I found this article by Stanford professor Larry Cuban in the TCRrecord enewsletter today, and while I am a proponent of laptop programs, I do understand Cuban’s point. He urges us to look to higher ed in order to learn some important lessons. The message here seems to be not to look at 1 to 1 programs as a panacea if one is looking to reinvigorate pedagogical practices. Cuban’s main points based on his research and observations of higher ed technology integration practices are:
1. Professor and student use of new technologies is widespread in doing assignments, preparing lessons, Internet searches, and email, but lags far behind in daily classroom use.
2. Even with abundant access and slowly increasing use among professors, few marked changes in pedagogy have occurred.
We’re very tentatively investigating 1 to 1 programs at my school and one thing I discovered from a recent site visit to the Avoca school district in Wilmette, Illinois, was that laptops do not need to be this glamorous symbol of educational transformation in a school. At Avoca, laptops seem to be a normal, integrated part of the school just as textbooks, microscopes, televisions, and gym equipment. It’s important for a school to keep their expectations in check regarding such programs. Why start with the goal of transforming the teaching and learning experience? Is there still a place for laptops in a school if we "lower" our expectations? It doesn’t seem to be a natural use of these machines in the context of expecting massive educational change, and maybe the magical transformation we are all looking for in education will happen in unexpected ways. I’m beginning to think that the approach should be to look at laptop programs as a methodology for giving our students tools in order to access the best educational content and 21st century communication tools. If pedagogy is something we want to change, then we need to dive deeper beneath the surface of laptop programs and focus on innovating basic teaching practices.
Also, as a counterpoint to Cuban’s seemingly lack of enthusiasm for computers in schools, I found this study by Henry Jay Becker that seems to indicate that more constructivist oriented teachers are more successful at integrating technology into their classrooms in meaningful ways.