Education Week’s EdWeek Chat: One-to-One Computing

March 1, 2006

This is a transcript of an online chat hosted by Education Week on March 8 that explored the challenges of starting and maintaining one-to-one computing programs, in which schools provide a computing device for every student. The chat featured CCT Director Margaret Honey and Bette Manchester of Maine's Department of Education.

To see the original online chat transcript, visit:
The transcript is also reprinted below.


Bette Manchester, the director of special projects for the Maine Department of Education; and,
Margaret Honey, the director of the New York City-based Center for Children and Technology.

Craig Stone (Moderator):
Greetings everyone and welcome to today's online chat on the challenges of starting and maintaining one-to-one computing programs, in which schools provide a computing device for every student. Our guests Bette Manchester, the director of special projects for the Maine Department of Education, and Margaret Honey, the director of the New York City-based Center for Children and Technology are eager to get to your questions, so without further delay, let's get the discussion started ...

Question from Pushpa Sudhakaran, District Technology Supervisor, Holmen School District:
How did you finance for the one-to-one computing project? Did you charge students? If so, how much?

Bette Manchester:
The original funds, in 2001, came from a surplus in State Funds, The Commissioner of Education included funds for middle school in the state funding formula for Maine schools. State funds, through Essential Programs and Services a new funding model, are allocated for high schools as a match for local funds.

Question from Carla Beard, Teacher, Connersville High School:
What assessment (other than higher standardized test scores) is used to determine the success of the program?

Margaret Honey:
The Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine has conducted several studies so I would suggest that you visit the site These are evaluations of the Maine Project.

Question from Douglas Grimes, doctoral student, University of California, Irvine:
First, I'd like to share some news: Mark Warschauer, author or editor of seven books on computers and literacy, has written a book about 1:1 laptop programs. 'Laptops and Literacy' will be published this summer by Teacher's College Press. Personal bias aside (he's my adviser), it's a great read and a great resource for anyone contemplating 1:1. Second, I'd like to ask your opinion on mobile laptop carts vs. 1:1 laptops. Our team at UC Irvine has found significant advantages in going 1:1, including higher student motivation, fewer disciplinary problems, more in-depth projects, and better organization of studies because the laptop serves as a central organizing and enabling tool at home and school. The book elaborates on what our team has seen, including quite a bit on your project in Maine. I'd appreciate your views on the advantages of 1:1 over laptop carts.

Bette Manchester:
There is no question that a laptop for each student is critical if you are trying to personalize the learning for every child. In student centered classrooms these tools need to be in the hands of students 24/7. If funds are only availble for limited machines then carts are better than computer labs. Otherwise, a cart model continues the traditional teacher centric classroom, one in which the teacher controls the resource. In a cart model, students are less able to use the tools to help with organization of their own work or capture and keep evidence of their learning over time. For a student with orgainizational challenges the laptop becomes a lifeline.

Question from Ray Gen, Ed.D. - El Segundo USD:
The obvious obstacle is cost. If it were not for cost, most states would immediately adopt a one-to-one computing program. In cash-strapped states like California, how would you propose to implement the highly desirable one-to-one program?

Bette Manchester:
To do something a a state level, takes vision from the Governor and without that, I think it would be hard to do as there are so many competing needs. At the same time there needs to be commitment from the education community to revisit spending practices as in textbook funds, paper supplies and professional development resources. Laptops give students access to digital resources that are more current and richer than many of the textbooks. With professional development for staff, the need for paper copies could be reduced by the use of drop boxes and increased efforts towards a paperless classroom.

Question from Andrew E. Schultz, PhD, Lincoln Public Schools:
What evidence is there that providing this hardware to middle school students is educationally important?

Bette Manchester:
Our own Research and Evaluation Institute at the University of Southern Maine has provided our project and the citizens of Maine with evidence that our efforts, to provide tools, resources and professional development for all middle schools, are successful. Our staff meets regularly with superintendents, principals, teacher leaders, librarians and tech coordinators to assess the progress of the project. Feedback has been very positive.

