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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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1:1 Laptop Programs: Shifting the Way Students Learn

Chris Ludwig

HS science teacher in La Junta, Colorado

I usually join the 5 p.m. MST #edchat on Twitter, but this past Tuesday (January 19), my colleague @boundstaffpress (Justin Miller) mentioned that I should tune in to the early version of #edchat.

The topic, laptops in the classroom, was one I follow carefully, because I run a science classroom with MacBooks for each student. So I multitasked while teaching and joined some of the #edchat discussion of whether 1:1 laptop programs are the future of education and exactly how such programs are changing education.

One of the main questions at the beginning of #edchat was related to which types of hardware schools choose and whether students get to take them home:

@RonnieGonzalez Does every student need a laptop to take home, or just a desktop in their class? Instead of labs, every classroom with a thin client.

Many hardware choices exist, but for my classroom, I chose to use MacBooks. These laptops are powerful enough to do most any task that desktops can do, but students could use them in my room at their desks without having to travel to a computer lab.

Students use my class set of MacBooks at school but not at home, although I have checked them out for special projects. Students have the ability to personalize their laptop experience, however, and they refer to them as "their" laptops.

Another of the major #edchat concerns was about student misuse:

@seanbanville Big danger is students chatting, surfing, gaming, etc., instead of studying.

@lhiltbr Classroom management is also a huge piece. Make sure students know expected routines/procedures/uses of the tools.

I had these concerns, too, when I first started envisioning how they would be used in class. Therefore, because the laptops were new to the students this school year, I started each class off in August with a Technology Boot Camp, in which we discussed some basics about the laptops themselves but also began a conversation about what kind of class we wanted to have now that everyone had a laptop.

Students do use the computers for a variety of tasks, most of which, but not all, are directly related to classroom learning tasks. I have no problem with students checking their English class ning or reading articles in Forbes as long as they are on track with my content.

I know that they are on these sites because I use Apple's Remote Desktop to monitor student use of the laptops. I can lock all screens if uninterrupted discussion is necessary or chat privately with a student who is off task or needs help with an assignment.

Probably the biggest area of concern on #edchat was how 1:1 laptops in class would change the role of the teacher and whether teachers could handle the change:

@cybraryman Laptops are wonderful, but teacher needs to know how to incorporate the tech & when and how to use it first.

@evmaiden Teachers won't be replaced by technology, but teachers who don't use tech will be replaced by teachers who do.

My style of teaching and assessment of students has changed dramatically now that everyone has a laptop in class. For example, I now use Edmodo to share assignment files and information with students. This extends my contact time with students who ask questions and turn in assignments anytime or anywhere because my courses are now effectively online.

Assessment of students can be altered, too, since it is possible to deliver flexible student assessments online using my Moodle site. And, most importantly, each student now has the tools to create digital content that shows their level of understanding of a topic.

A class set of laptops has definitely changed how my classes operate. The most exciting change is the spontaneity and interactivity that laptops bring to classroom discussions.

I still lecture at times, but students now have instant access to information besides what I offer, so, if a student finds a relevant example from a reading or a video, they can share that with the whole class. Not only that, but students I have taught in past years who never took notes during lectures are now consistently taking notes using their laptops.

In summary, I think that students with laptops in class are more likely to contribute to class discussions and are able to engage course content in more meaningful ways. So, even though schools like mine aren't yet true 1:1, even a class set of laptops can lead to a major shift in the way students learn.

Check out the rest of the #edchat transcript here. If you have never participated in an #edchat conversation, please join us on Twitter every Tuesday at 12 p.m. EST/6 p.m. CET or at 7 p.m. EST/1 a.m. CET.

Chris Ludwig teaches chemistry, biology, AP Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology at La Junta High School, on the eastern plains of Colorado. He graduated with honors from the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in molecular and cellular biology in 1993. He then pursued a doctorate in neuroscience at Washington University, in St. Louis, won a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship in 1994, and left the neuroscience program with a master's degree in 1999 to take his love of science back to the community through teaching. Read more.

Comments (15)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Chris Ludwig's picture
Chris Ludwig
HS science teacher in La Junta, Colorado
Blogger

Both Randy and Dawn highlight the main issue when it comes to 1:1 computing- equal access to technology for all students. I am incredibly lucky to have a class set of laptops, but it wasn't so long ago that I worked in a district where I had to scavenge parts from old PCs to get even one networked computer for students in the classroom. Even in my current school, my classroom is the only one that can claim 1:1 during the school day.

