Recently, our school board asked me – how can I provide evidence that having a 1:1 scheme benefits our learners and school. If any of you already have a 1:1 laptop scheme running in your school you will realize that this is quite a difficult question to answer.
Some of the benefits listed here are unique to my school (a private profit making international school), which has totally different funding, structure, mission and aims to a state owned school. Although, our primary mission is to ensure that all our students receive the best possible education and learning environment, which is hopefully the aim of all schools.
Possible Benefits of a 1:1 laptop scheme:
1. My (Number 1) key benefit is the access to a digital resource at any time 24/7. Learners can take their laptop home, on holiday, use at home when they are sick. For example we have had both students and teachers join lessons and meetings from home via Skype. The student connected to the teacher’s laptop and took part in the class discussions, was able to answer and ask questions from home. In our monthly staff meeting, a teacher who had a broken leg was able to join in the meeting in the same way. If a school has a VLE (virtual learning environment) students can access this learning area from anywhere at any time and complete assignments, answer questions, complete reflections and use pre-chosen teaching resources. The VLE can also be used to improve school communication, not only with students and teachers, but also with parents. Parents can access the VLE, look at their child’s work, add motivating comments, look at their report card and contact the teacher.
2. The motivation of students, student centered learning, inquiry learning and interactive teaching. Students want to use digital resources in the classroom; they enjoy the opportunity to have the freedom to carry out their own research, write their own assignments and to be creative using their own laptop. They can choose which application they want to use to complete their assignments, rather than using pen and paper. They can produce a presentation, record a movie, make an animation, record a speech, and design a poster. The key here is for the teacher to suggest a task, but allow the student to choose the application for completing the task (students define their own success criteria). For example if a learner has to create a presentation, they could choose to do it through Prezi.com, Key notes, PowerPoint, a movie, a radio speech, or an animation to name but a few examples. Many schools are also moving to each learner having their own Blog, this can be very motivating for the learner, when other people comment on the learners blog, they are encouraged to write more and develop their blog further.
3. Differentiation for the student. Linked to the previous 2 benefits, learners can have access to differentiated resources and complete tasks at their own learning speed and level. For example if a VLE has been constructed properly, it should allow learners to select tasks and resources at their own level and ability. They can complete the tasks, which they feel capable of completing and at their own speed. They can refer back to their tasks at home and revisit the class information at anytime and anywhere. Allow the students to be creative, some learners will be motivated to create an essay written in Word, some would prefer to record the information in a movie or design a poster with Photoshop. As long as the learner covers the success criteria for the lesson, how they complete the task should be their own choice.
4. Collaboration, the sharing of ideas and information. Collaboration and the sharing of ideas is the key to success of any organisation and a skill required by all our learners today. The use of Messenger, iChat, Skype, Twitter and Facebook all have a role in sharing and disseminating information. Our students already know how to use these applications and on a daily basis share a vast amount of information. Having a 1:1 laptop scheme enables the student to use these communication tools in the classroom. Some good examples of digital collaboration and sharing ideas include in a humanities lesson the ability to connect with another school on the other side of the world through Skype to share cultural ideals and beliefs. Collaboration in the classroom by using Prezi-Meeting, where learners can form a group and create online presentations, by sharing ideas and resources.
(Now for the non-learning benefits) Many of you may criticize me for mentioning these benefits, but they are factual and true.
5. Marketing and school market differentiation, we are an Apple school and in our market we are seen as offering something that is unique, exciting and innovative compared to our competitors. Each learner from Year 6 through to Year 10 (grade 5 to 9) is part of the 1:1 Macbook Pro Laptop Scheme. The school uses this fact in its marketing, in local and international press and is a key factor to attracting learners to our school. We have had several students move from other local schools to our school because of the 1:1 Laptop scheme and the style of teaching that is linked to the scheme.
6. No more Computer Labs. All our learners are required to purchase their own laptop, the school provides the wireless network structure for the laptops to connect to, but this cost in the long run is lower than paying for several computer labs in a school. The 1:1 laptops are covered by a 3-year warranty included in the package and fees that the learner has to pay for. The school provides a help desk and support to maintain the laptops, it also provides training for the teachers, all of this can be covered by the fee for the 1:1 laptop scheme, taking the capital and expense costs away from the school. I appreciate that this may not be so easy to achieve for a state run and funded school.
If your administrators, governors, directors are asking will a 1:1 scheme increase academic achievement, test results, exam passes, then maybe they are asking the wrong questions and have little understanding of our learners and the world today. It is hoped that by providing effective learning and the digital resources to aid learning that academic achievement and passing tests with naturally occur. However, tests and exam results are only one important part of the educational system and that other factors should be considered by providing a creative and stimulating environment where our students can learn the skills required to be life long learners.
written by Steven David Pearce 4/12/2010