Scarcity and Collaboration: An argument for 1:1 initiatives

A couple of weeks ago Kate Olsen posted on her blog about getting hassled by one of her colleagues. Part of the hassling included a mention of her hogging the computer lab so others couldn't use it. That touched off some thoughts that had been floating around the back of my head for awhile.

Following is an excerpt from my comment on her post that briefly summarized my thinking:

Two years ago I was one of very few teachers who used the laptop carts on a regular basis. As a result, I could get them whenever I wanted (they even let me store a cart permanently in my room). Now there are 5 or so teachers that regularly use computers in their classes. While there has been a little increase in the number of available computers in the past 2 years, there is definitely more demand on the computers.

[...] The big problem I see is that the limited supply of computers with increasing demand may prevent tech-savvy teachers from sharing their expertise with those less familiar with technology to keep the demand for computer resources lower. This is simply unacceptable. Who benefits from this arrangement? It certainly isn’t the students.

One of the best sources of knowledge available to teachers who might be interested in integrating technology are other teachers who are already actively using it.  However, in schools with fewer computers available than students, for a tech-savvy teacher to share their knowledge means they run the risk of reducing the amount of time computers will be available for them to use. One of my primary concerns when planning lessons that require the internet or online tools (other than the school filter)  is that other teachers will sign out all the computers during the time when I need to use them.

Can I really be upset at these teachers for using technology? No. Should I withhold my expertise from them for selfish reasons? No, and I hope I haven't consciously done this. However, if each teacher at my school wanted to use the laptops even just once a week, there'd be a major fight over who would get them.

Aren't we in the business of supporting educators in the teaching of 21st century skills? The scarcity of computers in most schools (in my opinion) serves to prevent all teachers from utilizing technology. It seems to me the logical conclusion is to provide a laptop for each student. Known as a 1:1 program, many schools across the country are getting great results from it being thoughtfully implemented. I'm not purporting to be a 1:1 expert. All I'm saying is that if we want schools to be places where students learn to be competent citizens of the 21st century we need to provide them with the tools to do so.

What to do? I'm a bit of a lame-duck at my school (I'm moving to Connecticut this summer), so I feel my power to effect change has been diminished. However, we can all do a little to support these initiatives.

  • Teachers: talk to your principals, tech directors, school board members, etc. about the importance of teaching 21st century skills. Also, if you're not sure how to utilize technology, demand professional development time. This doesn't have to be an expensive keynote speaker, it could be a workshop by another teacher in your district.
  • Students: demand your teachers and principals provide an environment where you have the opportunity to learn and exhibit your 21st century skills. If your principals hear hundreds of requests for more technology to facilitate learning each week, then they're going want to take action.
  • Parents: talk to your students' principals and school board members about the importance of providing environments that prepare your children for their future. Again, if the school board hears several requests every week, they're much more inclined to "find" money to fund it.

For further info on 1:1 initiatives: