8 more good answers to 1-to-1 doom-sayers

8 more good answers to 1-to-1 doom-sayers

Part One of this series of posts caused some controversy – there were a few people who took against the word ‘doomsayer’ in the title, which is a shame. The intention was not to reductively conflate those who legitimately raise questions with anti-tech dinosaurs.

To explain further, for the avoidance of doubt; genuine challenge to any school’s 1-to-1 plans is absolutely needed and welcomed. A mobile learning approach is not the answer to every problem and doesn’t fit every context – for some schools, it would be a mistake. Informed challenge is very different, however, from the titular ‘doom-sayers’ – those who are looking to undermine rather than question, whose starting point is the negative ‘This will never work’ rather than constructively asking ‘Is this a useful thing to do and should we be doing it?’


1. Doesn’t this just put more pressure on teachers?

There will be demands on teachers’ time as the project is introduced, however, if you follow all the advice and implement slowly, whilst training staff in manageable portions, the process need not be onerous. And, like any tool, not all things are equal and not all teachers should be expected to use the technology in the same way, at the same time and to the same extent. Some will absolutely love using the technology and some will not; all this means that your students will be offered the broadest possible learning experience. However without training them, you are not allowing teachers to make an informed decision.


2. Won’t the children misbehave?

Do children not misbehave now? Did not the ancient Greek pedagogs complain about this too? If you spend time educating your children, set clear, but fair rules about your expectations, then they will still misbehave, but less so, and those that do, do so knowing that they have broken the rules. There are also things you can do to assist those teachers that feel they need more control in lessons. If you look at previous posts on MDM, you will get a good idea of the possibilities. Nothing works better than being confident in your classroom management – if you insist on ‘screen down’ time, walk around the room, be clear that you may inspect any device at any time, then you will rule out the majority of issues.


3. How will you stop the children from accessing inappropriate material?

There are three factors in succeeding here – filtering at school, filtering at home and communication with students and parents. So, in a nutshell, the school’s filter should protect them as it already does on the wired network, parents need to be told how and why they should consider implementing a parental filter at home, but also some good, clear ground-rules about when and where the internet is accessed. Finally, you need to communicate with your students about how they are using the internet and giving them the information they need to make the right decisions.


4. Won’t they just spend all of their time playing games?

Maybe, but if they do, it is because there weren’t clear ground-rules in place and because nobody is giving them the right tasks to do. There will undoubtedly be a period of excitement where your students download a lot of games (if you allow it, which I believe you should, so that they feel personally invested in the device) and want to play them all the time. However, as with all things, novelty wears off and more importantly, if the opportunities aren’t there, then it won’t happen. Children and adults play games on computers; this is not something new and is not something that will change (and nor is it something inherently bad!). As already mentioned, if you’re clear about when and where this happens (and this is something else to pass on to parents), then the problem will resolve itself.


5. They’ll get mugged for them on the way home. You’re putting children in danger

Leaving aside the fact that this phenomenon, if it exists, has yet to be reported by any of the 1-to-1 schools I’ve have been to (and I’ve been to a lot), most children already have an expensive, miniature and much more portable computer in their pockets in the form of a smart phone. Is mugging for pupils’ mobiles a significant issue currently? Do your children already use common sense behaviours (knowing who’s around them, not crossing the road while texting) to keep themselves safe on the way home? Street crime is certainly an issue in our inner cities – but it’s nothing new and won’t suddenly spring from nowhere at the inception of a school 1-to-1 project.


6. OK, well won’t they sell them on eBay then?

Why would they do this? If you’re using the devices in such a way that it engages them, that makes the use meaningful to their learning, then this wouldn’t even enter their heads. Students from deprived areas have been shown to value the device and students in more affluent environments are used to handling technology that has a significant value, but children are not stupid and they know that this device, however it is given to them (whether through a school lease or parental contributions) is something that is associated with their learning and that someone has gone to significant expense to provide for them, and ultimately they will respect this. Make good educational use of it, and they’ll value it. If they value it, they’ll look after it.


7. They need Microsoft Word and that doesn’t work on an iPad does it?

Well, firstly they don’t and secondly, it does! Microsoft recently made Office available for iPad and the good news is that many schools already have licensing in place that would cover students having access to this and the incredible amount of cloud storage on offer. However, even if this were not true, the iWorks suite is a more than adequate replacement and it can cope with both opening Word documents, and saving documents as Word files as well. Failing this, Google Apps for Education offers similar levels of compatibility and the option to import and export in Word format (as well as Excel and PowerPoint). All in all, of all the complaints and obstructions that can be put up, this is a common one, but a completely unnecessary one.


8. But they don’t work with Flash! They need Flash for, erm, all sorts of stuff! Not just games! Real stuff!

Yes, not many things from the late 90s work on current devices. HTML5 is now the standard for modern browsers and can handle all the animation and interactivity that Flash (a proprietary software in its own right) has previously been used for. The people have spoken – Flash has been led out into the back yard and quietly buried in an unmarked grave.


There are many more such examples of questions designed to spread doubt and worry rather than help schools make well-judged decisions about 1-to-1 projects. I’d be happy to suggest sensible rebuttals, if you would like to post them as comments.


Image credit


Link to Educate 1-to-1 book


  1. “Nobody is giving them the right tasks to do”. This throw away comment makes it all sound so simply, but this is the crux of the matter and where are these right tasks, and who is designing them? And aren’t they just things that could more easily be done on paper?

    • Absolutely – if paper is the more effective technology, that’s the one that should be used! Developing a culture where technology is only used where it deepens, accelerates or makes the previously impossible possible is a massive challenge. Lots of 1-to-1 schools fall at this hurdle.

      It’s not a ‘throw away’ comment – this post is about debunking myths, not explaining how to solve the things that you rightly identify as the real challenges around 1-to-1.

    • I think Tim asks a good question – it is what my other comment on your blog at http://www.educate1to1.org/mobile-learning-questions-for-schools-ipads/#comment-827 is all about.

      I think the answer is that it is easier to design activities on paper, harder to design acivities from scratch digitally, but that good digital activities have many advantages – particularly the ability to automate feedback and sequencing, which are hugely labour intensive. Not all feedback can be automated but quite a lot is mechanical and can. Digital activities can automatically harvest outcome data, allowing for better management of progression and supporting better quality research. Good quality, digitally-mediated activities will be easier to replicate.

      The general drift of other businesses is to move away from low-input-low-output methodologies to high-input-high-output methodologies. Spent more time creating something really good, then get more out of the tools you have created. Teaching, at the moment, is incredibly primitive in the way it organises its business processes, which is why, I suggest, teachers come under such a lot of stress to deliver results.

      So digital activities rely on a model which centralises the work of production. What we need is “activity provider” software, that then allows teachers to create contextualised activity instances. So in history, the “activity provider” might be a timeline editor, in Science, a simulated laboratory bench, in languages, a conversational engine supporting speech recognition. Then teachers and academic courseware authors can create and adapt custom instantiations of these activities, all of which support plug-and-play integration with learning management tools.

      The same pedagogical pattern can then be supported by the digital activity as by the paper activity – but the former will deliver that pedagogical pattern much more consistently, and effectively than the latter.


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