The biggest challenge when implementing 1:1 (one tablet p.c. to one learner) is to ensure that integration is applied on a large scale and there are no teachers or students lagging behind. This is the worst fear of any DOS and innovator, i.e. the widening of the digital gap between those who embrace technology (students and teachers) and those who are either digitally illiterate or are apprehensive when it comes to using technology in their every day educational routine.
No matter how extensive and well designed training maybe, there comes a time when the educator and learner have to deal with difficulties on their own. There comes a time when they have to "sail" without the trainer's support and it is then that stress and pressure mount. It is then that the feeling of frustration may come when high expectations can be shattered by a minor problem that usually arises at the most inconvenient moment: a powerpoint presentation that refuses stubbornly to appear on the IWB through the projector, an interactive coursebook that will not open, no matter what, a file that seems to have vanished into thin air with the student's notes and homework.
Steam accumulates as you feel that your reputation is tarnished and your hard work seems to go down the drain. Training seems a distant, unrealistic session and no helping hand seems to be around. A losing game?
At that critical moment - shortly before denouncing irrevocably technology- peer support can save the game. Based on my experience at Doukas school the following tips can absorb minor or major aftershocks, instill confidence and ensure a smooth continuity in terms of learning technology use in class.
Staff room support
Encourage teachers to share experience and exchange ideas. Being open about what works and what doesn't, benefits the whole team and helps make more focused decisions in the near future when it comes to deciding on the syllabus, activities, software and hardware. I have often asked for and given help with the nitty gritty stuff of interactive coursebooks, newly acquired hardware or small adversities that need to be overcome. Teamwork and peer support have saved us precious time and effort. It has also prevented us from calling and distracting the ICT dept constantly for trivial issues.
Even though the term "digital native" is often used to describe the ease with which younger generations can handle hardware and software and how -impressively- fast they can adapt to new technology, it is risky to assume that all students feel comfortable and confident to use it. The following have helped and added extra value to the training my learners had received from their IT teachers, who did an excellent job.
Peer to peer support
Encourage pairwork or groupwork (preferably computer wiz kids with newbies). It saves time and promotes team work and solidarity. It also takes away the panicky feeling that "the class is advancing and I am stuck with a device I cannot handle".
Promote the notion of sharing the computer when something goes wrong with their partner's device. It keeps the lesson running smoothly and gives students the opportunity to observe and realize what they might be doing wrong.
Appoint students as your assistants in class. Being in charge of the IWB or helping other learners deal with technical issues gives them a sense of responsibility and acknowledgement in a field that most kids feel confident even if their cognitive skills are not so well developed.
Peer support can play a major role in maintaining interest in learning technologies and actively encourage the step from use to exploitation of technology to the benefit of the learners.