One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers

“Put the technology in kids’ hands as early as possible and let them drive the initiative forward. Students should be involved on planning committees, tech support teams, and any visioning or research teams. Publish student projects early on, bring in visitors to see the possibilities in action rather than just talk about them, use students to share at community meetings, board meetings, and in any way possible. Students will push and promote the laptop’s application in their various courses much more effectively than an administrator forcing it upon an unwilling teacher.”

Morrow said that when the benefits are apparent beyond the school building, stakeholders are willing to support education—and students realize it’s not just about the grade at the end of the unit.

“Collecting data is important, but more important is collecting stories,” she explained. “Compile anecdotal evidence and interview students. Publish projects that evolve out of the students’ opportunity to have 21st-century access 24/7—as opposed to purely test scores and teacher-driven assignments. This culture can cultivate in an initiative where the learning is the focus, rather than the instruction.”

Advice and help

Stephan Sorger, instructor of advanced marketing analytics at UC Berkeley, said he follows a few simple principles for teaching with laptops.

For example, every computer project is done in groups; not only can team members help each other, but this also gives students the experience of working on complicated projects in groups. In addition, every computer project has a wrap-up discussion. The discussion ties the project to real-world situations and brings the subject alive for the students.

A new tool, released last month, can help schools and districts in planning their 1-to-1 computing initiatives.

Created by IT solutions provider CDW-G and Educational Collaborators, a national education consulting organization, the free resource—called the One-to-One Readiness Assessment Tool—is based on a number of evaluations and planning matrices that the two firms have used with their education customers for many years.

The online tool helps school leaders assess the technical and cultural readiness of their school’s environment for a 1-to-1 program, helps them identify critical success factors they might not have considered, and provides specific, next-step recommendations to reduce risk and time-to-launch.

The tool takes a three-phase approach, said Lance Busdecker, sales manager for CDW-G:

• Online survey: Schools gather key stakeholders, such as faculty, technology staff, and administrators, to complete the online survey.

• Survey review and discussion: Based on the survey results, an Educational Collaborators consultant, paired with the school or district based on demographics, goals, objectives, and other key factors, leads a one-hour review of the survey and discusses areas of concern or issues that require extra customer attention.

• Summary assessment and recommendations: CDW-G and Educational Collaborators deliver a final report, summarizing key discussion points and recommending next steps for the customer.

According to researchers Weston and Bain, indicators of success in a 1-to-1 computing program will appear in classrooms that are “differentiated in genuine ways for all students, with teachers who gather and mine just-in-time data. … Further, teachers, students, and parents use [technology] every day to collaborate about what to do next in their collective pursuit of learning. For them, waiting passively for the results of the big, once-a-year standardized test is not an option. That is why, if asked about the value of using a laptop computer in school, each would struggle to see the relevance of such a question, because computers have become integrated into what they do.”

Meris Stansbury

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