Monday, June 25, 2012

1 to 1 Schools Part One: 3 Worries About 1:1 That Never Came to Fruition

In the months leading up to the anticipated roll-out, many teachers had concerns as to how giving a computer to every middle school student would actually turn out. There were so many different senraios to considered, something horrible was bound to happen. Sure, a lot was learned from our first year with the 1 to 1 program, and suttle changes will be made for next year (will be discussed in part two of this series), but overall, the year was extremely successful. The following is a list of the top 3 teacher worries, and how they never really played out as feared.

1. The computers will get broken or destroyed by the students when they have them at all times.

Picture a 4' 2", 65 pound sixth grade student trying to navigate the hallways, dodging monstrous eighth graders, while lugging around an expensive machine. That seems like a recipe for disaster. I also have witnessed how poorly students take care of school property, as well as their own to be honest. How easy would it be to accidentally knock a computer off a desk, or step on a computer that has been placed on the floor? Most middle school students are hitting that awkward stage in life, and are not normally confused with having the coordination of that Niagara falls tightrope walker.

With all of those negative thoughts swirling through my head, I was surprised to see that the computers were very well taken care of. The students acted like the laptop were treasures, and to some they probably were. Random repairs will always have to be made, but if you were to compare the students 1 to 1 laptops to the classroom cart I used to have in my room, there would no longer be a concern.

A lot of credit goes to the students for being responsible, but do not leave out the teachers. We made sure that the computers were in bags to and from class. We used advisory time to look at the computers, and give tips to the students to better take care of their prized possession. Our technology coordinator also helped the process by fixing small problems before they escalated. An overall team effort resulted in a fleet of computers that will be operational through the end of the lease.

2. The students will not do any school work in class. They will be too busy surfing the Internet and playing games.

This was a problems that I was not concerned with given my history with using a laptop cart in my classroom everyday. The key to students not getting distracted and off task is actually more on the teachers shoulders than the students. We hope that our students are responsible, but there are a few things teachers can do to help their cause.

A. Make sure what you are doing in class is something that is interesting that students will enjoy or find challenging. If the students are hooked on the curriculum, they will not be concerned with being off task or playing the latest Internet game.

B. If you are not using the computers, make sure the students have them closed.

C. Set expectations ahead of time. Stress the importance of the work you are asking the students to participate in.

D. Form quality relationships with your students. The students will work for you and stay on task when they trust you and enjoy coming to your class. This works the same whether we are dealing with technology or not. Find something that you can talk about with each students so they can connect with you on a personal level.

E. Have a computer monitoring system in place. In our district, we use LanSchool. Notice how I put monitoring systems last because this should only be in place for piece of mind for the teacher, and NOT the answer to all the world problems. Teachers who rely solely on a monitoring system end up sitting at their desk the entire class period and never interacting with the students because they are so worried that they are going to be off task. One way that I use LanSchool that I have found helpful is to put the program on my iPad. I can see the students' screens while I am walking around. I do not use it often, but I have it just in case.

3. The students will show up to school with dead computers.

I found that many students did not like carrying their chargers in their bags because the chargers protruded out too far. Even so, 95% of all students had there computer charged, and they lasted all day (the jury is still out on whether this will still be the case when the batteries are three years old). For the other 5%, they normally borrowed someone's charger and plugged it in during class. Although I only have a few pluggins in my room, it was never a problem because I never made a big deal out of it. Students quietly borrow chargers form other students, and if they were not next to a pluggin, they asked another student to switch seats, and they sat their for the day. The key is to be flexible.

Final Thoughts

I often laugh a little to myself when I think about how I was concerned with some of these situations. That being said, my fears were real, and I can imagine how someone who is entering the world of 1 to 1 feels. These three ideas represent the top worries of our district. As a reader, do you have additional fears that I did not mention? Do you have any questions or concerns about my ideas? Please feel free to comment below and start the discussion.

Clayton M. Edwards
Middle School Math
Grundy Center Middle School
MA Middle Level Mathematics
Ed. D. Curriculum and Instruction (current)

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