For the past decade, the education community has debated whether K-12 schools should have one device per child (known as 1:1 programs). Research has found both benefits and challenges to schools having one device per child.
The emergency remote learning that occurred in spring 2020 allowed us to examine how quickly students and teachers adapted to remote learning in schools that were already 1:1 compared to schools that were not. At that time, I conducted a survey of 819 K-12 teachers* in Michigan participating in COVID emergency remote learning. Of the teachers in the study, 239 identified their school as completely 1:1, and 580 identified their school as not having 1:1.
The results of this survey provide some insight into the potential positive impact for teaching and learning when students had access to their own school device before and during COVID emergency remote learning, compared to students who did not have access to a school device.
The survey found K-12 schools that had 1:1 devices reported positive benefits, compared to schools that did not, in these nine areas:
Schools that provided a device for every student had teachers who were more likely to use learning applications that were easily accessible at home for students, compared to schools that had not provided a device for every student.
Schools that provided a device for every student were more likely to have teachers who set up classroom routines around technology tools prior to COVID. Thus, possibly making it easier for students to use and navigate technology independently on their own at home during remote learning.
Schools that provided a device for every student were more likely to have teachers encouraging the use of technology at home from the beginning of the school year, compared to schools that were not 1:1.
Schools that provided a device for every student, had teachers who regularly integrated a learning management System (LMS) starting from the beginning of the school year compared to schools that had not provided a device for every student.
Schools that provided a device for every student, had teachers who were more satisfied with the quality of professional development that their district provided them during emergency remote learning.
Schools that provided a device for every student, had a quicker turnaround time in starting remote learning than schools that did not provide a device for every student. This is significant because schools that began remote learning more quickly (within a week of shutting down for COVID) had more student participation than schools that waited longer to begin emergency remote learning.
Schools that provided a device for every student were more likely to ask their teachers to provide new instruction to students during remote learning, as compared to schools that were not 1:1.
Schools that provided a device for every student were more likely to have more students fully participating in remote learning than schools that did not provide a device for every student.
Schools that provided a device for every student had teachers who were using the same communications prior and during COVID to communicate with families and students, allowing for more consistency in communication and communication expectations.
A few important points about the research
The size of the school population was significant in whether a device was provided for students, with smaller populated schools being more likely to provide a 1:1 device. However, the Title I status, demographic location (rural, urban, suburban), type of school (public, private, charter, etc.) did not play a significant role in whether or not a school was 1:1.
What the research results tell us
Schools should consider implementing 1:1 devices for better continuity of learning between the school and home life experiences.
Schools implementing 1:1 should strongly consider allowing students to take home the devices, rather than only using them in school and leaving them in school, allowing for more equitable transfer of learning opportunities at home.
While not part of this study, in another study it was found that the quality of the device mattered, thus schools should also carefully consider what device they provide for 1:1 learning.
*The sampling of 819 respondents from the state of Michigan included representation from different types of schools, low and high income schools (Title I status), location of schools (rural, urban, suburban), high, medium and low population size of schools, and at least 100 teachers for each of the K-12 grade levels.
Liz Kolb is a clinical associate professor of education technology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and is the author of four ISTE books, including the best-seller Learning First, Technology Second.