7 Slices of PIE - 1 to 1 Computing @drezac

Source: http://i.usatoday.net/tech/_photos/2008/05/08/platypusx-large.jpg
Dan Rezac recently shared the following question about 1 to 1 Computing via Twitter and GoogleModerator:
What is the future of 1 to 1 computing?
Let's review what 1 to 1 is, even though it is extremely expensive:
One-to-one computing means putting a computer -- a PC, laptop, handheld, or tablet PC -- into the hands of every student. While many educators say that one-to-one computing is transforming education for the better, others say it's making the classroom teacher's job harder than ever. Some even believe that the emphasis on technology actually preventsstudents from learning. (Source: Education World)
I started to respond to him but soon achieved the character limit on an idea in GoogleModerator (with endless space, why are we limiting content? Is brevity really the soul of wit?). So, I'm writing this blog entry for fun and will post the link once the blog entry is posted.

When Richtel and his Grading the Digital School series discusses schools with technology that don’t raise performance on standardized tests, standardized testing is treated as a near absolute be-all, end-all of educational success, but when celebrating a school approach without technology (serving then the anti-tech agenda), the importance of standardized testing success is happily set aside.  This is not journalism, this is hatchet work.
Source: Jonathan Martin via http://21k12blog.net/2011/10/23/deeply-disappointed-responding-to-the-new-york-times-article-on-waldorf-education-and-technology via Dr. Scott McLeod

In the meantime, here's one possible take on the 1 to 1 question:

Technology expenditures are siphoning critical funds from the changes to teaching and learning that need to be happening in schools. While admins and teachers run around trying to get a $500 device (e.g. iPad), add a $100 keyboard to make it into a glorified note-taking tool, the truth is, couldn't that money have been better spent with professional learning for instructional approaches that actually impact the "bottom line," where "bottom line" is standardized testing?

You see, if high-stakes testing is what our country has decided to invest in as THE determining factor for success in the K-16 education system, shouldn't we be doing everything humanly possible to get those scores up? Whether you think testing is THE WORST THING EVER (and I do myself the way it's been implemented as the measuring stick for life, the pursuit of happiness and the big dollar for testing companies and the legislators who get campaign donations from them) or not, it's clear that schools have been set up to achieve this one measurable objective--make sure everyone graduates.

Unless you have the money to put your kids in private/charter schools, our goal as parents, educators, citizens has to be to put ALL funding in the HELP JACK AND JILL PASS THE TEST, right? When you take a look at the 1 to 1 computing research out there, it appears that 1 to 1 doesn't translate into significant gains for improved student academic achievement. 
A compilation of four new studies of one-to-one computing projects in K-12 schools identifies several factors that are key to the projects’ success, including adequate planning, stakeholder buy-in, and strong school or district leadership. Not surprisingly, the researchers say the most important factor of all is the teaching practices of instructors—suggesting school laptop programs are only as effective as the teachers who apply them. (Read Source)
Read that bold, italicized section above. Where should we be spending money? Repeat after me--we should spend the money on maximizing teacher effectiveness. Whether it's 1 to 1 or BYOD, the focus MUST BE on the teachers' effectiveness.

Every time I see an administrator walking around with an iPad, or a teacher doing cartwheels over the latest free iPad app, I ask myself, How has this person fundamentally changed what they are doing with technology to be more effective? The answer is a bit depressing. Most of us still use technology in the classroom in ways that are ineffective for improving student achievement.

For example, in a recent online conversation, a technology administrator said, "We want to use BYOD so kids can do more research." Hmm...really?!? More research? 

While knowing how to do research is critical, has there been any discussion about employing the Big6.com approach or taking the time out to do problem-based learning or case study method? Or, is the approach still driven by something like this:
"You need to do a research study on why a platypus is a marsupial, a bird, and a mammal. You can present your findings as a multimedia slideshow or a written paper or a series of tweets with the hashtag #schoolnameplatypusproject2011adnauseum"
The focus on any project has to be on impacting specific learning objectives.

Over the last few years as federal funding had steadily decreased under President Bush--and now has been cut altogether thanks to progressive leadership under President Obama--I've often reflected on the priority we give technology in schools. Time and again, one reads that "It's the pedagogy, not the technology, that makes the difference." And, if that statement is true--echoed by many educational technology bloggers and pundits--then let's focus our limited funding on pedagogy.

