Today’s students learn and interact in different ways than past generations. Step foot into today’s classrooms and you’ll find technology that didn’t exist a decade ago. With technology advancing in the classroom, schools across the country have embraced digital learning programs to facilitate classroom learning.
Research by Michigan State University found that when schools provided students with laptops for use in the classroom and at home, learning improved in a number of subjects, including science, math, and English. One of the most widely used digital learning programs in K-12 schools is 1:1. And, research shows that a 1:1 learning environment has a positive effect on academic performance and student success.
Even though almost all educators agree that using laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets to aide learning has a positive impact on student achievement (95%) and teaching effectiveness (92%), there are still tech challenges that need to be addressed and solved.
In this article, I’ll address four of the top tech challenges in 1:1 learning classrooms that teachers and students are faced with – and I’ll give you practical ways to solve each of these challenges.
Challenge #1: Misused, Underused, or Unused Technology
Every year, administrators and teachers evaluate new technologies, software platforms, and assessment systems to add to their suite of ed tech tools. However, when new classroom technology and tools are deployed, they often are misused, underused, or even unused.
A recent study found that over 1/3 of all technology purchases made by middle schools simply weren’t used. And, only 5% of purchases met their purchaser’s usage goals. Whether it’s a lack of understanding of product capabilities or faulty implementation, these findings show that teachers and administration may not be using ed tech technologies in the right way.
Instead of focusing on what the technology can do or how the students could use it, focus on how students typically use the technology or the contexts in which it would be more and least effective. When evaluating new tech tools for the classroom, make sure you know how a student’s interaction with the technology will improve learning. Consider these questions:
- Is the technology linked to a specific learning goal?
- Does the technology follow research-supported understandings of how students learn?
- In what cases might the technology fail to facilitate learning?
Prioritizing the how over the what – how the technology will help reach learning goals vs. what technology to use – will make you think about classroom and learning technology more critically. In short, use technology to reach specific learning goals. Only use technology that is supported by existing learning research. And, use technology in contexts that are effective.
Challenge #2: Device Battery Health
Even in your best efforts to keep laptop, Chromebook, and tablet batteries in top shape, it’s inevitable that they will deplete over time.
Most laptop batteries have a life expectancy of two years or 400 to 450 charge and discharge cycles. Chromebooks have a longer life expectancy than most laptops – they’re built to last up to five years from the date of release (not the date you purchase them). Once your laptop or Chromebook hits their life expectancy milestone, the battery may lose the ability to charge or to hold a charge for substantial periods of time. Over time, each charge cycle decreases a battery’s capacity from its design specifications meaning that the fewer timers you drain it, the longer the battery will last.
Regardless of if you’re using Dell, Mac, Chromebooks, or any other laptop brand the battery will not last forever. The battery will be worse today than it was yesterday and better today than it will be tomorrow.
Challenge #3: Outdated Hardware and Overcrowded Hard Drives
I’ve heard countless stories of school districts starting a 1:1 program in the high school and trickling down to middle school and elementary school over time. In these cases, the devices (laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets) are just passed down from the high school to the middle school and finally to the elementary school. Sounds like a cost-effective way to deploy a 1:1 program, right? Instead of buying the 5,000 devices you need for your school district you can just reuse the technology that’s been used for a few years. What many educators don’t take into consideration is how old and outdated hardware can affect the student learning experience.
The technology in laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets change over time which means that the technology used in your devices will become outdated. And, like we discussed in the previous challenge, your device battery will not last forever.
As you download files, install software, and access ed tech tools, your computer gets bloated with files that hog system resources. Device hard drives become crowded and cluttered with each file and application. The more cluttered your hard drive becomes, the harder it becomes for your laptop to locate the data you request. The harder it becomes for your laptop to locate the data you request, the slower your laptop runs. The slower your laptop runs, the more frustrated you get because of how long it takes students to access what they need for each class. And, the more frustrated you become with students not be able to access learning tools efficiently, the more likely the technology is going to be underused (like we discussed in the first challenge).
Combine cluttered hard drives with a degrading battery and your students’ learning experience is likely to be affected. Losing power to a student device during class means that the teacher must stop the lesson to help restore power. Whether it’s through sending the student to the office to get a loaner cord, having the student share a screen with another or running an extension cord from a wall outlet to the student’s desk, the learning experience is disrupted when devices need charged during class.
The easy solution to addressing the challenge of outdated hardware and overcrowded hard drives is to simply buy new laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets. If your school has the funding to do so, this might be the best option. However, if your school doesn’t have the funding for hardware upgrades, it may be best to clean up device hard drives regularly so they run as efficiently as possible and increase access to power in your classrooms so batteries remain charged during class.
This leads me to the fourth and final challenge…
Challenge #4: Limited Access to Power in Classrooms
As schools continue to rely on devices to aid learning environments, it’s important to evaluate classroom power needs to make sure devices aren’t contributing to a lack of focus and engagement in the classroom. In fact, 84% of teachers agree that loss of power to a tablet or laptop is disruptive to class. And, stopping class to assist students with depleted device batteries is a daily frustration for 64% of teachers. When the lesson is stopped, students become disengaged and lose focus.
Schools that were built before the shift from traditional learning to digital learning face a common challenge: access to power in classrooms. Outdated hardware and declining device batteries make the need for accessible power in the classroom and at every student workspace a requirement for successful 1:1 learning programs.
If your 1:1 program requires students to access assignments at home, addressing this challenge may not be as simple as requiring students to charge their devices at home. This puts additional responsibility on the students and their parents to remember to charge their devices overnight and bring them in fully charged – an often-forgotten task.
In the classroom, educators have traditionally relied on charging carts, lockers, and cabinets to keep laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets charged up and ready for classroom learning. These products are great charging solutions for when devices aren’t in use; however, they don’t address the real challenge facing classroom charging: devices need charged while in use during class.
If your school isn’t using the most advanced or up-to-date laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets, it’s likely that devices can’t run off the battery for an entire school day. This means that device batteries will deplete at some point during the school day – likely while students are using them in class.
Another common solution to charging devices while in use during class is to run extension cords from wall outlets to students’ desks and tables to charge devices. While this solution brings access to power to student workspaces, it also creates additional trip and safety hazards. This means extension cords may do more harm than good in classrooms.
The best solution to increasing access to power in the classroom is to invest in laptop and Chromebook desk chargers. Laptop and Chromebook desk chargers are multi-device charging stations that are battery-powered, portable, and cordless. They bring access to power to every student workspace by clamping onto the side of desks and tables. Since it’s essentially a portable outlet, you don’t need access to power to charge laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, or smartphones – the devices successful 1:1 programs rely on.
With laptop and Chromebook desk chargers, teachers don’t have to assist students with low or depleted device batteries during class. Students and parents also don’t have to remember to charge their devices at home. And, additional classroom safety and trip hazards caused by running extension cords from wall outlets to student workspaces are eliminated.
Keeping students’ devices charged during class with a battery-powered charging station keeps students focused and engaged, improves the learning environment, and contributes to academic success.
To successfully implement and scale a 1:1 learning program, your school must address the challenges that come with integrating technology in the classroom to facilitate learning. Making sure that you’re using classroom technology properly, device batteries are in good condition, device hard drives are cleaned, hardware is updated, and power is accessible at every student workspace will put your school on the path towards a successful 1:1 program that improves student success.