Monday, April 8, 2013

6 Reasons Why You Should Use 6 Laptops in Your Classroom

Guest post by Bradley Lands  | Cross posted at The Landscape of Learning

The 1:1 student to computer ratio initiative is a great goal for schools to have. I mean, what school would not want each of their students to have access to a personal laptop computer? The problem is that most schools can't afford to spend the kind of money that it takes to provide each student with a laptop, especially when the nation is trying to climb out of a recession. Moreover, lots of schools are not budging on their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, preventing students from bringing their own technology devices to school such as their phones, ipods, tablets, e-readers and laptops.

As an advocate of project-based learning and student-directed learning, I wanted my students to be able to use computers to create projects using the many different webtools that are available on the internet. There was just one problem ... I didn't have any working computers in my classroom.

In the beginning of the year I was frustrated, because each grade level team in my middle school has two whole carts of laptop computers that they could use when students needed them for projects. The teachers schedule their classes to use the computers so that every student can have his or her own individual laptop for various assignments and projects. There was never an opportunity for me to borrow the computers because the teachers were constantly rotating the carts amongst themselves.

After trying several different avenues to borrow laptops, I finally addressed my administration and requested six laptops for my classroom. That's right ... not a cart ... not one for every student ... six! I realized that by using just six laptops, my students could create amazing projects, and practice their workplace readiness skills by collaboratively working in groups.

 There are some teachers in my school that don't have any computers in their class for their students to use. This is where my 6 Computers Idea comes into play. We currently have enough computers in my school to reallocate at least a few laptop computers to every classroom teacher. The great thing about this idea is that we still have four large computer labs full of 25 desktop computers in each room. If teachers need to do projects where every students needs to use a computer, then they can easily schedule a time to use one of the computer labs.

Action: After the order for my six laptop computers had been placed, I began writing curriculum that required problem-based learning in teams of four to five students. Each team would be able to use one laptop computer for their projects. In each team I created different roles for every student so that their team operated like a mini-business. This instructional strategy differentiates the responsibility for each student by ensuring that every student has ownership of their particular contribution to the project. 

The roles in each team consist of the following: 
Multimedia Specialist


Below is an example of my STEMtrepreneurship lesson that I assign to my TECH students.  My students created everything in this presentation, including the Prezi, all with just one computer for each group of students. 

The main reason to incorporate collaborative group work in the classroom is to increase students' workplace readiness skills.  These type of skills include "decision making, problem solving, values clarification, communication, critical thinking, negotiation, conflict resolution, and teamwork. It provides a structured learning experience that can prepare students for the realities and diversity of the workplace, working with people with different skills, cultures, approaches and from different places." [1]

Below are 6 Reasons Why You Should Use 6 Laptops in Your Classroom

1.  Better Communication
The exchange of ideas can act as a stimulus to the imagination, encouraging students to explore ideas they would not otherwise consider. In addition, students with knowledge relevant to the problem can communicate that knowledge directly if they participate in solving the problem. This also helps students to resolve conflicts within their group, thereby strengthening their communication skills. [2]

2.  Greater Output
Groups of students can bring a broad range of ideas, knowledge and skills to bear on a problem. This creates a stimulating interaction of diverse ideas which results in a wider range and better quality of solutions. [2]

3.  Increased Risk-Taking
Shared responsibility makes students more willing to take risks. The discussion of different points of view also helps the group to be more realistic in assessing the risks associated with particular courses of action. This helps to stimulate and reinforce critical and creative thinking skills[2]

4.  Higher Commitment
When goals are agreed it gives a common purpose to the group, within which students can gain a feeling of self-determination and recognition through their contribution. Students who have contributed to finding a solution feel a greater commitment to its successful implementation. Positive group pressure can also encourage students to accept that change is needed. [2]

5.  Reduced Bias
The shared responsibility of a group in arriving at decisions can encourage students to explore seemingly unrealistic ideas and to challenge accepted ways of doing things. Individual biases and prejudices can be challenged by the group, forcing the students to recognize them. [2]

6.  Differentiated Learning
Students are empowered to take ownership of their learning during group projects. Students have the opportunity to learn via their readiness level, interests, and preferred mode of learning. Students are additionally empowered with the responsibility of demonstrating concept mastery in their preferred learning style. 

If you find yourself in a school that is nowhere close to a 1:1 student to computer ratio, I challenge you to request that your administration equally reallocate the computers that you do have to each teacher in the school.  This will ensure that every teacher will be able to provide opportunities for his or her students to use the laptops as a learning tool in the classroom for various lessons, activities and projects.


  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing your wise insights. Are devices not allowed in your school? Is there room to mix your computers with a student led BYOD movement? Good Luck and great job!

  2. Lisa,

    Thank you so much for using one of my blog posts as your guest post! I really appreciate that! Hopefully some of your followers will be able to post some insightful comments to which I can learn from. I am curious as to how many other educators are using this same model in thier classrooms. Thanks again! - Brad

  3. Great post!

    As a teacher I use my computer all the time in class but I haven't had any success in teaching a class where every student has a computer for 2 main reasons : 1. It is only on rare occasions that my class go to the computers room (we have only one and not all of them are working).
    2. I couldn't find the right way to keep all of the students focused on topic. Some of the students just kept browsing through the web.

    Now, that i have read that article I believe I have found the right way to use computers inside of a regular classroom and to keep the students focused on their targets.

    Thank you!

  4. I have been advocating this idea in my school district after seeing this video about SCALE-UP, Student Centered Active Learning Environment in higher ed. Sounds like what your are doing. Good luck.

  5. I really like this idea. As an education student and a member of the digital generation, I have wondered how to effectively utilize technology in the classroom while avoiding student distraction. This seems like a successful model because it forces students to be accountable to each other and to work together, both valuable skills for work in the "real world."