St Paul Schools 1:1 Feedback

The following information was collected by Julia McGuire, a parent serving on our district’s 1:1 study committee.

I mentioned a while back that my cousin worked for St. Paul schools and that they pulled the plug on their 1:1 program. I asked for more info and got the message below, which I believe is very helpful and echoes much of what we’ve already heard, with the additional of data (see first paragraph). They are currently looking at BYOD models (see end of her message).We didn’t really hear about BYOD at the conference, but perhaps MN’s 1:1 conference in June will have that topic. Deb offered to talk more if we desired. I also have a classmate at Westside (Omaha) schools who offered to talk 1:1 to us if we want. He is a data analyst, and stated that 1:1 lead to gains for them, including MAP. — JULIA


The response from the school district…….

I was the technology integration specialist responsible for researching, planning, implementing, and supporting a 1:1 netbook pilot for 9th grade English classes at Harding High School in St. Paul during the 2010-2011 school year.  This was funded by a federal Ed Tech ARRA grant, and was St. Paul’s first attempt at a 1:1 program. Our goal was to study the impact of 1:1 access on student achievement and examine the feasibility of providing 1:1 technology access to students in St. Paul.  Because we are a district of 39,000+ students, a 1:1 program is not economically feasible for us.  While we saw statistically significant gains in MAP Reading scores for students on free / reduced price lunch, African-American students, and females over our control group at another SPPS high school with similar demographics, we did not have enough information to justify expanding or continuing the pilot.

Here are some of the lessons we learned from our small pilot:

  • Administrative support in a building is critical — if the building administration does not support and model instructional use of technology; visit classrooms and reinforce the importance of what the students and teachers are doing with technology; or, provide support when devices are misused, misplaced, or stolen, the program will suffer.
  • Teachers need to self-select / voluntarily participate in the pilot. If the teachers do not voluntarily select to participate in a 1:1 program, they are not motivated to change their pedagogy and do not fully integrate technology into the curriculum.  The teachers I worked with were very entrenched in their traditional pedagogy, and were told by their principal that they had to participate.
  • Professional development is critical for any successful implementation, and professional development should be completed before the school year starts to allow teachers the chance to gain comfort with the technology and look for natural ways to embed it in their curriculum.
  • Coaching /mentoring support in the form of a technology integration specialist is critical
  • Network  access and capacity is critical.  We added extra wireless access points in the pilot classrooms, but did not anticipate students pulling out one or two additional devices which used wireless network connections.
  • Do not attempt to implement new technology, new technology standards, and new academic standards at the same time, as it is overwhelming.
  • Students took better care of their personal devices — cell phones, iPods, etc. — than they did the school-issued laptops.  Perhaps an indicator that a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program might be better in SPPS.

We also encountered significant issues with the netbooks we purchased — cracked displays that appeared to be a design flaw — which hindered our efforts and forced us to pull back the remaining devices into carts for the last 6 weeks of the school year. ….

Because 1:1 programs can be so costly, I am finding more information about districts moving towards the Bring your own Device (BYOD) model, and these districts are using their technology budgets to build their network capacity.  Edina Public Schools in Edina, MN has embraced the BYOD model, and they have partnered with Best Buy to offer families the ability to purchase devices through an online store tailored for their district.  Osseo Public Schools in Osseo, MN has also embraced the BYOD model.
Here are some resources that my grant evaluator from the University of MN shared with me before our pilot:
Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom (2006) M.  Warschauer
1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work (2009) P. Livingston

See Volume 9 – Special Issue on 1-to-1

Additional articles by Warschauer on 1-to-1 computing (he focuses on  literacy):

We also encountered significant issues with the netbooks we purchased — cracked displays that appeared to be a design flaw — which hindered our efforts and forced us to pull back the remaining devices into carts for the last 6 weeks of the school year. 

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative at is a very helpful website. The state of Maine provided districts with the opportunity for middle schools to participate in a 1:1 program which provided  students in grades 7-8 with a Mac laptop.  Maine is an early leader in this area, and they have had a 1:1 program for middle school students for over 10 years.  This site has links to archived webinars, tutorials, and a variety of other great resources.

Spring Lake Park Schools just north of downtown Minneapolis has just begun a 1:1 program with iPads and iPod Touch devices.  This is a district of 5,200 students.  Here is a link to their Digital Learning Initiative page with some information about their program — .  The instructional technology coordinator, Jerelyne Nemanich, is a friend of mine, and I would be happy to make an introduction for you.  I do know that her district laid the groundwork for this initiative with a focus on instruction and assessment for several years before they began this program.  The district also identified their Technology Continuous Improvement Coaches through their participation in technology / Web 2.0 professional development opportunities a few years ago.  Her website also includes documentation about their research, planning, and implementation plans and processes.

Several other metro districts are also doing 1:1 programs at various grade levels or in individual buildings.  The Spring Lake Park What is 1:1?  page links to these districts and can be found at  Most metro districts that are attempting 1:1 are currently using iPads.  I am not aware of any local districts using laptops in 1:1 programs.  The West St. Paul – Mendota Heights – Eagan District instituted a 1:1 iPad program at Heritage Middle School using funds from a federal grant.  However, the grant funding has run out, and it doesn’t sound like they are going to continue this program.  Stillwater Public Schools in Stillwater, MN implemented a 1:1 laptop program at Oakland Junior High (Middle School) many years ago, but ended the program because of funding. Many new programs in Minnesota which are going 1:1 are using  mobile devices, such as iPads.

One thought on “St Paul Schools 1:1 Feedback

  1. Pingback: Why 1:1? | West Des Moines Community Schools Technology

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