As a writing teacher whose children produced great writing over the course of a year--and I received nice teacher appraisals for it, although some would argue that neither measure is valid in the face of high-stakes testing--I did not need technology. As Jim Collins advocates point out (and which administrator in public schools doesn't cite Good to Great), technology accelerates...it makes what you're doing happen better and faster, but it fundamentally comes down to what you're doing at the bedrock level.
In a one-to-one teaching and learning environment, each participating student is provided access to a personal computing device on a direct and continuous basis throughout the school day, and beyond, if possible. Students do not share laptops with other students at the same point in time. It is the intent of one-to-one programs to empower students with "anytime and anywhere" learning. When a student is in class, the laptop is in their immediate proximity and is used regularly and with purpose. (Source: What is One-to-One? From the One-to-One Institute as cited http://k12one2one.org/)
And, when a student is out of class and the technology is locked up at school, does anytime/anywhere learning still take place? Have we falsely equated "anytime/anywhere learning" with "1 to 1 access?" I suggest we have done so. This is like stating that reading  a stream of tweets is equivalent to learning, or listening to a keynote speaker is equivalent to learning.

What is the unique process where we convert information that is public into knowledge we can carry around with us? If this process is not clearly articulated, then there is little hope for a 1 to 1 program, even before it gets started:
Success often depends on program managers having a clear roadmap for how enhancing access will eventually lead to other more ambitious goals such as transforming instruction or improving student learning. (Source: Apple 1 to 1 Research)

Since we've established that all American schools are failures, we shouldn't be spending precious funds on technology in schools because that's NOT where it is at...it's where we WANT it to be. 
While America’s students are stuck in a ditch, the rest of the world is moving ahead. The World Economic Forum ranks us 48th in math and science education. On international math tests, the United States is near the bottom of industrialized countries (the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and we’re in the middle in science and reading. Similarly, although we used to have one of the top percentages of high-school and college graduates among the OECD countries, we’re now in the basement for high-school and the middle for college graduates. And these figures don’t take into account the leaps in educational attainment in China, Singapore, and many developing countries...The net effect is that we’re rapidly moving toward two Americas—a wealthy elite, and an increasingly large underclass that lacks the skills to succeed.
(Source: The Failure of American Schools)

Does a technology-illiterate administrator, selected for that position irrespective of his ability to use technology or learn how to use technology, really need an iPod or iPad or Android tablet to achieve his job? The answer is, "No, they are really just acquiring mobile devices that are cool, hip, 'hot' according to inventory purposes." Can students learn effectively without technology at all? Yes, of course they can. If the answer were NO, the majority of students in the top 20 in the World Economic Forum would be out of luck, right?
The World Economic Forum, based in Davos, Switzerland, holds that technological progress is the principal driver of innovation, productivity and efficiency. (read source)
Wait a sec...is it possible that what we do in schools flies in the face of productivity, innovation, and efficiency (PIE)? When we eschew technology in schools to address high stakes testing, are we prioritizing the opposite of what we set out to achieve?

(And, the obligatory list)

If we could prioritize what we do in schools to achieve innovation, productivity and efficiency, it should be this:
  1. Eliminate the digital divide in K-16 public schools between "instructional techie-propeller-heads" and "instructional tech-weenies"
  2. Focus on problem-based learning in schools
  3. Allow ubiquitous access to technology a la BYOD but don't break the budget. Use what's available in the community and encourage business cash donations rather than hardware dumping.
  4. Enable collaboration through the strategic use of technology.
  5. Maximize teacher effectiveness by simplifying expectations unrelated to increased PIE
  6. Allow the use of course management systems that scaffold learning rather than lock-in schools to proprietary, closed (e.g. can't export content created by students and staff), taxpayer supported systems.
  7. Kick tech companies out of K-12 education because their money is doing to education what special interests have done to politics a la campaign donations.
That's just one take on 1 to 1. How would you have written this differently?

Image References
Pie in the face. http://www.ronscott.com/editorial/RonScottPieFace.jpg

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Anonymous said…
Eliminating the digital divide isn't just the device in hand. Now it is the access available at home or in the community. After moving the country, I have never realized until recently just how dark the countryside is with regards to Internet connectivity. Satellite Internet service is hardly service at all and is very expensive.

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