Thinking Out Loud – Forget 1:1, Build a 0:1 Laptop Program

Disclaimer: I’m saying all this in full recognition of the financial and practical problems with implementing mobile programs.

If I had a do-over at my school, or any school, I would skip laptops altogether and build a mobile program. That would put my school in a much better position

At one point, I was arguing we should build an ∞ : 1 program. This was my way of saying 1:1 thinking is limited thinking because, wherever we happen to start the journey, we are all moving toward a single user working with multiple devices (a result of the consumerization of technology) and we had to begin building–now–ways of exploiting that in schools. 1:1 is not an end game.

I still say 1:1 is limited and limiting thinking but I’m reversing directions and saying I think we can dispense with laptops altogether. A laptop is a peak technology, a highly refined articulation of a mode of thinking and knowledge structure that is being disrupted by newer technologies, principally the web and mobiles. (See David Weinberger’s, Too Big To Know, for a discussion on the changing structure of knowledge.) They make sense if we want to continue doing things as we have, which is not all bad, but I suspect they might actually inhibit innovation in the classroom. Laptops have been around for a while now. While technically brilliant, their form is not appreciably different from a typewriter and, by and large, I don’t think they’ve transformed or moved our teaching and learning beyond typewriter thinking. (The usual criticism I get is that you can’t write an essay on a smart phone.) Oh sure, they’ve made things more efficient, which is good. But notwithstanding some innovative work by some brilliant teachers here and there, I’ve not seen any systemic transformative change come about by the implementation of a 1:1 laptop program.

Mobiles, and smart phones in particular, are products of the emerging knowledge structure.

Connecting ideas I need to think and say more about:

knowledge structures
the evolution of the laptop; I think I can argue is it based on the form of very early books
typewriter thinking
per Twitter chat with @jonpratt, need to look at whether a laptop program is a necessary step, a catalyst for tech thinking, so to speak, or merely a circumstance of history; could a school go directly to mobiles?
Things I want to try:

A laptop v. mobile smackdown


  1. Reply
    Pauline Roberts November 9, 2014

    Would love you to flesh out the laptop v. mobile smackdown idea. What could that look like?

    • Reply
      Braddo November 10, 2014

      Of course I’m sure. I was thinking it would be fun to do live, but no suitable conferences coming up in the near future.

      I think we can come up with something asynchronous though. I’ going to talk to a colleague who is good at imagining this sort of thing.

      By the way, I approved to the comment and added this reply from my phone while on the road in Dusseldorf. 😉

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