ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Maximizing 1:1 Computing in the Classroom

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Hunter Holcombe

Try telling Gary Stager that there's not enough money in your school budget for personal laptops, and brace yourself for an education. Given just a few minutes, he can convince most that to deny a child her own computer is tantamount to bad education.

With more than 28 years in the field, Stager has worked in schools throughout the world, helping them capitalize on the use of laptops in and out of the classroom.

In his morning session, "Twenty Lessons from Twenty Years of 1:1 Computing in Schools," Stager shared 20 of the most critical lessons he learned by witnessing how children learn through computers. One of the most memorable: "The laptops go home." Stager explained that, when students are given the responsibility of keeping their own laptops with them at all times, their computer-based learning increases considerably as they continue to work on projects at home in their free time.

This practice is also financially advantageous because of a greater risk of laptops being stolen from the school after hours than being damaged by students. In addition, letting students personalize their own laptops by decorating them gives them a greater interest in using the computer, just like any personalized backpack or binder.

One of the more controversial claims Stager asserted was that there is no benefit to giving teachers laptops before students receive them. He says that it's more important that the teacher actively witnesses how the individual students interact with and learn from their own computers. What the teacher personally understands about the workings of the computer is much less important.

Sprinkled throughout the session, Stager relayed a number of anecdotes from his time in the field consulting with schools to illustrate his points. He played a video of a 5-year-old in an underperforming Australian school who was interested only in being a ballerina. By using a basic computer program that controlled motorized LEGO structures, she was able to build and simulate a dancer’s pirouette.

On his personal website, Stager offers up a wide range of blog posts, recommendations, and advice for incorporating 1:1 laptop programs and maximizing those already running. Information relevant to Stager's presentation can be found at

Below is his list of 20 lessons:

  1. Determine who has agency.
  2. What type of laptop school are you?
  3. Set high expectations.
  4. The laptops go home.
  5. Behave as if the laptops are personal computers.
  6. Kids need real multimedia portable computers.
  7. Laptops make good teachers better.
  8. The network is not the computer.
  9. Every child's laptop is a studio, laboratory, publishing house.
  10. 1:1 is cost-effective; nobody washes a rental car.
  11. Every laptop needs open-ended creativity software, but less is more if fluency is the goal.
  12. Seize the impossible.
  13. That's what it looks like if students have the time.
  14. Entire cohorts of students need to get the laptops at once.
  15. Zero benefit in giving laptops to teachers first.
  16. Professional development must be focused on benefiting learners.
  17. Work with the living and do no harm.
  18. You need sustainable leadership and vision.
  19. Expect everything to change.
  20. We are done arguing.


Comments (1)

Gary Smith

April 7, 2011

The laptop situation has changed.  In Idaho, recently laws were passed to make it easier to fire teachers and the conditions were created to necessitate it.  High schools, no matter their present level of technological readiness will be forced to by laptops for all freshman each year, beginning in 2012/2013.  No funding was provided and it was clearly stated that the money must come out of teacher pay and by laying off teachers and increasing class sizes.  By purchase time, it is expected that the state school board will require completion of 4 online classes for a student to graduate.  (It originally was written as 8 classes.)  These classes would be overseen, most likely, by a parent volunteer or teachers aid.  This is a direct teachers for computers trade off.  This is NOT about teachers using laptops with their students in their own classroom.  Big online providers like are aiming directly at public education money.  Beware!

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