Catching a 1:1 Wave: Surf or Prepare for the Crash!

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The wave of 1:1 computer education is here, and it’s here now! It’s not on its way in a couple of years or even something to start preparing for with research and development. It’s today.  Are you ready? Do you need help?

Catching a 1:1 Wave: Surf or Prepare for the Crash!

Lindsay and I, resting between waves.

The other day I was reading a Q&A from a great site at on Artificial Intelligence were an expert named Joseph Qualls stated: “I tell people that AI is a wave, and it’s here now. You are either going to surf that wave, or it’s going to crash on you. It’s not going to be 10 years from now – it’s today.” The rest of this great article goes on to question how AI will impact education today and tomorrow.

Why surfing is like implementing a 1:1 technology program

However, this got me thinking about surfing and the one and only time I took the opportunity to surf. The key word here is “took”. There have been other opportunities for me to push my way in the water and try surfing. But this was the one time I took advantage of the opportunity and pushed all fear aside to try it. And why not, I was in Hawaii for crying out loud.

It was the most unbelievable trip I’ve ever taken, and I was so glad to share it with my wife. We were in Honolulu, Hawaii to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I must have looked like a kid in a candy shop as we enjoyed everything from shopping to hiking to surfing. It was a trip of many firsts for me. Including the last day of surfing on the beautiful Waikiki Bay in the early evening as the sun was going down.

This was also no ordinary sunset. The sun was setting behind the beautiful Diamond Head Volcano. Which my wife and I had just explored on a hiking trip the day before.  How can you not take advantage of surfing at a time like that? We were a long way from the corn fields of northern Indiana. Yet another reason why I did not learn the skill of surfing when growing up.

I know, I know… what does surfing in Waikiki have to do with 1:1’s and education?

It sounds great and all, but what does it have to do with thousands of pre-teenagers and teenagers having devices to replace their textbooks and future educational lessons?  Stick with me as I am getting there.

Now another side note that’s important to this story is this was not my wife’s first trip to the islands. Nor her first time surfing in Waikiki Bay. So, of course, within minutes she was up on the board and gliding across the water with the sun setting behind her and one of the most famous landmarks on Oahu and the entire state of Hawaii in Diamond Head as her background. That’s right; I married that woman.

Me on the other hand, I was experiencing side pain that I had not had since my senior year of football in 1999. I was glad I didn’t kill the 8 year old that flew past me on his board as I was doing my best to ‘man-up’ a wave for what felt like the 99th time.

I was exhausted, beat down, sore and yet having the time of my life at that moment. There was no doubt that I was not prepared for that 120+ minutes in the water that day, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

Catching a 1:1 Wave: Surf or Prepare for the Crash!

Lindsay, looking like a pro!

Here’s what I know from my 1:1 experience on the front line

Since 2011, I’ve had the opportunity to help a school district implement it’s 1:1 program. It is one of the top self-maintained educational 1:1 programs in the state of Indiana. In the spring of 2011, my building principal and district superintendent asked if I would head up our 1:1 initiative.

Amazingly it was not much different to the fall of 2015 when my wife asked me to learn to surf with her in the beautiful waters of Waikiki.

Both were opportunities that deep down inside I knew I couldn’t pass up. When the day came to start each process, I had very little clue what I was doing. In both cases, it was surf or prepare for the crash.

In the start of the 2017 school year in the state of Indiana, over 65% of schools will have already implemented or begin to implement their 1:1 initiatives. By the 2018 school year, it’s predicted to be over 80% of schools will have taken the leap.

1:1 technology will bring a different level of learning into the classroom

Surfing uses a different set of muscles than most people use on a daily basis. Computer devices will bring a different set of learning than text books.

Waikiki is a major tourist location for the Island of Oahu. There aren’t too many people vacationing on Oahu who are physically prepared for an evening of surfing. Especially if they have never done it before.  Parallel, there are not too many school districts that are fully prepared for a 1:1 initiative if they’ve never done it before.

If I could go back and prepare for that moment, I would have started training my body and my core for that day, months in advance. However, the facts are that I didn’t, and just because I was not in surfing condition, it did not stop me from stepping out and doing the best I could. We were only in Waikiki for one more day, and I might not have the opportunity like this ever again, this I was 100% sure of.

School districts have to remember that the time is now and they have to gather the facts and go for it.  In the words of Eric Thomas, author, minister and one of the greatest motivational speakers of our generation “Take advantage of the opportunity in the lifetime of the opportunity!”  If you wait till your school district is ready, you might miss the wave.

Like many things in life, instruction minimizes the learning curve

That day of surfing, we were blessed to have a dear friend of my wife to help us out. There is no doubt I would have crashed more and been twice as sore if I didn’t have someone to help. He made our experience a positive one. When we were done, I could tell by the smile on his face it was as important to him we had a positive experience as it was for us.

Our goal at Positive1to1 is to help schools with their learning curve, so they have a parallel experience… a positive experience. The more cautious approach to 1:1 computing efforts comes from studying the successes and mistakes of others.

There are school districts doing a very good job with their overall vision as well as staff and student training to help raise student achievement and student engagement in learning. Then there’s the key policy and logistical issues to assure great communication between the user, teacher, administration and the tech support.

Technologists can learn a lot by talking with counterparts in other districts who have implemented these programs.

Accomplish a lot of little tasks exceptionally well to have a successful 1:1 program

To capture that perfect surf you must have a lot of little things working together. It’s vital to accomplish these little things exceptionally well.

The ocean is big and unruly with unpredictable waves. Then there’s the board, your arms paddling, your timing, your push-off the board, your foot placement, your awareness of those around you… that’s a lot for a beginner to put together and that isn’t even the half of it.

Pushing a 1:1 program at your district is very similar. You have multiple parts working together to accomplish the task, the ultimate system. You have students, teachers, administrators, board members, technicians. In many programs, a forgotten piece that’s left out of the picture is the parents.

Each of these parts of a system has their own wants and needs. The requirements must be properly communicated to have a successful program.

Use what you have!

Take a good hard look at yourself and use what you have to the best of your ability. Know your strengths and weaknesses, identify them and create the best plan to work with what you have.

After what seemed like an eternity of failure to ride a wave successfully (and watching my wife pop up on the board like a pro), I decided to use my strengths. Balance is a strength of mine. So I stopped focusing on making sure that everything was perfect before I popped up on the board. I decided to simply push up as fast as I could and focus on balance. From there I could adjust little things and stay on the board for the ride.

When creating the first 1:1 program I decided to focus on my strength to meet our school district needs. Like a slap in the face, it was staring at me, directly at me. Our greatest strength was the students that came into our classroom every day.

What does every school district have and always will have? What will continue to help them from year to year with their 1:1 needs? The answer; students!

Our greatest strength was our students. By building a system of a self-maintaining, self-repair program that gave our students opportunities for certifications and technical honors diplomas while learning important third-party skills through hands-on education.

Catching a 1:1 Wave: Surf or Prepare for the Crash!

Beautiful Diamond Head Sunset!


Spending over 6 years on the front lines of working with Administration, Teachers, Tech Directors and Associates, Students, Parents and major corporations like Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo it is safe to say that there are several little things that can interrupt your ability to surf that 1:1 wave.  However, the choice is yours to either surf or prepare for the crash.