Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where to Go with 1-to-1 Laptop Learning

"It is not about the machines; it is about teaching and learning." I have heard this so often when discussing one-to-one laptop learning, I wonder if it bears repeating. I hope this fact is becoming common knowledge.

Sioux Central School District in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, just completed its second year as a one-to-one laptop learning school for grades 3 through 12. The school has enjoyed great success in grades 6 through 12, so that it upgraded laptops and infrastructure this year for grades 4 and 5 and added laptops to grade 3 as well. With the year ended, I use this blog post to reflect on where we should be heading for the future of our school and its students.

There is another prolific statement I hear when discussing technology for the classroom. When someone asks the questions, "Laptops or tablets?" or "PC or Mac?" I hear the reply, "Well it all depends on what you plan to do with the technology." Although it is an accurate response, it is also a little smug. It leaves unexplained what schools should be doing with the technology

Simply put, our aim should be high-order thinking skills. We want our students to be creators of knowledge, not simply consumers. Using Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy, we want our students involved in project-based learning where they are evaluating their sources. We also want them re-teaching, so they are breaking down the information and reassembling it into a new whole.

I get very excited about what is happening in our classrooms when I visit and I see students highly engaged in non-traditional instruction. They are using their laptops, but they are relating personally to each other. They are working in groups, arguing what is relevant and how they should present their findings back to the rest of the class. Now that is a worthy goal for any classroom.

One-to-one laptops are allowing students to learn and retain at higher levels. The difference can be explained using the Learning Pyramid from the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine. The pyramid reveals how content retention is related to the methodology used by the teacher:

Average Retention Rates
5% - Lecture
10% --- Reading
20% - Audio-Visual
30% --- Demonstration
50% --- Group Discussion
75% ------- Practice by Doing
90% ----------- Teaching Others

Laptop learning changes the classroom dynamic from more traditional passive learning, i.e., lecture, reading, and audio-visuals, to the active learning of practice by doing and teaching others.


  1. I definitely agree on the laptop or tablet question. It truly does depend on what type of tasks they want the kids to accomplish and what programs are currently available for each platform.

    I wanted my daughter to have her own laptop after she comes back from school. This keeps her motivated to learn the ropes. Using something like what laptop is right for me helped narrow down a laptop that was suitable for her needs.

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