I enjoyed watching this video from Apple about Burlington (MA) High School’s 1:1 initiative. It’s very well done. If I remember correctly, Patrick Larkin, then principal of BHS, came to one of our first Iowa 1:1 Institutes before he and his colleagues launched their program. Now they’re rockin’ out!
I especially loved all the shots of the students (and Patrick’s desk!) in the hallways. Hey, wherever they can find a place to stretch out, intermix, and work together!
“Our students deserve a 21st century education.” I’ve heard this often during my career, and while I can sometimes name the 4 Cs, I’m concerned that educators are trying to adapt 20th century practices and experiences to the future we can’t even define yet. This phenomenon manifests itself typically by the rapid and ill-advised adoption of any and all technological products, i.e. hardware, software, personal devices, portable devices, and on and on and on. While it is true the technology and expertise necessary to manipulate this technology are important to 21st century skills, we, as educators, must not fall into the trap of imposing our cemented perspectives cured from our fleeting experiences of the past upon the students of the future. In this wave of Bring Your Own Device or Technology, depending on which variant you prefer, (BYOD), the instructional shift that must happen to fully capture the power of this movement is grossly behind the crest.
I’ve personally experienced the feeling of ineptness meeting the needs of my students when my school asked me to pilot a 1 to 1 laptop program. The idea seemed amazing. A small group of my students, one entire class, would be given a laptop, access to the school’s Wi-Fi, and the computer would be in their hands every day, all day. The students were excited. I was excited. We were imagining the possibilities. Paperless classrooms. Interactive blogs. Interactive discussions. Amazing Projects. Digital textbooks. Then, something happened that I had not anticipated. The laptops became a barrier. Not because laptops are bad, or were misused by the students, but because I wasn’t ready for them. I didn’t know how to use all the resources that each student now had at their fingertips to improve their learning outcomes. I tried to make my paper instruction fit into this digital world. I didn’t know how to reshape my experiences, my past, so that I could create opportunities for the students to have new and better experiences. Of course, the students and I made the best of it. We all survived and overall it was probably a good experience for the students. The unsettling part occurred at the end of the school year, when a group of teachers that had the students in the 1 to 1 pilot decided that the technology was not needed. The pilot had crashed and burned.
Fast forward to today, and schools and districts are quickly implementing BYOD to take advantage of these technologies that our students already possess. These policies are essential in transitioning our brick and mortar schools to the digital world and the field of education cannot continue to ignore the fact that most students are already bringing these devices to school with them. What I see lacking is the instructional support that teachers will need to make these types of policies successful. I’m concerned that BYOD will go by the wayside much like my experience in the 1 to 1 pilot. We cannot let that happen. We cannot doom another generation of students to instruction that will not prepare them for their future.
Add the adoption of new content standards, evaluation instruments, and all of sudden, the significance of instruction through technology slips down the list of priorities. What’s even more frustrating is that there are success stories all over the country and we need to focus on these as models for schools and districts everywhere. So, I’m coming to you, the experts. Help me understand what must happen in the classroom in order to help our teachers help students.
Chris Crouch is an aspiring “teacherpreneur” and a literacy specialist in Kentucky. He has been an educator for 13 years and is just now starting to figure out what it really means to be a teacher. Hear more of Chris’ ideas on education at his blog, Working on the Work, and on Twitter at @the_explicator.
[Yes, this is an actual conversation, not an April Fool’s Day joke]
Superintendent: We’re not looking to buy laptops for our students anytime in the near future. We’re concerned that our teachers won’t use them well. We don’t want to spend a lot of money to go 1:1 and then have the initiative be a failure.
Me: But how will your teachers and students learn to use computers well if they don’t have them?
[Joel] Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools and the current chief executive of Amplify, News Corporation’s fledgling education division, will take the stage for a surprising announcement. Amplify will not sell just its curriculum on existing tablets, but will also offer the Amplify Tablet, its own 10-inch Android tablet for K-12 schoolchildren.
In addition to tablets and curriculum, Amplify will also provide schools with infrastructure to store students’ data.
An early look at the Amplify tablet revealed a sleek touch screen with material floating against a simple background. If a child’s attention wanders, a stern “eyes on teacher” prompt pops up. A quiz uses emoticons of smiley and sad faces so teachers can instantly gauge which students understand the lesson and which need help.
“We wanted to use the language of the Web,” said Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify Access, the division that produces the tablet, which is manufactured by Asus.
Outside the classroom, children can use it to play games, like one in which Tom Sawyer battles the Brontë sisters.
I predict (hope) this whole venture will be a complete bust. Not just because the market isn’t exactly clamoring for another Android tablet. Not just because the Android apps ecosystem isn’t as robust for P-12 students as Apple’s. Not just because having historical literary characters battle each other is both educationally dubious and less than engaging to today’s students. The ‘eyes on teacher’ announcements, the built-in ability to monitor students’ screens at all time, the student response system features, extensive back-end ‘data’ collection and analysis, the push-out from the teacher to all students’ screens, pre-loaded tools, filtering software, teacher-created content playlists, one-button device tracking / locking / erasure … nearly everything about this initiative screams replication and amplification of traditional instructional techniques in which teachers are the focal point and students are passive recipients. All of the features touted by Amplify are ones that amplify control over students’ learning with computers. Need further evidence? Here’s a quote from Klein:
The teacher can personalize (the tablet.) A teacher can also click on and see what skills (the student) has mastered.
Notice who’s ‘personalizing’ the device. Notice who’s using data analytics to monitor skill mastery. Not the student, that’s for sure.
The last two years of the Institute have averaged 1,200+ attendees. There are multiple reasons why the Institute is so successful. It’s a grass roots conference at which peers talk to peers. The focus is on learning and teaching, not tools. Session emphasis is on hands-on work, discussion, and participant engagement. No ‘sit and get!’ Students are encouraged to present and there usually are multiple student-run sessions; those are always great. Whether you’re currently in a 1:1 setting – or are interested in moving that direction – or are simply passionate about robust, technology-infused learning, the Institute will be a phenomenal event for you.
This year’s Institute is on April 4 in Des Moines. We always have guests from other states so please join us. Register soon – the Institute fills up fast. Group discounts are available. Plus you can get free registration if you present!