I would like to think that there is hope for schools without 1:1. A grant to the district and some fortunate planning on my part made it happen for me. But schools should not have to rely on luck. School district administrators and board members need to be shown what technology can do to transform education. Then, perhaps, additional funding will find its way into some of our schools to support student learning through technology.

Tami's picture

Similar to Randy's situation, we have a large cart with about 30 laptops that gets rotated through all the schools in our district (one high school, two middle schools, and three elementary schools). We are able to connect to the internet through the cart's "plug in" to the classroom connection - of course that means unplugging my computer. The laptops are PCs which are already five years old, so the idea of MacBooks for each student in the classroom makes me envious! We have an amazing Mac Lab, so hopefully the MacBooks will make their way to us yet! Congratulations, Chris on your success!

Dawn's picture

Chris, I do agree that all Districts should provide schools with 1:1 computing. One would think that the "powers that be" would want our children to be able to compete with the world around them. I won't start ranting about the state of education because I could go on forever. Instead, I'll try to focus on the positive. Grant writing and community support are essential to getting technology into classrooms. I've been in contact with a company that is willing to donate old computers to our school. Every little bit counts.

Andrea's picture

I am an elementary special education teacher and my school has a lap top cart for each floor of the school. They are a great tool and I use them two to three times a week. They are a great motivator and the kids can easily use and navigate them. We have wireless internet so they are easy to take care of. I use a site called, Achieve3000.com. It's a reading program in which students read newspaper articles(on their reading level) and complete activities based on the reading. Another site is www.brainpop.com. This is a fun website that plays short movies on a variety of topics. It's a great introduction to lessons. Administration would like us to use technology at least once a day. It is very hard to fit that in but well worth it when I am able to do it. I see a difference in my student's behavior and work habits. Lap tops keep them focused and entertained while learning. I would love it if my students could have their own lap top. www.donorschoose.com is a great site in which you can post requests for supplies and such and people donate what you need. I am not sure if this is nation wide or just for New York City, but it doesn't hurt to check it out!

Murali Gopalan's picture

Hello to all!
I am new to a blog like this, but I am glad I logged on to this. Congrats Chris, on 1:1 computing!
I recently have received 6 laptops and a virtual Chem-lab software for conducting dry labs in my classroom, through writing a grant. As the science fair competition is coming up, I am planning to hook up these laptops to the internet (it is down now) so that the students can do the research and word processing works related to their projects too. I have bought a router as well to go wireless. However, have to wait till the internet is up. The students will have to take turn to use them. I wish the district provided 1:1 computing in near future. As Andrea wrote, I also have noticed students fully focused in learning while they are working with the laptops. I have concerns like students misusing the laptops going to internet game sites or so. I read solutions from the conversations here. It is very helpful. Thank you.

cynthia Blancke's picture
cynthia Blancke
k-12 foreign language teacher

I believe that computers will take curious students further than anywhere a teacher can take them. I also believe that a few students who were not listening to the teacher , will now tune in. But I also believe that there will always be a group of students who will try to cheat out of work and will do a minimum. Many students will settle for visuals and will avoid reading lengthy texts online or offline. Beware...

Geoff Grimmer's picture

Chris,

I was refreshed to read your comments on a laptop-centric learning environment. There are many cool and subtle dynamic developments at our small school that have our staff excited about Web 2.0 tools. Today I went through a science discussion board and found that many of our most socially reserved students are CHATTY when asked to respond to discussion board. As an administrator who is looking for ways to give a voice to all students within the learning environment (often times girls in a math class, or kids who battle confidence issues in the back of the room), discussion boards provide for a democratic environment that allows kids to tap their strength as 'text message' writers.

Thanks for your good work!

Courtney Adams's picture

Do you think it would be best if the laptops used in classrooms were PC's like an Hp laptop, or macs?

Adam's picture

To facilitate 1:1 programs schools must give students and staff easy but secure access to the school's applications from various devices (including iPads, iPhones, Android devices and Chromebooks), while minimizing the intervention required by IT staff. An ideal solution for such a scenario is Ericom AccessNow, a pure HTML5 RDP client that enables remote users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server (RDS Session Host), physical desktops or VDI virtual desktops - and run their applications and desktops in a browser. AccessNow works natively with Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer (with Chrome Frame plug-in), Firefox and any other browser with HTML5 and WebSockets support.

Ericom offers special pricing for education customers.

For more info, and to download a demo, visit:
http://www.ericom.com/html5_rdp_client.asp?URL_ID=708

Note: I work for Ericom

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