The Limitations with 1:1… 1 device

Seems like the big discussion these days in the Instructional Technology realm is ‘What device is best for 1:1?’  There are a lot of people debating this, writing about it and even creating infographics about it.  (If you are interested in these resources they are listed below- but please WAIT and read on before scrolling down…)

I believe we are asking the wrong question. It never has been about the device, but the learning. So why are we limiting ourselves to one device and (some) immediately going to 1:1 without thinking it through?  I guess the appeal to 1:1 is that it treats education like we’ve done in the past with handing out textbooks to each student. For some districts it is also a status symbol.  Unfortunately what 1:1 technology does is it limits learning to one platform, one device: in a sense ‘one device to learn all concepts’.  Well, I’ve got a revelation for you… there is no ‘one device’ that is capable of doing it all (at least not easily).  To prove my point here’s a snapshot of learning and projects that might be happening in a classroom:

  • Students become experts on reading strategies and create documentaries showing their classmates how their strategy can help them become better readers.
  • Students write, produce and publish a team weekly podcast.
  • Students write team stories using a wiki.
  • Students use graphic organizers to help organize their ideas prior to writing.
  • After learning about a topic students create a glogster (digital poster) teaching others about their topic. Their classmates are able to view and comment on each other glogsters.
  • Students create PSAs to share with younger students on how they can create a positive digital footprint.
  • Students create tutorials on how to solve a multi-step word problem using models to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.
  • Students learn code and use it to create a game (using math and literacy skills) or math-based algorithmic digital artwork.
  • Students use CAD software to design buildings that are hurricane proof.
  • Students create their own electronic portfolio using google sites and publish all their digital work.

The point here is as I read the technology integration lessons above I think of different platforms and devices. When we change our mind set and think first about the device we have already limited ourselves and our students. We are also not giving students the diverse experiences they will need when they go into the workforce.

I propose a radical idea: let’s provide our students with multiple access to devices. Wouldn’t this be more like preparing them for the world outside of a classroom? Schools need to have a variety of tools for students and teachers. They need to have desktops with robust software for programming and video creation, audio mixing and photo editing. Laptops for portability and ability to use both network software applications as well as webtools for creation, collaboration and publishing.  Tablets for simple digital storytelling, mobile presenting, content reinforcement and multimedia viewing.  Obviously there is some overlap with what the devices and platforms can do. There are also new webtools, software and apps being developed all the time which will change functionality as well.

So, how does a school district keep up?  I say we don’t.  We don’t have to be at the cutting edge, nor can we afford to be. Our job is not to be the first to have all students 1:1 with ipads, or other tablets.  Our job is to foster learners. For some schools this might be rolling out some 1:1 programs for specific courses and/or grade levels.  For most schools it will mean offering a variety of opportunities: desktops, iMacs, laptops, chromebooks, tablets, cellphones and/or a BYOD program.

Remember it starts with the learning target. Good teachers know that because that is how they’ve always planned their classroom learning activities.  Also, don’t forget teachers need support and professional development on how to effectively integrate technology into the already great learning happening in their classrooms.  This initial and continual support is key to the effective implementation of any device.

When students leave their public education they should know how to learn and utilize various devices and technologies to be successful in their lives and careers. It is our job to prepare them for that. This involves them using technology purposeful, not just being given a device to figure out how it works best.

Related post:

A Vision: 1:world


Tablets or Laptops? (has great infographic)
Debating iPads or Chromebooks for 1:1? Why not both?

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