This is part of a series of posts that document some of my personal thoughts on some of the myths surrounding 1:1 learning (one device per learner) and 1:1 deployments in schools and school systems.
Myth One - ‘1:1 is new’
No its not! We have had 1:1 computing in schools for many years. Now it might have not been ubiquitous across the school but that is not really the point. 1:1 has been around for a long time - its just been confined to the domain of the computer lab or business education suite.
Unfortunately, during my work as Scotland’s National Adviser for Emerging Technologies I observed some of the worst pedagogy in schools in computer labs (don't forget its not just computing teachers who use labs). It great to see movements like Computing at School (CAS) challenge this and new pedagogy was one of their focuses at their recent conference in Edinburgh.
Photo credit: Doug Belshaw (cc)
I think that one of the reasons that pedagogy is not always as good as it should be in computer labs is actually down to how labs are often designed.
Just think about standard computer lab design for a minute. Often the desks are around the sides of the room (to make it easier to get power and Ethernet connections to machines) which means that children spend most of their time with their back to each other and their teacher.
Modern and better thought out furniture is starting to change this and we can be a lot more creative with power and connectivity in new school build projects. But this means we need to build schools in different ways.
Photo: St Monica's Primary School, NSW, Australia
We can even make some quick changes to ‘old style’ labs but putting a few mirrors behind the computer screens so that a teacher can still make eye contact with his students or by introducing ‘muster points’ in the classroom where students can meet away from the screen to discuss their learning with peers or with a teacher.
Photo Credit: Stephen Heppell
Laptop and wireless technology is also having in impact on school design – although it is important to remember that wireless is still a challenge in many schools due to bandwidth issues.
However, even with the best furniture, agile spaces and high tech hardware learning is not always great in ICT suites.
One alarming trend that I have seen in recent years is that some teachers now constantly give children free time at the end of the lesson (or even during the lesson) to use the computers in anyway that they like.
Now I don’t have a problem with ‘free time’ or ‘golden time’ or any other classroom based reward system as long as it is well thought out. But I worry that with some teachers it has become an expectation of their classes and the reason why learners ask for this free time is because they a board and not stimulated with what they are being asked to do. My preference has always been to set ‘learning challenges’ when there are free gaps of time to fill, or to ensure that learners always know where they are going with their learning - both of these strategies remove the need for a random ‘free-for-all’.
As a teacher my best lessons are / were the ones when the class are still captivated with their learning when the bell goes because we have lost track of time. I’m never worried in these situations that we don’t have time to recap the lesson objectives as the students rush to get tidied up and get away to their next class. If the learning before the bell has been deep and purposeful then that is the most important thing to me.
Another criticism I sometimes have of 1:1 projects is that the rollout is often left to a computing or ICT teacher. Although there is nothing wrong with this we need to make sure that the right person in a school takes some responsibility and accountability for rollout.
One of the reasons that a computing or ICT teacher may not be the best person is because out of any teacher in their school a 1:1 project should benefit the computing teacher the the least. Why? because they already work in that environment and are unlikely to give up the powerful computers in their lab (why would you?) for less powerful handheld devices. In situations where school use their computing staff to roll out 1:1 deployments you are in danger of creating a very overpaid ICT technician and reinforcing an unnecessary stereotype of what a computing teacher actually does.
In my experience a matrix management approach to 1:1 rollout combined with good project management, involvement from school senior managers and senior students always has the most success (and ultimately impact).
In any 1:1 rollout it is important to make sure that computing and ICT teachers are part of the pedegogical solution as well as the technical solution.