Digital Literacy Through 1-1 Computing

By Ashley McFadin — Imagine a school where every student grades 9-12 has their own personal laptop.

They all carry their laptops in matching computer bags and move from class to class carrying a binder in their arms and bags slung across their chests.  In class, they sit protectively with their cases on their laps – too afraid of setting their precious new machine on the floor.  The scene is truly precious.  And I see it everyday.

Having a school go “1-1” is an accomplishment for any district.  At the school district where I am employed, we are one of the largest in Iowa to initiate this type of program.

“Digital Literacy” is a new buzzword in education that is both necessary and timely in our 21st century world. Employers are looking for potential employees with vast amount of computer skills.  Long gone are the days where having “proficient in Microsoft Office” was a big deal on a resume, where now it’s assumed that proficiency has been met.

However, most students I have met as 9th graders do not have basic computer skills.  They can whip up a movie on iMovie and figure out how to maneuver around our firewall to access banned social media sites.  But, one of the most frequent compliments I have gotten is “Wow, Mrs. M.  You type really fast!”

Before the end of the 2011-2012 school year, staff were given their new computers – a brand new 13-inch MacBook Air.  One of the nicest things I “own”.  Students, we discovered, were getting 11-inch MacBook Airs, thus the need for compatible operating systems (we had been using ByteSpeed PC’s).  On a semi-related side note, we made such a huge order from Apple that we now have our own personal support team in California.   Teachers were expected to take their laptops home and get a feel for them, which we gladly did all summer long.

D-Day. 

To be honest, nothing was more frightening to me than handing out an 11-inch MacBook Air to every single ninth grader on Deployment Day (D-Day).  (Did you giggle on that one?  It was rather fitting considering how nervous many of my colleagues were on that day.)   My fellow colleagues and I were curious as to how the initial set-up was going to go.  Each homeroom teacher was on their own in a sense with a guided powerpoint given to us by our Technology Department.  To our great relief, set-up went very well.  Students understood how serious this was and were very well behaved.  In fact, they still are.

Staff Support

Our building now has our very own tech support to help students and staff with any MacBook Air troubleshooting.  His name is Chris and he’s awesome.  In terms of professional development, each teacher is trying to figure it out in his or her own way.  Our first formal Apple Professional Development comes in mid-September when our normal professional learning takes place with an introduction to the iLife Suite and “Figuring out your Mac”.  In addition, the head of the Tech Department blogs semi-regularly on www.TechHawks.org.  (Check it out!)

Using it in the Classroom

In the meantime, here is an example of how I have used it in my classroom:

Using the computer as a recording device.

Only one student would be using the computer while the rest had other lab jobs.

During a lab activity that was intended to introduce them to lab equipment and the metric system, I utilized the computers as a word processing tool.  Not super tech savvy, I know.  But, this allowed me to assess a few “hidden” things:

  1. Their ability to follow written directions.
  2. Their ability to write in full, complete sentences.
  3. Their ability to problem-solve in Microsoft Word (I had purposely left off some text boxes needed to fill in answers).
  4. Their ability to work as a team and collaborate to formulate answers.

The results were rather interesting.  I was impressed in some respects and disappointed in others.  I received a lot of papers with “u” instead of “you”, for example.  Because the main reason we did the activity with the computers was so I could receive group reports rather than individual, it’s not really a fair assessment of all students.  But the gist remains the same – basic skills must be taught in order for my students to become fully fluent in digital literacy.

How have you used technology in your classroom? 

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