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

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As many of you know I recently wrote a peer-reviewed paper with Doreen Keller. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it to you as it’s the foundation, in my mind, how we need to think in a connected world. 

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom is not about the technology or the tools but rather a mind shift that must occur if we’re going to truly use the power of the world’s information in the hands of students. That’s really what this is about. Once we give every student a device we have to rethink a lot of what we do in the classroom and what knowledge acquisition can and should look like. 

Today I’d like to reflect and share my thoughts on the 2nd Connectivism principle of learning that states:

Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. 

I want you to stop and reflect for a second. If you have something around your house that you need to fix. Let’s say the dishwasher is making a noise and instead of calling a plumber right away you decide to try and figure out what’s causing the noise and how to fix it. 

Now…right there we have very distinct learning opportunities. 

1. We must first figure out what the problem is. We call this being a problem finder. 

2. Once we have located the problem we must then learn and try and fix it. 

Both of these are learning opportunities and crazy enough just how we live in today’s world. 

So I’m going to guess you’re going to head to Google and type in GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 is making a thumping noise when running

You are instantly given a results page that in the crazy world we live is probably has a title of a webpage or a video with that exact phrase!

This is the moment that this principle takes hold. You must now connect nodes of information from different sources to learn something new. You might read a blog post, watch a video or two and all along you are learning. You learn something from this video that you re-read on this blog and then is restated again in another video. You’re watching videos taking the pieces that apply to you and ignoring the pieces that don’t.  You are learning by connecting all this information from different sources and applying it RIGHT NOW to your situation. 

Then when you finally believe you know what the issue is you’re already on your way to solving the problem. You want and read some more, you re-watch some videos, try a few more sources, probably do a new google search that is GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 upper arm hitting silverware tray. You get more sources of information, some of them the same and some new and you learn more. 

Then you do! Right there at the moment, you do the thing you just learned about. You apply your new learning instantly to a situation and you solve it. 

Then you step back…you look at your work and you’re so excited you run and tell your spouse “Honey! I fixed the dishwasher” he or she gives you a “Great Job” and you feel good about your accomplishment. 

Now….getting the “Great Job” is you getting an A on your assignment. However, that is not where the learning occurred. You get an A on your final project because that’s all your spouse saw. That’s all they wanted and how they are going to assess you. Does the dishwasher not make a noise anymore. 

Now showing results is part of the grade for sure…but if we’re really interested in assessing learning the final project is not where the learning happened. The learning happened in the doing. Doing research, connecting information sources, trying something out, trying again, learning, watching more videos, reading more websites, and doing. That’s where the learning occurred. 

So I ask you: 

Do you assess just the presentation or the creation of the presentation? 

Do you assess the final writing or the rough draft and edits along the way? 

Do you assess the final answer or the steps to solving the equation?

How do you make sure that you are assessing the learning not the product of that learning? 

Again projects are great….they are the results of the creative process and they must factor into the overall result however if we are REALLY interested in assessing learning…that does not happen in the product. It happens in the process of creating the product. 

It happens in the selection of what information to read/watch

It happens in the trial and error of creation

It happens in the re-watching and re-learning of a new skill

It happens in making the connections between a video that someone else made and the actual problem I have in front of me and trying to determine are they the same problem.

This is a great time of year to reflect on how often are you assessing learning vs the product of learning. How might you have to rethink your lesson/unit/approach so that you can gather, or collect something that shows learning occurring in the moment? What might that look like for you? 

If you have great strategies or ways that you gather evidence of learning happening in the process, not the product would you mind sharing those with all of us in the comments below?

Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc

I read an article today titled: Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops. It only took me two seconds to figure out what the issue was here….I’ll give you a clue….it’s not the laptops.

There are some interesting quotes and lines in this article that caught my attention. Now I don’t know this school district, I give them an A+ for trying something at least. It sounds like they got caught in the netbook era of computing and just couldn’t get out. What follows are some of my thoughts around what went wrong here.

“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of Hoboken School District. “It became unsustainable.”

Problem #1: The funding cycle

Changing the mind set of thinking that technology is a one off capital expenditure rather than an operational cost. Technology, much like textbooks, paper, crayons, etc. need to be updated. This is issue #1 with our current system. Here the school was given stimulus money from the government…that I’m guessing…as usually….needed to be spent ASAP and on hardware. So it’s great we have this now…but thinking long term…thinking past year 2 or 3 needs to be a focus when starting a program.

