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

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OK….I’ll admit over the past couple of months I’ve been hard on primary teachers on this blog. I have talked about my struggles with using technology with the younger students and how I felt we should be limiting their screen time to really good uses of technology. Uses that don’t include iPads as flashcard and game replacement devices. 

cover page monkey cat
cover of Monkey and cat

What I was struggling with was finding a project that I felt was worth the time away from exploring, running around, building, and imagining things in favor of sitting with a digital device. I still struggle with this actually. If all that iPads and technology can be used for in the younger years is games, flashcard replacement, and a handful of other replacement type tasks then I’m not sure we’re getting the bang for our buck with technology. I want it to do more, I want it to redefine the classroom and that’s hard when I believe kids should be spending time playing together, interacting, and imagining. Also knowing that outside of school many of them are getting plenty of screen time at home. So what I really am looking for is a project where I can say…that is a good use of technology with Kindergardeners. 

And I found it….

Ben Sheridan is a recently graduate of the COETAIL program. For his final project he talked about the way he was using technology to connect his students to other Kindergarten classrooms. His class has a blog, they tweet, they Skype, they use the SmartBoard…and the best part is they think this is all just normal Kindergarden stuff. 

Out of these connections came an opportunity when Ben connected his class with Zoe Page’s class, a Kindergarten teacher in Japan and current COETAILer. Their students set up a Skype call and introduced themselves to each other. They then decided that they wanted to write a book together for the iPad. 

That book can now be downloaded free in the iBook Store here

Ben outlines the project and how they completed it in a series of blog posts on his blog. If you are an early childhood/primary teacher Ben and Zoe are two blogs worth following. 

These are the kind of projects that get me excited about using technology with younger kids. Let’s stop arguing over how many iPads a class needs, or what device is right for the primary grades and lets find ways to create classrooms that connect students to each other and show them the true power of this technology. The power isn’t in the device, it’s in the connections that it can create that lead to learning.

I received a tweet a couple days ago asking why I still believed laptops, in this case MacBooks, are the right choice for middle school and high school students.

Now before I begin, let me state that I firmly believe a 1:1 (one computer per student) program no matter what the connected device (device connected to the Internet) is better than no 1:1 program at all. If a school can only afford an iPad for ever student then that’s the best choice.

However, many schools, especially here internationally and private schools in the states, have the option to buy either an iPad or a MacBook and for them I am recommending MacBooks for Middle School and High School 1:1 programs.

Consumption vs Creation

iPadkid
by umpcportal.com

At the end of the day the iPad is designed for the consumption of information. This is not the shift I’m looking for in education. Yes…you can create some things on the iPad but it doesn’t take long to max out the iPad’s creative potential. I am not talking creating music, or taking a video. I’m talking the mashup of videos from different sources, the creation of music from different sources as well as the programs and apps I want students to be creating today.

Apple sees the iPad as a consumption device, and it does a really really good job of it, giving the consumer a beautiful interface to consume through. Apple’s latest announcement where they unveiled iBook Author I think just makes this point stronger. You create the textbook, or any book for that matter, on the computer and you consume the information on the iPad. As much as I want digital textbooks, what I really want is students to create their own books.

For middle school and high school students I want them creating sophisticated projects, I want them collaborating, like I’m doing today on a Google Doc using the built in chat feature. I want them making apps, videos, and music…not the kind that get a couple views, but the kind that go viral.

If you want to plan for the future

macschool
by torres21

Now if you really want to plan for the future, and by that I mean the next two years, then students should have both an iPad and a MacBook. I know one school who is looking at this option and I believe that’s the future.The iPad and tablets will are changing the way we consume information no doubt about it. We need to be preparing students to consume information that is digital, updated, and constantly changing.

We also want need creators and that’s where I love to focus my time. We do a really good job in schools have kids consume information, we don’t do a very good job of having them create new information out of what they are learning.

My Perfect School

I’ve been asked on several occasions what my perfect school looks like. Today as it stands in January 2012 this would be my perfect school.

