The past few months haven't been good ones for the small but growing group of advocates of giving a laptop to every student -- but that doesn't seem to be stopping anyone. Are "one to one" initiatives the wave of the future, or are they putting the laptop in front of the learning?
To be sure, the most recent news hasn't been good. Near-riots, student hackers, lawsuits, vendor changes, and broken screens have challenged some of the handful of districts with "one to one" initiatives: Making One-to-One Add Up
And yet, the Governor of Massachussets announced recently that he wants to give laptops to everyone -- something no state (except sort of Maine) has done. All middle and high school students in his state--over 500,000 students overall--would receive laptops.The price tag for this venture: near $54M: Romney unveils laptop plan
(Daily Free Press).
Predictably, the tech advocates (Classroom Revolution
USNews) think laptops are incredible and amazing, citing among other things increases in student test scores in Henrico County VA as evidence. Teachers and pragmatists and Luddites aren’t so sure (Charlotte’s Webpage
Orion via ALD) and cite Maine, where test scores haven’t risen, as their own example.
What fascinates and confounds me the most is that "one to one" advocates and initiatives seem to be mostly intent on bringing a highly flexible form of current technology into the traditional school, the traditional classroom, and traditional ways of teaching. We'll suffuse schools with technology, they seem to be saying, and the changes in learning will follow.
And so, for all the whiz-bang of them, "one to one" intiatives can seem surprisingly... traditional, de-emphasizing other, perhaps more revolutionary ideas surrounding the use of technology in schools: online and virtual learning, and other ways of using technology to deconstruct the traditional school.
In the end, they both attempt to do the same thing, and changing technology and changing teaching may be the chicken and the egg. But still, I wonder whether the harder, deeper instructional changes shouldn't come first.
Additional Reading:Is a Laptop Initiative in Your Future?A Tale Of Two LaptopsOne to one computing in VA
NB: This post was made possible by the research and analysis provided by Eric Grodsky, one of the many folks who expressed interest in helping me out with this site. More to come.