Monday, July 23, 2012

1 to 1 Schools Part Three: 3 Tips to Begin the School Year

Picture this situation...The school year is almost here. You are worried about starting the school year effectively with your districts newly implemented 1 to 1 program. All summer, you have worried about the school year starting miserably. Do you have reason to fret? Of course you do! If the school year does not start smoothly, you could be in for a long year. Do not take that chance. Follow these three simple suggestions, and your 1 to 1 experience will kick off right!


Having an iron clad set of expectation would be essential even if this was just a regular school year, but with the addition of a 1 to 1 program, expectation become that much more important. Even though I enjoy how the technology enhances learning in my classroom, it can hinder the overall experience if expectations are not implemented properly. The following are a few suggestions, but expectations will ultimately include what is most effective for your specific situation.
  • If someone is addressing the class (discussion, announcement, etc.), teacher or student, all attention should be focused on the speaker. Students should be prompted to shut screens completely to alleviate any potential distractions. Eventually, students will close their computers out of habit.
  • Students should only be on websites, applications, or documents pointed out by the teacher. Boundaries must be set. This process becomes much easier when classroom tasks are interactive for students, and not worksheets put into PDF form. BE SPECIFIC.
  • When the students are working on tasks that do not involve the computers, they should be shut. 
  • Have the students face their computers in a uniform fashion. In all honesty, you are not going to be concerned about each individual screen, because hopefully you are walking around questioning students about current class work (helping them reach a higher level of understanding), but this at least discourages students who slouch in the corner or try to twist their screens attempting to get away with being off task.

Room Design

In most cases, whatever furniture you have in your classroom is what you are married to. I have desks, and they are functional. I was actually asked if I wanted tables, but turned that idea down because desks are more versatile (in my opinion). In my classroom, students are free to collaborate at all times. I created a seating chart, but students moved so frequently that it was unrecognizable by the end of the year. Students could shift desks around into table arrangements to collaboate, and still revert back to individual desks for discussions. Whatever you decide to use, encourage the benefits of collaboration. Lastly, do not concern yourself with the students' proximity to power sources. Normally, I would only have one student per day who required charging of their computer. Be a flexible teacher. Trust students to be responsible enough to change seats, relocating near a power source for the period. 

Parental Involvement

At the beginning of the year, open the lines of communication with your parents so they understand the types of work to expect at home in relation to technology. From talking with parents, frustration in the home occurs when students convey the requirement to be on the computer for everything, when this is not the case. If parents are aware of the normal items their students will be using the computer for, and receive an occasional email outlining an online project or specific website, the anxiety level will drastically reduce in the home.

Final Thoughts

Starting out the year correctly with technology will make the remainder of the year much more efficient. Time can be spent offering rich learning opportunities as opposed to being the technology police. These three items helped my year go smoothly, and hopefully they will aid you as well. Please feel free to comment below, or ask clarifying questions about this important 1 to 1 topic.

Clayton M. Edwards
Middle School Math
Grundy Center Middle School
MA Middle Level Mathematics
Ed. D. Curriculum and Instruction (current)


  1. Clay,
    I enjoy working with someone who is also excited about 1 to 1 and teaching. We should set down and put together some tips for our new staff members. Look forward working with you again this year.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I believe that when used correctly, 1 to 1 can be an effective educational tool. The term "correctly" could have different connotations for different people, but there are multiple ways to use technology correctly...however, there are also multiple situations where technology is used superficially, or without a goal in mind.