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Three years ago, Rob Stratton was seeking a way to simplify access to online resources for more than 93,000 students and 11,000 staff in Florida’s Lee County School District. Stratton, who is the coordinator for K12 instructional technology for Lee County, wanted students and teachers to spend less time managing accounts through the district’s website and more time using instructional software in the classroom.

“We spent more time talking about how to log in and not enough time about how to use the resources,” Stratton says.

David Liss was seeing a unique challenge when it came to implementing 1-to-1 technology for the 6,200 students in Nixa Public Schools, one of the top-performing districts in Missouri.

“One of the things that kept coming up for us was there wasn’t data to support the premise that 1-to-1 technology increased student performance,” says Liss, who is Nixa’s executive director of technology. “In lower-performing districts, the data showed that 1-to-1 technology was increasing engagement, which was increasing student performance.”

The past two decades have seen 1-to-1 computing grow in popularity, with school districts across the country deploying millions of laptops and tablets to students, excited by their potential to enhance learning. But unfortunately, with the trend came the reality that many school systems didn’t adequately plan, prepare for or sustain their 1-to-1 initiatives, and failed to see positive impacts as a result. Why do some 1-to-1 initiatives succeed and others fail?

We are entrusted with creating opportunities for all students to achieve their highest potential. Anyone can relate to this basic need: to be understood for our abilities, not categorized by our challenges. Let’s defy the stereotypes and see students for their potential, not their inability to read; let’s empower each teacher to change lives; let’s recognize each district for its ability to build a better literacy program.

Nationally, the number of English learners continues to grow, presenting district administrators with unique challenges. Blended learning that incorporates computer-adaptive assessments and instruction can be a vital resource to meet the needs of these students and to help them become proficient in English and succeed academically. 

Scheduling and managing special events at school district facilities can be complicated. Maintaining a schedule, understanding staffing and other needs, setting up and tearing down rooms, identifying insurance risks and other tasks can be confusing for administrators, and ultimately, costly to the school system in time, resources and money.

Six years ago, Waconia Public Schools, which is 35 miles west of Minneapolis, launched a 1-to-1 technology initiative. It purchased tablets as part of a pilot program for 10th-grade students. 

After determining that the pilot program was successful, the district expanded it to include students in fourth, eighth and 11th grades. At that point, the district realized that this was not a sustainable program for the long term. 

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Putting technology into classrooms has been a focus for Gwinnett County Public Schools, located in a suburb of Atlanta, for decades. First it was using overhead or slide projectors, and later televisions. Before the district made the decision to add projectors to all classrooms, schools would buy a few on their own, but there was no standardization across schools. 

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