My 4 to 1 beats your 1 to 1 everytime.

#edtech #edchat  When educators get together to talk about what makes a good ratio of students to computers, the big talk is always about 1 to 1, or in other words; one computer for every student. So much so, that any other ratio that might be mentioned is immediately shot down. “It’s one to one or bust!” they say.

Hold on cowboy, perhaps there is better ratio than one to one…

Okay, now that you have decided that I am evil for even suggesting this, please read on to see the method to my madness.

The ratio that I have come to use and get success with is… drum roll please… four to one. Which is to say; four computers for every student – just kidding! I am talking about four students to every computer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of every student having their own computer just as much as the next technogeek/teacher, but four to one is like a stepping stone ratio to get us to the future of one to one that we want so bad.

Let’s take a look at a few different pieces of school technology used with the four to one ratio:

USB Microscopes: (8 Digital Blue USB Microscopes $800)

Digital microscopes are great, you plug one of these suckers into a laptop and you can do so much cooler things compared to just a regular lab microscope. For example, since the image is on a computer screen, your team of four can now share ideas and talk about what they are seeing together. You can even take still shots and video, and then send them to the teacher.

Flip Video Cameras: (8 Flip Ultra Video Cameras $1200)

You get a team of four students and a Flip video camera with an assignment to do a video about how cells divide. With four students you have enough actors so that everyone has an important role.

Digital Cameras: (8 Digital Cameras $1200)

One digital camera per team allows for communication and collaboration. If you just gave 30 students 30 cameras you wouldn’t get much collaboration. Instead, students should work as a team, taking turns taking photos of each other as they reenact a scene from Romeo and Juliet, for example.

Microphones: (8 USB Microphones $80)

My students love to make podcasts, so the same four to one ratio applies to microphones. Each team gets a microphone and computer, then they make there podcasts. Some students are the voices, while others operate the computer and edit the sound effects. Just imagine a classroom with 30 students and 30 microphones all trying to record at the same time – it just doesn’t work.

Computers: (8 HP Mini Netbooks $2400)

Ahh, computers. Now we move on the controversial one. I agree that one computer for every student is a great idea. But like the examples above, four to one can also work. Students can take turns and work as a team. I don’t want to see a classroom with 30 computers and 30 students plugged in with headphones on. Although, there is a time and a place for that – like when they learn keyboarding. But for the most part, I love it when students learn to share and work together.

If “communication and collaboration” are 21st Century Skills that we want our students to have, then one to one is not the answer. Four to one is. So let’s put down our picket signs and start to think about how we can do more with less, because sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can.