Should One-to-One Computing be Two-to-One Computing?
The idea of one-to-one computing in schools is rapidly growing in popularity. In a one-to-one computing environment, the theory is that students should have their own computer to use at all times in school. The idea is intuitively appealing, in part because many adults can’t imagine working without having their own dedicated computer. But how does one-to-one computing compare to other teaching strategies using computers?
In fact, having one computer for every two students might be better. Why? Some research indicates that technology-based instruction is most effective in pairs. For example, in his book Visible Learning, John Hattie summarizes the results of several meta-analyses as follows:
“Using computers in pairs is much more effective than when computers are used alone or in larger groups. Peers can be involved in problem solving, suggesting and trying new strategies, and working through possible next steps… students can learn most effectively when working together, as it exposes them to multiple perspectives, revision on their thinking, varied explanations for resolving dilemmas, more sources of feedback and correction of errors, and alternative ways to construct knowing.”
So why pairs specifically? With cooperative learning in larger groups, the amount of time each student has to try out their own ideas and get feedback is diminished. More dominant or submissive group members can also emerge, harming learning. Pairs appear to be the happy medium, where each student gets to contribute their ideas and benefit from peer feedback and peer tutoring.
Before we all reconfigure our computer labs, it’s worth noting that like any instructional strategy for cooperative learning, two-to-one computing has strengths and limitations. Here are a few situations where two-to-one teaching strategies make sense:
- watching instructional videos
- completing simulations, games, or exploratory activities
- guided practice sections of lessons, so students can get peer feedback
- enrichment/acceleration, for two students with shared interests
- skill-building/targeted instruction, when you know two students have similar needs
On the other hand, one-to-one computing seems more powerful for these types of situations:
- assessments, especially computer-adaptive and diagnostic assessments
- individual practice/skill building to the point of automaticity
- individual enrichment/acceleration, when a student has a unique interest
- skill-building/targeted instruction, when you know a student has a unique need
As teachers get more comfortable and experienced with using computers and other technology in their classrooms, one-to-one computing, two-to-one computing, and many other teaching strategies will all find their place. I imagine that we’ll eventually see the same rich variety of groupings and teaching strategies using computer devices as we do in the best “traditional” classrooms.
Educators: We want to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding one-to-one and two-to-one computing. What worked and what didn’t in your classroom? Please let us know in the comment section.
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