None of the school administrators who initiated Hoboken’s one-to-one laptop program still work there. Toback agreed to share Hoboken’s experiences so that other schools can learn from it.

Personally I believe this is a solvable problem: Hire administrators who understand the changing nature of schools when every student is connected. Yes…you are going to have administrative turn-over. But hiring leaders who understand what giving a laptop to every student really means is on the School Board, the Superintendent and leadership. There are good administrators out there that get these changes….hire them….and then allow them to hire teachers who “get it”.

This year alone, schools are projected to spend almost $10 billion on education technology, a $240-million increase from 2013, according to the Center for Digital Education.

Problem #2: The Need to invest in PD

Students on devices
Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

Really this is the issue of this entire program and the entire way the system is structured and goes back to a post I wrote (along with others) about professional development. The National Staff Development Council still recommends 25% of funds for any new project be earmarked for PD. Why…because that’s what it takes! Meaning in this coming school year $2.5 Billion of it should be marked for professional development. To this day I don’t know any school that does this (if yours does please let me know!). Does this mean lest technology? Absolutely! Does it mean better use of the technology we have available? Absolutely!

We also need to understand the type of PD that is required. When changing the classroom in such a dramatic way as giving every student a connected device, schools need to offer PD that goes beyond 1 sit and get institute, or a conference. You have to go beyond 1 PD day dedicated to technology. You have to think different, you have to start over….if you really want to feel the full impact of what technology can do to the classroom you have to give educators the time, space, and freedom to learn.

This is why Kim and I create the COETAIL program. Schools have come to us and asked us if we could do the whole thing in a year or even six months. No…we can’t….it takes at least 3 semesters to do the program and to change the mindset. We’re not after a quick fix, rush everyone through a process type of learning. We’re after real change…and real change takes time, support and dedication.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

I love this part of the article….as I’m reading this, right away I started thinking to myself….I bet they took away all the personalization of the device. I bet they locked it down for the students…….and……

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.

…and there it is. Let’s make this clear BLOCKING DOES NOT WORK, EDUCATING DOES!

Problem #3: Technology is Personal

Thinking that technology is not a personal thing is a trap. Technology is very personal and as soon as you put the type of over reaching controls…which don’t work….in place you force students to “not care” for the device. I’ve seen this in many schools. The more freedom you give students with their devices the better they care for them. In fact…..at my last school (ISBangkok) I would say we had more teacher issues with laptops then we had with students. You see even adults struggle with ownership. When the technology isn’t yours, isn’t personal, we have a hard time taking care of it. More coffee was split on laptops by teachers than any food damage we had by students using them in the cafeteria at lunch time. By blocking websites we force students to be rule breakers. We force them to be hackers….which I guess….is teaching computer skills in one way. 🙂

“Probably in the last few months I’ve had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, ‘I bought these 500 iPads or 1,000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,’ and they’re like, now what do we do?” Powell said.

Problem #4: No District Wide Plan

Setting Up Computers
Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

 I have seen and heard of this same issue. Mostly at school districts who have decentralized the technology purchasing process. Principals get to the end of the year have money left and want to buy tech. I was at one district office recently when the phone call came in from the principal. She had money to spend and wanted to know how many iPads she could purchase with X amount of dollars. The Director of Technology told her about 12….then she asked how many Surface RTs she could purchase….he told her about 20. She decided to order those as she could get more devices. The Director of Technology looks at me with a look of sadness on his face. She just wants devices without a plan on how to use them, what she’s going to use them for, or how to train teachers on them. Because the Principals in this school district were responsible for there own budgets and the technology was decentralized the Director of Technology had no say…and was supporting every type of device across the district.

This summer, Hoboken school staff will go through the laptops one by one, writing down the serial numbers and drafting a resolution for the school board to approve their destruction.

Then they’ll seek bids from recycling companies to figure out how much it will cost Hoboken to throw them away.

