Monday, February 22, 2010

1:1 Computing: Not An Automatic Fix

This year, the school where I work was lucky enough to go one-to-one, as in every student has his or her own laptop. I have been wishing and waiting for this to happen ever since I started teaching. In the state of Maine, all middle school students have laptops and then when most students reach high school, their laptops stay behind in the middle school and students use laptops on carts or computers in labs.

To me, it has always seemed imperative that high school students have regular access to technology. After all, they will be entering the work force of the world of post-secondary education where they will need to have a working knowledge of how to use applications and programs effectively. Now, our students will have their own laptop every day, so their knowledge of and ability to adapt technology to their needs will be in place.

But, this is only if teachers use technology in their classrooms. A recent article from eSchool News reminds us that teachers still plan lessons, still manage their students, and still create learning environments that can either encourage or discourage the use of technology. It seems that in the hype of getting a one-to-one program up and running in a school, professional development and data concerning the use of computers can go by the wayside. Obviously, there has been such huge growth in technology over the past twenty or thirty years and not every teacher is comfortable, willing, or able to integrate technology effectively in their teaching. Or, some teachers assume that just because computers are being used means that they are doing what's "right" for students. A computer is just a tool, though. If it's not being used for a purpose, it's just a fancier (and more expensive) version of a pencil or poster paper.

Every time I decide to use technology in my planning, I still go through the motions to think about these basic questions:

-What should students know or know how to do after this lesson?

-What other tools could I use to produce the same learning experience?

-How am I going to know if students are successful in their learning?

-Should I collect feedback about the technology used in this process?

One of the most important questions on this list has been the "what other tools can I use" because there are inevitable glitches in connectivity, power, server maintenance, students forgetting to bring their laptops, sites/ applications not working as planned. In short, there needs to be a back-up plan for any lesson involving computers. Also important has been collecting student feedback about the applications, sites, and methods used. I have offered up two lengthy online surveys to my students this year to better understand where they are in their technological journey. Not all students are experienced and fluent users of technology and not all students love technology. It's important to hear all comments and suggestions to better inform teaching practices.

Finally, I'd just like to put out there that keeping abreast of technology and all of the new sites and apps and tools and ideas is a lot of work. I spend hours and hours every week, every day checking out leads to enhance my understanding of technology. Of course, I love technology so this is not a painful practice, but it is time consuming. I think that there is a lack of understanding about the time and energy needed to stay tuned-in to the tech world. Teachers and students can easily become overwhelmed and turned-off by the amount of new knowledge there is to be had. I would recommend a lot of reflection about how much tech is manageable for you and your students and what you're willing to try in your classroom. Boundaries are necessary when it comes to tech integration.

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