There’s no doubt that the use of technology in the classroom has grown exponentially in the last decade. In a 2016 study by Pearson Education, 64% of Australia schools stated they were already working towards using majority online resources. Six years later, and access to computing devices has become essential to facilitate learning in both online and traditional classrooms.
As a result, more and more schools are opting to implement a 1:1 technology program whereby each student is outfitted with a device, such as a Chromebook, iPad, etc. Rather than relying on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, schools issue their own devices to students who return them at the end of their tenure. As electronic devices rapidly replace the textbooks and paper notepads of yesteryear, it’s important to consider both the benefits and challenges the 1:1 model presents.
There’s no denying that socioeconomic factors can have a huge impact on students learning and educational development.
In technology-driven classrooms, socioeconomic barriers become an even greater obstacle. BYOD programs can often leave students behind, as their learning opportunities are determined by the quality of the device they have access to. For students without devices, the inability to actively participate in the classroom not only hinders their academic performance, but also their confidence and social development. Furthermore, BYOD policies also cause schools to face greater challenges when structuring their curriculums, as each student’s device will have different capabilities and limitations.
That’s why 1:1 technology programs have become critical to creating equitable learning environments, as it ensures that each student has access to the exact same resources, and schools are able to maintain a standardised curriculum.
It Eases the Strain on Teachers
It’s no secret that teachers often go above and beyond for their students. The Australian Education Union found that, in the 2020 school year alone, teachers spent an average of $874 of their personal income on educational supplies for their classrooms. With teachers feeling the pinch, 1:1 technology makes it easier than ever to acquire free educational tools and materials. Open Educational Resources (OER) are free-to-use digital learning assets that grant teachers access to thousands of educational blogs, applications, websites, games, and media.
Furthermore, 1:1 technology also allows teachers greater flexibility during lesson planning and class time. While many schools may already have computer workstations or laptops available, in most cases they require booking in advance. This can lead to scheduling conflicts, where some students may miss out or the entire class postponed. Students bringing their own devices can also cause logistical issues, as not every device may be compatible to the lesson materials. By using school issued devices, teachers can save time on organisation, configuring devices and modifying lessons.
Greater Student Engagement
Perhaps the biggest advantage of a 1:1 device policy is the positive effect on student engagement. A 2007 report on the presence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in schools by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) determined that “the use of ICT enables richer, more engaging learning environments to be developed.”
Personal devices enable students to better engage with the learning content through interactive activities, while their portability encourages students to document learning experiences through photos, videos and voice recordings. Quieter, shyer students can also be more comfortable sharing their thoughts and insights on digital platforms as well.
School issued devices also have the added advantage of allowing teachers to monitor exactly how long and how thoroughly each student completes assigned work. In this way, teachers can more easily identity which students require further assistance and which students may benefit from more challenging assignments. This insight allows educators to adapt their teaching strategies to each student’s individual needs.
Student Responsibility and Growth
One of the biggest apprehensions schools have with 1:1 technology is the level of responsibility and maturity it requires of their pupils. By providing them with their own devices, schools are trusting that their students will use them safely and sensibility. A 2017 article from the Oxford Review of Education echoes these concerns, outlining how school property could be inappropriately misused to commit acts of cyber bullying, underage sexting and academic cheating.
However, there exists a variety of measures that can be implemented to circumvent these issues. Schools can control what their devices are used for by installing monitoring tools, restricting access to online content, and utilising device-usage analysis. This level of regulation is unattainable when students bring their own devices, as these methods cannot be employed to the same extent and effectiveness.
In addition, furthering student’s familiarisation with technology will prepare them for life beyond their school years. As the world relies more and more on technology, the workforce is becoming increasingly digitised. As a result, candidates who are computer literate and can adapt to the latest advancements will have a competitive edge.
Let’s face it, schools aren’t made of money and a 1:1 technology program can be a costly investment. Not only is there the initial cost of hardware and set up, but schools must also allocate funding for the continual maintenance and eventual replacement of devices. Not to mention the additional expenses of digital infrastructure, security software and ongoing IT support.
While advancements in technology and manufacturing processes have led to more accessible, cost-effective devices, the bottom line is that not every school has the budget to implement and upkeep a 1:1 technology program. However, schools can offset costs by enacting co-contribution models, through which devices are loaned or leased out to students via a ‘take home’ or ‘buy-back’ program. Students would then have the option to acquire the device outright after the loan/lease period ends. This method is a win-win, as it alleviates costs for schools, and also relieves parents of some of the financial burden that comes with purchasing a new device upfront.
Managing a 1:1 device policy can also be a headache, with each school having to oversee and keep track of hundreds of assets. School IT departments must take on a measure of extra responsibilities to keep the program running smoothly. These tasks can range from the creation of asset labels and tracking systems, issuance and collection of devices, conducting regular audits, and resolving any issues brought to them by teachers, parents and students.
However, schools can ease the extra strain a 1:1 program can have on IT departments by supplying extra support systems and tools. This may include hiring extra staff, outsourcing some of their IT needs or implementing more efficient practices.
The biggest concern most parents have in regard to school owned devices is their children’s right to privacy. The prevalence of surveillance software and monitoring applications on school issued devices can weigh heavily on parent’s minds, especially when it comes to data collection and the tracking of their children’s digital footprint.
Although some degree of oversight is necessary for schools to establish safe and disciplined learning environments, honesty is the best course of action in building trust between parents and educators. By having a transparent policy towards the collection, use, storage and accessing of student’s personal information, schools can help quell parental fears and find a balance between maintaining orderly classrooms and respecting student’s privacy.