Ira Socol, as he is so skilled in doing, points out in the comments one of the inherent flaws in the 1:1 system. While I have recognized the limitations of 1:1 programs, I have generally (and still do) regarded them as positive, assuming of course that there is the proper IT infrastructure, support, and pedagogical adaptations. Ira’s main point is that school’s involved in 1:1 programs like this implicitly assume that all students are the same; that one device will meet the needs of everyone.
Before I delve into my thoughts on a different direction for 1:1, which was prompted by Ira’s comment, I would like to preface this with a few thoughts.
- First, this is not a slight at Patrick or BHS. I know Patrick personally and it would have been an honor to work with him had I moved to Burlington like I had planned. I believe BHS moving towards giving every student an iPad is an overall net good. It will help the teachers to move towards a more student-centered pedagogy; it will give students more access without depending on the whim of a teacher; it will help both teachers and students to view and use technology as a tool that can promote learning. Having been following the blogs of Patrick and other BHS staff, I feel that they are moving wisely, involving many stakeholders in the process and having classes test drive class sets of iPads for shorter periods.
- Second, I recognize that many programs are using the 1:1 technology to personalize instruction and help meet the individual needs of their students.
- Third, I recognize that many districts, not just 1:1 districts, are locked into restrictive contracts with a specific vendor, but I am not a fan of these contracts and find they usually benefit the vendor more than the district.
- Fourth, the ultimate goal of 1:1, which for me is helping students to become independent, life-long learners, is unchanged.
- Fifth, bring your own technology is an important movement and technology will only become more ubiquitous. Until every student has a device, though, I like the idea of the school system providing devices, whether for all or for those that do not have access.
I really take Ira’s point to heart because I feel that the choice of device is a very personal decision. I love my Droid X, but it would not work nearly as well for my wife, who prefers the iPhone. What I would like to see a school district do is to bring in many devices in the price range that they are willing to accommodate and have a day where students can try them and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Then, allow the students to choose what will work best for them once they have tried them and have all the information.
- Traditional tablet computers: laptops that also have a touchscreen have many benefits when they are well designed.
- Laptops: Mac, Windows, and Linux all have distinct strengths. Give students a choice.
- Smart phones: there is a lot to be said for a computer that you can take anywhere. There is a precedent for schools buying smartphones for students with data plans so that students can have universal access from everywhere.
- Netbooks: while I am not a fan of netbooks generally, the form factor does make them appealing to some.
- Tablets: I love tablet computing, but it is not for everyone. Some do not like the soft keyboards, some prefer to have a lot of applications open at once, etc… The new crop of Android tablets, running 3.0, and the iPad both are good examples of powerful tablets.
I know that finding insurance and vendor contracts may be difficult. I think, though, that the main concern for many will be teacher apprehension at dealing with divergent platforms. At one point, this would be a greater concern for me than it is today.
- First, a 1:1 environment really needs to be student-centered in order to be successful (so do normal schools, but it is even more apparent when students have a potential “distraction” on their desks or in their pockets). This is taking it just a little further in that direction.
- Second, this usually comes from teachers wanting everyone to be able to do the same thing, on the same platform. It is convenient, but it is not necessarily the best. I prefer, once students are trained on how to utilize their technology, to give them a problem and allow them to solve it and present it however they deem fit. Not everyone needs to send in their essay in .doc format, for example.
- Third, as HTML5 progresses, we can accomplish nearly everything that was traditionally done on the desktop in the web browser, which is nearly universally available from major devices now.
Lastly, this scenario scares a lot of IT directors and facilitators. Unfortunately, especially as smartphones become more ubiquitous, you will lose control of your network as they either use their own cellular networks or get around it. It is better to train them on how to responsibly use technology than to try to limit their access beyond what is required by federal, state, and local requirements
What do you think? Is this a viable idea?