PreK – 1st Grade: 1 iPad for every two students: iPads stay at school owned and managed by the school.

2 – 3rd Grade: 1:1 iPad program: Each student has their own iPad and iPads primarily stay at school and can be checked out by the parents to take home if need/wanted.

4th Grade: 1:1 iPad and 1:1 Laptop: The iPads are allowed to be taken home and are tied to a guardians account. The school purchases a set of “standard apps” anything above that is up to the parents. The laptops stay at school and can be checked out by the parents to take home if need/wanted.

5th Grade: 1:1 iPad and 1:1 Laptop: Same as 4th grade however the students at some point during the year gain the responsibility of taking both the iPad and the Laptop home. 5th Grade is a great time to do this because:

  • In 5th grade students still only have one classroom teacher. This sense of classroom community is a great place to talk about responsibility and practice it.
  • A good time to practice taking care of your devices before hitting middle school where students have 4 to 6 different classes in 4 to 6 different classrooms with 4 to 6 different teachers.
  • Allow students to learn to organize their digital lives so they are not trying to figure this out at the same time they are learning a new “schooling” system of lockers, freedom and multiple classes.

6 -12th Grade: 1:1 iPad and 1:1 Laptop: Both devices become the sole responsibility of the student. The school loads a “standard” set of software on all devices and the students/parents are responsible for managing the rest.

Of course there are a lot of things “schooling” that would need to change too and trying to bring this into a school that already is established and has a history would be messy…very messy, which is why most administrators won’t attempt it.

But if I was starting a new school today….this would be the given and every parents would know from day one what we’ll be using and here’s what we would expect from the students and from the parents as their responsibility for learning.

(My first post from my new iPad2. I start the WordPress app and it asks if it can use my location…sure….now where is it going to say that this was written? 32,000 feet over the south china sea…cause that would be kind of cool!)

The last couple of weeks have been just a whirlwind and I have about two weeks to go before life slows down again. I’ve talked before about finding balance and right now I’m way out of balance. To much work and not enough down time isn’t good for anyone.

The explosion of the COETAIL program is mostly to blame (along with my inability to say No). I’m excited to see so many teachers excited and changing their classroom practices because of this program. Just when I think the stress of reading some 200 blog posts isn’t worth it I go in and observe a 5th grade teacher using a chat-room to enhance the face to face discussion in the classroom. A fantastic lesson where the lesson and the tool were well matched and created an engaging learning opportunity for both teacher and students.

20110423-011041.jpgI also decided this year that all this wasn’t enough and was the assistant coach to our boys softball team. Part of the reason….other than I love this sport no matter the size of the ball….was to force myself to spend time off the computer. That worked until I found an app that allowed me to not only score our games but to scout the competition at the same time. Next thing I know my two loves (other than my wife) are combined. A big thank you to EARCOS who bought me an iPad2 for my contributions to the Learning 2.0 conferences the past four years…the timing of the scoring app, softball and my iPad arriving made for a great week of softball in Jakarta at our tournament.

There is a lot I’ve been thinking about lately and hopefully in a couple weeks after I find some balance again I’ll be in the right mind to get my thoughts out here. But for now this will have to do for my first blog post from the iPad as the landing gear just went down as we make our decent into Taipei for another great day of learning here with teachers from Taipei American School in the COETAIL cohort.

I find myself sitting here in Kota Kinabaul, Malaysisa reflecting on what has been a 5 country, I don’t know how many presentation, month. From Bahrain to Iowa with Asia and Australia in between, it’s been an amazing month of travel and I find myself thinking and reflecting on all I’ve been talking about and learning along the way.

So here’s my brain dump of themes that keep emerging for me:

The future is mobile

Whether in the heartland of America, or the deserts of the Middle East and Africa, moble phones are the future of connectivity. We’re also seeing this with Apple’s iPad and the ability to connect to a 3G connection. My guess….every mobile device in 3 years will have the built in ability to connect via a celluar network. We’re already doing this, but it will just become part of the hardware of every mobile device. What this will do to/for places like Africa and a large part of the developing word I can only imagine…….but it excites me.

