As a teacher, I have a love-hate relationship with “what-ifs.” On one hand, I love dreaming. I love wondering about what’s possible if we make changes to learning environments, curriculums, and expectations. These thoughts propel me forward and empower my students to do great things. However, “what-ifs” can also put up boundaries to innovation. What if students make poor choices online? What if the laptop becomes too much of a distraction in learning? These kinds of “what-ifs” stifle innovation and can easily paralyze my teaching.
This past year, my school was lucky enough to pilot a 1:1 laptop program. I was a bit nervous incorporating this program into my classroom. I said to myself, “What if I can’t control all of this technology?!” Despite my worries, we went forward with the pilot program. Things didn’t go perfectly. However, through these mistakes my students and I learned a variety of life-lessons:
1. Staying on task
Before the 1:1 program students would find ways to be off task. They would pass notes or stare up at the ceiling. But now there was a beautiful shiny object in front of them at all times. We had to work together to find ways to stay focused. I loved seeing my students become more aware of their temptations and set better boundaries for themselves. They wrote themselves reminders and held each other accountable.
2. Paying attention to people
About half way through the school year, my students became obsessed with an online game. Their recess became consumed with trying to beat the high score. Even class conversations surrounded who was currently the leader. Shortly after I realized this, we sat down for a heart-to-heart. I shared with them my observations and told them I didn’t want to see them on their screens anymore during recess. I saw relief wash over their faces as I freed them up to be social again. We challenged each other to pay attention to people and have real conversations about real things. We learned why it’s important to look up.
3. Helping others improve
Going 1:1 changed our classroom environment. Suddenly everything was collaborative. Through Google Apps for Education, students were able to easily share their work with one another and receive feedback. We learned to work together and seek out many voices throughout the creation process. A proud moment was when I discovered that each student had shared their final essay with an average of four other students. They are working together to become better readers, writers, and teachers.
So yes, the “what-ifs” of going 1:1 can be scary, and I promise you students will make mistakes. But I believe it’s worth the risk. My students and I learned so many life lessons through both the mishaps and the success stories — I would say our pilot program was quite a success.