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Researching Research

One of the first questions I've always been asked by schools considering, or just implementing 1-to-1 initiatives, is around research. "What research is there to support 1-to-1?" Currently on aalf.org we have links to more than seventy research papers around 1-to-1. Is that enough to start with?

Well evidently not, given my recent observations. It appears that despite the volume of work that has already been completed, there is a need for almost every initiative to commission their own research around 1-to-1.Now in itself that might have some virtue, if each was exploring new aspects of ubiquitous access and its impact on teaching and learning, but that is sadly, rarely the case. Save for a serious literature review to precede any new research, we might actually move our thinking forward. No, every school is not different; despite the fact that every child is.

From nearly two decades of experience in more than forty countries; from the experiences of now more than two million young people who have their own personal portable computer, and from much of the thorough research that has already been completed, we do actually know that...

- Without the fundamentals of strong leadership, shared vision and effective implementation strategies schools will be distracted from the real task at hand, the impact on learning, and will struggle to sustain or scale an effective long-term 1-to-1 initiative.

-While there are many easily identifiable areas of learning that are impacted through ubiquitous access, the really significant, transformational ones only become obvious over the longer-term when there is alignment between the opportunities provided by this new powerful learning medium and teaching practice.

-Setting a low, and slow, bar for this transformation of practice is pointless. It challenges no-one. Be bold and ambitious, and your students will be the real beneficiaries.

-1-to-1 initiatives are both complex and now relatively straight forward to implement. From all that we have now learnt about successful 1-to-1 initiatives, programs like AALF’s "21Steps" provides a reliable framework that takes away the unpredictability that has caused concern in the past.

-We do not need pilot programs. If you aren't sure about whether you should give your students access to the learning medium of their time, then don't, until you are.

-While we are well past the need to repeat basic research around 1-to-1, from the outset you should institute an ongoing evaluation and review program that looks for ways to continually improve all aspects of what you are doing.

-It should now be taken as given, that ...

1-to-1 means students have 24/7 access; ie they take their laptops home...that is quite simply fundamental to any notion around 21st Century learning

24/7 teacher access is also an important pre-requisite, not the least because it shows professional respect, but also to support learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

What age or grade you start is not as important as the fact you do start. Targeting younger students has shown significant benefits, and the challenges of traditional assessment are still just temporary barriers to optimizing what older students are capable of achieving.


Traditional ideas around "professional development" are no longer adequate or appropriate. These initiatives require a reassessment of what is required for professional learning in the 21st century. To be effective it must be continuous, diverse and focus on the learning professional; that is, what does ubiquitous access now make possible for teachers? How does it allow them to improve their craft, to provide more options for learning, to explore complex concepts with their students, in ways they could not do before. Beyond the very fundamentals, it is not, and never has been, about skills development. It's about exploring new, powerful ideas..and that is what will engage the learning professional more than anything else.

I'm amused by the seemingly endless amount of what I would call "reassurance research". Can we please focus on breaking new ground. Research that is exploring new ideas and new thinking around what this now makes possible.

Can we also have the courage of our convictions and beliefs, that what we are doing we know is fundamentally right. Right in that we are simply providing our young people with the learning medium that was not previously available to them; and that if we stumble, make mistakes, that is an essential part of the true practice of research and development. So we learn from it, share what we have learnt, and get on with the job of really exploring what this will make possible for young people.

As always, I'm very interested in your thoughts...
January 18th, 2010 @ 9:10PM