What's the purpose of going 1:1

(Full Disclosure: I believe every high school student should have a laptop)

The New York Times wrote an article on May 4th, 2007 that resurfaced via Twitter last night. Titled Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops, It took me less than four paragraphs to start shaking my head in disbelief at the way this school district went about trying to, should I say, force students and teachers to use laptops and technology.

It’s easy to say that technology is just a tool or that the technology needs to be invisible, but actually making that happen is harder than just saying it.

Scores of the leased laptops break down each month, and every other
morning, when the entire school has study hall, the network inevitably
freezes because of the sheer number of students roaming the Internet
instead of getting help from teachers.

I love this paragraph. So the network goes down therefore more kids should be going to teachers for help right? I mean if they can’t “roam the Internet” in study hall then they should be asking for help right?

Or how about this one:

Many of these districts had sought to prepare their students for a
technology-driven world and close the so-called digital divide between
students who had computers at home and those who did not.

The reason why a school goes 1:1 is to close the digital divide? Not for learning, not for allowing students to take advantage of the wealth of information on the net…but just to close the digital divide?

Like any tool…before you launch it you need to know what you want to do with it. What do you want users to be able to do, what do you expect and do you have a system in place to support it.

 Maybe it’s me but creating a backwards by design model makes it pretty easy to assess just what you need to have in place before you go 1:1.

What do you want students to do?
If our purpose is student learning than all decisions should start by answering this question. What do we expect students to do with their laptops? What kind of experience do we want them to have? What learning do we hope to see/expect from them when the laptops are in use. Starting with what you want students to do with the laptops allows you to create a plan that will support their use.

What do teachers need to know?
Once we know what type of learning we want to see from the students we can then talk about a Professional Development plan that allows teachers to know what they need to know to make that learning a reality. Sure they are going to have to learn some skills, some tools, but more than that they will need support in understanding how the classroom changes with those tools. When every student is sitting at a desk and has the knowledge of the world in front of them, it changes the classroom. How do we support teachers, help teachers, and train teachers to teach facilitate in that environment?

What resources are needed?
After we have nailed down student outcomes and the PD teacher will need you can then look at what resources will need to be purchased and/or put in place to make this a reality. Do you need to upgrade your wireless system? Do you need more digital storage space? Does the school need new or different software? Also, don’t forget about the human resource of support. Who is going to support teachers, train teachers? What systems are going to be put in place to help teachers make the transition?

How do we make it happen?
This comes under the effective administrator part as it is up to them to set the direction of the school and make things happen. Whether it’s money, people, time, etc. How do you make sure the learning and support you have agreed upon as a school is in place to support learning the best it can?

Just do it!
Set a deadline for yourself as a school or organization. Make your plan…focus on student learning and then just do it. As some point you need to stop planning and get moving! If you don’t have a clear purpose of how a laptop changes the learning landscape then you could end up like this:

Yet school officials here and in several other places said laptops had
been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed
little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores at a time
of increased pressure to meet state standards. Districts have dropped
laptop programs after resistance from teachers, logistical and
technical problems, and escalating maintenance costs.

Not a good place to be.