Problem #5: The Exit Plan

Ah…..the exit plan. To often schools get into a mess like this not knowing how to get out of it. Of course this goes back to Problem #1. If you view these devices as a capital expenditure then you believe they’ll be around for a long time. I’m not sure where this idea ever came from, that you were going to buy a computer and have it last longer than 3 years. But it’s a mind set we need to change. We need to understand that this is a continual budget line that needs to grow with the program and devices. Textbooks continue to go up in price and we find money to buy them…..we need to start thinking of computers as textbooks. Better yet just have the computers replace the textbook line of the budget you might just come out ahead. 🙂

 

Again….I feel for this school….they did what they thought they were suppose to do…what everyone is doing….and it’s suppose to be easy. You give every student a laptop and BAMM! Learning changes!

If only it was that simple.

 

So by now hopefully you have seen the video about Solar Roadways. If not take a couple minutes to watch it below…. amazingly awesome.

So here’s the thing…I’m all for this…this excites me….this is the future. In fact I have already donated to the cause via their Indiegogo page. But it’s going to be an uphill battle because this is different. You have to think different, you have to plan different…you can’t just go out and continue building roads the same old way. You need to rethink everything……everything!

It reminds me of schools who decide to go 1:1. Buying the computer is the easy part…that just takes money. Much like this project raising the money was the easy part. The hard part is changing the mindset.

What should a road be?

What should a classroom look like?

How does this change the way we manufacture roads?

How does this change the way we lesson plan?

How does this change what we expect our roads to do?

How does this change what we expect our students to produce?

I could go on and on of course but I think you get the point. You can’t just drop laptops into schools/classroom and expect things to change on their own. You have to think different…you have to expect something different. You have to think way out of the box on this one. It’s a #moonshot for sure. So is thinking different in the classroom. Once you give every student a connected device….you need to think different….you need to start over.

I have recently been to a couple of new schools in the process of being built both here in the States and overseas. People are so proud of their beautiful new school buildings where 1:1 is either already in the plan or will be shortly. So we’re giving students a new set of tools to learn with yet building the same structures to learn within. Why is that? In 2014 why are we building schools that on the outside look very modern, a lot of glass, beautiful architecture, yet in the classrooms we get 4 white walls, desks that don’t have wheels, chairs that don’t have wheels and pretty much a stagnate learning space.

In all the schools I have visited in the past couple of year the International School of Turin in Turin, Italy always comes to my mind first when I think about what a modern school should look like. Let the images on their homepage tell the story. In one shot you get a peek inside a primary classroom where there is color and if you look closely you notice the whole wall of windows actually folds open to allow the space to expand into nature. I’m not even going to mention how they worked the old Italian Villa into the new school design or how the school grounds has it’s own vineyard where the students in high school not only talk about chemical reactions but make their own wine while learning it…..no…I won’t mention that because that’s just not fair!

See the challenge in creating solar freakin’ roadways is not really in creating the solar panels. Although that takes vision, time, and incredible knowledge it will be all for nothing if we can’t change our mindset of what a road should be. The human mind is a stubborn thing….we know what we know, we like what we know and if it works why think there might be a better way to do it?

Creating the product is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

Buying the computers is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

There are more schools this year rolling out iPad programs. I still have my personal reservations about these programs in high schools. But seeing that nobody asked me I’ll give up on that argument for a moment.

Two programs have come across my radar lately. I want you to watch the media coverage of these two programs.

Full discloser…I have known Tim Wilson for many years as a blogger, a podcast superstar and just a great guy to hang out with. So it doesn’t surprise me that when his district rolls out an iPad program that they have media coverage that goes beyond textbook replacement.

The other school, Gonzaga Prep (GPrep), is from Spokane, Washington…basically in my back yard.

Now I don’t know how Tim’s community is responding to the iPad program and I’m sure he’ll be leaving a comment here letting us know how things are going.

However, I do know how the GPrep program is being sold. The iPads are seen by the community, and if you watch the video by the media, as a replacement for textbooks. Sure they mention apps…but really everything I hear makes me cringe.

In the Wayzata School District video, listen to how the iPads are sold, not as a replacement for books but rather a device that has limitless possibilites. Count how many times the word “Create” is used. Why is this word so important? Because it is what is at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Order Learning.

Next I want you to re-watch the GPrep video with the SAMR model in mind. Here’s an image to help frame this model of technology integration for you as you watch the video.

From Jenny Luca
From Jenny Luca

What do you hear? What do you see? Using this model of technology integration, which one of these programs do you want to be a part of? I even went to the required apps page for GPrep in hopes of finding something there to make me think these might be used for more than just textbook replacements….but really everything I am seeing is at a Substitution or Augmentation level of the SAMR model.

