Posted by: shineonali | December 11, 2010

When Going 1:1 Isn’t Exciting…

So, the head of technology for our school came by our elementary faculty meeting the other day.  He was there to announce that the 1:1 laptop program being piloted in Grade 6 this year would be rolled out over the next two years to include Grades 7-12.  Grades 3-5 would be getting computer carts in every classroom with enough laptops for half the class.  We were sitting in grade level groups, and the Grade 5 teachers were looking at each other, perplexed.  We are in our 3rd year with a 2:1 ratio of students to laptops already.  Sure, we’re happy for the middle and high school…but this wasn’t exciting news for us.  I don’t think it’s that we’re desperate to go 1:1, but we’re (so lucky to be) used to getting more and better tech tools all the time!

Lately, there has been some frustration at our grade level with having a half-class set of laptops.  Last year, it seemed to work more smoothly.  We had six classes of 20 or 21, and 12 computers–so a little more than 2:1.  We paired up, so that if you needed a full set, you could coordinate with your partner–you use both carts this period, I’ll use both next period. This year, we have 7 classes, with carts of 10 computers, which means there’s never an extra, and that 7th teacher means that coordinating is more complicated.

Maybe this year we are all using the laptops more–although it feels like we used them a lot last year, too.  Maybe it’s just timing–we happen to have embedded a technology component into several units that are being taught right now.  But I don’t remember it being quite so difficult to get a laptop for every student!  You know there’s a problem when you find yourself considering NOT doing something technologically because you don’t think you can get the laptops!

I feel like the people Louis CK is ranting about when he says, “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.”  Not only is the fact that we have so many laptops amazing, they are very new Macs, with a fabulous array of software, fast and reliable internet, and superb tech support.  Not to mention a wonderful elementary technology coach! The logistical considerations are really relatively minor.  We don’t need 1:1, because the students don’t need to be using laptops all day–so we can share with other classes.  We don’t need 1:1, because students often work in cooperative pairs–so we can share within our classes.  We don’t need 1:1, because students do not need to be working on the same task at the same time–so we can take turns in our classes.

It seems that we are growing to expect that students should be able to switch on a laptop as easily as they can take a notebook and pencil out of their desk.  And that says a lot to me about where we are at with technology’s place in education.  I don’t mean digital literacy here, rather the digital tools themselves.  How and when students learn the TAIL standards is a whole other story. (By the way, have you noticed that, particularly in the younger levels, you can address many of the standards WITHOUT a single tech tool?  Significant!)

Towards the end of class on Wednesday, Jeff asked, “What is the purpose of using computers in the classroom?”  Maybe because it was the end of a long day, but we were pretty unresponsive.  I think we understood the question generally, as in, why do we use computers in school in general? And we were thinking, well, duh!  It just seemed too obvious for 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.  We managed to call a few answers out–technological tools can be efficient, visual, interactive, authentic, communicative, engaging…

Then we realized that what Jeff was getting at was considering the purpose of using the technology for each task or lesson.  That made more sense to me.  I was just reading Regie Routman describing what she means by teaching with a sense of urgency.  Although the context of this particular book is reading, I think what she says applies to every thing we teach.  Teaching with a sense of urgency is

about making every moment in the classroom count, about ensuring that our instruction engages students and moves them ahead, about using daily evaluation and reflection to make wise teaching decisions.

I think teaching needs to be purposeful.  There are many great ways to help students develop their understanding or learn a skill or strategy.  We need to consider why we are choosing a particular way, whether it includes technology or not.



  1. YES!

    Technology isn’t always the right tool, but many times it is. But have a purpose for it’s use and not “to look up stuff”. I like this teach with urgency idea. You don’t look up stuff, you look up something specific to get to an answer that you need. The more specific we can be with our tasks on the computer the better they support our needs in the classroom.

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