Question from Lisa Douthit, middle school teacher, Notre Dame de SIon:
Being a former admisnitrator of a small private middle school who leased laptops for the each student, the technology was superb, but leasing was not so appealing. I am interested in how schools (especially smaller schools who do not receive public funds) might implement student-owned laptops into an exisitng curriculum that integrates technology but ensure that all students computers are utilized appropriately.

Margaret Honey:
Lisa, If I'm interpreting your question correctly I think you are asking about how technology takes root - how it becomes an integral and valuable part of what teachers and students do routinely in the classroom and outside of school. Based on my experience what I believe is absolutely key is the teachers' comfort level and familiarity with technology. Simply giving students laptops doesn't necessarily change anything; teachers need sustained opportunity to learn. AND it's a process - it takes time. One thing that has worked well in projects we have been involved with is having students teach teachers. Take a look at the work of the GenY group (I think that's how you 'spell' it) out of Oregon. A very very interesting student driven PD model that's all about integrating technology deeply into curricula.

Question from Sharon Stutts, Pleasanton HS:
Do the students use the computers to download music and videos or do they just use them for school work?

Margaret Honey:
Initially, we restricted the ability to download music because of a public perception and educator worries about the misuse of these powerful tools. However, as the project has matured, it is more evident that students can successfully incorporate both music and video into the daily work of school. Bandwith for video is an issue and is dealt with at the school level. In fact, all polices for student use are determined at the building level.

Question from Ms. Mac (Jeanine McGregor) Educational Consultant, All Level Teaching Certified:
Unless students are engaged in their specific mode of learning; retention does not occur. How do the value of computers override the specific needs of students who require deeper mental engagement (writing, creating, drawing) than pushing keys?

Margaret Honey:
Jeanine, Computers are wonderful tools for engaging all students -- particularly those who are not engaged by traditional instructional materials, namely textbooks. The organization that does some of the best work in this area is a group in Massachusetts called CAST. You can check out their work on the web:

Question from Jonna Colvin, Educator, Read Naturally:
How are the one-to-one computers used and implemented with children who have learning disabilities, etc. Are they apart of the system too?

Bette Manchester:
Jonna - I am not an expert in this area, but I strongly recommend you contact the people at CAST in Massachusetts. will get you to their site. They bring the most thoughtful expertise to issues of using technology with students who have disabilities. That said, I do believe - and I've seen evidence of this -- that technologies can be used in powerful ways to provide instructional resources that are tailored to the needs of individual learners. We all know that one size does not fit all - and computer can be used in creative ways to help differentiate. CAST is the place to go for more info!

Question from Audrey Mangan, Assistant Principal, Phoenix Academy HS, NYCDOE:
How successful has corporate funding / grants been in getting new technology into the classroom?

Margaret Honey:
My strong impression is that corportate funding has played a very important role, and that this has happened on several levels. First, many corporations buy or make funds available so that their local schools -- that is, schools based in their communities, can purchase technology. Second, many corporations from AOL (now Time Warner) to Hewlett Packard, and others have run programs that distribute funds for teacher and student innovation. And third, other corporations like the former Bell Atlantic, Intel, IBM, and Cisco -- to name just a few -- have run large scale national and international projects that entail deep investments that are long term. The Union City New Jersey schools benefited from Bell Atlantic's investment, communities all over the country and the world have benefited from Intel's investment in technology focused PD programs, IBM ran Reinventing Education for more than ten years, and Cisco is investing heavily in schools in Mississippi and Louisiana.

All these programs have been important sources of innovation and inspiration!

Question from Pushpa Sudhakaran, District Technology Supervisor, Holmen School District:
Did you have to add technical staff in order to support additional laptops especially since students are taking them home?

Bette Manchester:
Districts, in many cases, did increase technical support staff. Still many schools were unable to increase staff so invested in developing student tech teams. Four years later, most of our schools have active student tech teams. These students assist teachers, students and tech coordinators by providing just in time support and assistance with training of new students, faculty and parents. These students are able to explore career opportunities and bring student voice to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. A state wide student conference is held each year at one of the university campuses. This conference provides opportunities for students to receive ongoing training from college students , faculty and tech folks in the project along with opportunities to showcase their own work.

