted by indecipherable error messages. And because most teachers have worked with laptops in the past, they’re able to incorporate Chromebooks into the classroom with ease.

“If you’ve never picked up an iPad, it takes some getting used to,” D’Ascoli says. “It requires professional development. With Chromebooks, there’s not a huge learning curve.”

Chromebooks need to be online to complete most tasks. The Dell devices come with only 16GB of internal storage, so most data and applications are stored on the cloud, rather than on the device itself. This means students without a Web connection at home won’t be able to do some routine tasks outside of school hours. Still, D’Ascoli notes, students can create and edit documents offline and then sync them up to the cloud later.

Although Chromebooks lack a touch screen, D’Ascoli says teachers still incorporate learning apps. And while recording video isn’t as easy with a Chromebook as with a tablet, D’Ascoli says students simply use handheld cameras. Afterward, they upload clips to the devices for video editing—which is easy with the device’s full keyboard.

The Bottom Line: Chromebooks are one of the most affordable ways to go 1:1. If you plan for your students to do a lot of writing, data entry, video editing, and, especially, testing, then the full keyboard is a major selling point. But if your younger kids need to trace letters on a touch screen and your older kids want to swipe through the pages of e-books, this device simply won’t do.


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