Rethinking 1:1

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn – Alvin Toffle

As my last blog indicated I spent an amazing 3 days in a technology workshop facilitated by Angela Maiers. I still have so many thoughts bouncing around in my brain! Angela had announced on the first day that she hoped we’d have at least one moment where we were in complete AWE of something shared. I can honestly say, I had many of those moments!

She asked us to reevaluate our understanding of literacy. In today’s world, we must think about what it means to be literate in a different light. Information, contributions and connections are being made around the world every second. There are numerous mediums introduced daily, that change the form and the way in which information is processed and shared.

I’ve been pondering a distributing piece of information. (Probably a moment of shock rather than AWE.)  Angela shared (and I hope I have the information correct) the following:

  • Nearly all 5 year olds have the traits of a 21st Century Learner
  • By the time they are in 2nd grade they have lost 75% of the traits
  • By the time they are in 4th grade they have lost 90% of the traits
  • By the time they are in HS they only have a trace of the traits of a 21st Century Learner

How sad! Many questions fill my mind. Is this really happening? Why is this happening? How can we avoid this from happening? What part can I, and all other educators, play in reversing these statistics?

Many friends have shared that their children or grandchildren are using tools, such at the iPad or other forms of technology, at very young ages. These children are growing up right in the middle of the digital age, and if the information above is correct, they already possess the traits of a 21st Century Learner.

Others are showing us through YouTube how very young children are learning how to use technology. I certainly hope they don’t lose this amazing ability!

Many schools are introducing 1:1 initiatives. Schools are definitely on the right path (in my opinion) when starting a 1:1 in High School and Middle School. If we truly believe that we are here to prepare students for their futures, we must set our sights on these students. We owe it to them. They are the next set of students entering their future.

I do not discredit these 1:1 initiatives what-so-ever, but I do wonder what would happen if we also focused our efforts on immersing children in technology at a very young age.

What would happen if children at the kindergarten level simply became digitally literate right from the start? What might a 1:1 kindergarten look and sound like?  Could we possibly create environments where these students would not lose the traits of a 21st century learner as they progressed through their educational landscapes? Digital literacy would not be a new language. It will just be a way of life.

I know of many primary teachers that are taking on this challenge. In some cases it is based on individual teachers’ passions for integrating technology and for others it is a school-wide approach. While I will never discredit the desires of the passionate, innovative teachers – we cannot forget that when technology is integrated in pockets, based on teachers who have a dream, we may be leaving some student’s behind. We owe it to all of our students to accelerate our own learning in this area as it will have a great impact on their lives. I commend the schools districts around the world that are investing their time and energies into integrating technology. A new site launched this week provides insight into “Iowa’s Future.” The doors of possibilities and opportunities are opening wide!

As a former elementary teacher for 18 years, I’m always interested in elementary approaches in education. Last Friday I had the opportunity to observe a 1:1 environment at the 5th Grade Level in the Sioux Central Community School District. The district currently has a 1:1 initiative for every student in grades 4 – 12. Observing 5th graders immersed in a digital setting was fascinating! Their comfort with integrating technology was very apparent. They were contributing to the world around them. Check out Mrs. Huebner’s class blog! One integration involved writing about courage and how it related to their lives and ties to a recent curricular study. Some used StoryJumper as the means for communication others used a variety of other Web 2.0 tools.  They took so much pride in their creations and it was evident that high levels of learning were taking place! This provided me a glimpse of the possibilities at the elementary school level! These students are becoming digitally literate at a young age. The experiences gain now will advance through their schooling.

I’d like to thank Marla Huebner, Erin Olson, and Stacy Brown for introducing me to Sioux Central’s 1:1 approaches. I’d also like to thank Daniel Frazier for the opportunity to visit Sioux Central. The day took an unexpected twist and I was also able to observe Troy Thams (5th Grade Teacher) and former 4th grade student of mine! (A very proud moment, indeed!)

Photo credits:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by katypearce

cc licensed flickr photo by johey24


  • Aviva (@grade1) 3 Feb

    This is another great post, Kathy! I definitely believe in integrating technology into the classroom and at a young age too. Building capacity is so important as well. Even though I may use more technology in my classroom than some other primary school teachers use in theirs, I’ve also tried to support other teachers as they try to use more. I also really believe than expectations need to come first, and we should look at tools that we can use to help engage students as we teach these expectations. I’m definitely learning so much from people like you as I continue to learn and grow.


  • Walter 7 Feb

    While I’m not against technology or 1:1 initiatives, I have to wonder whether it is the computer that makes the difference or the manner in which we teach. If we use new tools to teach the same way, we’re still going to have kids losing interest. It’s a matter or engagement and handing a child a computer in and of itself won’t cause that to happen. Good teaching can and does. It can certainly be enabled by technology but the technology itself is not the key.

    • Kathy Perret 7 Feb

      I agree, Walter – good teaching is definitely the KEY! This can be accomplished with or without technology! Thank you for bringing that to the forefront of these ideas!


  • Joshua Parker 21 Feb

    Same here; I am not opposed to technology, and more specifically, technology in the classroom. I remember when I was introduced to technology when I started school at a young age, but those were different times and different teaching methods. Nevertheless, I am a bit concerned about how we use technology in the classroom. We must always let technology be an aide in teaching and not a crutch.

  • Bev Byrd 21 Feb

    Technology is not a crutch but a tool – of course. Teachers, parents and students need to keep that balance. Technology is used to analyze, synthesize, create, show and communicate. People are 1:1. Not using those tools is doing a disservice to students. I love Alvin Toffle’s quote and have used it often. He is 83!! Technology’s speed of change is CRAZY. But if we are indeed life long learners we can and will – learn, unlearn and relearn. But ohh… that word “Change”. I am not going to lie, I am not always embracing it either.

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