I partner with organizations in helping to understand the changing nature of learning by working together in long-term, embedded professional development that prepares us all for our future, not our past.

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Last weekend I gave a TEDx Talk at the TEDxKrungthep conference here in Thailand. The YouTube video should be out next week and I’ll post it here so you can all rip it apart and tell me how off the mark I am. 🙂

As I was preparing for the talk somewhere over Vietnam about 34,000 feet in the air, I started thinking about Marc Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants paper, and how it helps to define different generations. We do this as humans, define generations by the things around them. My generation for some reason got labeled Generation X. Based on social events happening before we were born.

If we think of Digitla Natives and Digital Immigrants as generations I think it makes more sense.

Digital Immigrant Generation: Born before 1977

Digital Natives Generation: Born After 1977

Technology GenerationsThat is the date that Prensky uses in his paper based on when the personal computer first came out. I do think my experiences growing up were different than my parents based on this technological revolution that was the PC. Just like my parents growing up with a TV was a technological revolution to their parents that had a radio.

Technology can define generations…I believe…and I do think it’s an interesting way to look at global generations. Why do 30 somethings still play a lot of video games? Because we grew up in a video game era. I had an Atari and the orignall Nintendo. I also grew up with VCRs and at one point had a corded remote (what were they thinking?).

There are technologies that define a generation and I believe there are two other technological advances that have defined two other generations already.

The Web Generation:

The web generation are those born after 1991 who have always grown up with the World Wide Web. This is the generation that has always had and expected access to the Internet. To put this into prespective. Seniors in High School today where born in 1992 meaning that our schools are filled with students who never lived without the Internet. As a 9th grader told me the other day, “Music has always been free and downloadable.” This generation grew up with the web, they rely on the web for communication and have always written more e-mails than letters. TV commercials have always had a web site where you could find out more information. Everything has always been able to be found on a search engine, and Flash has always been a plugin.

The Mobile Generation:

The mobile generation are those born after 2007, or so I’m predicting. The release of the iPhone in 2007 marked the beginning of true mobile computing. Yes we had laptops and even WiFi before this, but since that time mobile computing has sky rocketed. BlackBerries, Android, and iPhones continue to grow in sells and popularity. The iPad, Google Chrome OS, and the future of tablets will all define the way this generation expects to interact with information.

This generation will just grow up in a time where you asked your phone for directions to the store, where you could access the Internet virtually anywhere, and when laptop computers have always out sold desktop computers.

I was talking to our kindergarden teachers (blogs here and here) last weekend who said that their kids are having a hard time using a mouse. That the students would much rather and are more comfortable with a touch pad of some kind. Our 1st grade teachers two years ago were worried that their students woudn’t be able to use the trackpad on a laptop and found out they were completely wrong, the kids took to it like water.

I put this out there because I think it’s important to understand the culture our students have grown up in. Of course this is just one aspect of these generations. They’ve also the generation that has always had Global Warming hanging over their heads, there has always been tension or war in the Middle East, and the Cold War is in history books. I think it’s important to understand the history our students don’t have as much as it is to understand the world they are grown up in know.

I think these seperations of the generations around technology can help us better understand them in that aspect of culture and their life. It seems to make sense to those I have discussed this with so far. What do you think? How do you see these generations?

(Scribefire, my blogging platform finally updated to work with Firefox Beta 4 so now I’m back!)

I had the most incredible experience today. First of all I’m loving working with the high school kids. They just ‘get it’. I don’t have to explain things at a very deep level and we can just fly through the technology stuff and get down to business.

And when I mean fly….I mean…..at the speed of a click.

Today in a 45 minute session with eighteen 9th graders we:

  • Logged into or created a new blog
  • Had a refresher on how to blog and all the blog options
  • Logged into Google Docs for the first time
  • Searched for a Google Doc, made our copy, shared it with the classroom teacher, and linked it to our blog as a page
  • Created an account at goodreads.com, talked quickly about how the site works (Facebook for books) and then connected our goodreads.com account to our blog so that when we write a review of a book on goodreads.com it automatically posts that to our blog as a blog post.
  • Discussed why we want every high school student to have a blog and talked about the “Social You” of Facebook and the “Professional You” of the blog/efolio they are creating here.

Now….even for me that’s a lot of stuff to do, and a lot of clicks to get it all done in. I did two classes of 18 students each in 45 minutes. In fact, I could not have talked or clicked any faster. Not one kid could not keep up, in fact I had two students who followed along, completed everything while still reading a book. Are you kidding me? Follow all those directions, and read a book? Yes…this generation has just grown up clicking!

