In the past weeks I have read several opinion pieces about the benefit of one-to-one devices for students. While the definition of what “one to one” means varies, it typically seems to indicate each student has access to a laptop or tablet which is pre-loaded with learning materials like digital textbooks, curriculum and assignments. In many cases, students are encouraged to transport these devices between home and school. As a parent, I support efforts to provide seamless access to curriculum and assignments from school to home regardless of home access to digital learning tools. “One to one” is a good investment in the future, especially in the upper grades. Recently, I had a different perspective on the value of one-to-one devices.
I have the pleasure of living just across the street from my youngest child’s elementary school. As the reality of the coronavirus response was materializing, I saw a teacher rushing to the school after 6 p.m. She stopped to chat and explained that she wanted to send an email out to families. I couldn’t help but wonder, why in the world was a teacher rushing to school after hours just to send a simple email? The answer to that question: Many teachers are provided with desktop computers as their primary device. Desktop computers can be great for a computer lab, or as a dedicated device to power something like a Smartboard or projector. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to expect teachers to do their jobs effectively from a desktop in 2020.
A business class laptop with a docking station, adequately secured and with capability to access the school network, seems like a minimal investment to make in our teachers. This would result in improved security and mobility, and allow our teachers to use their time efficiently. It would also improve teachers’ ability to communicate with families and students. Teachers could enter student grades and review assignments without being in the school building. Even at the elementary level, teachers create interactive lessons using technology. Instead of purchasing workbooks and worksheets as paper copies, teachers today are more likely to find these resources online. Many teachers work outside regular hours to do curriculum research and development. I don’t think we should restrict teachers to coming to school on Saturday afternoon to do research and administrative work when it could be done at home just as easily.
As we have seen in the past weeks, a big part of disaster preparedness is being able to quickly pivot into a remote work environment. As conversations about providing one-to-one devices for students continue, I hope we consider the immense value of providing one-to-one portable devices for teachers as well.