Apple is seeing “far more success than any other company” in implementing 1:1 computing solutions in U.S. education, Paul Papageorge, the company’s senior director of marketing, told MacCentral.
A 1:1 computing solution involves an environment where wireless networks are implemented so that every student and teacher has access to laptops. In an ideal situation, students can take the portable home and have access 24/7. This expands learning beyond the walls of the classroom, Papageorge said.
“We have 1:1 solutions in over 400 schools across the country, and we’re excited to see what has happened in learning and teaching,” he said. “A range of schools and districts are using 1:1 computing solutions: suburban, urban, rural, public, private, across the board. With the advent and convergence of the Internet and wireless technology, we’re seeing 1:1 computing grow exponentially. Technology has now reached the point where this can be done in a meaningful way.”
Such a change in educational practices is important as schools are filled with a generation that was raised with computers, Papageorge added.
“They’re able to play games, be online and listen to MP3s all at once,” he explained. “They deal with a variety of info simultaneously and learn in variety of ways. But many schools haven’t evolved to create a modern environment.”
Two school systems that have are the Manatee (Florida) County Public Schools and the
Urban School of San Francisco. Dr. Tina Barrios, supervisor of instructional technology, Manatee County Public Schools, said their system has been using wireless mobile labs for the past four years and has been networked for a decade. The system is home to 15,000 computers; approximately 4,000 of those are laptops with 95 percent of them being iBooks or PowerBooks.
“With computers, students are more engaged,” Barrios said. “Attendance has improved, and students are doing homework who wouldn’t do it before — or who would do just enough to get by. And more students have developed into leaders. Technology has leveled the playing field. What’s more, when students are being engaged, the amount of discipline problems drop.”
She said that students are also taking more pride in their work. Since they’re creating things to be published, they’re showing more sophistication in their writing and spending more time on research.
Howard Levin, director of technology at the Urban School, agrees. The school is in its second year of implementing a 1:1 computing solution. They have 35 new PowerBooks (a combination of 15 and 12-inch models) for all 35 of their faculty members. All 9-11th graders (195) have 900MHz iBooks; all 12th graders (60) are using “retired” 3-year old PowerBooks and iBooks.
“With technology, the nature of collaboration dramatically increases,” Levin said. “The sharing of info has skyrocketed — with the blessing of the teachers. Students share notes, and they work together on research projects. Also, the level of confidence students have in technology has increased, especially among girls. Students are developing confidence in using all sorts of technology, such as digital cameras, not just computers.”
Both educators have noticed that teachers who at first resisted heavy use of computers in the classroom have been won over.
“We’ve seen some veteran teachers become excited and feel like they’re really reaching the kids more,” Barrios said. “But sometimes it’s the students who are pushing the teachers. That’s okay; it’s fine to let the students be the ‘teachers’ at times.”
Four years ago at the Urban School, the English Department was the most resistant to the technology movement. But today it has some of the most adamant supporters.
“They’ve discovered that computers offer the tools to expand the students’ abilities to comment and critique each other’s work, as well as to comment and critique literature,” Levin said. “More students are contributing now.”
The two school systems, both cross-platform chose Apple products for various reasons. Barrios said that Macs were superior in such “key areas” as battery life, weight, integrated wireless, digital video and FireWire.
“The iBooks come loaded with tools and software, so we didn’t have to buy a lot of extra things,” she added. “Apple also seemed better in terms of the support offered. And the virus issue is huge; we can’t afford to have downtime because of viruses — and that’s less of a problem with Macs.”
Levin said that the iBook was the only laptop that matched their criteria.
“We just wanted to buy the best laptops for our students,” he explained. “Besides, we’re not locking out the PC world; we use cross platform applications such as Microsoft Office, for example.”
Still, it sometimes takes a bit of work to make the community aware of the value of technology in education (particularly of Macs in a PC-centric world). Barrios said their local business leaders and key Chamber of Commerce members really encouraged the school board to support the technology initiative.
“The community is supportive of technology initiatives if they understand them,” she said.
Levin said that some educating of the public had to be done regarding the “Macs vs. PC” issue. However, it’s pretty easy to convince skeptics when you show them “the facts and the cost,” he said.