Question from Douglas Levin, Director of Education Policy, Cable in the Classroom:
I wonder if you could comment on the quality and scope of the digital content available for 1:1 implementations. Is there enough available? Is it affordable? Presuming that the situation could be improved (as I do), what policy-level changes might make the situation better?

Bette Manchester:
In an effort to provide quality content, we have an extensive set of resources through the Maine Virtual Library. Further, we organized the digital content providers into a fellowship known as the Maine Digital Media Group. The members of this group include: museums, Maine Public Broadcasting , Maine Historical Society, Northeast Historical Film, Archives, university and public libraries, research centers. The group convenes a few times a year to share resources, write grants, and develop ways to get the resources to schools and communities. Windows on Maine is a great example of a collaboration to provide great content to schools in Maine.

Question from Beverly Robinson, ESE Teacher, Kate Sullivan Elementary:
How can you infuse the use of technology into the curriculum for ESE students to include grade level benchmarks and standards?

Margaret Honey:
Beverly, I believe it's always good to admit what you don't know. I'm afraid I don't know what ESE stands for. If you help me out I will do my best to answer your question!

Question from Sarah Henry, Technology Task Force Chair, Episcopal Collegiate School:
What do you see as the biggest advantage students and schools have gained by using 1 to 1 laptops?

Margaret Honey:
The principals, teachers and parents and students report increased engagement of students, more project based work, more collaboration among students and staff. Teachers and principals report that educators have a greater variety of current resources and resources and tools that enable every type of learner. Students are able to show evidence of their work and understanding of concepts in ways we never imagined.

Question from Beth Rajan Sockman,Instructor ESU & ABD@PSU:
What professional experiences (or development) are vital for teachers after they have become proficient with the technology?

Margaret Honey:
Beth, Obviously teachers have to have a basic level of comfort with core applications -- word processors, search engines, powerpoint, excel, etc. Then they need time -- real time -- to explore applications and resources that are relevant to their disciplines. We've also had a tremendous amount of success with programs that use students to help teacher teachers. Take a look at GenY in Oregon.

Question from Deborah Coltun, Ed Spec, Reed MS, LAUSD:
Are there federal funds for starting up such a 1-to-1 program? I'd write a grant if I could get laptops just for our special education students!

Margaret Honey:
I'm sorry to say the federal climate is rather depressing these days! The President's 2007 budget eliminates the funding for technology programs that was directed at states. The Public Education Newtwork publishes a weekly newsletter that always contains a comprehensive list of funding opportunities at the end. You can subscrible to the newsletter by going to:

Also, you might want to see if any of your local businesses might support what you want to do.

Question from Ezhil Nakkeeran, Business Development Manager, Inspherion Learning Corporation:
What would you say are the biggest challenges teachers face in integrating laptops into daily classroom routines?

Margaret Honey:
The need for ongoing professional development and support -just in time support. Teacherrs need time to plan, reflect and develop units of study and instructional strategies that make effective use of these tools. For instance, in the area of math, there are rich resources- math applets - that have been developed at the universities. It takes time to learn how to use these new resources within their classrooms and how to use these tools for Assessment for learning.

Question from Martha Foster, Retired teacher, HoustonISD:
Can a laptop program be viable if the classroom teachers cannot provide the necessary facilitation to keep students focused on the end result? What programs are in place to assure that teachers will be getting the support they will need? I agree that providing personal computers for all students would be the best of all situations. However, it has been my observance that a vast majority of classroom teachers have little or no skills in providing a seamless integration of curriculum and technology. Before turning a class loose with their own computers and left to their own devices, wouldn't it be more cost efficient to be assured that teachers are educated in the best practices of facilitating a technologically efficient classroom of students. I think that we are witnessing a situation where the students are probably more expert that the teachers and I am wondering who would really be in charge.

Margaret Honey:
Martha - Great question! Yes, I think it's incredibly important that teachers build their own comfort levels with technology first. I don't think it makes any sense to "drop" computers in without laying a foundation for teachers. Our children are often much more savey than we are, and that can be both good and bad. No educator wants to feel at a loss in front of her kids, and no educator should be put in this kind of situation. Back in the 90s when we worked closely with the Union City NJ public schools, technology was very new to many teachers. We were, however, able to use knowledgeable high school students to help teach teachers. The kids were paid for their work and took it very seriously, There was an experienced computer teacher who worked with them. Across the board the program was a big success and not that expensive! So, yes, teachers need to learn but we can get creative in how we go about helping that to happen!

