It started a generation ago with “the computer in the corner.” Or maybe a handful of machines in “the computer lab.” And all the while, 1:1 computing — a PC for every student, at school and at home — hung on the horizon as the ultimate goal. Educators talked about it for years, but the technology simply wasn’t there.
Then a funny thing happened: Small, light-weight, portable computers appeared at a price point that made 1:1 computing a possibility. But would these computers be able to meet the demands of this new learning model?
School decision-makers always assumed that if all the curriculum planning, logistics and professional development fell into place to make 1:1 computing meaningful for students, and if the funding were there, the PC industry would handle the hardware end. But many early 1:1 programs have used low-end, Internet-focused devices known as “netbooks.” Because they use slower processors and typically offer less memory than more advanced laptops, netbooks lack the power to handle familiar applications such as Microsoft™ Office® tools at full power, and that hampers students working to build 21st-century skills. Netbooks are also light on physical durability and manufacturer support.
But full-power laptops, like the ones common in business, are just too expensive.
Now, that last piece has fallen into place. There’s a new generation of ultraportable laptop PCs from Lenovo that offer the size, weight and value schools need, along with the performance students can’t do without.
It’s true that “ultraportable” is a flexible term — after all, netbooks are defined by their portability. Cell phones and PDAs are highly portable as well. What makes an ultraportable different from a netbook? The processing power, memory and other standards that allow students to do real creative work, not just read other people’s. The materials and construction that go into a serious computer, not a toy. And the system stability and external support it takes to keep them up and running. The new ultraportables have made 1:1 computing possible, for real this time.
To assess whether a computer is up to the challenges of 1:1 computing, districts must keep a focus on what that term means in practice. Simply giving each student a computer means nothing if the computer doesn’t help each student engage, explore and collaborate. Individualized equipment makes a difference only if that equipment leads to individualized learning.
In meeting this need, Lenovo relies upon evidencebased research and its own experience helping to power 1:1 programs in schools around the world. What we’ve found is that technology is an enabler: It helps bring content (such as texts, courseware, online materials and lessons) into a process of critical thinking and collaboration. That kind of engagement prepares students for both academic and life success far better than old-fashioned memorization and regurgitation.
Technology is a tool that helps enable many key objectives in modern education:
Evoking the name of the century may sound like a reference to technology, but it actually refers to a holistic array of knowledge sets that include life and career skills, learning and innovation skills, and core academic themes in addition to information, media and technology skills. Bringing that all together requires access to PCs that do more than just surf the Web.
If the old way was to give all students equal attention, the new way is to design a specific plan for each student that accounts for each child’s strengths, weaknesses and long-term goals. This idea goes hand-in-hand with the learner-centric paradigm, which defines teaching not as the “pushing out” of information but as the facilitation of each student’s positive outcomes. Managing this practice at the classroom level requires powerful technology.
Instead of retaining textbook facts or selecting from multiple-choice options, authentic assessment calls upon students to solve realworld challenges by applying different things they’ve learned in combinations of their own devising. This is the test of whether they are able to put new skills and knowledge to the uses they’ll find in the world outside of school.
Rote learning and recall of facts is a simple skill. Critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving are higher-order thinking skills, which are a centerpiece of modern standards-based education.