Sunday, October 28, 2012

The 1:1 Dilemma #edchat

I had a chance to attend another great edcamp this weekend (EdcampOU) and I sat in a session on 1:1 computing. A district very close to mine passed a bond and will be rolling out iPads to all of their students (Grades 1-12) in the coming year. Teachers were given them first and are being trained on how to use them. It was an excellent session run by Chris Stanley(@StanleyTeach).

I have a 1:1 situation in my classroom with a class set of iPads. While it has been an amazing experience, there are limitations when five students are sharing 1 device over the course of the day. For some of my students, this is the only access they will have to a computer for the entire day. I also do not get to leverage all of the power of the iPad because some apps require storage on the tablet. Despite those issues, the 1:1 experiment has been a huge success in my opinion.

The conversation about 1:1 spilled over into Twitter and one of my district's administrators, Aaron Johnson (@i2_sing_america) and @kevinozar joined the conversation about supplying students with the devices and what do we do about teachers that are resistant to adopting the new pedagogy that comes with the new tools. These are great questions and here are my thoughts on them.

I think the one that drives me the most batty, is the reluctant teacher argument. Yes, there are teachers that do not like change. That is a fact. Are there that many reluctant teachers that an entire district should not move forward with a 1:1 program? I doubt it. Even if there are, it seems to me that the situation is an administrative issue. If an employee refuses to use a new tool despite adequate training and support, that is when the boss steps in and uses appropriate measures to get them on board.

Now, notice I said adequate training and support. That really is key. I think most teachers are reluctant to change because they have had too many new programs and tools thrust upon them without adequate training and support. I would love it if every teacher could grab and iPad and start to lesson plan like a pro, but that is not happening. I have had the iPads in my class for almost a year and I'm still on a learning curve. Worse yet, I've been supplying my own training and support through Twitter. Now, if my district were to move toward a 1:1 model, I would be in an excellent position to support students and staff. That is a bonus. One person's pain can turn into another person's salvation when it comes to technology integration. Without proper training and continues support after the training, 1:1 programs, and all new pedagogical initiatives, will fail miserably.

Should school districts pay for students to have devices? This is the question I have changed my position on at different times over the past couple of years. I believe that BYOD cannot work because of the digital divide. I also think it can't work because it now asks a teacher to have an elementary understanding of how many different devices and OSs work. That sounds like a logistical nightmare for any teacher.

Computers, iPads in this case, are starting to become the norm in the classroom. In my district, it is an accepted expectation that work is completed on a computer and submitted to teachers electronically. It has been that way for almost 10 years. As the makeup of our district has changed, that expectation has slowly changed. There are students without access to computers at home and struggle to complete work before or after school. As a teacher, I make the accommodations I need to help those students succeed, but they will have trouble all year and some teachers are not as accepting as I am. As a school, we offer supplies to students they cannot afford on their own. If a student doesn't have pen and paper, don't we offer it to them to use? Are computers entering the same category? We give all of our students email addresses, how can they use them if they don't have access? We are moving students to Google Apps for Education, what's the point if they can;t use the tools outside of class. (Yes, GAFE isn't awesome on iPads, but maybe we go laptops. Don't let that be the sticking point in this post.)

I think it is becoming the responsibility to provide access to all of the students in an effort to give them the computing skills they will need outside of the classroom. If a student is only given pencils to do their work, they will not be prepared when they go to college or have to fill out online job applications. I know funding is a nightmare and their are logistical issues that have to be dealt with, including adequate bandwidth to handle the traffic, but should these be the roadblock to providing the best education possible for our students?

What are your thoughts?