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Are your students ready?

5 min read


One of the first questions asked when a school goes 1:1 is about how they will prepare teachers for the big change about to happen.

I’m wondering if the better question would be about preparing their students.

How comfortable are your students with the way in which learning now occurs in your school? Do they have it figured out? Do they want that to change? Do they know how to play the game of school?

If they do, chances are they may resent the intrusion of technology into their safe predictable pattern of school. Yes, I said intrusion.

I think many educators believe that students can’t wait for technology to appear in their classrooms. Many believe they are clamoring for it. I think they need to rethink that. I’m thinking that students can be just as resistant to change as some of their teachers and administrators.

Could students be the biggest resistors of technology in your school?

I’m wondering what boundaries students have for their technology use. That’s an intriguing and necessary question to explore, isn’t it? How would knowing that answer impact your efforts to create new learning experiences that use technology, especially in the context of BYOD or 1:1?

From my experience and observation, most students use technology for social connectivity and entertainment, a perception that isn’t necessarily new and one that has been well-documented by the research of others (Ito, 2008). I will admit that there are students who do use technology to support learning about their interests and they will tell you that they do. I’m not surprised by that anymore, and I’m always fascinated about their interests and how they have used technology to address that learning need.

But I’m not sure most have developed an understanding of how to use technology to support academic forms of learning, beyond what Ito calls friendship and interest-based learning, and to support and enrich their learning “at school.”

Why? Because they haven’t been asked to do that. And that they’re really not sure how to.

My guess is that most of the learning experiences currently in our schools, in your school perhaps, do not require an understanding of the capabilities and nuances of technology at a level where real value is added to the academic experience by the inclusion of the technology. I have to ask this question: Have we provided the experiences that can help students develop a learning disposition where they can utilize technology for learning in all contexts, including school?

Add devices as part of a 1:1 initiative and you’ll gain insights about the question I just asked. And fast.

Now, all of a sudden students are asked to use technology in a different and deeper way, and you see their uncertainty, their hesitancy and unfortunately, their pushback.

And that’s our fault.

When you add the capabilities of 1:1 technology into a learning ecology, you have a major disruption. Done right, and in the hands of a skilled teacher, the learning experience for students becomes different immediately, and a shift away from the comfortable and expected. New things are possible, more complex interactions between learners can occur, and instructional methodologies can become more robust, with the expectation that learners will now engage differently. What the kids are expected to do and create changes. Normal shifts.

Students, like teachers, administrators, parents and everyone else have an expectation of what they want school to be. In the schools that I have been a part of, that means doing well, getting into a good college or university, graduating and then getting a good job. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that.

But major disruptions such as a 1:1 can be perceived to challenge “the way.”

So, what can we do to prepare students for a new type of learning where rich learning experiences, supported by technology, now become “the way.” Let’s not forget that this is new for students in many ways, and that they just might have apprehension, and even more apprehension than we do, about such a significant change that disrupts the status quo of school and their expectation for what school is and what it serves.

How you handle that process of helping them learn under a new context of expectations as well as how you help them develop new learning dispositions will speak volumes about the type of learning culture your school has.

David Jakes (@djakes) has been an educator for 27 years and is serving Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Ill., as the coordinator of instructional technology. Jakes blogs at


Ito, Mizuko, Horst Heather, Danah Boyd, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Patricia G. Lange, C.J. Pascoe, and Laura Robinson. Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Rep. Digital Youth Research. John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, Nov. 2008. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.