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1 to 1 Learning

February 12, 2010

Just opened my latest read…”1-1 Learning; Laptop Programs that Work, 2nd Edition by Pamela Livingston. I am only a few pages in and can already tell this is going to be the kind of book that kills a highlighter. I thought I would share a few early gems of learning from the book…

1. The Digital Assistant
Livingston describes studies that have examined how young people interact with a computer. Rather than thinking of it as a “tool” as it is so often referred to, Livingston says young people use a computer more as a “digital assistant.” She describes it this way:
“…a tool can help with the completion of an activity but an assistant can support thinking and learning in a much broader way than a tool can.” She argues that a tool has one primary purpose, for example, a hammer can help by driving a nail, a screwdriver by turning a screw. A digital assistant, on the other hand, “can serve as a database for work and file, a sketchpad and planner for projects, a publisher for reports and papers, and a conduit for research that provides access to online resources.”

-What a great job of describing why a laptop in the hands of every student is so much more than a tool. It is more like an entire chest full of tools that is ever changing and evolving to meet the changing needs of the student.

2. Multitaskers vs Unitaskers

We have all heard of the term “multitasking.”  I think we all know that it means doing several things at once.  Some people are very comfortable having several things going on at once while others are not.  Have you thought about which type you are?  Have you thought about whether which type you are is a choice?  Livingston describes thinking by Mike Muir, one of the architects of Maine’s successful statewide laptop program.  Muir argues that the current generation of students are innately multitaskers.  This means that they find it natural to learn in an environment where they are surrounded by multiple inputs and sources of information.  Think about this:  if you have children…do they prefer to listen to music while doing their homework?  Do they have several programs open on the computer simultaneously?  If they have two different tasks to work on do they ever work on them simultaneously, switching back and forth often between the two?

While touring a 1:1 school recently I noticed a girl working in study hall.  She had her computer open and was reading a book.  I asked her what she was working on and her response was…”I am reading “The Taming of the Shrew.”  When I get bored I play this game for a couple of minutes and then work on my math.  Then I switch back to the book.”  That is true multitasking.

Most people born prior to 1980 (many teachers) would go crazy if we asked them to work in this way.  They are unitaskers….one thing at a time.  The thought of having their focus so divided would be unnerving and frustrating to them.  Muir turns that paradigm around by saying;

“The mistake we sometimes make, however, is thinking that we are helping them by having them focus on only one thing at a time, when in reality a multitasker can feel as frustrated and anxious when asked to focus on only one thing as a unitasker does when asked to perform multiple things at once.”

3. Getting to the Thinking Faster

The bottom line of this section is that computers help students become much more productive, allowing extra time for them to develop the higher order thinking skills that everyone agrees are crucial to success in later life.  Computers help students get past the basics and get to the thinking faster.

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