Over the last decade, increasingly schools in developed and developing countries have been supporting 1:1 initiatives in education. 1:1 computing refers basically to the level at which access to technology is available to students and teachers.
The main purpose of 1:1 initiatives is to create an environment in which students use laptops, tablets, smartphones, kindles and other computing devices to learn at anytime and anywhere. Yet, the focus is not on technology itself. It is on how the use of these devices can encourage and motivate students to learn in creative and innovative ways. How to provide them a sense of ownership of their learning, and on how to help them acquire essential 21st century skills, specifically critical thinking, collaboration and communication.
Going through various 1:1 programs in schools I have detected something that has caught my attention. It is the diversity of applications, types of professional development, training, policies, hardware, computer programs, and support they conduct.
It looks as if everyone has their own unique 1:1 program; notwithstanding that the main goals are alike. Thousands of ways to get to the same place; I wonder if every one of them is getting there.
Reflecting upon it carefully, I stumbled upon the subsequent questions: Is there a proven method that can be used as a wide-ranging 1:1 program that would be effective for the majority of schools? Does it matter if the method implemented in schools will constantly accomplish the established goals? Is the only requirement for success to equip students with laptops for use in the classrooms?
I have serious doubts concerning the first inquiry. For the two other questions, most experts in the field would agree with me to definitely say no; especially because most school’s 1-to-1 programs tend to give the impression to have the idea that the simple possession of a laptop or tablet by the students will transform and improve their education. Technology for technology’s sake is nothing.
Other programs I have read, seemingly more complete, are concerned about what to do with the computer, and designate quite basic ideas that at the end don’t make much sense (education wise). For example, I have read statements such as: “instead of using notebooks our students use laptops”. The stratagem results in basically replacing one thing with another. I know several schools using interactive boards in the same way; they were using it as a white board, and this, of course, is not trans-formative. Neither is writing a report on a notebook or a laptop.
The reality is that without a careful and well-thought out plan, students bringing their laptops or tablets to school can become the teacher’s biggest nightmare.
If the strategy of a school is just requiring students to use computing devices to give the impression of being a 21st century school, the 1:1 initiative will not work, and it will become an obstacle to education instead of a facilitator.
Schools with serious initiatives to implement or enhance the 1-to-1 program must consider at least the following facets: Preparation of a plan that includes the objectives, tools, resources and costs needed to accomplish them.
Impart laptop classroom management workshops to teachers. And grant them with extensive professional development showing how to integrate technology into their curriculum. Also, it is essential to implement technology assessments rubrics by teacher and identify leaders that can collaborate with other less experienced or tech-wised teachers.
To transform the 1-to-1 program into a facilitator instead of an obstacle in education requires time. Even with the planning, the right tools, and professional development, changing teaching practices through 1-to-1 computing programs takes time. The ultimate goal is that student learning improves by having access to technologies that allow them to learn at anytime and anywhere, and that goal must be worth the effort.
There’s no doubt that for the majority, a well-planned 1:1 initiative will work as a facilitator that allows and inspires students to use an entire range of analytical and cognitive tools. These extend from programming languages to social media, and develop a whole set of skills that involve critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. However, this will be possible only by following the minimum facets mentioned before; otherwise it would become an obstacle in education, as it is in the majority of the cases.