INSANE!

The best part was in 45 minutes we got the students ready to start tracking their independent reading using all the above mentioned tools (see next post for the layout). Now that they are all set up, we can get down to business of reading, reflecting, and tracking what and how much reading we’re doing.

ISB 1:1 Timeline

Last week our IT Director, Chad Bates, gave a presentation to the ISB School Board outlining the next phase of technology use at ISB. The phase includes a plan to go 1:1 starting next year with grade 6 students.

It’s an exciting time to be at ISB and I for one am looking forward to rolling out the 1:1 program over the next couple years.

As part of his presentation Chad went over the history of technology implementation at ISB over the past 10 years. As I sat there reflecting on how far we’ve come with technology in just the past 10 years, it amazed me how fast we’ve transitioned even if for many of us it doesn’t seem we’re transitioning fast enough.

1999: ISB has two computer labs in each division (ES, MS, HS) with technology teachers that pull kids out of class as a special. A very common practice in 1999.

2001: Under than IT Director Steve Lehmann ISB puts in a campus wide wireless network, and starts replacing computer labs with laptop carts at each division as part of the replacement cycle.

2004: ISB hires a Technology & Learning Coordinator (TLC) to help teachers implement technology in the classroom.

Summer 2005: Bandwidth is increased to 1MB

2005: The TLC from 2004 returns to the classroom and the current team starts to take shape starting with Dennis Harter who is hired to be the TLC for Middle School and High School.

Summer 2006: Bandwidth is increased to 2MB

2006: The Elementary School hires Justin Medved as the TLC and phases out computer labs in the ES and goes exclusively to laptops carts at each grade level. By 2007 ever teacher will be phased into using a laptop instead of a desktop computer in their classroom.

Summer 2007: Bandwidth is increased to 5MB

2007: One of the elementary librarians moves to take another international job and the Elementary School takes the opportunity to rethink the overlap of technology and libraries and hires Kim Cofino as the 21st Century Literacy Specialist.

Summer 2008: Internet bandwidth is increased to 10MB

2008: Justin Medved moves on to a new adventure and I’m hired as the new Elementary TLC and Chad Bates is hired as the Middle School TLC and for the first time ISB has a dedicated TLC at all three levels.

Summer 2009: The wireless infrastructure is upgraded to N protacol an a 10GB Fiber Optic Backbone is put in place and bandwidth is increased to 20MB.

2009: Chad Bates moves into the IT Director role as Steve Lehmann leaves for a new adventure and Kim Cofino moves into a 50% Middle School TLC position 50% 21st Century Literacy Specialist position.

Fall 2010: Launch phase one of 1:1 program in 6th grade. Dennis Harter moves to the High School office as Dean of Students (VP). Kim Cofino starts a new adventure in Japan at YIS. I move into the High School TLC role vacated by Dennis, and a new (soon to be announced) person is hired to take Kim’s spot as the Middle School TLC. Chrissy Hellyer moves from 5th Grade to the Elementary TLC role that I vacated.

Still with me? And Yes…this is a typical International School setting.

That’s a brief history of the progression of our school. We now have approximately 970 student computers for a school population of about 1700 students, or about one computer for every two students. Starting from 2007 the school has also provided SmartBoards, Document Cameras, and Sound Systems in every classroom.

We are now in a place that 1:1 makes sense for our school. We have teachers who want to use the laptops but can’t because the carts are signed out to another teacher. We have students who want to work on video and other projects outside of school, but can’t do to common software or platform issues. In other words…we’ve built a system that makes taking that next step to 1:1 just a logical one. Teachers want more access, students want more access, and it’s our job to figure out how to make that happen.

We have taken the time to grow the need for laptops organically. The push to go 1:1 is not coming from the admin, it’s coming from teachers and parents. During Chad’s presentation to the School Board, the questions they asked were more around why only 1 grade level? Or how do we make sure other students benefit as well? The idea of going 1:1 wasn’t shocking, because it’s the logical next step.

Exciting times ahead here at ISB. If my blog posts start to focus more on going 1:1 you now know why. 😉

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

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

In just a few hours I’ll be heading to the airport to start my 13 hour trip to Brussels, Belgium. For the rest of the week. I’ll be working specifically with the elementary teachers and having conversations about literacy today, and the use of laptops with elementary students. I’m excited to visit ISB-Brussels and have conversations with the educators there. Of course there is also the marking of my 33 country visited which puts me only one behind The Thinking Chick. 🙂

Reading their website about Preparing Students Today for the World of Tomorrow I’m excited to have conversations that revolve around these questions:

How do you prepare students for a world beyond school that never ceases to change and reinvent itself?  Furthermore, how can you tailor this experience to individual learners, whilst allowing them to be independent in their progression but also successful and competitive in a technology-centred world outside ISB?  The answer, we believe, is our Teaching and Learning with Technology project.

