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.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, I want to thank Cory for all of his research and sharing of ideas. These e-mails and his efforts to educate the faculty offline facilitate some critical discussions. Those discussions encourage ongoing reflection concerning evolving best practices, and that introspection makes all of us better teachers!

    I am specifically looking forward to reading two of the upcoming posts. The first is number four "increased personal interaction". I am curious to see how "personal interaction" is defined, and whether technology may require that we begin to distinguish between face-to-face communication and interactive electronic communication, as well as their individual merits. For instance, can a skyped discussion between two students replace face-to-face communication, or is it always a supplement to interpersonal communication in the classroom? Are blogs and moodles forms of personal interaction?

    The second is number five "more student-centered learning" versus "teacher-led instruction". I am again curious to learn whether we will need to distinguish separate strategies and/or desired outcomes between on line student-centered learning, and off line student centered learning. In some ways I feel that there is an inherent risk of isolating students behind their machines if strategies are misapplied. I look forward to the learning in front of us.

    Thanks again Cory....the history department benefits from your support in keeping us looking forward while we commit ourselves to engaging students with the past.