I am constantly confronted with the question of WHY we chose to go with tablets instead of laptops in our 1:1 learning environment. It was one of those extended moments where I probably didn’t fully understand the answer until I had to articulate it succinctly. I figured it was worth sharing more widely, so here it is:
First, I will say that we never adopted a technology initiative. We had decisions to make about how we would allocate tech resources in a building, and 1:1 describes how we chose to allocate our tech resources. The focus of our 1:1 iPad program is to provide necessary tools and resources for a progressive learning environment characterized by flexibility, collaboration, personalization, creativity, and technology-rich learning.
This--like everything else we do--is a learning initiative. We are constantly striving to implement the Iowa Core, which spells out the characteristics of effective instruction:
• Student Centered Instruction--changing the role of teacher from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side"
• Teaching for Learner Differences--meeting each student where she is and moving her forward
• Assessment FOR (rather than of) Learning--providing timely, meaningful feedback throughout the learning process, rather than testing what has been learned at the end of some period of time
• Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum--connecting essential content across content areas and to real world, unpredictable situations
• Teaching for Understanding--engaging students in a process where THEY construct deep meaning over time, rather than recite and recall information provided to them
These are our goals--and there is nothing I can see about a laptop that leads us closer to these goals than a tablet does—just different means to the same end. Remember, we are educating our children for THEIR future, which is quite different than our current reality. So, while I recognize that the world of work is largely dominated by desktop and laptop computers, I don't believe it will stay that way for long. In fact, many Gen Y-ers in the workforce (like myself) would say that our world is 3:1. I rely daily on (in order of use): a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop. I wish we could provide that for our students, but we can’t right now. 1:1 will have to suffice.
So, after all the reading, conversations, and thinking I've personally put into this question, I've come to the following conclusion: the device is not what makes the difference between effective and ineffective learning experiences. Any arguments people make about some devices being for creation and other being for consumption are just misguided in my opinion. The gateway between those two is instructional design. Our students were creating and engaged in high quality learning long before they had iPads. The fact that they now have an iPad has opened new avenues for efficiency and creativity in a world of quality learning experiences.
Just my two cents…I’d love to hear yours.