Int. Education

Preparing for the Next Three Years

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A couple of interesting things over the past 6 months or so that I have been a part of and/or witnessed that I wanted to share and reflect on.

I have been working with a lot of International schools over the past six months. I find it fascinating that in a lot of these schools, I end up having conversations with the administrative team where someone (usually the head of school) will say something along the lines of:

“You have spent a couple of days with us now, how do we compare to other International Schools you have worked with in the region?”

There is this sense that we need to keep up with our neighbors…the idea that we don’t want to get too far behind. I have yet had a head of school ask me.

“Jeff….what do we need to do to be a leader in the region?”

Photo Credit: Kadath via Compfight cc

Please do not get me wrong. I have consulted with schools now from coast to coast in America and in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. International schools are far ahead of their counterparts in the US, and in the International School world, Asia schools are leading the way. Part of it is money, part of it is where Asia is right now in the world and its own pace of change. Part of it is teachers, administrators, parents and students who I think see a change that is coming.

However, I don’t see a lot of schools pushing. Maybe schools that are pushing don’t need my services…which is alright by me. But there are many schools that have in their mission statement to “be a leading school in (Asia, Region, World)” but then they ask if they are keeping up?

So, what should schools who want to fulfill their mission statement be asking/talking about/planning for? Looking at the next three years, I think you’ll see many of these International Schools in Asia going to a “2 to 1” program. Many of them are already 1:1 or in the midst of rolling them out. The conversation has now turned to what comes after 1:1.

I don’t want to name schools here, but let’s just say there are many in the Asia region who have started looking at 3 year technology plans that call for both some sort of tablet device as well as a laptop for MS and HS students. Some schools are picking up the cost for both, other schools are buying the computer while having the student buy the tablet, and yet others are putting it all on the shoulders of parents. The individual school community is what determines how each individual technology plan plays out. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Textbooks are changing and schools are preparing for that change…although personally once you go this route, I think you do away with textbooks pretty much all together. In a 1:1 culture you can, in a 2:1 culture it’s easy.

2. Feedback from students: Personally I can’t find too many students who say they love it when a school turns their textbook into a PDF to use on their computer. Really…this isn’t the “new textbook” this is an old textbook in PDF form. So wrong on many levels.

3. What a tablet offers is a new way to interact with information. Tablets, as I have stated before, are mainly consumption devices. Yes…you can create with them…but they are consumption devices first and foremost and they do an amazing job at it. Once we start creating material that is specific for the interactions that tablets allow we “get it”. Tablets allow us to interact with information in a touch sensitive way, much the same way as books do. I’m reading a book in the Kindle App right now and I get to look words up, highlight, and take notes much the same way I did in old textbooks. But I also get to click on links, rotate objects, watch videos and interact with information that a paper-based textbook (or a PDF version of my old paper-based textbook) just can’t allow. The size and feel of a tablet is…well…made for this type of learning.

I am also happy to report that within these conversation all around the world, Professional Development is making its way more and more into conversations (maybe because I’m pushing it, maybe because the technology has been in place for a while, maybe because people are seeing that the technology without the PD is ineffective). Which is why I think we are still seeing growth in programs like COETAIL and for the new GAFE Course. More schools are encouraging PD around technology. Either in preparation for 1:1 rollouts or in preparation for what’s next.

So what will the next three years of education look like? Personally I think we will continue to accelerate in the transformation of a new type of education….what I think that will look like and technology’s role in it is a blog post yet to come. 🙂

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Hi Jeff

    Your blogpost begs the next question and I’ll ask it: What do we as teachers need in order to be a leader in this?


    • Totally agree with you Vivian. I most certainly want to be a leading teacher helping lead the school to be a regional leader


  2. I agree that Feedback from Students is what that tells you textbooks should not be repalced with PDF. Even during
    college counselling many of us have the same question from the counsellors if textbooks are replaced with digitized books. I think reading from textbooks is more impressive then PDFs.

  3. Hi Jeff,
    Think about teachers. Most teachers already have both the tablet and the laptop. Then of course add the smartphone on top. They all have overlapping functions but excel in different spheres. We are building our wifi based on 3:1 for the next 3 years.

    Still, having a wifi infrastructure and devices that can access it is not enough. The next task over 3 years is to redesign curriculum and projects to take advantage of all this connectivity. Enjoying thinking through the Inevitable Mass customization of Learning book by Schwahn and McGarvey. Just a beginning statement but one to think about. Best wishes on writing the next 3 years of posts!

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Thanks David!

      It is a fast changing world and we will have to rethink what learning looks like when students, teachers and the larger community have multiple devices. One thing I have noticed is that very few schools are websites that look good on mobile devices and we know that’s where it’s going. The post PC era means redesigning everything….we see how school do.

