Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey




Over the past couple of days I’ve had one simple question that I can’t get out of my head.

Why do we believe that every teacher having a computer on their desk will benefit teaching and learning, but giving one to students wouldn’t?

It’s a simple question isn’t it? I mean….when I started teaching in 1999 I walked into my 4th grade classroom with a computer sitting on my desk. Not every teacher had one at that time, but the next year, at a new school, every teacher had a laptop. We’re talking the 2000-2001 school year. Every school since has provided me with a computer.

At some point, someone somewhere decided that every teacher having a laptop benefited teaching and learning. That this “tool” no matter how expensive had benefits that out weighed the cost.

And you can’t tell me that there were not conversations before this happened around:

  • Will they use it appropriately?
  • How are we going to make sure they use it?
  • What if they screw around and get off task?
  • What happens if it breaks?
  • How are we going to measure its effect on learning?
  • How are we going to measure its effect on teaching?

and for those of you who were in some of these conversations I’d love to hear the other questions/concerns that were raised. Here’s the best part….10 years later here are the answers to those questions as I see it:

  • Will they use it appropriately? Some will some won’t
  • How are we going to make sure they use it? We won’t, it’s a tool that is there for them to use when they need it to help them do their job.
  • What if they screw around and get off task? They will, it’s a fact, we have teachers updating Twitter and Facebook during the school day, sending personal e-mails, looking up movie times for after school, and booking flights. They screw around on the computer all the time!
  • What happens if it breaks? We’ll keep a couple spares to replace it.
  • How are we going to measure its effect on learning? We won’t but we have a hunch that it does.
  • How are we going to measure its effect on teaching? We won’t but we have a hunch that it does.

10 years later and these are the best answers I can come up with?

We have no data, we have no facts, we just have a hunch that our schools are better when every teacher has access to a computer. Oh, and not a computer in a cart, or one they have to check out every day. No a computer that is customized to them, that allows them to do what they need it to do no matter what they teach.

I mean…why in the world does a PE teacher need a laptop?

Now that's what a teacher's desk should look like! Flickr ID: Corey Leopold
Now that's what a teacher's desk should look like! Flickr ID: Corey Leopold

So that’s it….I’m going to march into the Head of School’s office tomorrow and ask him to please either show me the data that every teacher having a computer leaders to better more in-depth learning, or I’m going to request that he take them all away and that we use that money for something else that we know without a doubt leads to better learning. Then I’m going to unplug his machine and walk out the door with it! We’re going to spend that money on SAT prep-books, Resources for teachers so they can teach the content they are suppose to be teaching instead of updating their Facebook status.

Yep…that’s it….10 years I’ve had my own computer and I have no data that shows that it ever effected true learning in my classroom or schools.

So I’m calling on all you tech people, our time is over, it didn’t work and I’m going to ask you to please start approaching your teachers 1 by 1 and asking for their computers. They can teach without them, they can communicate without them. They were a waste of money, and as someone who has helped to push technology over the past 10 years I apologize, I was wrong….you were right…they have no place in the hands of teachers or students.

My apologies,


Jeff Utecht is not responsible for bodily injury or lost of employment that may occur from above mentioned acts.

One of the rare non-Apple laptops seen in an otherwise cool park full of cool people by Ed Yourdon.Yesterday in our cohort reflecting session at the EARCOS Admin Conference we talked a lot about 1:1 programs. Everyone trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t, where to start, and the questions go on and on.

I do think we can learn from each other as schools continue to strive to use technology at a true learning tool in the classroom. But, I do think we need to remember that especially in the international world….every school is different and every school will have to “Just Do It” at some point.

There are some questions that I think schools can be asking as they move forward. The key, in my opinion is to ask yourself questions that focus on students and student learning.

1. What do we expect students to do?
Don’t start your discussions with PC or Mac start them with what are the ways you see students interacting with the technology. Do you want them creating videos, podcasts, etc? Or are you more concerned with them having access to the Internet and being able to type…..or all of the above.

By taking time as a school to think about what experiences you expect students to have with the technology will lead you to the hardware that is best for your school.

2. What are Teacher expectations?
Have a discussion around how you expect teachers to use the technology in the classroom. Do you expect it to replace textbooks, enhance textbooks, or are you focused on completely new experiences interacting with content in ways that were not possible before every student had a laptop.

Taking time to discuss what as a school you expect from your teachers will help to plan PD sessions and focus on where teachers will be supported.