Society expects us to be connected

I’ve been preaching this everywhere this month as it came out of the TED Talk I did back in September. i think we need to stop making excuses for all of us spending to much time connected and just realize this is now the world we live in. Once we own this fact then we can start having some deep discussions around how do we teach in this new society, how do we communicate, and how do we live in a world that is constantly connected? We continue to have conversations about being “balanced” and I agree that we need to find ways to get off the computer and get reconnected with nature. But balance in the term of 50/50 is not going to happen and it hasn’t been that way for a long time. TVs are in our homes, gaming systems have been around now for 30 years, and we all have a cell phone or soon will. We are now in a time where being connected is the norm and being disconnected is not. We need to make this shift in our thinking. We need to consiously think about disconnecting, taking trips with no connective devices, which goes again societies rules right now and that’s what makes it difficult. A goal of every family should be to take 1 trip a year with no connective device. The only screen that should be allowed is a GPS. Everything else stays at home. I’m not talking just about the kids I’m talking the whole family which is where parents start shaking their heads. They think kids should do this but not them…….and that is not setting the example we need. Disconnecting is good, it’s healthy, and we need to model that.

Standards are past their prime

Here comes the tomatos! This recent post by Clarence Fisher just drives home the point for me. Standards can’t keep up in a constantly changing landscape that no one can predict what the content is students will need in the future. When content is free and open we need to focus on skills, concepts and dispositions. Content based outcomes after 2nd grade are useless and continue to change faster than the curriculum review cycles of our schools. I don’t know how many times in the past 5 years I’ve heard “We’ll fix that in our next curriculum review cycle” meanwhile for 3, 4, or 5 years, depending on your review cycle, we’re teaching stuff we don’t believe in or know is not relavent to students in a digital, always on socieity.

Using my school as an example….I beleive the only outcomes we need for any lesson are these factors that my school has agreed upon:

Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

– Explain its relevance

– Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning

– Communicate it effectively to others

– Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations

– Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning

– Ask questions to extend learning

– Create meaningful solutions

If every lesson, everything we did with kids focused on this, we’d be much better off and we’d return true power of teaching back to teachers.

Socially Connected World

We live in a socailly connected word. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or the next thing that comes along there is no turning back. As social-networks become part of our culture they are affecting the way we do bussiness (foursquare) the way we look for jobs and employees (92% of empolyers now use or plan to use social-networks) and how we communitcate with our friends and relatives. We know that learning is social, we know kids are going to need to understand how to get into college, or get a job being part of a social-network. So let’s start using them rather than continute to make excuses for not. FYI “We MIGHT get sued.” is an excuse.

Conferences Handouts are Changing

I use to use my own wiki for handouts. This year I haven’t had to use it once. Each conference I’ve gone to has had their own wiki, or site to put digital material one….well all except this admin conference I’m at now. But even I’m finding the wiki hard to keep up on, so I’ve moved to just creating a tag or using a tag I already have in Diigo and just giving that as the link to resources. For example, my talk on why we should be teaching students Facebook (read that as social-networking) in schools tomorrow is just using my Diigo tag of Facebook. Easy to update and I can update the list as the presentation is going on. I think this also shows a difference in my presentation style where I’m being much more convesation based and less giving of content. You can view the content when you want/have time. I only have you for 60 minutes and we need to have a discussion on why you aren’t doing these things, or what your fears are.

Social Media Community Manager

In many of the conversations I’ve been having someone also brings up “Who’s job is it to monitor all this stuff? I mean the schools Facebook Page, the Wikipedia entry, the Twitter account, the YouTube account, etc, etc.?

This a great question and my response is, and will be tomorrow to admin here in Asia, that we need a new position in our schools. We need Social Media Community Managers. A quick Google Search brought up some great job discriptions that any school could use to get started. I might write my own for schools when I get a change. This isn’t a new position in the business world, but is a new concept to education. I do think it’s time that we hire people or put someone in charge of managing our online school communities. Someone who has deep knowledge of social-networks and can get the most value out of them for schools.

