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Selling the Dream of 1:1 Computing
A Leadership Primer
© 2005 Gary S. Stager


Schools around the world are at long-last embracing the implementation of 1:1 computing. However, many of the best intentions are stymied by a lack of leadership, narrow vision and an inability to communicate ambitious goals that justify the investment to cautious stakeholders.

The following is a series of answers often provided to support 1:1 computing and suggestions for how the same leader might inspire the hearts and minds of teachers, parents and community members.


Instead of saying this…

Say the following…

I realize that 1:1 computing is expensive.

Our costs should go down with the elimination of maintenance and IT personnel as these responsibilities are shifted to each student, and in the case of repairs, the vendor.

We have spent too much money creating computer labs where too few students have too little access to the resources they need. Our failure to inspire teachers to use computers across the curriculum is a result of such scarcity.

Excellent low-cost insurance and warranties exist for student laptops.

The purchase of laptops represents an investment in much needed research and development.

The laptops will replace textbooks.

Students will learn from a variety of sources and develop critical literacy skills by considering multiple perspectives, bias and evidence. In addition to the laptops, teachers will be encouraged to use other primary source materials in the curriculum.

Students need laptops today to prepare them for the real world of the future.

The laptops offer the potential today for students to engage in the real work of mathematicians, scientists, composers, filmmakers, authors and engineers.

We have an obligation to build upon the technological fluency the students bring to us.

Student attendance will increase.

Too many of our students “check out” for some or all of their education. We must stem the tide of the growing epidemic of learning disability and students dropping out.

A computationally-rich learning environment can provide all students unprecedented opportunities to demonstrate their intellectual competence and creativity. This will place fewer students “at-risk” and make them more productive members of the learning community.

Students will also get to apprentice with teachers who too are learning in new ways.

We must increase the computer literacy of our students.

Computers are integral to the world of our students and it is incumbent upon us to build upon the skills, attitudes and interests they bring to us.

Every child in our district should be taught to program computers and understand the critical role computer science is playing across nearly every other discipline.

Computer use must be appropriate, transparent and ubiquitous across the curriculum and computer science must be offered to all students interested in more specialized knowledge.

Students should be wise consumers of information.

Computer fluent students shift from being mere consumers to producers of knowledge and other forms of creative expression. They can contribute ideas and artifacts to the digital world that will be admired and useful.

Students will use the computer to brainstorm and organize their thoughts.

The quantity and quality of student writing will increase dramatically. Peer-editing will become commonplace and students will be responsible for creating several publications each year worthy of public distribution via print, video, audio or the World Wide Web.

Writing will be less on exercise and more a way of sharing knowledge and telling stories to different audiences.

It’s just a tool.

The personal computer has revolutionized every other aspect of society and one expects that the same should be true for education now that laptops are more affordable, durable and portable.

All students need to learn to make a PowerPoint presentation.

All students are expected to construct, communicate and defend original thoughts to a community of experts and laypeople.

Teachers will integrate technology into the curriculum.


1:1 computing reduces all of the excuses for a lack of computer use and sends a definitive message that computers in education are not a fad.

Some teachers may need to rethink their career options.

Laptops allow “anytime, anywhere learning.”

The entire nature of schooling will and must change. If we do not respond to the promise of emerging technology and the threats posed by social forces, we will not remain viable.

The laptops provide a platform for beginning the reinvention of curriculum, teaching, assessment and school structures. Just as many parents are telecommuting or working from home, some of our students may as well.

We need to have serious discussions about how to spend the precious time we are all together (students and educators) in one physical space and maximize that time. What can be done better or more efficiently online?

We complain about student attention spans and yet ring a bell every 37 minutes and interrupt their thinking. Laptop schools have demonstrated routinely that the work students produce on their own time with the laptop often exceeds our wildest expectations of our students’ abilities.

When Someone Else Says...

Answer in the following way...

Our roofs need repair and there is no toilet paper in the school restrooms.

It is inexcusable to run out of basic supplies and we will work harder to ensure that it does not occur.

Roof repair does not come out of the instructional budget and if it did, repairing roofs would do nothing to help us reinvent education for the 21st Century.

Students will break, lose or steal their laptops.

