The 1:1 Transition: Paving a Smooth Road for Students

Teaching expectations, routines, and skills make the transition smoother for students and teachers alike.

By Nicole Schon

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teacher and student 1:1

Pretend you're driving your reliable, 10-year-old car to a new destination. You haven't been down this particular road before, but you know how to operate the vehicle to get there. This is kind of what it's like when transitioning from traditional teaching to a 1:1 scenario.  

Will it be a smooth road? Probably not. There will be potholes, patches of unpaved, bumpy dirt road, and even the occasional roadblock in place that may cause a delay. But when it comes down to it, it's still a road, and you are an experienced driver. And while not every bump or icy patch can be anticipated in advance, there are certain measures you can put in place to make sure you don't go spinning off the road when these inevitable obstructions pop up.

As a teacher, you mastered long ago the ability to establish expectations and routines. Another area you are an expert in is teaching students new skills. Planning for these three areas—routines, expectations, and skills—will pave the way for a (relatively) smooth ride on the road to 1:1.

Routines

Routines are the heartbeat of a classroom. Once established, they invisibly set the rhythm of each day and allow learning to circulate. Consider what routines to set in place that will set students (and you) up for success. If this is the first year of implementation, consider creating a routine for amending routines. The only way to figure out what works is to try it, and you'll probably need to tweak how you do things along the way. While there is not one "right" set of routines when it comes to 1:1, these are some considerations every school and classroom will want to think about. 

Expectations

If routines are the classroom heartbeat, expectations are the soul. They stand as a signpost in the road to help students select the "right" path to travel down as they use their devices (and yes, now I'm mixing metaphors). Before students have computers in their hands, determine how they will learn about the appropriate uses of the new device. How will these be enforced, and who will enforce them? Expectations, like routines, vary by site. 

Skills

You can have a heartbeat and a conscience, but without the motor skills, little can be accomplished. Think of skills this way—they allow the machine to be used to accomplish tasks, which in the case of a classroom equate to learning.

Before taking a step further down this road of discussion, we need to dispel the pervasive myth that "digital natives" intuitively know how to use any new application or device they come across. Most of the time, the truth is that they do not know how to use the tool any more than their teacher; they are simply less fearful of experimenting until they figure it out.

Moreover, only a certain percentage of students even have access to computing technology outside of school, particularly for those in low socioeconomic environments. Differentiate technology instruction just like any other classroom–with opportunities for direct instruction, guided and independent practice, scaffolding for those who need more support, and extensions for those who master the skill.

And while any one of your students may be able to figure out the tool, they do not always have the time management, organization, or communication skills necessary to make the tool effective for learning. They must be explicitly taught these skills, right along with the how-to's.

Moving to a 1:1 model of instruction is, let's face it, a dauntingly complex task. However, by taking what we know as teachers and applying that to this new model of learning, it demystifies the process. Certainly the routines, expectations, and skills will look a bit different than what you've had in place before going 1:1, but it's still the same framework.