 
I’m sure I’ll have more to talk about once I get there…but first 13 hours of flight time.

(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.

OK….I admit it. I am an information hippie. I believe that information should be free and accessible to all. I believe that filters are over rated, do not protect our kids, and that education is the only way to teach responsible use of this amazing machine we call the World Wide Web.

Man….do I feel better!

As schools continue to roll out 1:1 laptop programs the same conversations keep coming up.

How much control does a school put on student and teacher computers?

Now….I’ve been in education long enough to know that there are all sorts of things people are scared of…most of all….we’re scared of the kids.

We’re scared they know more.

We’re scared they don’t know enough.

We’re scared they’ll do things we don’t want them to.

We’re scared they’ll hurt themselves.

We’re scared they will fail.

We’re scared they will succeed.

I do wish students were mature enough that we could just hand them computers and let them go at it…in fact, I do believe that…and that is exactly what I would do!

Rules:

1. If you break it, you buy it.

2. If you lose it, you buy it.

3. If you crash it, I’ll try 10 minutes to fix it then it gets re-imaged.

4. The only way anyone ever learns to back-up is to lose everything, so back-up!

5. Don’t steal.

If I had a laptop school those would be my rules. No, students would not have access to school servers, everything would be done via the web. Therefore, you do not need to worry about viruses infecting the school’s system….from their computers anyway.

Every student and teacher would have admin rights! Why not? The only way you can really learn and experiment with a computer is when you have them…and trust me if you try to block them…they’ll find away around it anyway.

“I don’t want to play policeman!”

And the students honestly don’t want to have to hack their machines to put their stuff on them.

“But all the illegal software”

I think this is more of an issue here in Asia than anywhere else in the world…but really…you can tell them they can’t put illegal software on (see Rule #5) and they will. If it crashes their machine…see rule #3. But conversations….conversations about copyright and learning right from wrong is the only way to stop it.

The only true 1:1 program includes student ownership

They need to feel the machine is theirs, why not try to find a way for students to own the machines? Heck, after 4 years you’re not going to want them back anyway. Or find some way to sell them to kids after 4 years at a really cheap price. What you really need is students to feel as though they own the machines. I’ve seen 1:1 programs where the schools have locked down the machines so tight that students go and buy their own machine to bring to school. Ownership means something!

A 1:1 program where the computers stay at school will not work.

A 1:1 program where teachers are not allowed to download and learn will be frustrating.

A 1:1 program where all stakeholders feel locked down will become negative.

A 1:1 program will fail if freedom is not allowed.

I’m an Information Hippie! (my mom would be so proud!)

It’s my job you see. My job is to fight for access, I do it every day. The IT Manager…his job is to make sure that things are secure and running, and my job is to make sure education of students is not being disrupted due to the IT Managers job. Yes…it’s a love, hate, give and take relationship. One that is crucial to every school. I make my case, he makes his…and at the end we come to an agreement based on data and common sense.

We talk about information flattening our world.

We talk about a changing landscape in which knowledge is created at hyperspeeds.

We talk about information and creativity being everywhere and accessible to anyone.

Our schools need to be that….and the only way they can is if users have access to that super highway.

Is my plan fool proof? Nope!

Will people crash their machines? Yep!

Does it allow students and educators to be creative? Yes!

Does it allow teachers and students to experiment? Yes!

Does it foster a learning atmosphere of excitement and possibility? Absolutely!

Then let go….let go of the reigns of control and just see what happens.

I always hated the teacher saying: “Start off hard on them, you can always loosen up.”

Why not “Start off soft on them, you can always harden up”

Will they complain? Yep…but they do anyway.

On the Web we’re all just nodes….let us go, let us explore, don’t hold us back, let us learn the only way in which true learning happens…by making mistakes.

Ah yes….the Information Hippie syndrome….I like it in my perfect world!

As the graduate course I teach for Plymouth State University starts up again I’m reminded of the fact that at some point it’s about the tool.

Sure I understand that it’s really about the learning, but it is also about the technology. It’s about all the “How To” videos on YouTube. It’s about the team at CommonCraft making a living out of the “How To” part of technology.

And at the end of the day, 90% of the PD I offer here at my school is how to do different things with technology.