One to One: How it went and where it’s going

Three months after the Oyster River Middle School switched to One-to-One, Principal Jay Richard wished he had pushed for the change years ago.

At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, ORMS implemented One-to-One. This means that the school provided every student at the school with a personal computer that will be returned at the end of the year.  Administrators, teachers, and students alike enjoyed the switch, which was accompanied by very few complications. With a successful rollout this year, the high school is in the process of developing a similar protocol for going One-to-One, with an estimated start in the 2020-2021 school year.

Specifically for ORMS, each student receives a computer, a charger, and a case, labeled with the student’s name, all of which they are allowed to bring back and forth from home. Teachers in the middle school have the opportunity to use the technology as often as they want, alleviating the previous issue of certain classes and electives not being able to use computers due to a lack of computer carts. The switch has allowed teachers to be more creative with their technology usage, as well as to educate their coworkers on the information they’ve learned.

Art Courtesy of Charlotte Hambucken

Before the switch, one of the main issues that the middle school faced was the lack of computer carts within each set of teachers, also known as a team. “We used to have just one cart per team, and then behind the scenes the teachers […] would all fight over who would get to use the carts,” said Richard. He added that the priority typically ended up being language arts, social studies, science, and then math, which rarely had the opportunity to use the technology.

In an anonymous survey conducted by the Teacher and Student Tech Teams at the middle school, one teacher noted, “we always had to juggle when we would do certain units because of computer access on team.” Now that every student has their own computer, every teacher can use computers in their classroom when they want to without limiting each other’s plans.

One-to-One is not a new concept. Richard explained that the first middle school in the United States to provide laptops to every student was before the turn of the century.  More locally, Maine made a state-wide switch over 15 years ago following the creation of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI).

In the short time that the middle school has been One-to-One, Richard has become a strong proponent of the change and has seen immense benefits. One of the main advantages that Richard highlighted was that every student has the same technology, thus leveling the playing field for all. ORMS tech integrator, Niko Viens, agreed, saying, “it’s become a real equalizer in the building and I think that’s what the students have embraced the most. It’s giving them the freedom to explore their own passions.”

Additionally, the implementation of One-to-One has benefits beyond the student’s core classes. In past years, Andrea von Oeyen, ORCSD string orchestra teacher, had students film themselves playing their instrument using the school’s iPads. These iPads are no longer needed since the computers have cameras, and have been relocated to other schools. Other classes, such as art, world language, and health now have the opportunity to use computers, rather than planning lessons in advance with no promise of the required technology.

With the increase in available technology, students are learning valuable skills such as word processing, typing, and even coding on their own devices. One teacher noted in the survey that, “[One-to-One] has greatly benefited students who struggle with executive function skills; all their due dates, resources, and handouts are now digital. Students are able to maximize their creative potential with assignments by no longer being restricted by access issues.”

Even more noticable is the increase in accountability placed on the students. “The responsibility is on the student to manage the device and keep it up well and travel with it throughout the day,” explained Viens. She elaborated that the school is hopeful that the kids will use the same device for the four year lease which will reinforce the importance of taking care of the computer. A major concern was the potential for damage or misuse, and although there have been minor examples of both, Viens is pleased with the responsibility of the students.

Veins and Nick Bellows, the ORMS librarian, have created additional opportunities for students to get involved with technology by creating the Student Tech Team. These 12 students submitted an application and were selected out of 25 applicants. They are currently working to create a public service announcement video to remind their fellow students of the importance of keeping their technology safe.  This team helped make the survey where many teachers and students were able to respond.

In addition to the impact that students have on their peers, teachers have been sharing with their coworkers how they integrate technology in their classrooms. Some teachers feel more comfortable and passionate about integrating technology into the classrooms, while others might require more information or guidance. The faculty who are exploring technology in an interesting way have the option to invite their fellow teachers to sit in the back of the classroom and observe. To make this invitation clear, some opt to hang a string of pineapple lights or a pineapple sign over their door which, when lit, welcomes visiting teachers.

Art Courtesy of Charlotte Hambucken

Out of the previously mentioned survey, three main concerns arose on the teacher’s side.

“The biggest problem we have [is] kids coming in without computers charged… We send notices home to remind parents the importance of this, but it’s a constant battle!” writes one teacher.  Another states, “… a large percentage of the students do not come to school with their computers charged so too many have to run cords all over the place to work with them in class.” One teacher acknowledged that a computer charging station might benefit the classrooms, allowing students to continue to use their device without needing to run cords all around the room.

Another issue that has been a learning curve for many was the blocked websites. The IT Department at ORMS blocks certain websites, such as YouTube, sites with inappropriate content, and games, in order to keep students focused. One teacher wrote, “the one negative aspect is that I still have to vet links and resources through IT because the filters will often not allow student access to sites, even if the materials are indeed school appropriate.” Later in their response they added that these problems are a part of the learning curve but was a source of frustration throughout the year.

