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Defining 1:1--More Than a Snappy Punchline

We live in an age of sound bites, elevator pitches, and Powerpoint bullets. And because of this, we live in an age of confusion. No wonder it is so difficult achieving a cohesive vision for learning and teaching or ever hoping to scale it.

As soon as we introduce a word that seems to capture the power, the completeness of the change in learning that technology can catalyze, we begin to use it to the point of meaninglessness. As Peter Skillen mentions in his article below, “semantic drift” rears its inevitable head and what seemed clearly defined becomes murky, a catch-all phrase that can easily turn out to mean one thing and its exact opposite at the SAME TIME.

An example of that is “reform” – good or bad? Back to basics or not? Does it involve conservation or transformation, or neither?

Someone recently pointed out to me that the definition of one-to-one is beginning to change. Is it a laptop per child? Is it a ‘device’ per child (tablet, cell phone, iPod, ebook reader, laptop, terminal)? Does the child use it all day or does the computer belong to a desk in one specific classroom? What seemed so clearly defined twenty years ago – one-to-one - is now much less clear. When you compare the impact of one laptop that each student can use all day at school (and, we hope, outside of school) to the impact of having one eBook reader per student in one classroom, you’re clearly talking apples to oranges. So, what do you mean?

Defining the changes we want to see and the goals we want to achieve is not about having a snappy punch line or catchy advertising slogan. We are not Mad (Wo)Men. To ensure understanding, we need to clearly define to all involved what our beliefs, goals, and expectations are, using complete sentences. When we use words such as ‘personalized’, ‘self-directed’, ‘global learner’, ‘online learning’, and “one-to-one” we need to define what that means for us in our context, what we would like students to be doing, what our goals are, and how we will assess both what students are doing and what teachers are doing to guide them.

Conveying a clear message may take longer than an elevator ride, but it is worth investing the time and words now to avoid confusion and frustration later.

(And, for clarity, when I say one-to-one or 1:1, I mean one laptop per child that s/he can use 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, all year round. To me, that's a foundational piece for contemporary learning.)
November 9th, 2011 @ 11:55AM