Rework, Retrain, Rethink…

"Drop a laptop computer into the hands of a child in a remote Chinese village," writes Grace Rubenstein in this Edutopia article, "and Nicholas Negroponte predicts a cascade of results will unfold: The child will encounter new knowledge and ways to express herself through images, words, and sounds.

She may help her parents find markets for their products in other cities via cheap satellite Internet — or even develop a business plan herself. One family’s growing prosperity will lift the village’s fortunes and expand opportunities for their neighbors."

I know that most American teachers would tell you point blank that they don’t have access to enough technology in their classrooms, but I wonder what would happen if we drop a laptop computer into the hands of every student in our hometown schools. 

Would we experience an educational revolution where children learned to create their own knowledge and make connections between classmates across continents?  Would individualized learning take root, seeing students explore topics of deeply personal interest—joining together at times with learning partners studying similar topics and drifting apart at times, challenging their own preconceived notions about content in self-directed studies?

Would new discoveries be made by curious kids who were "unleashed" for the first time, free to explore?

Or would classrooms remain teacher-paced and highly directed, with students exploring the same site on the same day at the same time as their peers?  Would we end up with far more Power Point presentations than any one child should ever produce?  Would computer use remain limited–as it so often is–to word processing and basic research?

Do we have a broad understanding at the local, state and national level of the kinds of learning opportunities technology provides for students—and of the importance of preparing children for the 21st Century?  More importantly, do we really have the human capacity and technological know-how in every American classroom to make one-to-one laptop initiatives something more than a giant waste of money? 

If not, do we rework policies, retrain teachers, or rethink our definition of classrooms?