Random Thoughts

Why There Is No One Way To Go 1:1

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This past weekend I flew to Vietnam to spend two days with the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the British International School of Vietnam (BISVietnam). A two day retreat that focused on a future with technology and a 1:1 program. 

There are so many different ways to go 1:1 and in my opinion no one right way to do it. There are so many variables that need to be considered that 1:1 programs can look drastically different from one school to the next and still be successful.

Here are a few of the things we discussed:



It’s always the elephant in the room and the problem with dreaming of endless possibilities without considering the cost leads one to believe that the dreams can become reality and in many cases it is just not financially feasible to fulfill our wildest technology dreams. As much as we want to say money is not a factor…..at some point it always is.


In many countries in Asia this can be the most frustrating part of the whole plan. We all read, watch, and see the amazing things that are happening on the web. However, to do those amazing things you need a web connection. In developing countries like Vietnam the Internet is expensive, unreliable, and most of the time just plain frustrating. BISVietnam currently has a 2MB Internet line for 1600 students. Think about that the next time you want to complain about your Internet speed.


You can not consider going 1:1 without looking at the cost and feasibility of it from an infrastructure standpoint. Money put into your infrastructure is always well spent but it also means every dollar that goes towards infrastructural improvements is dollars taken away from learning devices. Finding the balance is important.

One thing that I stress is do not spend money on you infrastructure for the future. Support the here and now.

If a school spends money building up an infrastructure that looks to support learning years from now then you’re wasting money. You might know what you will need two or three years from now…but you don’t need that today. The chances are the infrastructure your school will need in the future will get cheaper and faster.

Example: You know you’re going to need more server space as students store more and more data on the Intranet. Calculate how much storage you’ll need this year and next year. But only purchase what you need for this year. By next year the cost of the same storage will be cheaper and faster.

In the end support what you need, not what you want.

Intranet vs The Cloud:


Really what this should say is Internal Cloud vs External Cloud. Based on the infrastructure that is available to a school, you may need to consider building your own Internal Cloud. Basically turning those old folder heavy Intranet servers into web accessible servers. By making your Intranet Servers accessible via a web browser you can essentially create your own cloud on your campus. You can install programs like WordPress, Elgg, Drupal, and a host of other open-source software that essentially creates your own Internal Cloud system. 

This is a common process in China where access to many cloud services is blocked by the government. If that’s the case, or you don’t have a fast reliable Internet connection then building your own cloud is an option. Shanghai American School is a great example of a school building an internal cloud. Check out there Online Community Portal

At ISB, my current school for 23 more days, we are slowly making the transition from an Internal Cloud to an External Cloud system. When I arrived four years ago we starting building our Internal Cloud system as it was faster and more reliable. As the infrastructure of Thailand has improved and we’ve been able to purchase more bandwidth (20MB when I arrived and 100MB now for 1800 students) we’ve slowly moving to an external cloud. 

Exchange Mail Server to Google Apps – 2011-2012

Hosted Moodle to Externally Hosted LMS – 2012-2013

Internal Hosted Blogs to External Hosted Blogs – 2014

Or something like that. By moving these services to the external cloud we trade servers for Internet speed and reliability. As our speed and reliability increases so can our reliance on the external cloud.

Learning Devices:

Of course this is where we all like to discuss our options. What devices are right for students?  Start with students

The only way to answer this question is to first identify what it is you want students to be doing with the laptops. What kind of experiences do you want them to have, what skills do you want them to gain and what creative products do you want them to produce? 

By first identifying what we want students to do at different grade levels we can then choose the device that meets those needs. 

Again…dreaming here can be dangerous. We must realized and understand that in developing countries we don’t always get the lastest and greatest technology and not every company is currently supporting devices in every country. In Vietnam’s case Apple has no support in Vietnam as of yet. Sure, you can buy Apple products, but any support needed on those products has to be sent out of the country. Coming to the realization of what’s possible and what learning devices you have access to is not always fun…but again is reality. 



Ownership is something I think we spend to much time and effort on….as basically you have two options. 

1. School Owned

2. Parent/Student Owned

This decision comes down to two points.

