The ‘One Laptop Per Child’ project has shown that high access to technology can be achieved in situations where any access to educational technology seems unlikely, but is the lowest ratio of computers to childrenreally what we should be aiming for?
Last week at the ALT-C conference Miguel Brechner delivered a keynote showing the remarkable achievements of ‘Plan Ciebel’, a project which has provided 1:1 laptop access for all children in public education in Uruguay. They have done some amazing work, and his keynote contained much interesting discussion of how this has affected children’s educational opportunities, as well as the issues around making this national project work.
1:1 sounds like the ideal ratio; every child given their own access to tools at any time, but to many Primary teachers in this country it may seem like a situation they could at present only dream of.
However, the work of Sugata Mitra shows this dream in a different light. Mitra, famous for showing Indian slum children could teach themselves with a computer terminal, describes how it is the communal element of computer use in his projects that may have been a key factor in their astonishing results. In his continuing research, ratios of 1:4 are being used to facilitate deliberately socially constructed learning.
So what does this mean for Primary teachers? Should UK schools be aiming for 1:1, or is a higher (and likely cheaper) alternative more desirable?
For those in schools, often with little input into their level of resourcing, I think the key thing is to actually consider the ratios you are using. Rather than accept a certain ratio simply because that is what you have, think about what kinds of learning experiences you are trying to design, and how the ratio of computers to children could be played with to affect these. 1:1 doesn’t have to mean a lack of social learning, but constructing a deliberately communal experience can sometimes make a big difference.