Question from Carmen Rivera, Professional Development Specialist, UCLA:
I was a technology coordinator at a high school and noticed that kids would gravitate to working in pairs or groups of three. Can you talk to the fact that one - to - one computers may not be necessary and perhaps 3 to one is more doable for schools.

Margaret Honey:
Carmen, I think you're right -- kids like to be social with technology, as they are with most things. Whether it's one-to-one or one-to-three the important thing is that they are talking, sharing info and ideas. I think their are two big advantages to laptop or handheld programs -- equity, they level the playing field, and ownership. There's something important about kids having their own device -- tool. It's both professional and helps to cultivate a sense of responsibility. Of course, as the cost of hardware continues to drop this will become more and more of a reality.

Question from Georgia Hedrick:
Do these innovative schools still depend on paper textbooks as well, and if so, why since such info is static?

Margaret Honey:
Many of our schools still depend on textbooks as the transition away from traditional resources to digital resources takes time. Maine educators continue to worry about the availablity of technology resources for the long term. Our project is in its fourth year and still dependent on the will of the legislature for continuation.

Question from Christian Rogers, Technology Integration Specialist, Episcopal Collegiate School:
Could you suggest a source(s) where we could see existing financial templates of what setting up a wireless campus will cost, so we can be informed shoppers and anticipate the bids of corporations like IBM when they come to assess our campus?

Margaret Honey:
Christian - The Consortium for School Newtworking should be able to help you. They have been running a total cost of ownership initiative for a number of years.

I might be stating the obvious (if so, forgive me) but really understanding what you need to include in a bid is key. There's the "stuff" of course, but then there are issues of maintanance, upgrades, and the human infrastructure necessary to support,

Hope this helps a bit.

Question from Delaine McCullough, Asst. Editor, Phi Delta Kappan:
Providing computers to all students and teachers is a very expensive undertaking. What is the best source of funding for such an endeavor (e.g., general fund, categorical program, private donation)? And given that there is a trade off between using these funds for computers rather than for other instructional materials/programs, what is the best way to evaluate whether the computers are having a greater positive effect on student learning than some other use of the money?

Margaret Honey:
You are right, computers are still expensive. I have seen many different strategies used by schools: corporate funding, community fundraising activities, private doners. The Public Education Network's newsletter is a good place to go for funding information. To subscribe visit:

I was recently in the UK and had the pleasure of meeting with Dave Whyley who is running a fascinating one-to-one project using handheld computers. Dave's email address is:

What was most impressive about the project is the wide range of applications they are able to make available to the students from the Internet to e-books, to instructional software programs that target specific skills, and many more. Of course, the UK government is committing resources to educational technology in a way that our government no longer is.

Question from Gina Stokes, Teacher, Central Middle School:
What have schools done to guarantee that the students act responsibly with these devices? What measures are in place to deal with loss or damage?

Margaret Honey:
If schools set a culture of respect and responsibility with reasonable expectations and natural consequences then there is little damage. Principals and classroom teachers must set clear goals and expectations for meaningful work and use of the devices. If there is a high expectation of use and integration, then little damage is evident. We have seen no difference in damage when students take the laptops home.

Question from Christian Rogers, Technology Integration Specialist, Episcopal Collegiate School:
Can you offer our school a source(s) for a variety of financial templates we can use to anticipate the cost of setting up a wireless campus. (i.e. Bandwidth Capacity costs, Wireless Access Points costs, Switches, Physical Firewall . . .etc)?

Margaret Honey:
Christian - Try the Consortium for School Networking:

Question from Guy Boughey, student, Southern Cross University Lismore Australia:
How is the work of primrary (elementary) students monitored with each having individual computer access. Is there a quality learning issue here?