So here’s the thing.

  • If you wanted a textbook replacement…that’s great….but there are much cheaper devices that will replace a textbook than an iPad. 
  • Please do not expect your teachers to “teach differently” when everything that I am reading and can find about this program is about replacing not advancing learning. 

Am I picking on iPads…..maybe a little. But to be fair I pick on all 1:1 programs that put an incredible powerful device in the hands of students with the goal of not changing learning, not changing education, but rather replacing what we are already doing.

This past weekend I flew to Vietnam to spend two days with the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the British International School of Vietnam (BISVietnam). A two day retreat that focused on a future with technology and a 1:1 program. 

There are so many different ways to go 1:1 and in my opinion no one right way to do it. There are so many variables that need to be considered that 1:1 programs can look drastically different from one school to the next and still be successful.

Here are a few of the things we discussed:

Money:

money
 

It’s always the elephant in the room and the problem with dreaming of endless possibilities without considering the cost leads one to believe that the dreams can become reality and in many cases it is just not financially feasible to fulfill our wildest technology dreams. As much as we want to say money is not a factor…..at some point it always is.

Infrastructure:

In many countries in Asia this can be the most frustrating part of the whole plan. We all read, watch, and see the amazing things that are happening on the web. However, to do those amazing things you need a web connection. In developing countries like Vietnam the Internet is expensive, unreliable, and most of the time just plain frustrating. BISVietnam currently has a 2MB Internet line for 1600 students. Think about that the next time you want to complain about your Internet speed.

serverroom
 

You can not consider going 1:1 without looking at the cost and feasibility of it from an infrastructure standpoint. Money put into your infrastructure is always well spent but it also means every dollar that goes towards infrastructural improvements is dollars taken away from learning devices. Finding the balance is important.

One thing that I stress is do not spend money on you infrastructure for the future. Support the here and now.

If a school spends money building up an infrastructure that looks to support learning years from now then you’re wasting money. You might know what you will need two or three years from now…but you don’t need that today. The chances are the infrastructure your school will need in the future will get cheaper and faster.

Example: You know you’re going to need more server space as students store more and more data on the Intranet. Calculate how much storage you’ll need this year and next year. But only purchase what you need for this year. By next year the cost of the same storage will be cheaper and faster.

In the end support what you need, not what you want.

Intranet vs The Cloud:

amazonwebservices
 

Really what this should say is Internal Cloud vs External Cloud. Based on the infrastructure that is available to a school, you may need to consider building your own Internal Cloud. Basically turning those old folder heavy Intranet servers into web accessible servers. By making your Intranet Servers accessible via a web browser you can essentially create your own cloud on your campus. You can install programs like WordPress, Elgg, Drupal, and a host of other open-source software that essentially creates your own Internal Cloud system. 

This is a common process in China where access to many cloud services is blocked by the government. If that’s the case, or you don’t have a fast reliable Internet connection then building your own cloud is an option. Shanghai American School is a great example of a school building an internal cloud. Check out there Online Community Portal

At ISB, my current school for 23 more days, we are slowly making the transition from an Internal Cloud to an External Cloud system. When I arrived four years ago we starting building our Internal Cloud system as it was faster and more reliable. As the infrastructure of Thailand has improved and we’ve been able to purchase more bandwidth (20MB when I arrived and 100MB now for 1800 students) we’ve slowly moving to an external cloud. 

Exchange Mail Server to Google Apps – 2011-2012

Hosted Moodle to Externally Hosted LMS – 2012-2013

Internal Hosted Blogs to External Hosted Blogs – 2014

Or something like that. By moving these services to the external cloud we trade servers for Internet speed and reliability. As our speed and reliability increases so can our reliance on the external cloud.

Learning Devices:

Of course this is where we all like to discuss our options. What devices are right for students?  Start with students

The only way to answer this question is to first identify what it is you want students to be doing with the laptops. What kind of experiences do you want them to have, what skills do you want them to gain and what creative products do you want them to produce? 

By first identifying what we want students to do at different grade levels we can then choose the device that meets those needs. 

