Over the past few years, it would be hard for even someone with a casual interest in edtech not to have heard about one-to-one computing initiatives, programs where every student in a class/school/grade level/district is issued a laptop.
I finally found the time to listen to Nicholas Negroponte’s keynote from NECC (in the Podcast section of iTunes) along with a great discussion on the topic, One Laptop Per Child: Hope or Hype?.
They may revoke my edtech geek license for this, but when it comes to one-to-one computing, right now I come down on the side of hype.
While I admire Negroponte’s efforts to provide portable computing for every child in the world, I’m not so sure about the educational value of such plans, especially here in the US.
For one thing, we still have too many political and educational leaders who firmly believe that buying the equipment will, by itself, magically transform education.
Many of them speak of improving student motivation, about how the laptop will replace the textbook, how kids will have access to the knowledge of the world.
And other cosmetic alterations that do little or nothing to address the fundamentals changes to the process of teaching and learning that technology could bring about.
On a world-wide scale, I’m also not sold on the concept of providing a $100 laptop for every child.
Negroponte has noted that education is part of the solution to just about any social problem you can name and it’s hard to argue with that.
However, computers for children in places like Nigeria and Brazil, places where they still need reliable sources of water and electricity, may not be the best tools for their learning.
Of course, I could be wrong. Inexpensive portable computing could be the magic wand that alone transforms education, both here and in the rest of the world.
But I doubt it.