Note: My thoughts below come mostly from an elementary homeroom teaching perspective. I would likely think differently if my vista came from teaching either a technical or specialty course.
I asked one of my students the other day, “Hey, I’ve got a laptop here you can use to write your script. Would you like to use it instead of your iPod?”
With a humble shrug of the shoulders he responded, “No thanks, Mr. Lee, I write better this way.”
“Really?!?! With your thumbs?”
“Oh ya, I’m way faster, and I concentrate better.”
So I started asking everyone in the room what their preferred tool to write with was, and, believe it or not, it was pretty much 25% smart phone/ipod, 25% tablet, 25% laptop, and 25% paper and pencil. The common threads? Most students preferred writing with the tool they had most frequent access to, and boys in particular preferred writing with small devices.
Even though I’ve been doing this technology thing for quite a while with students, they never cease to surprise me.
This has me thinking about the semi-frequent Device Wars we engage in online. Netbooks vs. iPads, Ubuntu vs. OSX, etc. With the recent release of the ‘revolutionary’ and ‘game-changing’ Amplify tablet (spoiler: no game will be changed), these conversations are hot once again. I’ve yet to be a part of a 1:1 laptop, iPad, or similar initiative, and I’ve never been compelled to either pursue one or engage in the conversations surrounding them. It’s never really interested me. In my whole teaching career, I’ve only had a mish mash of tech. Currently, we don’t have a class set of anything, but we do have small sets of different tools. Nevertheless, at any given time, it’s possible to be 1:1 on the internet in our room. I prefer teaching with the limitations of no class sets, because it means we’re constantly reflecting on the merits of each tool for the given purpose. Students in my class frequently start sentences with:
Here, you can use the <blank>, I don’t need it right now…
Can you let me use the <blank>? I need it to…
Would any of my students turn down a 1:1 MacBook Pro? Of course not. Still, I believe there is great value in the limitations of resources. When we engage in Device Wars on twitter and the blogosphere, we all seem to exercise significant bias in equating the best classroom tool with the one that we find most productive in our personal or professional lives (I touched upon that in disagreeing with folks who contend that the iPad is not a creation tool). Do I have a vision of what technology I’d like in my class in the perfect scenario? Sure I do. Do my students and I really need that state of shiny utopia, especially when it is (in my view) impossible to achieve in an equitable fashion? I don’t think so.
Which have you experienced is better: a lot of one device or small sets of multiple ones?