In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section One-to-One Technology in the K-12 Classroom

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Origins of One-to-One Technology: Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT)
  • Evaluation Reports
  • Resources
  • Research Syntheses
  • International Perspectives on One-to-One Technology
  • Professional Development and One-to-One Technology
  • One-to-One Technology to Facilitate Instructional Change

Education One-to-One Technology in the K-12 Classroom
Andrea H. Parrish
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 September 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0255


In Toward a New Learning Ecology: Teaching and Learning in 1:1 Environments (cited under General Overviews), one-to-one learning environments are described as classrooms in which every student has access to a personal computing device (such as a laptop or a tablet) and continuous access to the Internet. This model for student computing was first discussed in educational research beginning in the 1980s, most notably in the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) project, a research collaborative among public schools, universities, and research teams funded by Apple and outlined in The Evolution of Teachers’ Instructional Beliefs and Practices in High-Access-to-Technology Classroom: First-fourth Year Findings (cited under Origins of One-to-One Technology: Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow [ACOT]). The original premise, based on the work of computer scientist and mathematician Seymour Papert, is rooted in the idea that ubiquitous access to technology can create more dynamic learning environments. In recent years, the proliferation of mobile technology has caused a renewed interest in one-to-one computing, as the improved portability and functionality of technology tools coupled with advances in wireless Internet capability makes one-to-one computing attainable for many schools and districts. Despite the continued debate about the impact of technology on learning, the U.S. Department of Education elevated the concept of a one-to-one technology ratio from unique innovation to moral imperative in its document, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update (cited under Resources). Even before this, the prevalence of one-to-one computing initiatives increased, both in the United States is discussed in The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations (cited under General Overviews) and around the world in Large-Scale 1:1 Computing Initiatives: An Open Access Database (cited under International Perspectives on One-to-One Technology). The growth of these initiatives has been accompanied by an increase in peer-reviewed research and evaluation reports that document the impact of one-to-one technology on teaching and learning. A topic that was once dominated by white papers and evaluation reports now boasts a growing body of peer-reviewed studies, research syntheses, and government reports. The references cited in this article provide a cross-section of these various forms of literature that depict the use of one-to-one technology in K-12 classrooms, including implementation resources for districts and key empirical findings.

General Overviews

This section provides a series of general overviews and reports outlining the proliferation of one-to-one technology in K-12 schools. In particular, these reports and peer-reviewed publications describe the prevalence of one-to-one technology initiatives and the presence of computing devices in schools, and they give contextual information as to how the technology impacts the daily work of educators and students. Abell Foundation 2008 provides a review of district-specific, one-to-one technology initiatives of various types in the United States, while the IESD 2 and Project Tomorrow 2014 reports provide information as to the state of mobile computing in schools, including one-to-one technology prevalence. Spires, et al. 2009 and Spires, et al. 2012 provide a conceptual framework of how a one-to-one technology ratio affects the daily work of teachers and impacts the learning of students. Finally, Weston and Bain 2010 gives a candid overview of the critiques associated with one-to-one computing along with their potential for leveraging educational reform in schools.

  • Abell Foundation. 2008. One-to-one computing in public schools: Lessons from “laptops for all” programs. Baltimore: Abell Foundation.

    This report by the Abell Foundation provides an overview of the history of one-to-one computing in US schools, including interest by the mass media and individual, district-specific initiatives that have implemented the technology model. They outline large-scale initiatives, district-wide initiatives of varying sizes, and the ways in which the adoption of these initiatives has changed over time.

  • Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc. 2014. 2014 national survey on mobile technology for K-12 education: Educator edition. New York: Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc.

    This report outlines major findings from the 2014 national survey on mobile computing, which was conducted by the Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc. in collaboration with Amplify. The results examine the adoption of mobile technology in US schools and students’ access to mobile devices as well as the benefits and challenges associated with integrating mobile technologies in the classroom.

  • Project Tomorrow. 2014. The new digital learning playbook: Understanding the spectrum of students’ activities and aspirations. Irvine, CA: Project Tomorrow.

    This national report provides perspectives from more than 300,000 students in over 9,000 US schools. Students report their various uses of mobile technologies in the classroom, their preferences for the use of technology in the learning process, and how they believe mobile technology impacts their learning.

  • Spires, H., E. Wiebe, C. A. Young, K. Hollebrands, and J. K. Lee. 2009. Toward a new learning ecology: Teaching and learning in 1:1 environments. Friday Institute White Paper Series. Raleigh: North Carolina State Univ.

    In this original white paper developed by researchers at North Carolina State University, the authors describe how one-to-one technology shapes the learning environment in 21st-century classrooms, naming this the new learning ecology. This phenomenon, created by immediate access to online information and high-intensity learning experiences, requires highly developed teacher capacities along with highly developed dispositions of students.

  • Spires, H., E. Wiebe, C. A. Young, K. Hollebrands, and J. K. Lee. 2012. Toward a new learning ecology: Professional development for teachers in 1:1 learning environments. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education 12.2: 232–254.

    This article further examines the concept of a new learning ecology created by one-to-one technology in classrooms. In this article, the authors argue in favor of one-to-one technology learning environments as being valuable in creating meaningful educational reform, but only if the professional development of teachers is also addressed as part of implementation efforts associated with these initiatives.

  • Weston, M. E., and A. Bain. 2010. The end of techno-critique: The naked truth about 1:1 laptop initiatives and educational changes. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment 9.6: 4–25.

    Weston and Bain present a critical view on one-to-one computing and characterize the debate by identifying key themes surrounding criticisms of the proliferation of this technology model in classrooms. They reconceptualize the debate by offering recommendations for how we ought to reframe the discussion of technology’s role in teaching and learning, encouraging the reader to consider how integrating technology can be seen as a means for integrating cognitive tools.

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