This week I had the opportunity to do a talk at the ECIS IT Pre-Conference here in Amsterdam. I found it challenging to come up with a message to help drive a conversation forward when you’re speaking to the committed. Usually my talks are aimed at teachers who need a reason to use technology in their classroom not to those already understanding the changes taking place and wanting to know where we go from here.

It was a great challenge as it forced me to really think deep about where we are right now in this world of technology integration…and just where we are in the world in general right now.

What I came up with is this:

To start with I have come to an understanding that this technology trajectory we are on isn’t a straight line. That we go through moments of great technological growth…usually around new hardware….and then we have these plateau periods. They might not be as flat as they look in this image…but there are definitely slower periods I think of innovation as we prepare for the next disruption.

So the image above shows my thoughts on this kind of innovation and plateau idea that I think we go through.

We saw steep climbs when the desktop came out…then there was a period of using them before the Internet came out that created another steep climb of innovation. The laptops and then mobile where other steep moments in technology innovation. These times when we try to figure out what we do with this thing. How does it impact education, what’s it’s best use, etc. We are all trying to figure out how to best use this new technology.

In between these climbs we have moments of pause that allow us to really look at learning, the new technology, and start thinking of ways to really truly use it in the classroom to impact student learning.

I believe we are in one of these pauses right now….we’ve been in one since about 2011…or a year after the iPad came out. There hasn’t been any real new technology. Sure things get faster, smaller, lighter…but it’s all mobile right now…that’s the stage we’re in. I think we also have a couple years left in this pause before wearable technology creates the next steep stage and sends us all once again scrambling to figure out how this new technology impacts education.

I have been thinking about how we use this time well. How do we use this pause to go really deep in our understanding and integration of what we have at our finger tips? Most of you that read this blog are either technology teachers, integration people, IT people…or teachers passionate about technology. I think this is the question we need to be focused on right now. How do we go deep into really changing what the classroom and education looks like? We don’t have a whole lot of time as the next stage….wearable….is right around the corner. We might have two years or so left to really think deeply about integration before we’re all playing with this new phase of technology hardware and figuring out things again….basically starting over. What we learn during this pause will make that next stage that much easier to handle. If we have a deep understanding of technology integration and the role it places in the classroom and within learning then we can apply that knowledge to the new tool, see what it disrupts, see what it changes, and then use the next pause to really integrate it deeply into education.

Below is a hangout done by John Pederson and Dean Shareski. Two smart guys who make a living in this space. John asks Dean the question of what tool in the last year is going to stick? Dean has a hard time answering the question…in fact they both do….why…. because we’re in a pause. Every tool they talk about using is older than a year….in fact every tool they mention have been around for several years now. Why? Because we’re in a pause. It’s an interesting conversation and I just like listening to two smart guys struggle with a question that for people who make a living in this space should be easy.

So here’s the challenge. If we’re in a pause….let’s take advantage of it. Let’s stop for a moment asking what’s the next thing…..it will be wearable…we know that…and we have some time before it’s here. So let’s enjoy this moment and take the opportunity to go deep in our thinking of how we use the tools we have really really well. Let’s really look at the theory of Connectivism. Let’s really look at SAMR and TPACK and make our brains hurt going really deep and having the hard conversations of how all these tools we have really impact education in meaningful and lasting way.

Those are the conversations I want to be having. The conversation of how does everything we have available today truly impact the learning environment? Stop asking me what device or what platform. Let’s move pass these questions and go deep into something different…something better.

So Wednesday’s blog post about iPads has created a bit of a conversation. Not only on the blog but on Twitter as well. I have even had schools asking me to review what they are doing and give my opinion.

Now…let’s be clear, any program that puts devices in every hand of every student is a great program. My hope is we can get to a place by 2015 (or sooner) where this stops being a conversation because it just is. It’s just about past time for a device to replace paper and pencil at a substitution level and then build from there.

At the same time what a connected device does (any device connected to the Internet), is change the learning landscape. If you implement a 1:1 program and the classroom doesn’t change, then the device sits at a substitution level and never reaches its full potential as a learning device. When you introduce a connected device in the classroom, learning changes…it has to…..otherwise why have it?

Lynn University tweeted me earilier this week:


So I went and read through the article they sent me.

There are some good quotes in the article:

“The price point will probably force schools to provide the devices to students, as the cost of hard copy textbooks go up and the cost of technology goes down,” said Chris Boniforti, chief information officer for Lynn “You’re better off giving every student tablets than buying all these books that will be obsolete in two or three years.”

National studies have shown that the cost of textbooks has risen more than three times the rate of inflation during the past 35 years. A 2011 study from the U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, found that 70 percent of students at 13 colleges surveyed admitted to not buying at least one of their required textbooks.

You can read it for yourself and what I think the article is hinting at is that the iPad isn’t replacing textbooks, it allows students a whole new way to access information. It also provides, what I hope, is professors a way to use the Internet and the wealth of fresh and up to date information to create their own “textbook” for their classes.

Connected devices don’t replace textbooks…they destory them. The last thing I want my students to do is to have a connected device and then have a traditional textbook on it. The Internet is full of resources that allow educators and students alike to create new learning opportunites that go way beyond what a textbook ever could offer.

This should be a given with any 1:1 program. Connected devices supersede textbooks…OK….then what?

That’s the question I want to know…what happens after we have replaced the textbook?

These devices don’t just replace textbooks they take learning to a whole new level of thinking, searching, creating, and organizing that we just could not do before we gave them to students.

If at any time you could take the device away from students and learning and outcomes could still be met then we haven’t pushed far enough. Look again at the SAMR model and take it straight from the founder’s website:

Redefinition: Technology allows for new tasks, previously inconceivable. 

That’s what we should want for these devices and our students. Sure they are going to substitute a lot of tasks…but that shouldn’t be our aim. Our aim should be to redefine the learning experience and do things that would be inconceivable if the technology was taken away. To do this it means starting from the bottom and creating new learning tasks. Only then do we really reach the full potential of what these devices can do.

In our COETAIL program the final project for graduates is to reach for this redefinintion level. Not all make it but they try..and it’s hard…there are a lot of things in your way. Here are two examples of what I believe redefinintion looks like. Take the technology away from these two units/classrooms and you can not replace the learning with something else…you would actually lose learning and engagement.

So….what I want to know is how often do you, your teachers, your school or your district reach for redefinition? That’s the question I like to ask…that’s what I like to push towards, and that’s what I strive for every time I present. The worse that can happen is that you fail…and that my friends is what they call learning.

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.