Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1:1 Laptop Learning: Three Fundamental Principles

Laptop learning is about a fundamental change in instructional methodology for the 21st Century. It is about teaching students to be consumers and creators of knowledge as opposed to simply recipients. Schools that give their students this edge will help them to be successful in the 21st Century.

Some school have a vision for technology integration to be a springboard of a new methodology vaulting students ahead. Some of these school have invested money to put a laptop computer one-to-one in the hands of each and every student. For schools that are doing one-to-one computing, experience is showing there are three fundamentals which these one-to-one schools must address.
  1. Student Usage. The success or failure of a one-to-one laptop program is entirely dependent upon how often and how effectively the computers are used in the classroom. If the laptops are not an integral part of instruction, an expensive resource is being squandered. And if the laptops are not being used effectively as 21st Century learning tools, they function no better than textbooks, three-ring binders, and pencils.
  2. Teacher Comfort. Laptops will be used frequently and effectively when teachers are comfortable instructing with them. For many veteran educators, it is an entirely new methodology, unlike anything they have used previously in their careers. Teachers need to accept the machines and find ways to use them with students. They also have to develop a comfort level in accepting that the students may know the computers better than they do. They need to be prepared to let their students take the lead.
  3. Professional Development. Teachers will feel comfortable teaching with laptops to the extent they are trained to instruct in the new methodology. If a school is prepared to invest a large sum of money in hardware and software, they must be prepared to invest not less than 10 to 20 percent of that amount initially into professional development for the teachers. And professional development cannot end with the first year. There needs to be on-going support in subsequent years as well.
Therefore the linchpin in the successful implementation of one-to-one laptop learning is the professional development of the faculty. It is easy to assume that teachers are already using computers, maybe in a laboratory setting, and they have computers they use regularly for planning and preparation. But those skills do not automatically transfer to one-to-one laptop instruction. Teacher development in the new methodology is key.

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