Even with the restrictions on websites, there have been concerns that students are misusing the technology, mainly in the form of downloading games. At the beginning of the year, the middle school created a phone policy that prohibits students from using their personal device during the school day. For more information about this change, see Susanna Serrano’s article in last issue or online. This change restricts students from using their own device to play games. Teachers have observed students finding ways around the blocks to download games. One faculty member wrote, “there is a lot of downloading of games, changing the settings, and off-task toggling back and forth on sites when there is an assignment that needs to be completed.”

Out of the 39 teachers who responded to the survey by Sunday March 10, all but one said they believe they One-to-One benefits the students. The teacher who did not completely agree stated, “to be honest, I do not use it much in my classroom, because I believe there can be too much screen time in a day.”

Lastly, a few paraeducators noticed that the Chromebooks they were provided do not have the same capabilities. A paraeducator wrote in the survey, “when my Chromebook is equipped with programs the students and teachers use, I can more easily support my students from my own experience without using their laptops. There are several times when my Chromebook will not function well enough to learn the programs the classes are using, such as Google Earth Pro, that make it much more difficult to assist my students. My Chromebook is also much slower with processing, so helping students with note-taking and writing often becomes very [inefficient].” They added, “I am grateful to have a Chromebook, but feel I could be much more effective with my students with matching technology.”

Photo of students in the library practicing their typing skills (Photos by Jordan Zercher)

The cost was about $85,000 to provide all 670 student at the middle school with a computer. Based on a recommendation from the school’s IT department, students use a Dell Latitude 3189. This touch screen laptop is equipped with rubber edges, a water resistant keyboard, and a gorilla glass screen.

Since going One-to-One, the middle school has been able to reallocate technology to other schools and reduce other resources within the building. The 16 team computer carts from the middle school were either distributed to the high school or broken up and sent to individual classrooms in the elementary schools. Veins and Bellows claimed that paper usage has decreased dramatically because the computers were not set up with the ability to print, however the direct statistic was unknown.

“[The students] are doing a lot more creating than consuming […] A lot of times, when you integrate technology it can be, ‘get on this program,’ ‘do this reading program,’ but now there’s so much more creation and evolution of what they’re able to do with it that they’re now going and exploring things,” said Viens.

“Learning is made much more interesting since there are more ways to reinforce the concepts they are learning.”

– Anonymous ORMS Teacher

In April 2018, Mouth of the River published an article detailing the history of One-to-One in the state and the larger purpose and importance behind the topic. At the time, students and faculty alike were interested in seeing when and how the high school will switch. Now that the middle school has made the switch, Suzanne Filippone, ORHS Principal, explained that One-to-One at the high school is indeed coming, but there are still many details to be figured out.

Filippone clarified that there are a few more pieces that need to fall in place before the high school will be ready to go One-to-One, but they are hopeful for a rollout for the 2020-2021 school year. “The faculty have asked to have more [professional development] around it. We need to make sure the infrastructure of the high school can support all of that, and we need to make sure that we have somebody in house, like a tech integrator,” explained Filippone.

She added that the school is also looking into learning management systems, which would condense the many different platforms into one unified system for all teachers and students. For example, instead of some teachers using a Google Classroom, while others posting homework on Moodle, a learning management system would combine all of these tools into one site. “If everyone is going to have a computer, I’d like to have some consistency for kids to have similar learning management systems,” said Filippone, concluding, “those things would, ideally, come into place before everyone has a computer.”

As not only a science teacher at ORHS, but also a strong proponent of having One-to-One at the high school, Celeste Best has begun planning the high school’s rollout based on the process conducted at the middle school. She acknowledged the importance of learning from other schools, notably the middle school, when preparing for the future trade in. “We have to be ready to start to think about how to change our teaching to prepare kids,” said Best, who not only wants to make sure students are college and career ready, but also prepared for the additional integration of technology.

Echoing the middle school faculty, Filippone said, “I get excited about the possibilities for kids and teachers in the classroom.” She elaborated, “I think the benefit will be that there are students that don’t necessarily have that technology [right now]. Now, everybody will be starting at the same point.”

Despite the excitement about the transition, there are a number of problems that high school is addressing before moving forward. The current class of eighth graders will be the first to enter high school with experience with One-to-One. However, with the program not beginning at the high school until after the 2019 school year, the school board is faced with a question: should next year’s freshman class continue using One-to-One while the rest of the grades continue with the current set up at ORHS, or should the class switch back to the previous system?

Filippone stated that the students coming from the Barrington School Districts created a similar dilemma for the school. When Barrington Middle School went One-to-One, students coming into ORHS no longer had access to the resources they previously had. Filippone addressed this issue, saying, “we are currently having those discussions about what would be the best situations for those eighth graders coming up to ninth grade because we have heard a lot of discussion about how they’ve adapted to having [One-to-One]and what it would be like for to not have it.” The decision will be finalized closer to the end of this year’s school year.

Veins added that the hope of One-to-One is to prepare students for the future. “Personally, I think that we’re only benefiting kids if we’re equipping them with a school issued device.”

“Having our kids have access to these tools is a little bit more of an accurate reflection of the world that our students will live in when they leave school,” explained Bellows. He added, “by having access to the tools, we can teach them how to use them most effectively and responsibly.”