Again…dreaming here can be dangerous. We must realized and understand that in developing countries we don’t always get the lastest and greatest technology and not every company is currently supporting devices in every country. In Vietnam’s case Apple has no support in Vietnam as of yet. Sure, you can buy Apple products, but any support needed on those products has to be sent out of the country. Coming to the realization of what’s possible and what learning devices you have access to is not always fun…but again is reality. 

Ownership:

apple
 

Ownership is something I think we spend to much time and effort on….as basically you have two options. 

1. School Owned

2. Parent/Student Owned

This decision comes down to two points.

  • Can the school afford to own all the laptops? 
    • If the answer is no…then Parent/Student owned is your only option
    • If the answer is yes….then you need to think about and understand your community
  • Will the school community support a laptop program?
    • Have we done work with the school community in helping them understand the reasoning behind a 1:1 program?
    • How can we move our school culture forward?
    • Can our community afford it?

Administrators must know their community and be willing to hold community sessions to educate the community on the benefits of a 1:1 program. This decision is a school based one. Both options work…it’s picking the best option for your school that is important to success. 

 

In the end, you can look around at what other schools are doing or have done but that will only get you so far. Every school culture and situtation is different, hence there is no one way to roll out a 1:1 program that is magical and perfect. They all have their positives and negatives. At the end of the day make a decision and just do it!

Over the last few weeks I have received a hand full of e-mails all asking the same question. 

What would you recommend?

MacBook vs ChromeBook

Laptop vs Tablet

Tablet Laptop vs Tablet Slates

The problem is that’s not the right question to be asking. Don’t get me wrong, I know what everyone is asking and dealing with. There are a lot of compelling options out there right now and at the end of the day the best option is the one your school can afford. 

However, if you are looking at a couple different platforms then your school must have the budget to do some shopping and thinking about which platform is best for students and this is where our question begins. 

Do not ask “What should we use to go 1:1 with?

Ask “What do we want students to create?

I wrote about this in my Technology Plan (Free PDF that needs to be updated) a few years back. The technology should support the learning which means we need to know what we expect students to create (key word there) with technology. 

Let’s take 3rd Grade as an example. I would expect 3rd Graders at my school to:

  • Collaborating on Google Docs
  • Blogging (including uploading of images)
  • Creating simple movies
  • Creating simple podcasts
  • Commenting on others blogs

I would sit down with the 3rd Grade team and have them help me brainstorm this list. Remembering to stay focus on what we want students to do, not what we’re currently doing (sometimes a big difference!). 

ipadclassroom
Some rights reserved by mikecogh

Why do I focus on creating? Simple, we want every student to be able to consume information via technology. That’s a given and each of the devices above allows you to consume information, there is nothing, other than form factor that really sets them apart. If you only want students to consume information the choice is easy…a tablet such as an iPad is made to do just that. Looking at the quick list that I created I’m now going to go and look at all my options for hardware and choose the best fit that allows my students to do everything I want them to do. In the case above everything listed, except collaborate on Google Docs, can simply be done on an iPad. So, using this list (and I know it’s not complete) I would go 1:1 with iPads in 3rd Grade and then have a cart of laptops available for the Google Docs piece.

This is the question I started with in my recent blog post about what my dream school 1:1 program would look like. At the end of the day the right device is the device that allows your teachers and students to do what they want to do and are not held back by the technology. Make your decision on what you want students to create and you can’t go wrong.

Featured Image: Some rights reserved by rwentechaney

Anna left a comment on my blog post about 1:1 program with MS and HS students that reads:

My son attends a school where MacBooks are required from grades 8-12, and students use many different assistive technology tools. I believe that 1:1 is great as a learning TOOL, but because students have their laptops with them all the time, there is no “down” time when they have to use their own initiative to think, dream, plan, create w/o a screen. He gets up and will open the laptop before breakfast to play, he will play or noodle around with his iTunes in the car on the way to school, on the way home from school, and every other time that kids used to be unplugged. He is not creating, he is consuming. It is a huge fight in our household.

What advice do you have for parents in dealing with this dark side-effect of a mandatory BYOL environment?

girlwithxo
by One Laptop per Child

It’s a good question and my first response is what is your school doing to help train parents on both their responsibility and management of technology that the school provides?

Here at ISB we do a couple of different things. We first have a mandatory meeting that at least one parent has to attend we run the same training three to four times at different time periods for parents. Of course the kids make them go as they want their laptops.

