Reaction to article about Maine’s 1:1 program

Yesterday I read an article about 10 years after Maine’s 1:1 laptop program started and how things have changed.  I ended up having a conversation on Twitter with @kenroyal about the article and he encouraged me to put my tweets in writing, so here goes.

Going into this article I was expecting a bit more than I received.  I’m not sure what I thought I was going to get from this article, but I felt I wanted more.  The thing that bothered me the most about this article and it’s hard to determine if this is the reality or not, were the type of activities students were engaged in since receiving laptops 10 years ago.  While I know this isn’t a research article and I am only using this article as a 10,000 foot view of what is really happening, it seems like the students were only engaged in basic activities such as Internet research and essay writing.  Throughout the article there were numerous mentions of students doing reports, which begs the question, what else are they doing?  I would imagine students are doing more student-centered type of activities and projects, but this article seems to ignore this fact, which could be due to the author’s lack of understanding of education and technology integration.

What also bothered me in this article was the use of the video at the end.  During the article the author highlights the different successes of the 1:1 program in Maine, such as increased test scores.  I’m happy to see test scores increasing, but there seemed to be a disconnect between the achievement highlighted by the author and the realities of the students.  In the video students highlight their experiences with the laptops and it appears they are not used much beyond some very basic tasks.  One student even explained that he doesn’t use his laptop during the day at all.  I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s parade, but it just surprised me to see an article talking about the success of the laptop program which ended with a video of students saying how little they use the computers.  If the students’ reality is in fact the reality of most students throughout the state, are the laptops really making much difference?

My concern that this article highlights is that there may in fact be a disconnect between what educators see as the reality of a laptop initiative and what students see and experience.  With a number of schools in Iowa making the transition to a technology rich learning environment supported through the use of laptops or other mobile computing devices, I get concerned about how these programs will be evaluated to determine if they are meeting the goals and objectives they set out to accomplish at the onset of the program.  I don’t have any hard data that proves schools aren’t evaluating their laptop programs, but I just have this gut feeling that this might not be happening and it concerns me.  This seems like this would be a great place for some research, hopefully an area I will be able to contribute to in the near future.

I’m certainly a large supporter of technology rich environments, including 1:1 laptop programs, but the key for me is having the initiative planned and implemented with clear goals and objectives.  More than that, those objectives need to focus on the students and their learning, not perpetuating more of the same teacher-centered instruction.  Teacher-centered instruction is an instructional strategy of the past and we need to stop using technology in ways that continue to support an outdated practice.  With such an investment in people, resources, and other infrastructure, it’s wasteful to not have very clear expectations of a laptop program that can be measured and re-invented if necessary.

These are my thoughts, what do you think?  Keep the conversation going.


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