The 1:1 Transition: Making Implementation Successful for Teachers

Use these five themes to help set the tone for a successful, positive experience with transitioning to a 1:1 classroom.

By Nicole Schon


Across the nation, there has been much publicity and discussion concerning the 1:1 implementation of tablets in the classroom. While tablets are new, 1:1 computing is not. Seasoned veterans of this foray into classroom application of technology have been innovating and cultivating 1:1 culture for ten years or more. These implementations look different at each school site based on demographics, funding sources, and school culture. Yet across the board, there are common markers of what makes successful programs tick.

Here are five steps that administrators and teachers can take to make a smooth transition into the digital world:

1. Establish a Culture

  • Reframe failure

Thomas Edison once said that he had never failed in his experimentation, he had simply learned a thousand ways not to do something. Decide as a staff that the inevitable failed lesson or technology mishap is a necessary by-product of learning. Make failure a hallmark of success to come.

  • Teachers & students learning together

With the rapid pace of technology, there is no way for one person, such as a teacher, to be ahead of the curve at all times. This means that students will inevitably know things the teacher does not when it comes to technology. Try experimenting with project-based learning to get more comfortable with what it feels like when students have all the same information at their fingertips as the teacher.

2. Let Teachers Lead the Charge

  • Identify leaders

Find the teachers at your school who are already leading the charge in experimenting with technology. Honor and celebrate their efforts in implementing technology by sharing what they are doing with the staff through videos and observation opportunities. Seeing a colleague succeed helps quell fear.

  • Involve all teachers

Bring everyone into the fold by providing time for teachers to learn from each other. Partnering up with mentors, creating PLC groups, and dedicating time to sharing discoveries, large and small, at staff meetings all help encourage the idea that everyone is in the technology boat together.

3. Set Realistic, Learning-Driven Expectations

  • Start at a level that all teachers can do

Rome was not conquered in a day, nor will technology magically become an integral part of the teaching day. As a staff, establish expectations that set everyone up for success. Start small, choosing a minimum amount of time that the technology must be used for learning each day, and a minimum expectation of specific tools that must be used during that time.

  • Slowly ramp up expectations over time

Over the course of a year, or even more, increase expectations as teachers become more familiar with and comfortable using the technologies. Just like with teaching students, the key is to allow teachers to work in their zone of proximal development as they implement the 1:1 concept. Pushing teachers beyond this will raise their affective filters and cause them to resist using technology.

  • Focus on what is right for students

Whether or not technology is a part of a teacher's day-to-day life, it is part of students'. Center conversations not around how you as a teacher need to change, but rather on the necessary skills and learning styles that kids will need for life outside of school. What are the skills you, as a wiser, older human have that you can pass onto your class, and how can you impart this wisdom to them in a way that applies to the technology they are using?

4. Create Time for Teachers to Learn

Instead of racing to put the tools into student hands, put them in teacher’s hands first. Before teachers are faced with a full classroom armed with computers, several levels of learning need to occur. Just as our students learn best when they are in Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, so too do we as adults. Set aside time for learning, collaboration, and experimentation outside class before learners are given devices. Continue this practice once the devices have been handed out. Also consider ways of allowing teachers to see their peers in action...often these experiences result in the highest amounts of learning. 

5. Establish Support Networks

  • Administrators

If the leader is not involved, why should I be? This is an attitude that can easily be avoided by simply having a top-ranking administrator who champions the 1:1 effort.

  • Teachers

Acknowledge and anticipate the human side of change. When we are trying something new, we all have a certain need for reassurance. Consider having a system where teachers can request another person, be it the IT support person or another teacher, be present the first time they are implementing a new aspect of technology. Whether or not that person ends up being needed during the course of the lesson, having someone there just in case may allow them to overcome the fear of trying something new. Allowing time for practicing new applications of technology as a staff is also helpful.

  • IT—Information Technology

Make the decision that someone from your IT team is there to support the curriculum, not to determine the curriculum. For this reason, it's important for the IT team to be in close communication with the curriculum team. Before IT configures the 1:1 devices, they should team up with teachers and/or curriculum directors to discuss how their configurations will affect the learning and collaboration that needs to occur in the classroom.

Regardless of how much preparation goes in, implementing a new system will inevitably be a bit bumpy, as there are many circumstances that simply can't be anticipated. However, approaching 1:1 implementation in a thoughtful, well-structured manner will give a solid foundation to help teachers maintain stable footing through it all.