Students feel respected when they are trusted with such important devices and have exceeded our expectations all over the world for the past 15 years. Students are competent and worthy of our trust.

What about handwriting?

Young children will still be taught to write by hand since they desire to do so, but a much lower emphasis will be placed upon penmanship and a greater emphasis on expressing oneself via the keyboard. Research suggests that the keyboard is actually more compatible with young motor skill development than handwriting.

This shift will have the benefit of creating fewer learning disabilities among students who confuse “writing” (penmanship) with “real writing” (the ability to express one’s self). The district will save large sums of money by not purchasing handwriting curricula materials.

Calligraphy will be addressed in art classes rather than as an obstacle to the writing process.

Laptops are expensive.

So is our football program. Besides, schools routinely spend more money on the real-estate, furniture and wiring for computer labs than it would cost to provide a computer per student.

Instead of building television studios to be used by a handful of students, every student will have a studio in their backpack.

We won’t need computer teachers when every teacher teaches with computers.

We can’t afford any more precious classroom space being used up as computer labs.

Students will look at inappropriate web sites.

Some probably will and they will be disciplined in the same manner as if they brought a copy of Playboy to school. We will not overreact just because a computer was involved since the laptop is an integral part of the learning process.

Most students will use their laptops responsibly. A highly qualified teacher or parent nearby is the best filter and our emphasis on using computers will not be idle web surfing.

You do children no favor by insulating them from some of life’s less desirable elements, especially since they already spend so much time using computers. You teach children how to respond to inappropriate images or solicitation, just as you teach them not to get in a car with strangers.

Students will use the computers in purposeful ways in the creation of meaningful projects they care about.

Teachers will integrate technology into the curriculum.

1:1 computing reduces all of the excuses for a lack of computer use and sends a definitive message that computers in education are not a fad.

Some teachers may need to rethink their career options.

Can a student opt-out of using a laptop?

As the primary intellectual instrument of our time, all students will need to use a laptop in order to be a successful participant in our learning community. We do not allow parents to exclude their student from the use of books.

We are considering whether students will be allowed to take their laptops home.

Since the laptops represent a deliberate effort to expand learning beyond the boundaries and schedule of school, it is critical that they be used at home. This also helps us extend the formal learning community to include parents, siblings and other people important in the lives of each student.

We should go slowly and proceed cautiously.

Schools have had 1:1 computing for more than 15 years. Microcomputers have been in schools for 25 years. We owe it to our students to close the digital divide immediately and offer expanded learning opportunities. We cannot afford to sacrifice another generation of students.

PC means personal computer. The personal nature of the laptop supports and amplifies the personal nature of learning

Besides, the opposition to 10 laptops is the same as the opposition to 10,000 laptops. We need to have the courage to lead on behalf of the children we care about.

Gary Stager is one of the true pioneers of the 1:1 laptop movement.  His work in this area includes looking beyond the laptops to their effective application by students as true tools for learning.  Rather than seeing 1:1 computing as a vehicle for replicating older educational models, Gary sees it as a chance to transform educational practice in ways that truly prepare young people for lifelong learning.

- Dr. David Thornburg - Noted futurist, author, consultant


Contact Information
Since 1990, Gary Stager has been a respected leader and advocate for the constructive use of 1:1 computers in public and private schools around the world. Gary has been engaged in virtually every aspect of PD, implementation and inspiring educators to develop new practices that support the development of modern knowledge in their students. More biographical info may be found here.

Gary Stager is available to help prepare for your 1:1 initiative or to maximize your investment in educational technology. Contact Gary for information on his world-class consulting and professional development services.

"The great thing about Gary is that he never gives up. He was there at the beginning of the great transformation of learning via the medium of portable computers, at the first school to implement laptops, Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne, in 1990. Fifteen years later, Gary's still at the forefront, still showing the way, still walking the walk in his inimitable style.

His work - particularly among the most challenged students, like the juvenile offenders incarcerated at the Maine Youth Center -- provides conclusive proof that kids can learn better through the intelligent use of technology."
- Bob Johnstone, author of Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers and the Transformation of Learning, the premiere history of laptops in education


For more information about Gary Stager and educational computing, visit

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