Why It Will Be Hard To Not Have A 1:1 Laptop Classroom

I have mentioned I really like that we have stretched the useful lifetime of an important resource but that as cute as it is to have a 1:1 laptop classroom based primarily on 9 year old laptops the end is near. Our IT department has already told me the old iBooks we have probably will not work on our new network, and at 9 years old they have really been showing their age of late. Sticky and missing keys, hard drive issues, and some won’t “see” a flash drive when you plug one in to download files.

In comments and Twitters about past posts I’ve written mentioning this some have stated that even if we are no longer 1:1 we will still be fine because we will leverage or “MacGyver” what we have and do great things. I agree with the what we will have to do part, if it comes to that, but it will still be a huge blow.

It’s a step backward. A 1:1 classroom done at least fairly well becomes a an intense learning environment. Students are engaged, empowered, active learners instead of sitting learning to be taught. It is an active process a far greater amount of the time (and this is one area I need to improve, is getting that and letting that happen more) and the feel of the classroom changes. People that visit pick up on that. It changes from a 1:1 laptop classroom into a learning environment that uses laptops and other tools to leverage learning.

Being “MacGuyver” is hard work and takes valuable time during class stretching out assignments meaning you can do less – often much less. And the periods before and after class setting things up and downloading and uploading files takes extra time. Time many of us would be willing to give when we can, but time is a teacher’s enemy and counting on having that time leads to stress and frustration. The technology becomes something you have to think about and do something about much more instead of a tool you just use. It adds layers of difficulty to everything you do. If you’ve ever had  your pencil sharpener break in your classroom, look at how something that you usually don’t have to think about becomes a distraction and time killer.

Ubiquity is a big part of what makes 1:1 powerful. When it is your laptop and you are used to it, you stop having to think about it much and the focus becomes the learning, the producing, the design, the doing. I’ve suggested before watching 1st graders just learning handwriting. Many of them are focused as much or more on holding the pencil correctly, and where it goes on the paper. and how to form the letters, and what the next letter is and so forth and the work is prodding and the spelling and what the writing is about become secondary.

I want to move forward, not backward. I have learned much from 3 years of 1:1 and am ready to use what I’ve learned do things better, provide more powerful learning experiences. Not having that will be hard. Not impossible, but knowing what we COULD be doing IF … will be hard.

So I’m still putting out feelers for funding sources.

Learning is messy!

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10 Responses to Why It Will Be Hard To Not Have A 1:1 Laptop Classroom

  1. Russ Goerend says:

    I agree that 1:1 is an important step for schools. The part of your post that gives me pause, though, is the insinuation that 1:1 = automatic engagement from students. I’d be careful carrying that assumption into conversations with teachers. I know of teachers who think 1:1 will be the fix-it for many of our problems in the classroom, such as engagement, and that is just not the case. 1:1 enhances quality education, but 1:1 is not quality education in and of itself. Great teachers are still the key.

  2. Brian says:

    Hi Russ, yes I agree … most 1:1 programs I’ve seen have gone down in flames for the very reasons you state. Teachers are the key, and a willingness to do this differently.
    Thanks,
    Brian

  3. Russ Goerend says:

    I call it a tech sandwich (lame, yes). Bottom bun = preparation. Meat/PB&J = 1:1. Top bun = Reflection and revision.

    The middle school I’m starting at this fall is considering going 1:1 within 5 years or so. I’ve talked to my principal about this idea that the 1:1 needs to supplement quality teaching, that it doesn’t take the place of it.

    I know you and I are on the same page, just adding another couple thoughts.

    Russ

  4. Vicki Johnson says:

    I agree with you. Having 1:1 with a laptop enhances the learning experience. Laptops don’t take the place of quality teaching.

    Education does need to move in the direction of providing technology for students to use in the classroom. Students need technology to work in today’s society. During my interview for a teaching position I was asked about my experience and knowledge for using computers in the classroom. I currently have 2 computers available for student use and am grateful for those two computers. Having 1:1 laptops would be outstanding!

    I have taken your inservice class and learned a great deal about how to intergrate technology in the classroom. You have my best wishes in seeking funding for laptops. I have seen the excellent projects your students produced. You are a powerful educator. Your students are well prepared to succeed in the work force.

  5. Brian says:

    Hi Vicki – Thanks for the great comment and support. Hope to be offering some new inservice trainings this year. I’m working on getting funding so many teachers could be 1:1 and/or have other technology tools … but not the best climate for that right now. Will be interesting to see our new supers attitude.
    Brian

  6. Maybe your local newspaper would run a story about your problem. Seems like a natural that might get you some “sponsorship”. Might be worthwhile trying to leverage the media.

  7. Brian says:

    This post is just part of trying to raise just that kind of awareness. : )

  8. Wesley Fryer says:

    Brian: Maybe you could have an online fundraising campaign to purchase netbooks? I’ve seen some “teacher wish” sites that let you do this. I’d be glad to try and help rally folks to the cause. Could you get some of your students from last year to help you create a short video promo spot? Then you’d need to use a website tool that lets you solicit online donations. How many netbooks would you need? I’m thinking of amplifying your situation similar to what Beth Still did this year to get funding for Richard Byrne to come to NECC. In that case the owners of VoiceThread stepped forward and provided the funding. I bet we could raise these funds with a good viral marketing campaign, esp if you get your students involved. You’d need to give some “testimony” in the video spot too, of course.

    When do classes start for you all?

  9. Brian says:

    Wes – I really appreciate the support!!! My district won’t allow Netbooks, only certain HP computers and Macs. Getting some of my former students involved is a possibility, but I won’t have a good chance to touch base with them until school starts in a few weeks – fortunately their middle school is next door. Making a video is not out of the realm of thought, so let’s keep that in mind. Getting signed permission might be a bit of a stretch, but doable. Could be a valuable video in more ways than just inducing people to donate too.
    Thanks again,
    Brian

  10. EtherPad is used to connect students and teachers all over the globe and we certainly appreciate the importance of empowering American students with laptops. In a knowledge and service economy, developing collaboration skills over the web is already fundamental and our learning environments ought to better mirror the modern workplace.

    Unfortunately, we are not a large enough company to provide you all with financial assistance to acquire laptops, but we can offer our premium EtherPad software at a deep discount http://etherpad.com/ep/about/pricing. Ping me if that is of interest or continue using the free public version of EtherPad.

    Hope you all are able to get the support you need to help your students and faculty!

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