Friday, November 23, 2012

Teaching with One-to-One Laptop Initiative

My school district jumped headfirst into technology this year, purchasing a laptop for every student in grades 6-12.  It's been exciting and frustrating and wonderful and awful. I've finally got a few minutes to jot down some thoughts about implementation:

Exciting and Wonderful!
  • No more "I left it" anywhere!  If the document is digital, it's with you. Even better, since the kids all got google accounts, it can't even be saved in a incompatible format or on a different thumb drive, or any of the other millions of excuses I've heard in seventeen years of teaching.
  • Differentiation (edu-lingo for making different versions of the work based on the needs of individual students) is so much easier!  I can share different documents with different kids and with them all focused on their individual work, no one even has to know that they're not all doing exactly the same thing. I can provide extra resources to only some students with a couple of quick clicks. It's beautiful.
  • Collaboration with my colleagues and among my students has never been easier. We can share our work with each other so easily! It doesn't matter if we're ever available at the same time or not (which is good, because, mostly, we're not)
  • We're cutting the digital divide. No more have and have-nots. Every kid has access to the same technology and has a chance to develop facility with the various ways we use technology in adult life for work, networking, organization and play.
Frustrating and Awful!
  • There's really been no provision to educate kids about using their computers. It's been a hard uphill battle for kids who aren't particularly tech-savvy. I've got at least five ideas for how to address this . . .but the horse has already left the barn and no one asked the people who might be able to predict trouble areas: the teachers.
  • Lots of trouble-shooting that didn't happen in advance and could have. Even problems I directly asked about because I anticipate them were ignored.
  • Distract-ability.  I guess I should have, but I didn't anticipate the degree of the problem. Most students are so good about using their computers for schoolwork, but there are those few who think that having a laptop in front of them is a ticket to play games all day.  It's been much harder than I expected to pull their attention out of the individual work stations and into the collective space so we can have those whole-class experiences that are so central to education. It shouldn't be surprising--I know plenty of adults who can't get their noses out of their smartphones for four seconds in a row, and these are kids!
Overall, I'm so glad my district took this step.  It's been a hard semester because of it--it's turned teaching into almost a first-year experience again, with the need to create everything anew to make use of our new tools.  But I anticipate an easier semester next semester and it's already easier to draw on the work I've done past years thanks to google's excellent search functions. 

Now, next time, if only they'd ask us to troubleshoot before the trouble shoots us.

No comments:

Post a Comment