1:1 Laptop Program Marks 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, the first one-to-one laptop program began. But, have learning environments, content, and expectations changed with the advent of personal computing?


Recently, the first one-to-one laptop program celebrated its 25th anniversary. Over at Modern Learners, Audrey Watters reflected on this event in What You Should Know This Week (requires free registration to view content) where she wrote:

But what has changed with laptops at school? Certainly more students are learning in one-to-one environments. But do these environments encourage ownership of the machines and the learning? Do they encourage students to build and program in order to make use of these powerful machines? Or do they simply encourage students to “do school” in a traditional sense just on digital devices?

Often, one-to-one programs are touted, but do they support “the way things have always been done” or are they exceptional? Are digital platforms being used largely for note taking, as a digital notebook? Or, are students creating and crafting multimedia presentations or manipulating code to learn? Are they largely answering questions that can be Googled or are students asked to show mastery through individual presentations? Or, as Audrey asks, do students own their learning?

In her article, Audrey quotes Seymour Papert from his 1993 book The Children’s Machine:

Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away: Instead of cutting across and so challenging the very idea of subject boundaries, the computer now defined a new subject; instead of changing the emphasis from impersonal curriculum to excited live exploration by students, the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.

I’ve written about “playing school” and shifts for student-centered models in previous posts, including here and here, to bolster student responsibility in learning by avoiding the layering of technology on top of traditional pedagogy, curriculum designs, assessment strategies, and use of space and time.

Twenty-five years later there are numerous examples of innovative schools and education models where students don’t “play school,” such as the League of Innovative Schools and New Tech Network.

Please share your success stories. How does your one-to-one program encourage student ownership of learning through the “live exploration by students” by “challenging the very idea of subject boundaries” that Papert notes? How does your one-to-one program break the constraints of “School’s ways”?

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily Vickery

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