Margaret Honey:
One of the best ways to monitor and assess the quality of student work is by having students create products that take advantage of the capabilities of technologies. These might take the form of multimedia presentations that incorportate visual images, audio, text, etc. We think one of the big challenges is helping teachers to help students do this well -- in other words, learning how to use different media elements, like sound or pictures, so that they genuinely contribute to the quality of the presentation. We've build some resources that help teachers do this, and the resources also contain suggestions about how students work can be assessed. Take a look:

Question from Dave Herman Tech Coord Natrona Schools:
We have implemented a 1-1 in a new middle school. Is there a way to "package" a 1-1 implementation so that it can be expanded to other schools within a district/state?

Margaret Honey:
Dave, there are definitely successful strategies for implementing a one to one program. However, context is important so the notion of "package" flies in the face of innovation, creativity, collaboration, problem solving, -the very outcomes of a successful one to one project. We can easily provide you with our resources for developing a successful project but remember leadership is everything.

Question from Mike Muir, Prof., Univ of Maine at Farmington:
Leadership at all levels (state, district, building) makes or breaks an initiative. How can we support leaders to be effective at this work?

Margaret Honey:
Mike, you are absolutely right. Your own Bette Manchester has been running around the country saying that what is making the Maine project work are leaders at the local and state level. My colleagues at EDC in the Center for Online Professional Education have been running a leadership training program with the State Education Technology Directors Association. It's called ETLO - Ed Tech Leaders on line and the person to email about it is Barbara Traecy:

What works in developing leaders is the same thing that works for any of us when we take on something new: building deep understanding and then giving people tools and strategies that help them to faciliate effectively.

Question from Lon Wilcox, Nursing Instructor, Lamar Community College:
How would you compare the use of laptops for students versus the newer PDA version that have wireless internet capability?

Margaret Honey:
It all depends on what you want to do with the tools. We have found that laptops better meet the needs of learners in a variety of subjects.

Question from Paula Wohlwend, teacher , Charter Home Study Academy in El Dorado Co.:
How do you monitor care of the machines? Is there a lot of expense involved in the up keep?

Margaret Honey:
IT is about the culture of the school. If there is a culture of respect and responsiblity among students and staff then reasonable expectations, procedures and natural consequences work to keep the devices in good repair. If that culture does not exist, then the culture needs to be attended to whether you have laptops or not. You do need to provide tech support for every 300 machines. The development of tech teams and collaborative strategies with the tech folks can minimize the cost of support.

Comment from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
This is more of a comment thatn a question. From my experience and association with Vantage Learning ( and their development of an on-line assessment, students with disabilities can BENEFIT from one-on-one computing and the utilization of a computer in the assessment process. The computer offers a myriad of "built-in accommodations" and students with disabilities not only embrace one-on-one computing, but benefit from it in the assessment process and in the classroom.

Question from John Terry, Teacher, Carnegie Middle School:
How can one-to-one technology at a school site aid the closing of the achievement gap?

Margaret Honey:
One-to-one has the potential (it won't magically do this) to create opportunities for children to learn in ways that speak more directly to their individual needs. There is very creative software out there to help address, for example, the low levels of literacy performance which are often a core issue in students' ability to perform. There is a program developed by CAST ( that supports literacy learning. There is a very interesting program developed by a UK company called Kar2oosh that has enormous possibilities for supporting kids literacy learning. What sets these kinds of programs apart is that they are not about drill and skill remediation, they are about helping kids build up a repetoire of skills and apply them to solving interesitng problems. Take a look at Donna Alverman's research in this area, you will find that helpful as well.

Question from Steve O., Dir of IT, Crescent School Toronto:
Can you describe how this program improved/affected the learning of the students? Any way of measuring any change here?


Margaret Honey:
Please visit to review the research. Visiting Maine classrooms provides a window into classrooms where students are engaged, collaborating with their peers, challenging ideas as learners because they have tools and access to real time digital resources. We are still learning how to teach and learn in a digital world, balancing good instruction, rich discussions and use of new and engaging learning tools.

Question from Ezhil Nakkeeran, Business Development Manager, Inspherion Learning Corporation:
Do you see schools / teachers creating their own electronic content, or will they wait for K-12 publishers to take the lead?

