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Not Enough Tablets to Go Around the Classroom?

When it comes to the benefits of 1:1 tablet-to-student learning, many educators are sold.

But in reality, we can’t always count on that ratio. Tablets break; wireless networks don’t work; or  tablets somehow “disappear.” That’s why Learningpod posed the question, “What do I do if I don’t have enough tablets to go around?”

Lori Ramsey, a senior research associate with Metis Associates devotes her days to educational research. She states,  “In practice, I have seen teachers take many different approaches if they don’t have a full set of 1:1 devices. Some teachers like to have students rotate through stations where students work individually on devices (1:1) for a portion of their day, while some like to have students work in small groups sharing devices while they complete a particular task, project, or activity. This means that not all students are doing the same thing at the same time.”

Adds Lori, “The types of activities I have observed students engage in [without tablets] vary and include such things as creating a lab report on a science experiment, creating a presentation on a social studies topic, creating a video to teach others how to complete an activity, working on a math program, writing a paper and [for lower grades] practicing handwriting and drawing.”

We also heard from Frances Newsome-Lange, a social studies curriculum writer with the New York City Department of Education. Frances comments, “I’ve used a 1:2 ratio (iPads to students) in K-5 in ELA and social studies. Pairs work best since they can trade off easily. Larger groups are problematic. I’ve switched to 1:1 when we received more iPads and find that some students still prefer the 1:2.”

Research shows that learning can be enhanced when students work in pairs on one device. 

Regarding pairs, Cheryl Hooper agrees. Cheryl, a researcher with the River East Transcona School Division (Winnipeg, Canada) told us, “Research shows that learning can be enhanced when students work in pairs on one device. Students could work in pairs on a few devices while other students worked at other stations.”

Cheryl Sizemore, a lead technology teacher at Valley Christian Schools in San Jose, California, has taught with less than a 1:1 ratio for several years. Cheryl sometimes pairs students and may also split the group. “I meet with half the class while the other half has screen time. I have found this to be a good compromise. I can also coordinate with a teammate to get a 1:1 ratio when I need it. It helps to be using Google Docs since students can access their work from any device.”

Given that 1:1 devices aren’t always available, the point would be to have students working in a variety of modalities to meet their learning needs. 

Acknowledging the realities of fewer-than-desirable tablets in classrooms, Lori Ramsey notes, “In any of the above situations, a best practice would be to capitalize on the power of the technology to customize (personalize) learning experiences in a blended learning environment. Given that 1:1 devices aren’t always available, the point would be to have students working in a variety of modalities to meet their learning needs. Many different methods (of implementation) can be successful if they are well implemented with high-quality pedagogical training and support as well as ongoing technology maintenance and upgrades.” Given the missteps in Los Angeles nearly a year ago, teachers new to the world of tablets should heed these words of advice.

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