Putting the Cart Before the Teacher in 1:1

To steal a trademark joke from some of my favorite bloggers, the title really should read: Putting the Cart Before the Horse Teacher in 1:1. Or as Matt Townsley and Russ Goerend asked in an unplugged session here at ISTE10 (link), is having 1:1 computers the chicken or the egg? I’m going to interpret this question as: which comes first, the vision for what to do with 1:1 computers or the purchase of 1:1 computers? (Aside: I gave them an answer that Matt interpreted as “the barn”).

In my classroom, at least, the cart came before the teacher (me) really knew what to do with it.  I knew that kids needed computers because computers were cool for our digital natives and regular lectures were boring them and that so many cool things for science teaching were available on the web and…and…and. But that wasn’t really a vision for what to DO with the laptops, as such.

But I managed to get a cart anyway, thanks to my brave and hardworking IT staff.  And that has made all the difference.

As a science teacher I love doing experiments and, simply put, I couldn’t experiment with what works in 1:1 without the right tools. Most scientific experiments need some specialized equipment and whether its a thermocycler, mass spectrometer, or electron microscope, the experiment can’t happen without the tool.  1:1 computing is no different.  The tools have to be there or teachers will always teach the same way that they have for years.

But should every horse teacher get their own cart?  Not yet. Lets face it, some horses teachers are resistant to pulling anything new, and to saddle them with the extra load of a cart might cause them to buck and kick back.  Not good for students.

What will work to get to our ideal vision for teachers and their technology use? Jealousy!

Jealousy is the most important emotion in teaching. Use jealousy! -Leigh Zeitz @ ISTE10

Putting the cool tools in the hands of a few teachers who have the beginnings of a vision and desire for 1:1 is going to give way greater long term returns than a blanket purchase of laptops for every kid. First it will work out some of the kinks in your technology infrastructure with a more limited hardware expenditure.  Second, when these trailblazing teachers have success with 1:1, their neighbor teachers will notice. Teachers will notice because students will notice and talk about how different the 1:1 experience is.  Ideally, this is the point in which jealousy kicks in. Why do they get to do that? How come they get 1:1 computers?

Once jealousy kicks in, there may some desire on the part of the resistant teacher to also have a 1:1 classroom. From there you have them hooked. Administrators might link 1:1 hardware to achievement of a certain level of professional development or some other criteria. Now while this might seem to be awful that students are denied the technology in some classes, I guarantee that it is better than what might happen with a totally resistant teacher.

So try jealousy.  Let me know if it works.

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