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Getting our Brains Around Teaching in a 1-to-1 Environment

This picture that I stumbled across in the Creative Commons section of Flickr last month is a great representation (I think) not of what classrooms will look like in the future but, in many ways what classrooms already look like right now, today. It's a college lecture hall filled with about 200 students, almost every one of them with an open laptop in front of them on the desk, waiting for the teacher to get started. Taken from the front of the room looking up, it's easy to put yourself in that professor's place, amidst a sea of students, their faces literally glowing with ubiquitous access to the Internet.

I'm thinking that for most K-12 teachers (and probably the vast majority of college professors as well,) the idea of teaching in that room makes them want to run for cover. You can hear the thinking, can't you? "How do I keep them on task?" "How will I know what they are doing?" "What if they are sharing information that I don't want them to?" And, for many, "I wonder if I can ask not to have access?" The reasons are many, but first and foremost, I'm guessing the problem would be a curriculum that is nowhere near ready for the connection those kids are carrying around in their backpacks. That and the fact that most teachers haven't yet fully understood or embraced most technologies (and certainly not social Web technologies) as learning tools in their own learning lives. It's awfully hard to fully understand how pedagogy changes around the use of technology if we're not experiencing those shifts for themselves.

But here is the thing: we better get our brains around what teaching in a 1-1 environment means because a) it could be an amazing place to learn, and b) it's already here. Most older K-12 students (though they are getting younger all the time) already have ubiquitous access in their pockets, and if you think those cell phones can do amazing things now, just wait two years. And from a financial standpoint, within a few years you'll be able to provide a netbook laptop to every one of your students for under $100. Point is, you're not stopping that picture from becoming a reality in your classroom at some point in the relatively near future, if it's not already there.

But more importantly, teaching in a 1-1 environment with access to the Web is an amazing opportunity to show our kids powerful new ways to connect and learn with others around the globe who share their interests or passions. It's an opportunity to get them ready for their adult learning lives, much of which will be spent in just those types of interaction online. An Internet connection in a student's hands or on her desk is literally an open window not just to information and knowledge but to expertise and experience that was not within our reach just a few years ago. That is a very good thing, provided we're literate at creating those connections and managing them safely and effectively and we can teach our kids how to do the same.

We need to keep working to help teachers want to put themselves at the front of that laptop, Internet-filled classroom, supporting them to not only create great pedagogy around the technology but to figure out for themselves what all those connections mean. That learning environment is one we should work for, fight for even, for right now, our students are already using a lot of these technologies without any sense of what they mean in a learning context. They have no adults who are modeling or teaching them how do use them well, and that's just not acceptable any longer.
September 23rd, 2009 @ 12:03PM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment