1 to 1 Classroom Teacher Mark Pullen shares some observations on the benefits of this increasingly popular instructional technology.
As a teacher in a one-to-one (a.k.a. “1:1″) classroom, where each student has his/her own laptop computer, I have seen many benefits that this form of ubiquitous access to technology can provide. The single most important benefit, however, is clear: 1:1 technology allows teachers to differentiate both in terms of how they teach and how the students are expected to demonstrate their learning. Let’s examine both of these advantages in more detail.
Differentiation of Content Delivery
In traditional instruction, not involving the use of technology, teaching and learning were typically undifferentiated. Teachers lectured to entire classes, largely unable to adapt to students’ readiness levels or learning styles. Students were expected to learn the material presented at whatever pace was determined by the teacher or by the district curriculum. The teacher was the one primary source of information in the room, resource materials like encyclopedias or (often out-of-date) textbooks were frequently the only other information sources available.
With 1:1 technology, content delivery can be differentiated, particularly through video (khanacademy.org is probably the largest and most famous free site attempting to use video in this way). Videos can be paused and viewed multiple times by students for whom the traditional lecture moves too quickly. Far better still, however, the entire model of content delivery through lecture-based learning can be replaced by student research or even project-based learning.
Differentiation of Student Assignments
Previously, without the help of technology, the undifferentiated content delivery described above was followed by one undifferentiated assignment which was given to all students, again without taking into account those students’ individual needs. With 1:1 technology, assignments can be differentiated or even individualized through the use of adaptive technology that gets harder or easier based on previous student responses.
This can be particularly effective in math – a site like ixl.com allows students to access practice problems for hundreds of specific topics by grade level (for all grade levels from kindergarten through high school) with each set of practice problems constantly changing based on previous answers the student has submitted. Even better, instead of using the computer as an improved, adaptive form of worksheet, assignments can be completely remade into more meaningful projects. Student writing can be published through blogs, experts can be interviewed in the classroom through Skype, students can do online research and then write their own textbook-replacing wikis, and more.
Human beings don’t naturally all learn the same material at the same pace and in the same way. 1:1 technology allows teachers to differentiate their content delivery and student assignments to meet the needs of all students.
About the author: Mark Pullen, 1:1 classroom teacher, on behalf of Worth Ave. Group. Worth Ave Group provides laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance to schools and universities. They have been insuring schools since 1971 (learn more at http://www.worthavegroup.com/education
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