Peter’s Take: APS Should End One-to-One Program in Early Elementary

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

APS began its one-to-one student device program five years ago. Since then, substantial new research has been released documenting the harmful effects of prolonged exposure to such devices, particularly in early childhood.

Device exposure is especially harmful in early childhood

By beginning the current one-to-one program in second grade rather than first grade, APS tacitly has acknowledged the risks of excessive exposure to these devices at too young an age. Young children are hard-wired to respond to facial cues and learn from watching other human beings, not digital screens. Young children are more susceptible to screen addiction.

APS should start to phase out the one-to-one program beginning with the second-grade class in 2018, followed by the third-grade class in school year 2019-2020. Further phase outs should be considered in subsequent years.

Device usage policies need revision

After five years, APS is still struggling to develop policies regarding how these devices should be used. APS cannot prove how these devices improve educational outcomes. Too much responsibility is allocated to children and not enough to APS staff.

Parents are provided no opportunity to opt out, even if their child is falling behind due to overuse or misuse of technology in the classroom. There must be more accountability. Additional limits should be placed on when and how much teachers can use technology.

Decouple one-to-one program from “personalized learning” in new strategic plan

APS is developing a new strategic plan.

In the current strategic plan at APS, one of the worthy goals is “Development of the Whole Child.” Part of APS’ current approach to this goal is what APS calls “personalized learning,” and the one-to-one device program plays a central role in that goal.

In APS’ new strategic plan, the one-to-one program should no longer be an integral part of personalized learning. A June 2017 comprehensive history of the development of personalized learning provides a withering critique of the risks of making personal digital learning devices a central part of personalized learning. The article describes at least four other approaches to personalized learning that do not entail such heavy reliance on personal digital learning devices.

Other relevant sources also criticizing such heavy reliance are available here, here and here.

The one-to-one program actually is a form of depersonalized learning.

The current linkage between personal digital learning devices and personalized learning at APS schools should be severed. It should be replaced with an alternative approach centered on human interactions (not involving digital learning devices) between APS students and APS instructional staff.


To address appropriate concerns about the digital divide and the benefits that access to devices provide for many children with special needs, APS should convert the current one-to-one program in second and third grades into a new program that provides APS devices to students based upon the application of economic criteria like those in the free and reduced meals (FARM) program. This new program should be based on a shared-device model.

APS devices should include tracking and monitoring apps so that non-educational use and overall screen time (combining in-school and outside-school use) can be objectively measured by both APS and parents.

APS should be completely transparent about total costs and per-pupil costs associated with these devices, including insurance, maintenance and administrative costs. This information is critical to enable Arlington taxpayers to evaluate costs vs benefits.

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