November 23, 2010

Reason #1: Autonomy and Ownership

[The first installment of the series which examines the question Is a one-to-one laptop program essential to improve student learning for today’s learners?]

Reason #1: 1:1 laptops allow for autonomy and ownership of student learning.

Imagine for a second that you had to give up your laptop and go back to a shared desktop computer in a lab setting. What would you lose? What would frustrate you about that sacrificial shift?

A laptop will provide students with a sense of ownership—not just of the machine—but of their own learning. A few examples….
  • Software: Particularly programs which allow them to collect, process, and share the elements of their learning. OneNote, for example, is a powerful note-taking and organizational tool that allows students to catalog and organize all their notes for class, supplementing typed notes with hand-written or hand-drawn elements (if they have a tablet), relevant web-clippings and visual media, audio recordings from class discussions or group work. Students can create a set of notes for each class, unit, and lesson, that includes the visual and interactive aspects that best help them learn and remember. For research, the program will allow for collecting all sorts of offline and online material and sources, often linking back to the original web source, and allowing for robust organizing and processing of material into coherent reports and projects. OneNote also lets students and teachers share pages or entire sections, enhancing the collaborative environment for learning. OneNote is amazing and can take note-taking and research way beyond the usual outline and note cards. (I’ve said more than once that I wish I had this during my grad program!)
(Note to my colleagues: If you don’t have OneNote installed on your PC laptop…get it! Call or email the help desk and she’ll get you set up.)
  • Storage: Students become completely responsible for storing and organizing their documents, photos and video, presentations, etc. It means they have it with them at all times, but it also means learning how to manage all their digital content themselves…including backup plans. Something all of us need to learn a little more about?
  • Personalization: You know that feeling you get every time your laptop is “re-imaged”? You log on and things aren’t where you left them. That’s what our students do each time they log onto a lab machine. Individual laptops allow each student to create an environment that works smoothly for him or her. Their bookmarks, desktop shortcuts, and Start Menu buttons are always there. They can create templates for common tasks (lab reports, online posts for class, class notes, etc.) in a variety of programs. The “recently used files” feature is actually useful to them on their own machine. Contacts in Outlook, default font styles in Word, their Skype account information, their saved login passwords, useful plug-ins and add-ons in their browser…all of these just “work” when students are working. None of these are present on a common lab computer.
  • Care: Successful 1:1 programs report that when students 'own' the device, they care for it so much better than the previous lab machines. Beyond just the physical treatment of their personal device, student learn the need for power management, virus protection updates, regular backups, and all the other necessary skills for functioning effectively in a digital world.

Next post: Reason #2…Provides convenience and ready access to resources.

[I would invite and welcome comments on this particular point. When commenting, please keep in mind that there are other reasons coming and other opportunities to express your thoughts on specific topics. Please try to avoid comments which are too general. Thanks!]

November 17, 2010

Is a laptop "essential"?

In one of the many conversations I’ve had with individuals and small groups of colleagues regarding a 1:1 program coming to our school, one recent statement is resonating with me. A teacher, who I highly regard, said, in effect: “Some of us need to be convinced that a laptop is essential before we’ll buy in to the school going one-to-one.” A fair statement, in light of all the other stuff that often gets shoved at us in education. So it got me thinking:

Is a laptop (program) “essential”?

First, that is an argument that could be leveled at any of our instructional/learning tools.

  • Is a whiteboard or chalkboard essential?
  • How about microscopes? (Couldn’t I just show pictures of slides?)
  • Textbooks?
  • Graphing calculators? (We didn’t have those when I was learning math…)
  • PE equipment? (Can’t they get enough physical fitness in through running and calisthenics?)
  • Harkness tables?

Really, aren’t the only two elements essential in any learning situation a student and a teacher. And the teacher doesn’t even have to be a certified, educated human.

Perhaps, then, the question would be better asked: Is a laptop (or a 1:1 laptop program) essential to improve the learning environment? Not the college entrance rates or test scores or GPAs. Student learning.

Yes. And here are ten reasons why they will.

  1. Allows for student autonomy and ownership of their learning
  2. Provides convenience and ready access to resources
  3. Creates a more efficient means of communication and assessment
  4. Enhances personal interaction between the student and instructor and among students
  5. Encourages more student-centered learning, rather than teacher-focused instruction
  6. Allows for increased mobility
  7. Expands learning beyond the classroom walls
  8. Unifies classroom technology by creating consistency of platforms and programs
  9. Creates opportunity to teach all forms of responsible and ethical use of technology
  10. Enables differentiation to meet the needs of all learners

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to write about each of these reasons individually. I’ll try to explain what I mean, what I’ve been seeing, and what examples exist. More importantly, I invite you to join in on the conversation. Each post will have a comments section, and I would encourage you to share your thoughts on each particular reason as well.

November 16, 2010

Just the beginning...

It's about time.

As in: It's about time that I start up a blog again as part of my professional practice, conversation, and thinking.

And... Why haven't I been blogging much lately,'s about time. And not having enough of it.

So, here I go again. Fortunately, in this exciting and challenging era of teaching with technology, there is no shortage of things to write about. (...about which to write. Wow, I am rusty.)

And they're off.