Well…that’s what has been on my mind this last month…..feel better actually writing it down so I don’t forget. There might be more, but I can feel the jet lag settling in and I’ve gotta talk about Facebook and Twitter tomorrow with administartors……we’re gonna have some fun!

Flickr ID: ArabCrunch
Flickr ID: ArabCrunch

Just as I’m having conversations again around why we should or shouldn’t teach typing in our schools technology has once again moved us into another typing realm. The thumb typing.

I’ve watched more videos than I care to count about the iPad (my thoughts here) and in a recent survey to our students here at ISB revealed that almost 70% of middle school and high school students have either a Blackberry or iPhone. Second hand iPhones are being sold on the cheap at the moment at our school, as high school students trade them in for Blackberries and the unlimited texting between devices available here. But make no mistake the future is in the thumbs.

Records and competition (Wikipedia)

The Guinness Book of World Records has a world record for text message, currently held by Sonja Kristiansen of Norway. Ms. Kristiansen keyed in the official text message, as established by Guinness, in 37.28 seconds.[78]

The message is, “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality, they seldom attack a human.”[79]

In 2005, the record was held by a 24-year-old Scottish man, Craig Crosbie, who completed the same message in 48 seconds, beating the previous time by 19 seconds.[80]

The Book of Alternative Records lists Chris Young of Salem, Oregon as the world record holder for the fastest 160 character text message where the contents of the message are not provided ahead of time. His record of 62.3 seconds was set on May 23, 2007.[81]

Elliot Nicholls of Dunedin, New Zealand currently holds the World Record for the fastest blindfolded text messaging. A record of a 160 letter text in 45 seconds while blindfolded was set on the 17th of November 2007, beating the old record of 1 minute 26 seconds set by an Italian during September 2006.[82]

In January 2010, LG Electronics sponsored an international competition, the LG Mobile World Cup to determine that fastest pair of texters. The winners were a team from South Korea, Ha Mok-min and Bae Yeong-ho [83].

And you thought you were fast at typing.

As touch screen devices seem to be the future, or at least the near future as companies continue to roll out touch and multitouch devices, do we need to rethink typing in our schools? Or do we even teach it at all?

I’ve been reflecting the last couple days on Apple’s new iPad. The product that, before it’s announcement, some had claim would revolutionize education.

If it does…..it will be a shock to me.

apple-creation-0105-rm-engI have nothing against Apple (I’m typing on a MacBook that I love), I just think this piece of hardware is not what we need in education.

I had high hopes for this new piece of technology. Enough to stay up until 3am on a school night to watch the live announcement. Throughout the keynote, I was waiting to be wowed by something new, something different, something that would allow me to produce content in a new way.

But it didn’t come.

Leading up to the keynote I was watching TWIT.TV and their coverage. I don’t remember who said it, but one of the host said something to the effect of:

“It will be interesting to see what they come out with, when you start with the questions ‘How do we allow people to consumer media?'”

It’s a great question and I think the iPad nails that question on the head. If you want a new way to consume information, it’s a great piece of technology that allows you to do that.

We already have ways to consumer information in education. Consuming information has never been our issue. What we need help with is teaching students how to become producers of information and knowledge.

I wrote about this almost two years ago in a post titled “Moving from Consumers to Producers of Information” and have created a presentation that I give by the same name that has been well received.

I have no doubt that the iPad is a great consumer device, but I want my students to be able to produce videos podcasts and blog posts. I want them to be able to edit wikis with full editing features (Safari browser does not support many WYSIWYG Editors….including the one built in Moodle…an online course program used by a lot of schools). I want my students to becoming producers of knowledge not just consumers of it. We already have ways in which we consume information that work….I think…pretty well.

Apple’s own iPad website states:

The best way to experience the web, email, photos, and videos.

That might be so, but what’s the best way to create web pages, emails, photos, and videos. That’s the device I want. That’s the device I want in the hands of my students!