No Laptop for You! (Until You Set Goals)

The fol­low­ing post was writ­ten by John Nash on big think. It is a great post, and John gra­ciously allowed me to cross-post it to this blog!

A teacher friend of mine wrote me recently. She said that her school was work­ing on bring­ing in iPads for grades six and seven next year and asked if I find that schools pre­fer lap­tops to iPads when mov­ing to a 1:1 device environment.

That’s a ques­tion our cen­ter gets quite a bit. In the end, our advice is: be sure your school defines clear goals for what it seeks to achieve by hav­ing com­put­ing devices in the hands of its students.

For instance, if writ­ing is an impor­tant goal, you prob­a­bly want a device with a phys­i­cal key­board — so lap­tops are a good choice.  Schools that are inte­grat­ing writ­ing across the cur­ricu­lum, for instance, would want to take this into account.

But if your goals are about enhanc­ing over­all stu­dent engage­ment with mate­r­ial, then tablets may be the way to go. iPads are excel­lent for giv­ing stu­dents access to infor­ma­tion.  If enhanc­ing cre­ative capa­bil­i­ties of stu­dents is crit­i­cal, then lap­tops may be the way to go because of the wider array of appli­ca­tions and the abil­ity save cre­ative work to disk and share it across plat­forms (print, web, etc).

Regard­less, it’s the set­ting of goals that’s impor­tant. It tran­scends most other school fac­tors in deter­min­ing 1:1 success. For instance, we’ve seen schools issue iPads to stu­dents but not do a good job of expec­ta­tion set­ting and train­ing only to have teach­ers leave the school because of it. Per­haps that’s a worst-case sce­nario, but it’s emblem­atic of the bad feel­ings that can creep in to the teacher ranks when changes are not well com­mu­ni­cated. Other schools that have aligned cur­ricu­lum, trained teach­ers, set clear expec­ta­tions, etc. have stu­dents doing amaz­ing things. The schools that are really good at this don’t call them­selves 1:1 schools, even if they tech­ni­cally are.  Take for instance the Sci­ence Lead­er­ship Acad­emy in Philadel­phia. They have five core val­ues in their school, none of which are about tech­nol­ogy. How­ever, they do use tech­nol­ogy to ful­fill those values:

  • Inquiry
  • Research
  • Col­lab­o­ra­tion
  • Pre­sen­ta­tion
  • Reflec­tion

They are now doing things that are unimag­in­able with­out the devices. And they got there because they had broad agree­ment across their school’s stake­hold­ers about what the goals should be. My col­league Nick Sauers talks about this in a post he wrote a while back. He notes:

One to one learn­ing is one way to enhance what stu­dents learn and the ways that they learn.  It can turn teacher cen­tered class­rooms into stu­dent cen­tered class­rooms.  More impor­tantly, it can move stu­dents from the bot­tom of Bloom’s Tax­on­omy to the top level where stu­dents create…Unfor­tu­nately, one to one could also serve as a tool to pro­mote the ways things have always been done. (The key is to) truly iden­tify what stu­dents should learn and make those things the focus of every­thing the school does.”

Is your school think­ing about imple­ment­ing a 1:1 lap­top pol­icy? Some things to be aware of might include:

  • Think­ing about how to get devices in teach­ers hands the year before stu­dents receive them.
  • Ensur­ing every­one feels the urgency that teach­ing and learn­ing must change to pro­duce suc­cess­ful stu­dents in today’s world. This “urgency build­ing”, as we call it, helps teach­ers under­stand why a school is embark­ing on an ambi­tious move such as 1:1. Not all teach­ers nat­u­rally feel the urgency that can drive a deci­sion to go to 1:1. Kot­ter talks about the 8 stages of cre­at­ing change, and many schools skip step 1 and 3 (urgency and vision) in lieu of just get­ting mov­ing. They just jump in but don’t know the why they really want to do it.
  • Inte­grat­ing stu­dent voice into the plan­ning and imple­men­ta­tion process.  Increas­ing stu­dent voice in a 1:1 plan­ning not only uncov­ers new ideas that a plan­ning team will never think of, it pro­vides stu­dents with a stronger sense of own­er­ship in their school. Stu­dents highly value hav­ing their voices heard and hon­ored.  

What else should a school embark­ing on a 1:1 jour­ney keep in mind?

Photo Credit: (cc) Flickr user flickingerbrad

Tags: 1:1BYODchangegoal set­tinggoalsiPadsLap­topsone-to-onestu­dent voiceurgency

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