Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? [guest post]

The first post of a 4-part series on 1:1 at Leyden High Schools.
Jason Markey, principal of East Leyden High School

Leyden High School District, located just outside of Chicago, serves the communities of Franklin Park, Schiller Park, River Grove, Rosemont, and parts of Northlake and Melrose Park.  Our two high schools serve just over 3,500 students.

I’m excited about Leyden sharing our 1:1 journey in hopes that we can help schools realize the potential of access for all students and to allow all of us to learn from others along the way.  One of the most important parts of our digital evolution has been the conversations, visits, and meetings that we have been fortunate to have with districts from Iowa, South Carolina, Massachusetts and many others.  But the most important part of any school’s development of vision is to understand “the why.”  So that’s where we started.

A few months ago, the importance of starting with the why was made even more clear to me when I read a blog post by Carmela Ianni highlighting Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk.  So the center of our “golden circle,” the answer to the question why 1:1, has always been because it will provide opportunities for our students that are simply not possible without anytime, anywhere access to the web.

So what opportunities specifically?

  • The opportunity to ensure that great teaching and learning can happen in all classrooms and not be dependent upon access.
  • The opportunity to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously with other students seamlessly.
  • The opportunity for students to receive more timely and specific feedback from teachers.
  • The opportunity for students to create a positive digital footprint with learning being public on the web.
  • The opportunity for students to generate more writing and create more authentic representations of their learning than ever before.
  • The opportunity for students to choose how they present their learning.
  • Leveling the playing field for access for all our students.
  • The opportunity to remove the ceiling on what they can learn and share.  We purposely did not set a finite goal on what outcome we want to see as “results” of 1:1 because what we truly want is for each student to be able to follow their passion in learning and allow that to take them to new possibilities.

Equally important as considering the why, is considering the why not.  I recently wrote a brief blog post on considering the opportunity cost of not choosing 1:1.  I strongly believe if 1:1 is honestly considered, the only roadblock for districts considering 1:1 is the fear of managing the logistics.  Our next blog post in this series will cover how we have addressed the many logistical concerns of a 1:1 initiative.  One of the most important decisions that made our logistical concerns much easier to address was our device selection, the Chromebook.

So the question we have answered the most since last December when we publicly made our decision is  “why the Chromebook?”  Often the question is phrased something like this, “so why didn’t you choose iPads,  and aren’t Chromebooks just the web?”  As I wrote here in my blog, yes they are a web-based  and web-managed device, and that is actually an incredible advantage over many other potential devices.  Ryan Bretag wrote a great blog post on this topic, “The Internet as a Belief System”.  Again, many more technical specifics will be discussed in our next post, but when we considered a device we looked for something that could ensure our resources, both time and money, were focused more on student learning rather than supporting the technology.  I am so excited to report that we launched 3,500 devices in our two high schools this year and we have not hired one additional person in our tech department.  We have put into place two instructional coaches specializing in integrating technology and a new course called Tech Support Internship (TSI).  TSI is our “frontline” tech support now for students and teachers in addition to being so much more for our students.  Again resources supporting learning, not technology.  In the final post of this series we will highlight our TSI class.

I hope this has been a good introduction as to the “why” we chose 1:1 and Chromebooks for our students.  Please do not hesitate to follow up with me here.  Also, we are opening our doors at Leyden for two school visit dates this fall and a conference in the summer.  If you are interested, please see more information here.

Coming soon….
Post #2 – The Logistics of 1:1 at Leyden
Post #3 – From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All
Post #4 – Student Tech Support – Student Ownership of 1:1

10 Responses to “Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? [guest post]”

  1. Excellent post! We are in year 2 of our 1:1. We went with Macbooks, which at the time I thought was a good decision, and I still do, but as more web-based tools become available and reliable, its becoming apparent that Chromebooks will easily meet our needs in the future. I’m curious, have you had any wireless network issues? My school had several days, even weeks of Internet outages and problems that cost us valuable learning time. I look forward to your future posts and hopefully we can meet up at Edcamp Chicago! Cheers!

    • Justin – Thanks for reading and for the kind comments. When we first started our pilot last year we had to optimize our wifi network for the Chromebooks instead of the netbooks we previously used. Once we did this, our network has been consistent and we have not had any major outages at all. Certainly infrastructure is of vital importance and we spend a number of years building ours to be prepared to go 1:1.

      Great to hear you will be at Edcamp Chicago – make sure you introduce yourself so we can talk in person!

