I teach 12-13 year old students that come to class every day without a pencil. Or come with destroyed binders. Or need to visit their locker to get their assignment. I know that the current trend has been to give students individual devices, but I really feel like classroom sets are better overall. My reasons? Teacher supervision, the ability to limit classroom downtime, and targeted technology.
There is a subset of the young teen population that has serious, and I mean serious, problems with self-control on digital devices. They cannot sit near a digital device without playing a game or some other type of mindlessly entertaining application. If given an assignment to complete that requires the use of technology, they will be on Cool Math Games faster than you can say “The project we’re working on today is…” No matter how engaging the content being taught, some young teens would rather sit and stare mindlessly at “Papa’s Pizzeria” than do the thinking required for school work. Classroom sets with monitoring software at least provide supervision for times when young teens have access to technology. Yes, I know that they can access technology from their pocket–but it’s not technology given to them by the school and the rules against personal technology use at least curb it somewhat.
As I mentioned before, lower performing students (and even some high performing students) frequently come to class unprepared with even the most basic student supplies. Lower performing students frequently wreck their notebooks and lose their journals at a much higher rate than higher performing students do. Leaving devices in the classroom prevents any learning downtime from forgotten/uncharged devices, and eliminates student excuses. It also prevents what are frequently the poorest students from accumulating charges for lost or damaged technology. Just ask any librarian: often it is the poorest or lowest performing students who lose their books and play-aways and accumulate large fines until they are not allowed to use the library anymore. Now give them a device worth hundreds of dollars, and watch out! Also, part of it is the age. There’s a reason their moms give them $20 TracFones–anything else would be silly and a waste of money at this point in their lives.
Targeted Technology=More Bang For Your Buck
Students don’t need technology in every class (P.E. being a case in point). It makes more sense to provide technology when it is needed, and not have to deal with the inevitable hiccups of technology when you don’t. (Do you leave your laptop in your P.E. locker? Carry it with you while you run laps?) A central lab for subjects that only use technology occasionally is a better fit, and a better use of money. You can give every student in a school with 500 children access to a Chromebook for English class for only about $30,000.00. Contrast that with the cost to give every one of those 500 students a Chromebook to take home and you realize a substantial savings. Also, after a year of almost daily use, we’ve only had one Chromebook in three complete sets be slightly damaged (still useable). Compare that to standard replacement rates in a 1:1 program. With many school districts stepping away from technology because of cost, I think classroom sets make more sense than 1:1. Keep the tech, but use it better!