In my classroom every student has their own computer to use for the entire class period everyday. Some call this a 1:1 ratio (computer to student). It is a great blessing for students to not have to share their computers while they are working. Effectively incorporating computers into my approach to teaching is a challenging and wonderfully rewarding experience. People ask me what I teach. To respond “multimedia” seems so inadequate. To say “computers” usually gets an “ah ha” reaction, but it really doesn’t describe what I teach. I teach communication skills using the computer hardware and software as tools.
The computer is a vigorous and powerful teaching tool if used correctly. I can envision a future for education that thrusts the bulk of information dissemination onto the computer and frees up the teacher to guide and assess. Computers provide the opportunity to fine-tune each and every students individualized education plan and tailor a learning experience as unique as each individual. The current “shotgun” lecture approach loses many students in the process. An alternative could be provided by a machine that is more dynamic, more entertaining, more flexible and able to more accurately follow along with the individual learner’s pace.
Of course, the computer is not a teacher, and should not be considered a teacher, ever. The computer is a tool that is very good at presenting information and collecting and returning data that can be used by a human teacher to improve the way the teacher assesses and services the educational needs of their students. Some teachers resist using computers; but then, some teachers resisted using blackboards, then greenboards, then whiteboards, and now smartboards. Hmm. Some people think using technology only gets in the way of the most important part of teaching: the relationship between the teacher and student.
Real 1 to 1 learning occurs when one person sits down with another person and teaches them to learn something. The roles of the teacher and pupil are dynamic, fluid, and can change depending on the level and subject. For example, an child learning a second language while working individually with an adult teacher can at the same time teach the adult something about his or her primary language. Peer to peer education is also a very effective version of 1 to 1 learning. Students working in pairs teaching, reviewing, and reinforcing the material is a great way to learn.
As computers become more commonplace in education the opportunities and advantages that come from their use will help teachers to improve and refine the educational process for students. However, it is the effective use of the technology by the human teachers that is the key to success for the students. The best 1:1 ratio is not computer to student, but person to person. The use of computers can have the positive effect of providing more time for teachers to work individually with students. Computers and technology alone are not the answer, but great tools for teachers to use in education.