  • Can the school afford to own all the laptops? 
    • If the answer is no…then Parent/Student owned is your only option
    • If the answer is yes….then you need to think about and understand your community
  • Will the school community support a laptop program?
    • Have we done work with the school community in helping them understand the reasoning behind a 1:1 program?
    • How can we move our school culture forward?
    • Can our community afford it?

Administrators must know their community and be willing to hold community sessions to educate the community on the benefits of a 1:1 program. This decision is a school based one. Both options work…it’s picking the best option for your school that is important to success. 


In the end, you can look around at what other schools are doing or have done but that will only get you so far. Every school culture and situtation is different, hence there is no one way to roll out a 1:1 program that is magical and perfect. They all have their positives and negatives. At the end of the day make a decision and just do it!

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. There are loads of things to consider.

    One of our biggest is power supply. We don’t have it. Many classrooms only have one outlet and we can’t support adding more. A new building is in the works and will take care of it, but for now that is a big factor.

    Also, I don’t know that communities need to be sold on the idea of 1:1 any more. I have thoughts mulling about this and will form them into a post in the relatively near future, but thought I would add it to this conversation as well.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      See…every school/country has it’s issues. That’s why there is no one right way to go 1:1. To many things to consider to say this is the way to do it.

    • I work in a school that has started a parent funded 1:1 iPad program this year, and power has not been an issue as the students bring their iPads to school fully charged and ready to go – the battery on the iPad is sensational (lasting 10 hours) – so that may be an option for you to consider…

  2. As far as ownership goes, if a school goes down the parent/student ownership route then does the school typically mandate a brand, model and configuration that they need to buy, or do any schools follow the emerging corporate trend of going BYOD? I’m just thinking that the former option greatly simplifies support, but the school wouldn’t be able to really provide an image because of licensing complications and user resistance (my device, my rules…). In the latter case, I wouldn’t want to be a support tech dealing with any number of brands and configurations – troubleshooting would be a nightmare.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      and that’s exactly the issue with BYOD. First…if that’s your only option then it’s better than nothing. However, I think it puts a lot of strain on a teacher because there is no commonality among devices and we essentially turn teachers into device managers.

      It’s one thing in the business world when 99% of the time really what you need is a web browser and e-mail client. That’s not the case in education. There are loads of software that need to be installed on an image.

      Show me a business that is in the business of being creative and creating content and I’d be shocked if they were BYOD. For consuming purposes not an issue…but for creative purposes I have a hard time with BYOD 1:1 programs.

      • On the other hand – every university is basically one giant BYOD implementation for students. The tech support department might offer services up to a point, but they are clearly defined (typically help connecting to the network, installing university-supplied software, and MAYBE cleaning out viruses). At my university, it was taken care of by 20-30 student employees for the entire 10,000-strong student body. For bigger tasks, the user has to pay a third-party service. Could this model work at the primary and secondary levels? I’m guessing that the handholding that children require would mean “no.” But has it been tried?

  3. Thank you for outlining some possible solutions to important issues such as unified curriculum and to the inevitably of technical glitches in the classroom. Certainly, without those free cloud apps. appropriate software and licensing arrangements must be made. Creating purchase orders and waiting months to recieve and then install software can be so frustrating for hungry kids and anxious teacher…at times I thought to myself “why not just teach English?”.;)

  4. My school is preparing to go to 1:1 as well. Bandwidth is one problem and the other one is the blocked sites in China. We use VPN, using gmail accounts for the staff and hosting Moodle externally. Every year we are enhancing school bandwidth but still 1:1 issue is a hot potato. As Jeff said, student purchase is the only option for us and I think one brand with same models for every student will be ideal way to deal with hardware/software problems.

  5. This post reminds me a lot of what I have been reading in Instructional Coaching With the End in Mind. In it, Steve Barkley writes that we can’t really define our actions as educators until we define what it is we want our students to be able to do, and then define what that looks like.

    You say that we first must identify what we want students to be able to do. Thank you. Too much time, money and resources are spent in education without first clearly defining what it is we want.

  6. Pingback: David Truss :: Pair-a-dimes for Your Thoughts » BYOL vs BYOD

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