Saturday, September 29, 2007

one-to-one computing

I've been using laptops in my classroom at least once a week this year. I think they've been useful for the educational blogging we've been doing. But I came across this article about how one district in New York is getting rid of their laptops.
“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops - New York Times

It's always good to think about whether what we're doing in the classroom is actually helping our students learn. But upon closer examination, this reversal of the one-to-one computing trend may not be all that surprising. Here are a couple of reasons, (followed by excerpts from the same article cited above):

1. Whenever hardware is brought into the classroom without adequate training for the teachers, it flops.

Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums.
2. Therefore, introducing the technology isn't going to increase standardized test scores, which unfortunately is the litmus test.
Yet school officials here and in several other places said laptops had been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores at a time of increased pressure to meet state standards.
The pressures are real and there's a lot of money involved, so school communities should proceed with caution. Later in the article math teachers said that they prefer pencil & paper, and graphing calculators because those are more efficient tools. That makes perfect sense.

Laptops work in my classroom because they allow students to read online (with Google Reader), conduct inquiry, and then comment on their reading in blog posts that are properly cited. That then initiates a conversation with others who might be interested in their inquiry.

For this type of learning, one-to-one computing isn't the best tool, it's the only tool.

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