Posted on : 22-05-2011 | By : rmmadden | In : Uncategorized
This point came up in the chat window during the keynote discussion for the 4t Virtual Conference last night. I am simplifying the context a bit, because in the conversation we were discussing individualizing learning plans to meet specific student needs. Granted, my experience in 1:1 settings has not been with individual learning plans, but even when kids are working on individualized projects I have not witnessed isolation. In fact, I’ve witnessed quite the opposite. Here is a short list of what I have seen going on in 1:1 settings:
- Students cluster into self-made groups. Granted, it’s usually with friends, but with netbooks they have greater freedom of movement then with a book, paper and pencil. What ends up happening is you get 3 or 4 people sitting in a circle on the floor or around a table. While there isn’t a lot of conversation in these groups, it is generally focused on the task at hand.
- Students share “how-to” information. Sometimes they find out how to do something and can’t wait to show-off. Sometimes they look at someone else’s screen or hear it over their speakers and ask, “How did you do that?” Other times they simply ask if someone else knows how to do x, y, or z.
- Students share interesting facts they find out. This usually happens during research time, obviously. I witnessed this mostly during an ecosystem project where students were studying animals at various points in the food chain.
- Students ask each other for feedback. I see netbooks and headphone being handed over quite a bit during work sessions. How often do we see this happen with draft books or worksheets?
- Tattling still occurs. I do circulate around the room to be sure students are doing what they should be doing, but because students are surreptitiously watching each other’s screens I don’t have to circulate as much as you’d think. I’m not a fan of tattling by any means, and we’ve had talks about what to tattle on, but it’s still more evidence that they aren’t focused on their own screens to the exclusion of all else.
- Students ask each other for technical help. This is one I have mixed feelings on, but generally am in favor of. Yes, I’m glad I’m not always inundated with questions. No, I’m not happy that the student sometimes didn’t try to figure it out themselves. Yes, I’m glad that they’re at least getting help rather than doing nothing. No, I’m not happy that it’s keeping another student from working. Yes, I’m happy that sometimes it helps forge a friendship or raise the standing of an otherwise outcast.
All of that being said, I can see netbooks isolating students from each other. But I think it’s up to us as teachers and designers of our classroom environment to find ways to overcome that and encourage students to help each other. One way I encouraged the sixth one is to make students ask two other students for help before coming to me. I would actually make them point to the students they asked for help from first and I would confirm it before answering the question. Also, just because we have 1:1 doesn’t mean they always have to be used as such. I’ve seen teachers limit netbooks to one student per four as they build a graphic organizer together. I’ve also seen teachers assign two netbooks to a group where one is the “project” netbook and the other is the “research” netbook. This way students are put in a situation where collaboration is necessary.
In summary, 1:1 does not automatically make students islands unto themselves, especially if we create environments where content and tasks are interesting and collaboration is encouraged.