Education Opinion

New Paradigms Needed

By LeaderTalk Contributor — April 06, 2009 2 min read
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From a teaching and learning perspective providing every student with some type of computer device makes complete sense and the positive results of this approach have been well researched and documented.

More widespread access to computers makes it possible for students and teachers in schools to transition from occasional, supplemental use of computers for instruction to more frequent, integral use of technology across a multitude of settings (Roschelle & Pea, 2002). Ubiquitous, 24/7 access to computers makes it possible for students to access a wider array of resources to support their learning, to communicate with peers and their teachers, to become fluent in their use of the technological tools of the 21st century workplace. When students are also able to take computers home, the enhanced access further facilitates students keeping their work organized and makes the computer amore “personal” device (Vahey & Crawford, 2002).

The 21st Century Skills of initiative, self-direction, flexibility, user responsibility, collaboration, and leadership; skills that are fundamental to our children’s future success, are undermined by the technology deployment models that are presently in use in most schools.

Our present approach to deploying technology in small pods of 3-4 computers and/or one computer classrooms puts a tremendous classroom management burden on teachers and disempower students by creating a ‘many watching one’ or ‘shared pencil environment’. Computer labs may empower students by allowing them to have their own devices; but access to labs is limited and generally not part of the core classroom experience.

Example of a “shared pencil” deployment.

Example of a “many watching one” deployment.

We need a new technology deployment paradigm that empowers students and teachers and serves as a catalyst for transforming classrooms into environments that model the key 21st Century Skills that are so desirable in the work-place.

So why don’t we provide every student with a computer device?

The fact of the matter is that if money were no obstacle most of us would take steps to expand our computer inventory so that access to learning technologies was ubiquitous. It is the economics of providing a computer device for each student that seems so daunting.

We need a new technical paradigm to replace the client/server approach that has done well to get us where we are; but is not sufficient to bring us where we need to go.

That new paradigm is “cloud computing and virtualization”.

We need to recognize that the “shared pencil”, “many watching one” way we are deploying technology in our classrooms is not sufficient for students who need to be more “self directed”, “responsible”, “adaptable” and show more “initiative and leadership” .

That new paradigm is a classroom environment that allows each student to explore, communicate, collaborate, analyze, publish, and pursue their interests, passions, and curiosities. In order to do this they need to have “ubiquitous access” to technology.

The two paradigm shifts go hand in hand.

Without this shift we will continue to have 30+% student dropout rates and 40+% teacher dropout rates. It’s the price we pay for disempowering both the learner and the teacher.

It’s time to put the tools in our students hands.


Pete Reilly
Ed Tech Journeys

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.