5 Unexpected Results of Going 1:1

Identity Crisis– You will become a student too. The moment you have devices in your classroom, you are no longer THE resource for answers in the classroom. Students will be finding sources with much greater insight on your subject area than you can offer.  I (as a history teacher) was presented with ideas and facts that were completely new to me on a daily basis. Class was more about interpreting new ideas and evaluating their credibility. I was thinking more. They were thinking more. My place in the classroom changed. Even though I liked it overall, it was very stressful because it forced me to redefine who I was in the classroom.

Remodeling– The physical space of my classroom made no sense.  We worked in groups a lot. I was constantly moving students around and they were sitting on the floor and in the hallway. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were out of the desks more than in them.  The collaboration and groups were now more common than not. I had to change my class space to reflect that.  Why couldn’t they do group work in desks? Why didn’t I reorganize the presentation space around their presentations rather than mine?  My classroom had always been staged to focus their attention on me and my answers. That organization flew in the face of my new classroom objectives.  So I asked my students to redesign my room and I am in the process of making the change.

Fear (Freedom is Scary)– Devices gave my students options and presented then with choices. Some of them were completely freaked out by this.  Worksheets are boring but they are safe.  One answer per answer blank is intellectually easy but also emotionally easy.  When you tell students “It’s up to you, you decide.” It will cause some of them anxiety, a lot of anxiety.  This is especially true of the “pleaser” who just wants to make you happy and do what you ask. I am learning that I can help them through this but you better be ready.  Their anxiety is real.

Invalidation– Much of what you used to do was based upon an “Economy of Information” with scarcity at its core. Devices revealed to me that this model is dead. So I moved quickly to change it.   But then I realized that the model was invalid in my non 1:1 classes as well.  So how could I restructure lessons to make them more appropriate for an information abundant world? How do I do that without the devices? When is lecture appropriate in this model? How do I move my focus to the big ideas? #facepalm

Massive Overhaul– I began my dive into 1:1 technology by making some processes tech friendly.  I made class resources electronic. I poured myself into workflow and how I could give and receive materials. Then I moved to integrating technology projects to replace certain lessons. Now I find myself evaluating bigger ideas such as:

  • If my class is no longer based upon a text book, and my units were organized around that books units, should I completely reorder my units too?
  • How can a multiple choice test be effective to assess learning when learning is individualized.
  • How can our classes be moving to the values of individual creativity and creation when our institutions are being evaluated by standardized assessment.

The change goes beyond lessons, beyond my classroom to much bigger things.  My advice to anyone about to dive into this would be to prepare yourself to take a good look at what you do on every level. Do not just walk into this casually. You will not find the rewards you a looking for. But with the right planning and consideration you can find rewards beyond your expectations.

See the next article in the series here.

27 thoughts on “5 Unexpected Results of Going 1:1

  1. I began the transition to a one-to-one program four years ago and I completely agree with your statements. I think you are right down the middle. The entire classroom management model has to be redesigned.

    Excellent post.


  2. I love the “Economy of Scarcity” phrase. That’s a great way to put it. It’s kind of like owning all the railroads in Monopoly. Used to make a lot of sense, but now it just seems historically trite. Thanks for the post. My school is looking to go 1:1. It’s really great to read about pedagogical changes instead of just ease-of-clerical-work changes.


    1. If you do go 1:1 or if you are interested in hearing more on this topic follow #1to1techaton twitter every Wed. at 8pm Cst. We discuss all aspects of 1:1 implementation. All are welcome and we would love to have you join us.


  3. Great blog, Shawn. I agree with what you say here, specifically about identity crisis and remodeling. The core of my class remains, but my students and I are working to find new ways to get to answers (and find answers to questions we didn’t know we had at the beginning of the period/unit). My “massive overhaul” is definitely going to continue over the summer and into next year. I’m excited to expand on my experiences (successes and failures) this year, learn from other great teachers like you, and grow with new 1:1ers. Thanks for the post!


  4. In other words, the 1:1 program allows you to put authentic learning at the center of the students’ experience. Imagine that.

    When the teacher becomes more of a designer of learning experiences (and the lead learner) and less of a dispenser of information, we’re showing students how to learn. That lasts forever.

    I know it’s cliche’, but guide-on-the-side is a better teacher platform that sage-on-the-stage.

    You’re on to big things, sir. Keep going.


  5. Great post Shawn, and very timely. I had literally just sent a Tweet asking for teachers in a 1:1 to share how that has changed their classroom/practice.

    The biggest inhibitor to this kind of change is still breaking free of that traditional mold, because, as I think I mentioned on #1to1techat last night in an exchange with Garth Holman, it’s not so much a mental shift or a paradigm shift, but a mental 180.

    To think about redesigning a classroom, or to rethink the roles of teacher and student requires time to contemplate, opportunity to take risks and sometimes fail, and to break free from the fear you speak of in your post.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I plan on sharing them with teachers tomorrow.


    1. The greatest support that teachers can receive is the ability to take risks in redesigning and restructuring learning. Especially key in this regard is allowing for and encouraging teachers teachers to share their failures. If we don’t embrace and learn from where we go wrong we will be making the same mistakes again and again, wasting our efforts and squandering our experience.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Wow, amazing to find myself connected to people of such like minds. I was literally just telling our director about a post I was drafting that highlighted everything that your post covers 3 days ago. We were both so animated at the end of the conversation because he was describing his ideas about how he thinks we should move, and move quickly, to a more blended learning environment because of how we positioned our schools and learners with 1:1 student-managed devices.

    I’ve always been more of a learner and facilitator of learning rather than the traditional “font of knowledge” teacher. Sometimes to a fault. So the identity crisis was not a problem. The fear of releasing responsibility of learning to the student is a factor only because the population of kids we teach have been spoon fed their entire careers and their native countries value the “sit and git” approach. Thankfully, I learned the most important question to ask kids with George Betts getting my masters in GT, “What do you think?” Independent inquiry has been slow in coming in my classroom because of this.

    But when I described how my classroom layout has changed, and the fact that I ordered a variety of stability balls, ergonomically sound cushions, and would have ordered “write-on” tables to replace desks if I had the money, he said this is a perfect example how deeply this disruption perturbs our thinking. Which are two topics we will be reading about this summer!

    Thanks for thoughtful post,


    1. Mick, I feel that the most surprising part of going 1:1 may be the way that it has made me examine my practice at an almost molecular level. I have changed habits that I have had for years, that I swore by. I have discovered good habits that I never knew I had. I have identified factors in the classroom that I can control that I wasn’t really aware of before. The devices aren’t magic but the thoughtful reconsideration of my practice is. That might be the big take away from this year, (and it is the subject of my next? blog post), that when I am willing to take a good look at what I do and why I am doing it, I can make great advances. In hindsight, even if I hadn’t gotten devices, if I could have gone into class with the same willingness to evaluate and revise, the transformation would have taken place anyway.


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