I'm going to use this post to reflect on the first month of the one to one initiative with this post looking at how the one to one initiative has changed my classroom from the perspective of my teaching and more importantly the students' learning.
To start, I think we have started from a different place than maybe other one to one initiatives. We had a set up of a dozen or so lap tops on each team the past two years and we have had the opportunity to borrow from other teams. We also had a couple dozen net books to sign out too. All these computers made it so that I had the opportunity to use computers with my kids just about all the time. Often it was in a one to two sort of situation but at times I actually was one to one. We have also had Google Apps for the past two years and I have used them fairly extensively, starting about a year and a half ago.
All that being said, there are a number of changes this year with students having THEIR OWN one to one computer. First is a simple matter of ease and making lap tops ubiquitous in my teaching. I no longer have to plan around other people and their computer needs. I don't need to check on who else is using the lap tops, if my teammates need them in their classes, and so on. If I have something planned I know I have access to computers and online resources. In fact, its to the point that I don't even think about this access and I kind of take it for granted. This is great in a number of ways. I can have the students watch a video, look at an online simulation, listen to audio, etc. on a particular topic. In fact, I can offer all of those options which helps get at different learning modalities. Also students have access to online files (Google Docs) where I can share the day's activities and students can do their work. Finally, with students having their own lap tops, I know students will have the ability to finish their work at home or during enrichment time.
It actually is getting to the point that I no longer think of the lap top as a different tool that I need to plan for but rather I treat it as a normal tool that students have and will access at different points in a lesson. I think this is probably as it should be. That's not to say that the students are using the lap tops at all times during all classes. There are plenty of times in math when students are working out problems with pencils and paper (or dry erase marker and desk),
playing games to reinforce concepts, or doing a simulation. In Science, students are engaged in hands-on labs, acting out the roles of living things, or reading and responding to text. The beautiful thing is that the lap tops can have roles in these activities but often I don't expressly plan for their use.
Along this line of thought, I have continued to do a number of activities that I have always done but I have offered new ways for students to demonstrate their mastery by using the lap tops and online programs. I think its important to not search out activities just to use the lap tops but rather to do activities that may benefit from using a lap top but are otherwise strong activities. For instance, I have had students make a "lesson" on the topic of using prime factorization. In the past, this has taken the form of a written "notebook item." This year, I had students download Smart Notebook and create a podcast of the lesson. The goal of the lesson was to have students teach a skill (because if a student can teach others a topic that shows that they have a great grasp of the topic themselves.) By using Smart Notebook students now had a multimedia lesson, one which allowed them to talk through the problem as well as draw out examples. In this example, I really believe that technology expanded on an already strong lesson.
Another area I see my classroom changing for students and myself is how we treat homeroom and enrichment time. Students now come in and fire up their lap top, check into the attendance page, and then answer a question that is posted outside the classroom on a whiteboard. Often the question requires some research which gets kids working with Wikipedia and Google Search. As the year progresses, I can see using these questions to even teach advanced search.
During enrichment, students have begun to "play" with their lap tops. Students have looked at world landmarks on Google Earth, made houses on Google Sketchup, and searched for a topic that interests them on Wikipedia. This isn't something that I had seen before nor was I expecting to see it now. Students in the past had used lap tops during enrichment mainly to do work that we had assigned. There were not enough computers for kids to just "play." I think its great that kids are doing different things now that they can with their own lap tops. They are experiencing programs that I might not be able to show them or not show them in much depth. They are learning about all sorts of things that I don't even know about! This ability to "play" is a great side benefit of students having their own lap tops.
Student collaboration has changed somewhat too. Students still chat with one another while working in math and science or even during enrichment. Students have begun sharing Google documents and working collaboratively, especially in science on labs. But I'm also seeing students chat using Google chat and even video chat! I see students sitting in my teaching partners class chatting with kids in my class (at appropriate times of course!) Some of the more adventurous students have even begun using the chat feature when they are doing group work and aren't right next to one another. I had never really thought about using this feature in learning but the students willingness to try it makes me interested in seeing how I can incorporate it into their learning.
Overall, its very early into the year and I'm still getting used to students having their own lap tops. I don't know that it has created this huge shift in the way that I teach largely because I've been teaching as if students had this sort of technology for the past couple years anyhow. I do know that I need to keep learning and introducing and trying new things. I'm excited about what this is going to look like and where we are going to go each and every month!