I’m very fortunate because I work in a school with two amazing administrators that have been very supportive of me and of my classroom program. I’m not in a school with 1:1 computer classrooms or SMART Boards in every room, but we do have a growing number of SMART Boards in the school (at least one per grade), anywhere from 1-10 working, networked computers in every grade team pod and/or pod and classroom combination, and a laptop cart that contains 15 computers. At this time of the year, we are looking at purchases for next year, which is why I went in to talk to my principal on Friday.
In the ideal world, or my utopian classroom, I would have a little bit of everything, but the budget doesn’t always allow for this. It’s also not just about me, but about school purchases, and the question becomes, do we spend our money buying SMART Boards or buying class sets of Netbook computers?
If you asked me this question a year ago, I would have said that I would love laptops for my students, but that I would want a SMART Board first. My students really enjoyed learning on the SMART Board, and worked well together to create and learn using the SMART Board. All that being said, the real focus for our Board is on creating “higher level learning opportunities,” and that has been my real focus in the classroom this year. While I believe that I’ve done that using the SMART Board, everything that I’ve done on the SMART Board, I could have done on laptop computers instead. The laptop computers also lend themselves to more student-centred learning. SMART Boards only allow for a single touch, so when students are waiting around for their turn on the SMART Board, they could be creating and contributing using a laptop.
Last week though, I really began to realize this when I saw one of my groups of students at the SMART Board literacy centre, all huddled around my laptop entering words into the Wordle instead of typing them one at a time on the SMART Board keyboard. They were collaborating together, creating a great finished product, and even though they enjoyed looking at their Wordle up on the SMART Board, they could have done the same activity without the use of the SMART Board at all.
During my discussion with my principal on Friday, she asked me, “What would you say if I told you that I was taking away your SMART Board next year?,” to which I replied, “If you told me that I was getting a class set of Netbook computers instead, I would say that I would be the happiest teacher in the world!” My recommendation to my principal would be to start purchasing class sets of Netbook computers. Right now, everybody shares our one laptop cart, and I think that creating some more laptop carts is the way to go. Laptops are easy to store in a central area, sign-out when needed, and use with any age group. I would love to say that we should start outfitting individual classes with these laptops instead, but maybe, when it comes to equity, that’s not the way to go. I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
Yesterday, I posed these purchasing choices to my amazing Twitter PLN, and they shared their ideas in this GoogleDoc. Please add your ideas too! I even included an option of 1:1 computing involving Netbooks and iPod Touches, and it’s interesting to read what people had to say about this option too. While many people here mention how much they love their SMART Board (and I do too!), the majority of the contributors would choose laptops over a SMART Board. It really is about putting the technology into the hands of the students.