  2. Our reasons for deploying Chromebooks are very similar to those pointed out in this article. The devices are very low maintenance. Here’s an article by the Vancouver Sun (newspaper) on our particular program:


  3. Thanks for the post on how you use Chromebooks. I think in terms of empowering your students with technology Chromebooks are a much better choice over iPads. I think iPads have an advantage for reading new textbooks, but Chromebooks provide way more productivity for the students across a range of classes.

    I’m a recent graduate from Stanford in computer science and we are building a website called CodeHS to teach computer science to high school students, with a focus on providing help. If you want to offer CS at your school with the new Chromebooks, this may be of interest to you. The site is codehs.com, or send me an email at jkeesh@codehs.com

    I think you will see a lot of new impressive web apps available to students through the web browser in the near future. Best of luck to your school!

  4. 1:1 isn’t essential if you use Chromebooks – you can easily just hand out Chromebooks to the class and collect them at the end of class if necessary. Because they store everything on the Cloud, Chromebooks are eminently shareable in a way that other devices aren’t.

    Chromebooks are much cheaper than Macs, PCs and iPads in terms of TCO in 1:1 roll outs, but if you can’t afford 1:1, then Chromebooks and not Macs, PCs or iPads are definitely the way to go.

  5. Respectfully, Mr. Jason Markey, this is quite a piece…of solid waste. Given the importance of the topic, each of your Kool-Aid driven inane paragraphs need to be rebutted but space here does not permit.

    That you already have a flock of academic sheep bleating agreement is no surprise nor a shock. It is what school administrators do: protect and grow their flocks.

    Lie 1: Buying fashionable technology results in higher quality students. Wrong!
    Lie 2: Digital activity equals improved education results. Wrong! Like most other secondary administrators and teachers you confuse activity with achievement. Your Chromebookers are spending 25 x more time on Facebook than they are Khan Academy lectures and it will only get worse.
    Lie 3: Digital opportunity is the panacea for student success! Wrong x 3465. The other 35 students in your district (1%) are going to be successful regardless of your foolish technology pursuits.
    Truth 1: You don’t know how to measure the result of investing in Chromebooks or any other digital device for that matter so you just ignore the need for results. No need for an auditable ROI in your district.

    You should be ashamed for hyping digital technology like this. Shame on the weak minded inexperienced cyber-fools with teaching certificates who follow you.

    Your school board should be completely replaced if they approved this measure. And we all know how well the school boards in Illinois and the USA operate.

    It is because of “strategic” actions like yours that the USA us now ranked 35th in education performance across the globe.

    I hope your Chromebook solution is teaching your students how to speak Mandarin because they will be all working for Chinese companies before too long. But your pension will be safe.

    PS – Fact-based, objective, rational replies are both welcomed and invited. Emotional, subjective, hormonally driven replies need not be sent.

    • Thank you for your contribution to the dialogue. I welcome good conversation. I have a question, though.

      “Fact-based, objective, rational replies are both welcomed and invited. Emotional, subjective, hormonally driven replies need not be sent.”

      Does this apply to your original comment as well? Because there are a lot of unsupported assertions in there… #justsaying

    • Kenth,

      It seems much of your commentary here is directed towards your feelings about our education system and not the intent of this post specifically. I take serious offense to your remarks directed at the teachers at our district and our board of education. As Scott referred to, this comment is full of subjective and emotional assertions that you have no basis for since I assume you know nothing of our district other than what you read in this brief piece. I stand by our efforts to provide students with these opportunities in our district.


  6. Great post Jason. When I started my 1:1 pilot, I had no idea that there were such great resources available nearby. Thank you for sharing your accomplishments and the chllenges that you have faced. You are a great credit to your school. I was impressed with the incredible students and the way that both your tech crew and your food service students represented their community. wWhat is best about this pos though is that it is clear that you and your school have taken the time to develop the “why?” behind your program. I lookforward to reading the rest of this series.

  7. Thanks for the post about Chromebooks and your initiative. I am a fourth grade teacher with five Chromebooks in my classroom. Chromebooks are ideal devices for elementary age students. Windows and Microsoft products are to complex for students to manage. For the past several years we have been using net books and PCs. For the first time this year I actually feel like I can help my students with their learning rather than help them with their device. I am no longer a technician. I would do anything to have 1:1 Chromebooks in my classroom. Good luck to you and yours!

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