Over the past few years, a technological craze has swept through America’s schools — the concept of one-to-one programs.
One-to-one programs are common throughout hundreds of schools across the U.S. and involve giving a computer to each student in the school. Each day, one-to-one classes must incorporate the computers in the lesson in some way, whether centering the lesson around the computers themselves or using them once. The program aims to improve the learning experience of the students using the new technology.
Some classes at Leesville have already adopted one-to-one teaching, including many of the CTE classes. Two CTE classes that use computers daily — Digital Media and Sports and Entertainment Marketing — use them in different ways.
In James Hardy’s Sports and Entertainment Marketing class, students simulate, through computers, owning and running a professional football franchise, among other projects. The technology in Hardy’s class enables a more hands-on approach to the course, giving students the chance to make their own commercials and identify cutting-edge forms of marketing.
“Computers provide more options for Sports and Entertainment Marketing projects,” Hardy said in an email interview.
But how could computers be used in non-CTE classes?
Take my schedule, for example: Chemistry, Civics and Economics, Newspaper, and Creative Writing II. These four classes are very different from Digital Media and Sports and Entertainment Marketing — how could they be one-to-one?
For science classes, like my Chemistry class, Christie Dobbin believes a one-to-one program would, in some instances, do exactly the opposite as what the program does for Hardy’s class — instead of enabling a hands-on approach, computers could make classes more hands-off.
“A lot of those programs for science are more like virtual experiments, and… we prefer for [students] to do the actual experiments,” said Dobbin.
According to Dobbin, the real benefit of a one-to-one program in a science class would involve a chance to utilize technology unavailable to Leesville, whether it be because the equipment is too big or too expensive. Even so, the parameters of daily use don’t sit well with her.
“It’s nice to have that virtual option, but I’m not sure about using it everyday,” Dobbin said.
Wikis and sites like Edmodo (both of which enable student-teacher interaction, student-student interaction, and options for assignments) can be employed across a variety of classes, though, including a science class. Even so, while Edmodo is great for checking on homework assignments and taking short quizzes, executing daily use could be ineffective and overly extensive. A large part of science classes are the labs performed. Edmodo can provide a starting place for one-to-one classrooms, providing links leading to virtual labs, but that’s as far as it can stretch.
Reiterating what Dobbin previously stated, though in some instances, computers are convenient, they also have the potential to discourage essential aspects of many science classes — i.e. active involvement in labs.
The daily use of computers in my Civics class could enable in-depth research, on the other hand, and sites like Edmodo can be utilized in different ways. Paragraphs can be posted online in reply to articles found online, prompting responses, and therefore encouraging discussion among peers. Wikis can offer similar scenarios, giving students a chance to make comments on the works and opinions of other students, using critical-thinking skills to formulate a retort, both of which — the initial paragraph and later comment — could be graded.
My Newspaper class is, in many ways, already a one-to-one class. All of our articles are written and edited on Google Drive (an online word processor with options for easy collaboration and retrieval of documents), and the majority of research done for longer articles is online. Google Drive and similar collaboration techniques could be used in an English class just as easily, giving students and teachers a chance for online editing, writing and grading.
One-to-one programs in English classes would benefit six of the seven learning styles (auditory, visual, verbal, kinesthetic, logical, and intrapersonal), in addition to the online potential. Articles, like the ones prospectively used in Social Studies classes with one-to-one, could be linked to or posted, fulfilling requirements for informational reading.
Despite the pros, the new Common Core English standards focus on speaking and listening skills — skills potentially lost in a one-to-one classroom. This is assuming the class is completely devoted to the technology in use, which, depending on the class, may not be true.
Creative Writing could be made one-to-one in a somewhat similar fashion, at least with the Google Drive use. Our Writing Groups convene often in Creative Writing to discuss our individual pieces — with the aid of Google Drive, the editing and revising process could be greatly improved. Comments and access from any computer make giving advice easy and feasible for every writing piece submitted.
For other non-CTE classes, like math, daily computer use may be more difficult. The extent of technological use in math classes usually lies within the realms of calculators, and some classes try to avoid calculators as much as possible. In addition, many maths are focused on understanding how to solve problems and therefore on the concept of showing work. This concept simply cannot be executed — or would be much harder to execute — through a computer.
The biggest thing that affects any classroom is the teacher, and this does not change for one-to-one classes. Those teaching a one-to-one class must know all the right ways to utilize the technology and must be able to improve students’ learning experiences in the use of the technology. A one-to-one class cannot be taught the same way as any other class.
At the same time, could this differentiation in one-to-one classes benefit certain students in need of a differentiated curriculum? For instance, could it prove to be beneficial to students with severe learning disabilities?
Danette Swann, Special Programs chair, believes though technology is a benefit in a lot of ways, it cannot fix everything.
“Different remedial programs can run to fill in some cracks of the foundation of [students’] learning, but individualised attention — like teachers — are going to make a bigger difference,” said Swann.
Some kids do not work well with technology, whether in remedial or honors classes, and learning on a computer could end up being more frustrating than learning with a teacher. In addition, some teachers may not work well with technology, and competent teachers are crucial for the program to succeed.
There are any number of factors that play into whether a one-to-one program will work for a class, and the overall effectiveness of one-to-one programs seemingly rests upon the subject and teacher they are employed under. In the end, the changes Leesville classes would have to undergo to adopt a one-to-one program would be massive and potentially not worthwhile. Technology can enhance classes in many ways — but, in the wrong class, daily computer use may do exactly the opposite.