One tablet per student or per group in the tutor-web context, or the sibling problem.

The "sibling problem"

The Maseno workshop on "Education in a suitcase" dealt with the tutor-web and Smileycoin with an emphasis on the use of tablets and a laptop server for use in low-income areas.

Near the end of the first Maseno day's session several participants expressed a desire to see this type of device in the hands of their younger siblings, ones who are currently in high school or even primary school. This led to a more general discussion of whether and when a tablet should be in the hand of only one student vs be used by many. The one-computer-per-child movement had a clear goal and many of us would like to see that, but as usual there are many valid points of view.

Group work

The work of AMI frequently consists of visits to groups of students and resources are simply limited. In these cases one can quote the work of Sugata Mitra who, like many others before him, has found that students working in groups can do amazing things -- and much more than could ever be expected of a single student. In the case of math camps one may simply want students to work in groups and therefore not want students to each have a different computer.

Enter the tutor-web

On the other hand, suppose we want to give a Kenyan student entering high school a boost to last throughout the next 4 years. One way to do this would be to present the student with a tablet computer along with instruction on how to use the tutor-web.

Recall that the most important aspect of the tutor-web is its drilling system. A student logs into a server and requests a drill set, which gets downloaded into a device where the student can work and occasionally sync with the server, potentially giving the instructor a status report. A single request can in principle download enough material for several weeks or months but most student will want to check in more often.

To get the most out of this system, it is important that the tutor-web student use the system on a regular basis, at least several times during a semester and ideally every week. In this case that particular students needs access to that particular tablet for several years, not just during an occasional math camp. So in the context of the tutor-web student the ideal situation is probably for each student to have a permanent tablet.

The sibling issue

But; there is always a but: It is very likely that a student in a low-income area would like to lend the tablet to a younger sibling. Of course this can be done but instructors and students need to be aware how to do this safely, i.e. without compromising the grade of the student. The "correct" way to do this is to formally close the session by first syncing the tablet and then pressing "Clear all data and log out". After this has been done the younger sibling can set up a new account, log in and go from there without affecting the tablet owner.

So here we have a case where it is certainly optimal for each student to have her/his personal tablet but there are also options for sharing, particularly within a close group.