Prepare for the Opposition

Cross posted on 1 to 1 Schools

As someone who is passionate about providing students and teachers with ubiquitous access to technological tools for teaching and learning I am shocked when 1:1 initiatives fail or when critics block progress. Yes, there are actually schools that have dropped the program. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to be a student who turns in his/her laptop when the pilot fails.

When planning for a 1:1 laptop initiative I suggest that the leadership team be prepared for the critics, cynics, killjoys and prophets of doom. Seymour Papert in Pamela Livingston’s book 1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs that Work states, “expect opposition and know that it can be beaten”.

What can we learn from the failures?

  • Lack of a shared vision throughout the community
  • Laptops frequently breaking down (either through accident or student misuse)
  • Students not using the technology appropriately
  • Disconnect between the curriculum and 21st century learning
  • Network speed did not meet the needs of the users
  • Laptops were viewed as a distraction
  • No evidence of improved student achievement

Don’t get caught saying, “That was 2007. Things are different now.” Take a look at the November 9, 2009 article from the Asheville Citizens-Times, entitled “A laptop for every student: Asheville High makes technology push” . While the article highlights the excellent work that the leaders of the Asheville City Schools are doing to raise funds and plan for a 1-to-1 initiative, the best information comes from the reader comments that follow the article.

These three unedited quotes will give you an idea of the tone of the dialogue.

KeithOberman wrote:
“It would be a total waste of money to give every student atAHS a computer and allow them to take them home. AHShas some outstanding teachers and students but they alsohave some students and I use that term liberally that are not at AHS to learn. Take for instance the studentthat had a gun in his locker last week. I heard he is stilla freshman academically but much older than a typicalfreshman. What do you think would happen to a computerif he was allowed to take it home. I can tell you this muchit would never make it back to the school. Come on AshevilleAdministrators this idea you have is admirable butnot practical. This policy should be scraped or alteredbefore it is put in place.”

manx911 wrote:

“It is NOT the responsibility of the school system to provide the tools that are needed to satisfy the curosity of learning. It is the PARENTS!! Be it homeschool, private school or whatever it is the responsiblity of the parents.”

MrsGerber wrote:

“Looks to me like this generous offer using my tax $,will end up causing more harm than goodFirst off if you give a kid a $2000,00 computer what will prevent him/her from selling it for drugs?It will be a magnet for bullies to steal from other kids, taking someones lunch money will be a thing of the past, now just stael their computerCan parents be held accountable ?Next after this, why not give each student a car, that way they can get to school easier?”

The good news is that this is excellent data for leaders to use when planning and implementing a successful laptop initiative. Those who are successful address these issues and tackle them head on. I recently spoke to a technology director who is involved with a very successful 1:1 laptop program and he shared with me that his first experience in a public school district in Canada failed. No one ever said that it was going to be easy, but we do “know that it can be beaten.”

One thought on “Prepare for the Opposition

  1. The three quotes that you have listed make very good points. Especially, the one that asks why it is the responsibility of the public to provide home computers for students to use. I have yet to see that one addressed in any meaningful way.

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