Monday, July 17, 2006

NECC - One to One Initiatives: Challenges and Solutions

This was a "birds of a feather" session - not really a presentation, but a discussion among schools that have one-to-one laptop initiatives. It was interesting to listen to the successes and challenges they have had. It was striking how all of them emphasized the necessity of continuous, on-going staff development. I've been preaching that for a while even in our non-one-to-one school, but it appears as though it is even more important in one-to-one schools.
Quote 1: We are moving from occasional and random access to continuous access. This is a radical change.
I've been talking about this a lot in our staff development, but I still don't think I've gotten the message across about how big a change this is going to be for our students - and our schools. And I think I am not fully aware of how dramatic the changes are going to be - it's not going to be until we have that full-time access that we'll really see how huge those changes are going to be. I need to keep talking about this with our teachers so we are better prepared when that time comes.
Quote 2: What can I do now with my students that I couldn't do before?
I think we need to spend more time thinking about this question. Instead of simply doing what we've always done but using technology, we really need to think about how this tool can fundamentally change our relationship with information and how we learn.
Quote 3: It's about differentiation.
We've talked about differentiation in schools for a long time, but I think these tools are getting us much closer to true differentiation in our classrooms. One of the key questions then becomes: What does that mean in terms of curriculum if we are truly differentiating based on the needs of each student? Which then leads to this last quote:
Quote 4: Having a passion for learning is more important than curriculum.
If you don't agree with that statement, than we're going to have to do a whole lot of work to integrate these tools into the existing curriculum and justify the existance of the curriculum. If you do agree with that statement, than it has a profound impact on what we should be doing in our classrooms - and we're going to have to do even more work.


  1. Hi Karl
    the issue I have with 1:1 is the loss of the social dimension. We have 1:3 for computers in our class and (usually) when kids are working they are working TOGETHER. I know for myself I believe we learn in a social environment and it strikes me that 1:1 laptops is not a lot different from a computer lab .... or (to be provocative) a victorian classroom with kids sitting in rows, quiet, being fed 'stuff' and all that comes with that.
    Social constructivism is the learning model that seems to be driving current reforms yet we are attempting to stiffle the social unless it is virtual? I struggle with this.
    And to get conspiracy theorist .... aren't Apple one of the big funders and proponents of 1:1 - who wins in this scenario?? (and I love my mac!)
    More questions than answers but .....

  2. Greg,

    Those are great points to consider. I usually have more questions than answers as well, but let me give this a shot. While I think Apple certainly promotes 1:1, they are a relatively small player in K-12. They've just been more successful at getting large districts to adopt the Mac for their 1:1 initiatives. For those of us who are Mac fans, the reasons are obvious. For those that aren't - like my school district - that continues to mystify.

    I agree that students should be working together often. I don't think having 1:1 excludes that from happening. When it's appropriate and helpful for students to work together, that will still happen (and they'll share using a laptop when they need one). And that will happen often. (And in our laptop classrooms we are trying to get tables, not desks, and arrange them creatively to foster conversation - I would do away with desks and rows altogether).

    But there are times in the classroom when each student needs their own computer (personal reflection, communication, presentations, etc.). And in our school, we have variable scheduling, which means students have between 2 and 8 hours unscheduled each week when they would be able to use their laptops productively. Plus lunch and before and after school. And, of course, when they go home. I don't think we should limit the concept to the walls of the classroom.

    I think the social issue is an interesting and important one, but I think this may be an issue more for us digital immigrants. We (adults) see a student on a computer as isolated, students see themselves on a computer as connected. We see a machine, they see a means of communication. I think adults have a hard time seeing (or agreeing with this), but when today's students are on a computer, they are being social. And the research backs them up. There was a study that came out a year or so ago that found that students who were heavy computer users were more socially connected - both online and in face-to-face relationships - than students who were not. So I think this may be more an issue of adult perception than reality. That doesn't mean we shouldn't pay attention to it, but I think that's even more reason to show our students responsible uses of technology in school - which 1:1 will help us do (with the appropriate staff development).

    Finally, a thought experiment for you. Since we're concerened that 1:1 might impact the social dimension of our students lives, I propose that you give up your computer (both at school and at home if you have them both places). In addition, you should convince two of your colleagues to give up their computers as well. But don't worry, we'll provide the three of you with one computer to share and work collaboratively on. We'll place that computer in a classroom in your building and any time you are scheduled into that classroom, you guys can work on that computer. Of course when you are not in that classroom, we won't be able to give you access (both for security reasons and because other classes might be in there and it might be disruptive for you to be in there). We feel that this will be the best way to prevent you from becoming isolated yet at the same time prepare you to be successful in the 21st century.

    So, do you think that will work for you and your colleagues? If so, then great. If not, then why in the world would we think it would be appropriate for our students?