Mod7: One-to-one Technologies

7.1 Market Opportunity Statement

The vast majority of K-12 investments in computer technologies have failed to deliver the desired learning benefits. Perhaps worse, many jurisdictions have repurposed their computers and networks away from learning toward standardized testing and accountability objectives. There are dozens of reasons for such failures, including: inadequate funding; lack of technical support; limited training; sparse curriculum-based content; ‘s a complex and frustrating arena.

Many educators believe that the root problem is that the learning potentials of computers in classroom environments can’t begin to be achieved until the student-to-computer ratio reaches a 1-to-1 threshold (globally, the current number varies from 1-4 through 1-20). One simple argument is that offices wouldn’t use computers effectively either if people had to line up for them, but the deeper issue relates to the personal and social drivers of having your own computer. The big challenge here is that investing more funds to reach 1-2, for example, won’t make a difference – it’s 1-1 or nothing.

But most 1-1 laptop implementations have failed as well. These failures are easier to understand, usually one of two problems: 1) Total Cost of Ownership (TCO – gee, for some reason laptops tend to break easily in classrooms!); and 2) Learning Models (a computer is useless if all you’re doing is copying down what the teacher tells you to). In the first instance, for example, it’s a sad statement that a company one of your instructors (David Vogt) started in 1995 produced the only wireless laptop in the world designed exclusively for K-12 education (see the 1999 “DreamMax“) – all the other manufacturers have been focussed on offloading office machines into classrooms. This situation is finally starting to change with projects such as the One Laptop Per Child (although this failed initiative originally and unfortunately focused on price point – the “$100 laptop” – rather than learning solution) and the more educationally sound Project Inkwell.

The other 1-1 problem – learning models – is also evident even on university campuses where most students have laptops and most professors are still using them to distribute notes or PowerPoint lectures. Old teaching habits are enormously difficult to break. We hope that the situation in ETEC 522 is somewhat better, and that your immediate and intimate experience of being 1-1 learners will engage you effectively in the 1-1 opportunity.

The reason that 1-1 environments is such an important emerging market is that it’s almost certain that most learners of the world will have some kind of device put in their hands over the next decade. The recent, very rapid, rise of the “netbook” laptop category demonstrates that this will be true.  Most often it will be a painful or expensive experiment, but the experimentation will inevitably continue until the problems are solved. Among manufacturers, for example, they’re finally interested in the school market because they realize it is the last untapped market for computers in the world. But the profit margin for hardware is miniscule; the real opportunity as the 1-1 critical mass approaches is content and services appropriate to 1-1 learning models and environments.

The 1-1 environments emerging market is much more than about hardware.  It includes all of the potentials of “personal learning environments” (PLE’s), as well as the networks, systems, tools and people that can enable 1-1 learning.  For example, have a look at the “harvesting gradebook” concept for teachers evaluating students roaming freely through open environments.