Margaret Honey:
I think a mix of both will continue to happen. To some degree it will depend on whether open source curricula and instructional materials gain real traction in the world of education. There are lots of teachers making "stuff" it's just that most of it doesn't find its way into classrooms. Distribution channels for education remain - at this point in time - squarely anchored in publishers sales and maketing forces. Textbooks continue to dominate and as long as that's our paradigm not much will change.

Question from John Terry, Teacher, Carnegie Middle School:
How can a school site that has some technology for its student population, become a one-to-one technology site? Are there grants out there? If so, how can I access them?

Margaret Honey:
The best grants list I know of is published weekly by the Public Education Network at the end of their newsletter: To subscribe, visit:

The other source is e-school news (but I don't think that's free)

Question from C Leigh, Parent:
How often are the 1:1 laptops used in class? And when they are used in class, what's the purpose (e.g., research, assignment, testing, free time)?

Margaret Honey:
The use of laptops vary depending on the purpose or outcome of the lessons. There needs to be a balance of pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning so discussion, project work, reading great books may or may not involve a laptop. Teachers and students decide when they need these resources so it would be hard to measure the frequency of use. Students use the laptops for a variety of purposes: research, project work, math , science, writing,editing, foreign language, communication and collaboration, etc.

Question from Jennifer Mandel, Infotech Strategies:
Aren't there ways to accomplish the 1-to-1 technology goal without laptops? What about other digital learning devices?

Margaret Honey:
Yes, absolutely. Check out Dave Whyley project in the UK:

Also, check out Elliot Solloway's work in this country. I think his company's website is But you can also search under his name.

Jennifer, send me a private email and I'll send you Dave's video.

Question from Candy Thompson, Middle School Teacher, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School:
Do these students who have 1-to-1 go through some sort of Internet safety or tutorial they have to sign off on before using their computers?

Margaret Honey:
Candy, we believe that internet safety is a critical part of using technology in school. Schools have policies and procedures in place that include workshops for students and parents as a regular part of the program. If the laptops are going home,then we expect parents to participate in a more indepth workshop around the management of the laptop at home. We advise parents to keep the computer out of the bedroom and in sight of the parents. We encourage parents to use resources provided on along with other information that we think will be valuable to parents.

Question from Ron Milliner, Technology Director, Owensboro Public Schools:
Does any one have information on a program where parents may purchase notebook computers for their children, and those who cannot afford to do so can earn credits toward notebook computers via commmunity service?

Margaret Honey:
Ron, I have heard of programs run by school districts that enable parents to pay over time, You might search under low cost computers for educators and see what you turn up. Or search under affordable laptops.

Question from Hayley, Educator, Seattle:
I have the opportunity to teach at a one-to-one school and believe it is important to educate these new and upcoming students in Interenet guidelines. I currently use NetSmartz which teaches students to be safer online. My question is this, what are other educator's, schools doing to protect and teach when they begin implementing a one-to-one computer program?

Margaret Honey:
Ron, I have heard of programs run by school districts that enable parents to pay over time, You might search under low cost computers for educators and see what you turn up. Or search under affordable laptops.

Question from Kevin Pobst, Asst Supt, Hinsdale High Schools, Hinsdale Illinois:
I just Googled "GenY Oregon" and "GenY"--neither helped me understand that reference.

Margaret Honey:
Ron, Kevin - Showing my age, I guess! email me and I'll track down the info for you - promise!

Question from Ezhil Nakkeeran, Business Development Manager, Inspherion Learning Corporation:
Do you foresee an increased use of learning management systems in K-12?

Margaret Honey:
I think it depends on what is happening in the overall policy context. If NCLB continues with it's focus on back to basics, remediation, and test prep than yes, I think LMS systems become that much more appealing to schools. However, there is a growing movement around the importance of 21st century skills in education, which places the emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, complex communication, etc. If this movement gains momentum than our use of educational technologies needs to follow, and LMS systems will have much less appeal.

Craig Stone (Moderator):
Unfortunately that's all we have time for today, folks.

I'd like to thank our guests, Bette Manchester and and Margaret Honey, for taking time out of their busy day to answer our questions. We had a tremendous number of questions, so our apologies if we didn't get to yours. A transcript of this chat will be posted shortly.

Thanks for taking part. Cheerio.

Copyright 2006. Editorial Projects in Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.