We also run a set of 5 courses called the ISB Technology Certificate for Parents. We’ve taken 100 parents through the program over the past two years. Now, not every parents will take it, but enough do and they talk to other parents and the message we give in the courses spreads through the community. Spreading an understanding of the use of the laptops and what parents can do to help support their children at home.

If a school is going to give every students a laptop, I feel, they have an obligation to not only train students but parents on good use of the technology.

My Advice For Parents:

Remember That You Are The Parent

When it comes to technology, many parents feel that they do not know enough to create limits and boundaries. Because of this they do not feel right taking the technology away. You are still the parent and in your house you make the rules. You have every right to take the computer away from your child if you feel they are not having enough “down time”. I know one family that the whole family felt out of balance so they unplug the Internet in their house. So everyone has to be disconnected at the same time. They use this time to reconnect as a family and just have some ‘down’ time.

Create Family Rules

The #1 thing you can do is have a conversation with your child. I strongly encourage every family to sit down and talk about exactly the points you raise. Make family rules that everyone can live by. No computer before breakfast, no computer in the car while someone is driving, etc. These are good times to be disconnected and be together as a family. If the parents also abide by these family rules then there is buy-in from everyone. Everyone having to give it up is easier then “Why do I have to give it up but Dad can still check email on is iPhone?”

Homework Shouldn’t Take Longer

“But mom, I’m doing my homework.” What a great way to play on your computer and waste time. If your school gave 2 hours of homework before the 1:1 program, they’re probably still only giving about 2 hours of homework after the 1:1 program. But students play this card a lot. Set a limit that you think is reasonable and if they don’t finish their homework in that set time, then too bad they don’t get their homework done. If they make the choice to use their time unwisely they pay the consequences. Learning to manage your time is a skill, especially in Middle School, that we all need to help teach students. The computer makes this harder, and also easier. We have parents e-mail or call teachers and let them know that their child did not finish their homework because they were playing around on their laptop. Teachers usually support this, the student gets a zero and usually a good talking to from the teacher. Sometimes if the problem persists, teachers will recommend after school detention or Saturday School as a consequence for not getting assignments done. It usually doesn’t take long before kids get the message.

Are They Really Just Consuming

Many times we think kids playing video games or “messing around” on their computers is not a learning experience. Take the time to watch and ask yourself “What are they learning?”. Creation with the laptop can sometimes be hard to spot. A great example is the game that is sweeping through our Middle School at the moment called Mindcraft. As far as games go these days, it is about as calm and creative as you are going to get. Basically you get to “build whatever you want” and I have to say I have seen our students build some pretty amazing things. Is it playing? Yes, with virtual legos. Creative? Absolutely. Future engineer? Very possible.

Conversation, Conversation, Conversation

Because you asked the question I know you’re thinking about it and it worries you, which tells me you’re a good parent. The best thing you can do is sit and have conversations with your child. Watch them play their games and ask them what they are doing. What do they think they are learning. Talk to them about how much time they spend on the computer and do they think it’s healthy? Take an interest in what they are doing on the computer in their free time helps to open up a dialogue between you and your child about the technology. If they know you are interested then they are willing to listen more when you start asking questions about how much time they spend “connected”.

We Still Know What’s Best For Them

gcwtechnology
All the tech I took

Now, I’m one of the biggest technology pushers out there but even I value disconnected time. Last year on a high school trip the “tech guy” took away all the technology from the kids. 10th and 11th grades…made them turn in every piece of electronics they had. They hated me for about 2 hours and then magically it didn’t matter anymore. You can read their reflections about the trip here and many of them reflect on just how connected they were and didn’t realize it and what spending a week disconnected did for them.

Disconnecting Doesn’t Always Mean No Technology

We still know what’s best for them even if they don’t think so. It’s important to disconnect and as adults I think we have an obligation to help kids understand this. Disconnecting doesn’t have to mean no technology. I love my Kindle for the simple fact all I can do is read on it. I disconnect every day when I go workout or for a run, yet I have my phone with me playing music or tracking my run via GPS. This is time disconnected yet technology still plays a supporting role. 


What other tips or advice do you have for parents who’s children are in a 1:1 program?

(Contributions to this blog post were made by my wife Daneah Galloway, a National Certified School Counselor.)

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.

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.