Earlier this week, I read a blog post from Jerrid Kruse that began with the following introduction and title:
Are 1:1 tech initiatives the wrong kind of reform?
Short Answer: I believe any reform focused on technology rather than teaching & learning will end in the status quo, but I believe 1:1 initiatives may be uniquely problematic.
Following is the comment that I left on Jerrid’s blog:
I began reading your post with a bit of apprehension. Just as there are those who hail one-to-one as a great fix for our educational system, there are also those who consider it a horrible plan. Some simply seem to fail to see any good with one-to-one. This response gets a bit long, but I can sum it up in one sentence.
“Even if teaching doesn’t change in our one-to-one schools, our students and schools are still better off!”
Your post centered on how we need to focus on teaching as opposed to technology. I don’t disagree with that, nor do I think anyone else would. When I talk about one-to-one, I focus on how schools need to really concentrate on major changes in teaching and even the structure of the system. My belief is that access to technology enables teachers to change in ways that are otherwise very difficult. Tony Wagner’s list of the seven survival skills in 21st Century Skills highlight some of the ways I believe that technology can enhance teaching and learning.
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
- Agility and Adaptability
- Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
- Effective Oral and Written Communication
- Accessing and Analyzing Information
- Curiosity and Imagination
When I look at each of these skills, I think how using technology could enhance teaching and learning in each area. If I wanted to take the time, it would be easy to think of examples in each area. One example focusing on “curiosity and imagination” comes from my experience as a sixth grade teacher when students were developing projects about Ancient Egypt. In preparation, I hit the local libraries and brought three milk crates of books into the classroom. I was also fortunate to have a computer lab next to my room which I hoarded. My rubric required students to use resources from various mediums, but I’m sure you can guess what most students preferred. The internet didn’t have a limit to the information available, and my books did. Students were able to ask and answer questions on their own. Unfortunately, students quite frequently are even much more limited than that, and they must use their outdated textbook as a resource. This example in some ways may actually seem like a bad example because you could argue that the book is simply being replaced by the device. I would argue that true inquiry based learning shouldn’t be limited to the type, time, and place of resources. One-to-one changes that.
Thus far I think we have one point we can agree on and a second point that may be up for more debate.
- Teaching and learning needs to be the focus!
- Providing teachers with technology along with training better enables them to change their practices.
Now I start the part where I really disagree with you, and this is something I don’t write about very frequently for fear of sounding like a true techie. You say that we need to stop talking about the technology.
You and I both realize there are schools that have rushed into one-to-one with little focus on changing teaching practices. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, but.……
I would argue that those schools and students are still better off than they were. For a cost of two to four hundred dollars each year, I certainly think it is worth the investment. If our job as educators is to prepare citizens, can we really do that without teaching them about technology? Do we really believe that successful citizens won’t need to navigate technology in both their personal and professional lives. I’m sorry, but I don’t consider one or two lab periods each week sufficient. We shouldn’t wonder why our students go away to college and make extremely poor decisions with their computing devices. Did we really think that one digital citizenship unit that they were taught in eighth grade would do the job?
I also have a HUGE problem with the fact that some of our most disadvantaged students have limited access to technology. Our privileged students can go home and learn what they want to learn and more disadvantaged students are left out. They can learn about some pretty awesome things that may help shape their futures. I get upset just writing about this. You say we should “stop talking about technology”. That may be fine for kids who have technology, but what about the others? What about the issue of equity in schools? I just talked with a teacher from here in Iowa who has one computer in their class for students and no computer lab. The lab, which consisted of computers with floppy drives, was recently removed. Can we really “stop talking about technology”?
I know that you aren’t against technology Jarred, but I strongly disagree that we shouldn’t talk about technology. Technology means opportunity for many of our students. Technology plus a change in teaching is of course our goal. I could care less about the device, and think that is a school decision. I agree with you about cloud computing, and that is what I teach if I am teaching tools to schools. We shouldn’t kid ourselves though about the level of technology in our schools. Our students deserve better. I guess that I’m not going to stop talking about the technology, and I’ll also keep talking about using that technology to change teaching.
When we refuse to talk about the technology, we remove it from the conversations of educational leaders and school boards. We are essentially holding students hostage to the practices and traditions of the adults while waiting for “reform”. Unfortunately, our system has proven extremely resistant to change. Administrators, teachers, and preparation programs have in many cases failed to be reformed. You wrote that “True reform only happens if the underlying beliefs that guide instruction are changed.” Must our students wait until that happens before we give them access to a tool that will almost certainly be relevant to their everyday life?