Involving students in 1:1 planning

~ There’s a need for more student involvement in 1:1 planning.

This was one of key points I learned when I attended the Iowa 1:1 conference this spring – and during this past month I’ve had an opportunity to work directly on this task.

About a month ago, our school district announced that we would begin exploring a 1:1 iPad deployment specific to students enrolled in Chinese courses.  It’s a relatively small pilot, involving just under 100 students (more info at:  But nonetheless, it’s our  first exploration into 1:1 technology deployment of any type and it was an opportunity to practice the details of John Nash’s (twitter: @jnash) session entitled , “How to include students as co-designers in your 1:1 program“.  (more details at:

Although Nash’s session was based on individual student interviews, I needed to make some changes due to time restrictions.  After we announced the pilot project to staff, I set out to visit with each of the Chinese classes.  I wanted to get a better understanding of our students who are enrolled in Chinese, why they chose this language, and questions/concerns they might have about the project. Instead of individual student interviews, I interviewed them as a class, but yet allowed each student to respond individually via their cell phones (via, a web site that allows students to submit information via text).   Although the exact questions and discussions varied between each class, here’s the list of the primary questions we focused on – and how the students responded.

1. What grade level did you start in WDM schools? (for example, if you’ve lived here your whole life, you started in kindergarten. Or perhaps you moved here more recently)

Student responses:  About 35% of the students have lived in West Des Moines their whole life, the rest moved into West Des Moines at various elementary grades thru 9th grade.  In fact, the 2nd most common cluster was students who moved/transferred to West Des Moines Schools at 9th grade.

2. Why did you pick Chinese?
Answers ranged from….

“Because my parent made me”

“Because it is unique and it will set my college application apart from the rest”

“Because I love the Chinese language and the culture.”

“Everyone else takes Spanish – I wanted to be unique.”

“Because I have (or are planning) to visit China”

“I took Chinese because I needed to challenge myself”

3. What are your future aspirations?  What are plans for after high school?

Answers varied widely…. but as you would expect, most were college bound, including majors in…


World Language / Global Studies


Chinese / Foreign Relations


mechanical Engineering

Of course, several undecided (as you expect from the younger students), along with those not so serious folks, including “I will go to college to become a my life long dream of being a Wal-Mart greeter”

4. What technology do you currently use in Chinese?

Listening Chinese DVD

Basic Microsoft Office for projects, etc

Google Translate

We produce short videos demonstrating our language skills

5. How might the iPad help you with learning?

It will allow us to practice more because it is more portable than a computer

With all the apps available, it will be easier to learn/look up characters.

Interactive apps to help me practice.

I would like to see us FaceTime or Skype with other students learning Chinese!!

It will help with video pronunciation recordings.. it will be easier to do recordings and allow to do them more often.

Having a chinese character dictionary would be awesome!

7. How would you prove the projects success?
If you were in charge of proving the projects success to others, what information, data, and facts would you collect to prove the success of the project?

Pre and Post Tests

Fluency tests


How could we measure cultural awareness?

More participation in class, and ability for the class to advance faster

8. Questions?
What questions, concerns, or scenarios do you have questions about related to piloting iPads?  Here’s the most frequent questions/concerns from students…………….

  1. What if it gets lost or stolen? What would happen if the ipad would break? Would there be insurance? or do we pay the fee?
  2. What  would we have to pay for?
  3. What would we specifically do on the ipad?
  4. What would the app and internet restrictions be? what safeguards are there?
  5. Could it be used for an edmodo type thing?
  6. Would it be used for just Chinese? Could we use it for other classes?
  7. Who would be paying for the apps?
  8. What if we don’t want to use the iPad? Could we opt out of using them?
  9. What if some people don’t have internet at home and they can’t fully use the iPad to its potential?
  10. Would we all have to have our own apple accounts? how would we get apps? can we not take it home or just leave it in class?
  11. Don’t trust freshmen before drop date. Freshman need to earn them.
  12. Honestly, why iPads as opposed to other mediums?
  13. How will the school guarantee that the iPad will last?
  14. How will the act of stealing be handled?
  15. Suggestion: contracts to guarantee ipad safety.
  16. Suggestion: graduated system where students earn the right to take them home and use them for other classes
  17. Would we be able to take our dialogues from the cd and record them to be put on the ipad?
  18. Do we get to keep them when we graduate?
  19. Are there things that arent allowed to be used with the ipad?
  20. How are we going to handle personal data and buying things for it like cases, etc?
  21. Will the school put restrictions on it (ie facebook)?
  22. Would it be illegal to use “personal” music on the ipad, even though it isn’t technically ours to put on it (riaa related technicalities)
  23. Can teachers take it away from us if we’re using it in class?
  24. How much memory will be provided with the ipads?
  25. Will they be monitored?
  26. Will we be able to have the iPads over the summer?
  27. Will we have to provide our own cases for them?
  28. Can we download whatever we want?
  29. Will our ipads have privacy? will they be monitored?
  30. Can we personalize our settings?
  31. Can we jailbreak them?
  32. Will we have Chinese textbooks online?
  33. How often do we have to check the iPad back in to ensure that we still have it?
  34. Is this a pilot program that has a possibility of expansion to other classes?
  35. What if this idea gets so popular that everyone wants to take Chinese and we run out of ipads for everyone?
  36. What if my dog eats it?

As you can tell by some of the questions, NOT all students were excited to hear about the iPad deploy. Of course, the clear majority of every class was excited and ready to move forward.  However, each class (5 total classes were interviewed) had at least one or two individuals who were still hesitant for any number of reasons including:  not wanting the responsibility of handling the device outside the classroom, worried that it wouldn’t make a difference and/or might become a distraction.  These concerns are legitimate – and it was extremely helpful for me to hear these concerns up front, as it will be a tremendous help to us as we begin planning the project.

3 thoughts on “Involving students in 1:1 planning

  1. David Maxwell (@FlexMaxwell)

    As an administrator, I’m very excited by this 1:1 opportunity to see the benefits and challenges. I know Brian Abeling and there is no one else I would like to see leading this pilot and initiative. His approach is thoughtful and systematic as he troubleshoots to make sure this will have a positive impact on student achievement.

  2. Kelsey Hudson

    Has anyone looked at how the program will impact other languages? I just remember that being a concern at the beginning of this initiative. 🙂

    1. Brian Abeling Post author

      Hi Kelly, We truly do not know its impact on other classes, but it certainly is something we will be watching for during our plot later this year. As you can see by the feedback from the students, it is something they are thinking about as well. The students have recommended that we do not deploy any equipment until after the class drop date, which is something we will do during this initial pilot. Brian Abeling.


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