Joel Heller - Tech Perspective

Joel Heller

28 September 2014

The Impact of a 1:1 Initiative

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced as an educator is the fact that I cannot be in two places at once.  In order to truly master any given skill, particularly in mathematics, a student needs the opportunity to practice the skill in an environment which allows whatever misconceptions that may have formed to be corrected before they are assimilated into what the student accepts as being fact.  Although there are admittedly a variety of ways in which educators create and maintain this environment, there is a lot to be said about the benefits of a one-on-one student-teacher interaction.  Being able to address a specific student’s needs in the moment without having to hold the attention of the entire class is tremendously valuable to the education of that specific student.  However, it is simply not possible to provide that level of individual attention to every student in class at all times.  

Again, there are many ways to approach the issue of having to be in more than one place in the classroom at any given time.  However, one of the methods that I have found to be particularly effective is through the use of technology.  With the rapid development of the new technology, there comes an ever growing number of educational resources available to teachers and students alike.  There are hundreds of different programs, websites, videos, and applications that are specifically designed to help students overcome the challenges they face on a daily basis during their high school career.

One of the tools that I use regularly in my math classes is Khan Academy.  The support structure that has been built in to each set of exercises and the way that the material is presented has been quite helpful to my students.  Because of the support structure that Khan Academy provides, I have used this particular site on more than one occasion to aid in the guided practice portion of my classroom instruction.  During this kind of activity, half of the class will be working on computers to complete a series of Khan Academy assignments, while the other half of the class works in small groups to complete a set of problems on paper.  After a specified amount of time, the two larger groups in class will switch, providing those students who were working on paper the opportunity to use the computers and the students who were working on computers the opportunity to work in small groups and receive more one-on-one attention.  

Because of the support structure provided by Khan Academy, the students working on computers should theoretically need minimal support.  This frees me up to work more closely with the half of the class working in small groups while still providing each student in class with the support structure that he or she needs to master the skill being practiced.  In theory, this activity provides one plausible solution to the fact that no teacher can be everywhere all the time.  However, in reality, this solution has presented a list of complications of its own.  The fact of the matter is that many of my students are uncomfortable learning by any other means than one on one instruction.  I have found that they are uncomfortable using technology in class to supplement their education.  

The fact that my students have shied away from the educational use of technology is a problem.  We live in a world today that is submerged in technology.  Anyone with a smartphone or a computer has access to the largest collection of information in history from just about anywhere in the world, and yet, students still shy away from the opportunity of taking advantage of these resources to further their education.  Whether we like it or not, technology has become a part of everyday life for today’s student.  Even those students who do not have access to technology are still surrounded by it.  We need to be able to provide our students with the option of having this inundation of technology become a positive thing in regards to their education.  

To be perfectly honest, I do not know what the ultimate resolution to the fact that my students shy away from using the technology available to further promote their learning.  However, I can confidently say that if each of my students had access to technology that was being used for educational purposes on a daily basis, that I would begin to see fewer and fewer instances of students being uncomfortable with the idea that technology can be used to increase the quality of their education.  The fact is that, if my students are willing, and we have access to the technology, the 1:1 initiative opens up a myriad of very practical methods that I can use to help increase my students’ understanding.  A 1:1 initiative will provide me with a tool that will ultimately impact the lives of each one of my students in a way that will have a more sustained, positive effect on their education.