From Now On
|Vol 11|No 7|April|2002|
Many business and educational studies stress the value of team problem-solving skills.2 We look for teams of students to work together rather than operating in a solitary fashion.
The Engaged Learning model advocated by Barbara Means and others, suggest four main elements, one of which is teaming:
Strangely, when each member of a team possesses a laptop, the challenge of collaborating can be hindered rather than enhanced. Separate ownership can work against dialogue and synchronous exploration.
During a recent workshop with an independent school looking at the impact of different intensity levels of equipment, many teams reported that interpretive tasks often moved more smoothly and effectively when team members shared screens and laptops. (See workshop materials at http://questioning.org/laptop.html)
These photographs of students sharing data and information speak eloquently of the advantages of programs built around pairs and trios.
One advantage is economic. We can double or triple the impact of our equipment budget by reaching more students with fewer computers. We can also reserve funds normally devoted to purchasing equipment to generally underfunded elements such as professional development, program development and technical support.
Another major advantage is standardization and maintenance of equipment to work effectively on the school network. When equipment belongs to the school, various kinds of games, instant messaging and other distractions can be pretty much eliminated. Reliability can be enhanced by providing an ongoing, systematic maintenance program.
If we plan strategically, moving laptop carts about to where they can do the most good, we can provide a mixture of experiences. Sometimes we can have enough laptops on hand so that each student may work on an essay or poem on a single, personal laptop. At other times, students may team to consider an important, problem, challenge or issue.
With proper planning, we can overcome the typical short battery life of laptops by providing extra batteries and charging facilities as part of the laptop carts, a real challenge to overcome when each student has their own laptop. Wireless too often becomes wired.
Sharing equipment is not new in schools. We have shared microscopes and balances in science labs. We have even taken turns using saws and drills and parallel bars.
There may be plenty of times when it is desirable for each student to work on a personal laptop, but that opportunity can be made available when and if it becomes desirable.
When we move computers about, we can enjoy the benefits of just in time equipment. It is an approach that conserves resources rather than squandering them. It is judicious and prudent.
When we make families buy computers for every child just in case students might need them from time to time, we run the risk of over equipping our classrooms. There are at least two troubling consequences. Teachers might feel some pressure to make frequent use of these tools even when they should be closed and idle. On the other hand, the laptops may remain idle so much of the time that it will be hard to justify the large investment.
Why not gradually increase the number of laptops in a school as readiness and program needs develop? Maintain records of use. If high levels of use justify the purchase of additional units, so be it.
No laptop before its (it's) time!
Back to April Cover
Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.
Copyright Policy: © 2002, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. Materials published in From Now On may be duplicated in hard copy format if unchanged in format and content for educational, nonprofit school district and university use only and may also be sent from person to person by e-mail. This copyright statement must be included. All other uses, transmissions and duplications are prohibited unless permission is granted expressly. Showing these pages remotely through frames is not permitted.