Monday, 12 July 2010

The New One to One


Sitting in the staffroom around springtime after another difficult day at the mill, I overheard some of the teachers talking about laptops and students. This got my interest and without further ado they told me about a new project. Both of the primary schools I work in are taking part in a programme called Escuela 2.0 which means that all of the children in the 5th year will be given a laptop to use for the school year.

Now, I have to admit that my initial reaction was disbelief then laughter perhaps they’d caught me on one of those days because I thought it was possibly the biggest laugh of the school year. Imagine the situation; I work in two very different centres. One is a quiet rural school where many of the children’s’ parents are unemployed; the teacher is over 60 (and let’s says not the most up-to-date). The other school well it’s the kind of school where the children often turn up to school without bringing a pencil to class and some of their parents still haven’t bought the required books by the third term.

Okay I’m not particularly proud of my reaction but there’s no point saying that I jumped and shouted hallelujah what a brilliant idea. My initial reaction was followed by the following thoughts:

• Surely the money could be better spent on basic things like more tables and chairs or resources such as books.
• How on earth are you going to teach with a class of 25 kids stuck with their heads stuck in a laptop?
• Who on earth is going to teach them in this new way?
• Who on earth is going to train the teachers in these new techniques?
• How on earth are we going to trust these kids to take home a laptop and make sure they bring it back the next day in tact?
• Apart from the ‘novelty’ factor why on earth would anyone think that they were going to learn more effectively stuck in front of a screen and not interacting with their classmates?

The list went on and on I found myself taking part in staffroom discussions about the senselessness of those in charge with their crazy ideas.

Then one day something happened that started to change my mind. I came to school (the quiet rural one) and the children were all excited. At the door to the English classroom they stop and ask each other how they are. It’s not the typical “How are you?” with the “I’m fine thank you” response. The teacher this year has taught them all sorts of creative variants like “I’m tired” “I’m thirsty” and “I’m very hot”. As they filed in they were all happy, or very happy or very, very happy.

As the last student went in, I asked her why she was very, very happy and she told me that their new computers had arrived. Okay one point to the laptops. The second thing that made me think was towards the end of June I walked past one of the classes and there were rows of kids tapping away at their laptops. You should have seen their faces they were working on different subjects and they were definitely “on task”. There was no doodling, staring out of the window or playing with their water bottles.

These laptops were a definite pull. The term finished in June and so their new laptops have been un-packed and used but only superficially. Now I have to say that although my initial reaction was less than positive, I’m looking forward to seeing how these laptops are going to be utilized to help enhance our children 's learning and I’m looking forward to thinking of ways that we can use them in our English lessons.

Anyone else in the same situation? Any thoughts and ideas?

4 comments:

  1. Really interesting post. Looking forward to finding out more about the impact of the laptops.
    Thanks
    Paul

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  2. Here in Andalucía children in 5th and 6th of Primary each got a laptop sometime around Easter. I'm not really sure how much they are using it in class as when I've asked the children they are quite vague about the whole thing. I think that providing more IT resources in general is a good thing - there are endless possibilities for the classroom to assist learning, learner autonomy and to help increase motivation etc, but I'm not sure "giving" a laptop to each student is the right way to go about it. I'd be very interested in hearing your conclusions next year, when they have had more time to be used. I am sure they are not being used to anywhere near their full potential due to lack of training for teachers. All in all, it's a very interesting and necessary topic to investigate.

    In these schools are IWBs available and used? Have you noticed if the teachers are using readily-prepared published materials or free web 2.0 tools?

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  3. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I'll keep you updated on the laptop issue. Have you been in Barcelona long?

    Leahn

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  4. Hi Michelle,

    I think it's a national project. The schools already had a computer room which wasn't overly used so it makes you wonder how this is going to work. Imagine you have teachers who are luddites like me ! The laptops will probably hardly ever leave their shiny cupboard. I'm really not sure how it will work and I think a lot will depend on individual teachers and the training given. Thanks for stopping by loyal reader!

    Leahn

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