  4. Yes…2:1 policy – this is a subject I’m struggling with….

    I’ve been working overseas for a number of years, and I’m now at a school in Europe with a well-managed 1:1 laptop program from 5-12. In my previous school we operated a 1:1 iPad program from 6-12. As a MS science teacher integrating iPads into my lessons opened up so many learning avenues for my students. The problem I’m coming up against now is justifying to my colleagues that adding iPads to an already successful 1:1 laptop policy is something seriously worth looking at. The response I keep getting is: ‘what you can do on an iPad you can do with a solid state laptop’, such as a Macbook air. Even though I am pro iPad, I can see their point. Sure, there is learning functionality with the iPad, which makes them more beneficial in a leaning setting, but are these advantages over a solid state, light, powerful laptop worth the expense? I guess it’s all a case of justification. I know that the more experience one has with infusing iPads into the classroom the more aware one becomes of their effectiveness. It’s difficult to foresee the justifying benefits of going 2:1 before a 1:1 iPad initiate has been evaluated.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      It can be a hard thing to justify and then I ask teachers how many of them have both a laptop and an iPad. Many of them do. So then I ask them if they use the two devices differently….and starts us into a discussion of how the devices are different how we interact with them differently and what things are done on what device. We use the devices differently in our own personal lives but then can’t think how students might use them differently in their own lives? It’s a good conversation to have and usually gets us focused on the how and why these devices are different and needed.

  5. This is an important discussion yet clear answers elude us for the moment. A few more points.

    1. For years I have maintained that important digital educational processes were:
    communication — email, Skype, ePals, Groups, forums
    collaboration — creating and sharing documents, publishing, blogs, etc.
    critical thinking — research, processing data and ideas, mind-mapping, etc.
    creativity — presentations, essays, photo galleries, video, infographics etc.
    celebration — (what we used to call documentation) e-portfolios, sharing on social media etc.

    It seems that tablets are great at individual learning resources (textbooks, web sites, reading news) but are more cumbersome when integrating resources to produce knowledge. I often have a tablet open to a book or resource when working on a project on the laptop. If learning resources can be cost effectively made available to schools (think Amazon and Whispernet) the value of the tablet/reader becomes affordable.

    2. We need to add another 800 lb gorilla in the room besides Apple and MS, and that is Google. With GAFE and Chromebooks, there is a new option to consider. Our school lives in the cloud and the $250 chromebook does most of the above things well (multimedia is still a work in progress.) A Chromebook as a laptop for students plus an advanced Kindle reader is definitely affordable for most families. $400-500 every three years is very different from the current $2000+ when considering Apple and MS products.

  6. Mike Rutherford Reply

    I think the laptop vs. tablet debate lies almost completely with the theory of constructivism. The laptop (for now) is a better tool for building, generating and creating than a tablet. The current tablets are basically a consumer device. Current tables are excellent at gathering and analyzing data (as David Elliot says in the previous post.) As tablets (hardware and apps) evolve this gap with laptops will close. Try writing a paper, editing a photo, creating pivot tables, or writing/compiling code on a tablet. These tasks are currently easier on a laptop. As Jeff says above, we use laptops for many things and then jump over to our tablets for other tasks like finding a piece of information, reading email/books/magazines/web sites/blogs, watching movies/You Tube, and the ultimate – checking sports scores – or better yet – have the stats running while watching the game live on TV.

  7. I hope we REALLY start to see students taking control of their own learning – and teachers encouraging and enabling that.

    With all the content online why do students need to come to school? So they can get the help they need to navigate, process and respond to the content, and so they can collaborate in person with other students.

  8. 2:1? I hadn’t really heard that term before. I do see your point about the superiority of tablets for interactive reading. Personally, I don’t really ever want to buy a print magazine, again. I enjoy the tablet version so much more for all of the reasons you stated. I would love for students to have that type of dynamic reading experience at their fingertips. Do they all need a laptop, given that? I still think we have room for doing a lot of responding to learning in ways other than digital. Can’t we grab a laptop from a class set when we need that venue? I’m still wondering about that one.

  9. Very interesting article. I work with International Schools a lot and find your article very true. I am currently working on a technology roadmap for International Schools. Is there any way we can collaborate to help the International Schools move forward?

  10. I’m interested in this issue as a laptop and tablet owner; I’ve been glad that I got a hand-me-down tablet from my mom, rather than having spent a lot of money for it. I find that I search for recipes, read blogs, check social media, and play games on it. As David Elliot (a friend/former colleague) pointed out, I don’t enjoy creating on it. I even check emails differently on my phone and iPad because I avoid typing out replies. I haven’t tapped into the classroom uses for the tablet yet, because it’s time consuming and we don’t have sets of them, but I’m interested to see where another colleague, Dave Bickel, will go with his iPad. He’s requested to replace his laptop with a tablet instead of another laptop. It’s another big paradigm shift to start using the tablet to replace laptop. Perhaps the foldable/rollable keyboard development will help. Maybe it just takes time to build up a repertoire of uses.

    • Hi Lauren!
      Thank you for adding comments. I suspect this next year will be important to this question. There are lots of iPads and BYOD programs going. We will be trying a BYOL (laptop) for older kids. Change is happening. Like Jeff, I’m becoming a bit of a Google fan because of how the technology of school admin and education becomes so simple yet powerful. Some people really miss the “bells and whistles” of stand alone software (i.e. MS Office, pages, etc.) yet I’m finding more people who have done beautiful things with Google Apps and other web apps.

      Please keep writing and sharing your learning.

  11. Hello jeff,

    Question why is it that schools in the United States wont push for the top as the Internation schools will? Do you believe it is because of the government is asking for more money or because of the drive for education is decreasing as we speak. Me on the other hand, i am still in college and through my own experience; if my professor is not passionate about the subject he/she is teaching and is only teaching it to get my tution money I wont have the extra drive to get that A.

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