These are just two questions that I believe will help a school start the discussions around 1:1….but at the end of the day we can discuss, plan, and discuss some more about implementing a 1:1, but at some point you just have to do it!


(Full Disclosure: I believe every high school student should have a laptop)

The New York Times wrote an article on May 4th, 2007 that resurfaced via Twitter last night. Titled Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops, It took me less than four paragraphs to start shaking my head in disbelief at the way this school district went about trying to, should I say, force students and teachers to use laptops and technology.

It’s easy to say that technology is just a tool or that the technology needs to be invisible, but actually making that happen is harder than just saying it.

Scores of the leased laptops break down each month, and every other
morning, when the entire school has study hall, the network inevitably
freezes because of the sheer number of students roaming the Internet
instead of getting help from teachers.

I love this paragraph. So the network goes down therefore more kids should be going to teachers for help right? I mean if they can’t “roam the Internet” in study hall then they should be asking for help right?

Or how about this one:

Many of these districts had sought to prepare their students for a
technology-driven world and close the so-called digital divide between
students who had computers at home and those who did not.

The reason why a school goes 1:1 is to close the digital divide? Not for learning, not for allowing students to take advantage of the wealth of information on the net…but just to close the digital divide?

Like any tool…before you launch it you need to know what you want to do with it. What do you want users to be able to do, what do you expect and do you have a system in place to support it.

 Maybe it’s me but creating a backwards by design model makes it pretty easy to assess just what you need to have in place before you go 1:1.

What do you want students to do?
If our purpose is student learning than all decisions should start by answering this question. What do we expect students to do with their laptops? What kind of experience do we want them to have? What learning do we hope to see/expect from them when the laptops are in use. Starting with what you want students to do with the laptops allows you to create a plan that will support their use.

What do teachers need to know?
Once we know what type of learning we want to see from the students we can then talk about a Professional Development plan that allows teachers to know what they need to know to make that learning a reality. Sure they are going to have to learn some skills, some tools, but more than that they will need support in understanding how the classroom changes with those tools. When every student is sitting at a desk and has the knowledge of the world in front of them, it changes the classroom. How do we support teachers, help teachers, and train teachers to teach facilitate in that environment?

What resources are needed?
After we have nailed down student outcomes and the PD teacher will need you can then look at what resources will need to be purchased and/or put in place to make this a reality. Do you need to upgrade your wireless system? Do you need more digital storage space? Does the school need new or different software? Also, don’t forget about the human resource of support. Who is going to support teachers, train teachers? What systems are going to be put in place to help teachers make the transition?

How do we make it happen?
This comes under the effective administrator part as it is up to them to set the direction of the school and make things happen. Whether it’s money, people, time, etc. How do you make sure the learning and support you have agreed upon as a school is in place to support learning the best it can?

Just do it!
Set a deadline for yourself as a school or organization. Make your plan…focus on student learning and then just do it. As some point you need to stop planning and get moving! If you don’t have a clear purpose of how a laptop changes the learning landscape then you could end up like this:

Yet school officials here and in several other places said laptops had
been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed
little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores at a time
of increased pressure to meet state standards. Districts have dropped
laptop programs after resistance from teachers, logistical and
technical problems, and escalating maintenance costs.

Not a good place to be.

Friday marked the end to the first quarter of the school year at ISB. As my first quarter here comes to a close I’ve started to reflect on the experience so far.

There is a reason why international schools make you sign a two year contract. It takes at least a year to get your feet on the ground, to figure out where you belong in the school, and acclimate to the your new host country.

Personally Thailand is feeling more like home daily. Our stuff has arrived from Shanghai and our apartment is feeling more like home every day. We’re slowly figuring out the language, the customs and just how to live. It takes time to adjust. It takes time to find the right milk brand, the fruit you want, the stores with the best prices, etc.

On the school front I’m feeling a little disjointed at the moment. I feel behind the scenes we’re doing some good stuff.

  • We’ve created a school YouTube account and already have 31 videos uploaded.
  • We’ve bought a Flickr account for ES, MS, and HS. The elementary has already uploaded over 1,000 pictures.
  • We’ve launched PantherNet

PantherNet will be our educational portal when it is complete. When complete the image below depicts what will be in place for teachers and students.

ISB e-learning portal by you.

Moodle is already up and running, Elgg and WordPress MU should be in place before 2nd Semester and the wiki by the end of the year at the lastest. By the end of this year the school should have an e-learning portal in place that if it chooses to go 1:1 will be able to support the use of laptops in and out of school.

