One-to-One Allows More One-on-One

Before my school went one-to-one I remember many teachers voicing a concern that we would lose the personal contact dynamic between teacher and student.  As many of us championed the benefits of email, distance learning, differentiation, digital resources, etc. others succumbed to fears of teacher obsolescence and digital barriers to human contact.

Unfortunately, computer-based classrooms can take a bad direction that gives legitimacy to some of the teachers' initial fears.  If the teacher assigns work to students and he or she simply sits at their desk, those fears may be realized.  This "method" works completely against the opportunities allowed by one-to-one computing.

I've realized after having a year of one-to-one under my belt that there are two major benefits of one-to-one.  Obviously, the wealth of resources and creative possibilities are probably the main benefit.  The second main benefit is less obvious, but potentially more powerful.  I spend WAY more one-on-one time with my students when everyone has a computer.  It is a resourceful, interactive, creative, and fun tool that keeps students engaged, giving you more time to freely move around the room.   I consciously spent less time using direct instruction, which is one factor that allowed more one-on-one, but I also learned to layer my activities and projects.  I would provide an additional challenge, educational game, or fun application related to the activity.  Another way to layer is to have a few weekly activities that students do on their own time, a learning journal, or a digital portfolio.  Layering can be very difficult without a computer, but with one it is effortless.

The added one-on-one time allowed me to formatively assess my students in a authentic and meaningful way. I was also able to efficiently address major gaps in understanding.  I tried to touch base with each student at least every other day.  To help me keep track I carried a clipboard with my roster for each class.  The roster also listed the content questions and/or skills I was looking for in that particular activity.

I think my teaching method would work without computers, but it would be very hard to keep 25-30 kids engaged if they only had paper and pencils.  I wouldn't have the focused, genuine one-on-one time I now enjoy.  The only discipline issues I had last year were kids who didn't finish their work (probably too engaged in other things!).  I truly believe one-to-one is the first domino in a series of changes that will shift education to a new paradigm.

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