One-to-One Technology and the Differentiated Classroom
Student engagement has become a hot topic in education and academic circles. We know that students today are more tech-savvy than ever before. Children have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, or even in their pockets, that is unfathomable to the generations before who needed to pour over encyclopedias to find facts. How can schools merge this natural inclination toward using technology and also use it to keep students focused and motivated in the classroom?
The use of one-to-one devices in the classroom, much like the topic of student engagement, is also a trending educational topic. Many educators have to resist the urge to believe that this is simply a way for kids to play games, edit selfies and cruise YouTube. When implemented properly, one-to-one devices actually provide the perfect platform for differentiated instruction, distance learning, and keeping students engaged and moving throughout a lesson. Let’s examine some ways that this well-established tech trend can benefit classrooms:
Letting students loose on the internet or social media platforms without appropriate structure and planning can be a recipe for disaster. We’ve all seen cringe-worthy comments on internet news articles coming from adults, so how do we teach our children to post responsibly? Kids don’t know the rules of digital citizenship unless they are explicitly taught, and using one-to-one devices is the perfect way to model and monitor students’ use of the internet. For example, teachers can create a Wiki-style web page where students have usernames (only known by the teacher) and need to answer an academic-based question based on material currently being taught. By using a one-to-one device, students have to separate their academic posts from their usual “text speak” and write a post that is thoughtful and contains text citations, all while practicing proper grammar.
Educators can also require that students comment on other posts, which is an excellent practice in digital citizenship. They may encounter an opinion or post that they strongly disagree with but will need to craft a response that thoughtfully and respectfully opposes that opinion. By using one-to-one devices, teachers can monitor these posts in real time and show classes ideal examples of how to behave in a digital landscape.
One great engagement structure is to allow classroom movement. Kids spend the majority of their school day sitting, so any academic activities that allow movement instantly pique a child’s interest. One-to-one devices allow this freedom of movement within the classroom, while also keeping the focus on the classroom content. For example, teachers can use a “stand up, hand up, pair up” activity using their devices that is both engaging and content-driven.
Redefining the Learning Environment
Schools still host classrooms with the traditional four walls, but one-to-one devices allow educators to break out of their classroom and explore new worlds with student devices. Now, students can use their devices to take virtual field trips or tours of iconic landmarks. For example, the Anne Frank House has a detailed virtual tour of the Secret Annex where Anne and her family hid during World War 2. Students can add this knowledge to what has been previously taught during a unit to further inform their own learning.
One-to-one devices can also be used to participate in video conferences that connect students to museums, universities, researchers, and experts on specific topics. Nepris, for example, is a video conferencing tool that connects teachers and students with recognized industry experts directly from the classroom. It also provides an effective way for companies to extend education outreach. What better way to learn about Ancient Egypt than to use a video conferencing tool to host a Q & A session with a leading Egyptologist at a local university?
Teachers who manage their classrooms through the use of digital devices are able to quickly collect and act on student data. There are a myriad of excellent platforms for presenting highly-engaging, multimedia lessons that students can access with just a few clicks. Even better, they are not limited to just the classroom device; a digital lesson can be accessed from any device, at any time, from any place that has an internet connection. Easy accessibility means significant reduction in the amount of time and effort required to assemble and collect makeup work from students who miss class. The lesson is as close as the nearest connected device. Most digital educational delivery systems have powerful mobile versions that are easily accessible via phone app. When the student interacts with the lessons and submits any required hands-on tasks, the teacher can quickly assess understanding and immediately address the need for any adjustments.
These are just a few examples of the exciting power and possibilities of one-to-one technology in the classroom.