Even though the school has the hardware, human resources, and the e-learning space in place. It is still trying to wrap it’s head around this new learning landscape we now find ourselves in. What does learning look like?

We’ve moved past trying to integrate technology, and looking at what learning looks like in 2008 and beyond.

I think ISB is ready for that transition. We have the systems in place, we have the resources in place now we just need to take that leap and change our teaching methods and our learning outcomes to match the skills and ideas that students will need for their future and not our past.

A Study on how laptops hinder learning made the front page of The International Educator newspaper that comes out monthly to overseas educators and schools.

Jason Welker wrote a great article at U Tech Tips about it.

First of all, to call this a “study” of the use of laptops in
schools is inappropriate. A study with a sample size of TWO classes,
yes, but its findings should be understood as applying only two these
two particular classes, which were large lecture-style university
classes. This particular university’s laptop “program” is described as

“Students were told at the beginning of the course that
they could bring their laptops to class to take notes if they wanted
to, but that they would never need their laptops.” (italics added)

Any school thinking of implementing a laptop program should be
careful NOT to emulate this university’s particular approach. What’s
the result when students are encouraged to use laptops, but told they
would “never need them”? Here’s what one professor observed:

“‘You’d sit and watch the students, and wonder, ‘What
are they doing with their laptops?’ You’d walk by other classes and see
everybody playing solitaire. I wanted to know, ‘Is this a problem?,”‘
said Fried, a psychology professor at Winona State.

The laptop users reported in weekly surveys that they did other
things other than take notes for an average of 17 minutes out of each
75-minute class.

Checking e-mail during the lectures was the most common distraction;
81 per cent admitted to this transgression compared to 68 per cent
reporting that they used instant messaging. Forty-three per cent
reported surfing the Internet, while 25 per cent reported playing

It should be no surprise that students spent most of their time with
their laptops surfing the net, chatting and playing games, given that
professors apparently made no attempt to integrate the computers into
their instruction. Obviously this represents a failure not of “laptop
programs” in general, rather of this university’s failure to implement
a program effectively. The university’s failure lies in the simple fact
that professors view the laptop as a fancy tool for taking notes,
rather than what it is: a tool for communication, collaboration, and
innovative research.

Laptop programs do not “hinder learning”, BAD laptop programs hinder
learning. The study discussed in this article focuses on one, very bad laptop program at a university that does not understand the role technology should play in education.

Worth a read!

[tags]laptops, 1:1[/tags]

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Well, we’ve hit the half way point and I think for David the worst of it is over. Tomorrow we have a geek meet in the morning where all the technology teachers get to sit around and talk tech with David…sounds like a podcast opportunity to me. 🙂

We had some good conversation today and David was part of a meeting where the admin rolled out a plan to become a laptop school by 08-09. Our discussion today focused around how do we want to get there. The school is basically looking at two different options. I’ll post them here if anyone wants to give their 2cents worth (been hanging out with David to much) on them.

Option #1
Give every teacher a laptop next year. The admin have just returned from recruiting where they have hired two other positions like mine next year. That’s three full time technology trainers. In this model teachers would be given a laptop and almost every teacher would get an LCD projector. We do not have enough funds to make it a LCD projector and a laptop for everyone…but the worst would be a 1:3 projector to teacher ratio. This would give the teachers a full year of training on using computers in the classroom, of learning how having a personal laptop can and must change the way we teach.

Option #2

Roughly 40% of our teachers would get laptops with the rest of the money going towards what the admin is calling “21st Century Classrooms” (I think they should just be called classrooms…to me this should just be standard equipment). There would be 18 of these classrooms. That’s 3 at each division ES, MS, HS on both campuses. These classrooms would have the following:

A teacher laptop
A ceiling mounted LCD projector
A classroom set of laptops for students

So, here’s the debate. If you are moving to a 1:1 environment which approach is better? Giving every teacher, even those who aren’t ready for one, a laptop and take a year to train your whole staff before bringing students onboard, or create these classrooms to become model classrooms, to show what the admin is expecting of the teachers. Teachers would have to ‘apply’ to receive one of the 21st Century Classrooms knowing that if they get chosen, that they will have a certain amount of PD they must attend and that at the same time they will be held to a higher standard with a new evaluation system that will come with the program.

We took a quick poll during our meeting today and we were split 50-50 on the approach we thought would be most effective to bring about this change and prepare our staff for the 1:1 to follow.

So, I put this out there to you…what plan would you choose? Which one makes more sense to you? Is there something we’re missing?

[tags]sas, 1:1, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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