In my last post, I noted that I’d been saving this bookmark in my computer for quite a while. Sean Nash from the blog nashworld wrote in July about the “Four Pillars of Technology Integration.” I wrote last week about our experiences with our Challenge Based Learning workshops that we were hosting in the month of September. Today, I would like to explore the ideas that Sean has written about focusing on “Unfiltered, Ubiquitous Access”.
Sean spends a lot of time and lines writing about the requirements of the law in his state. The US has a lot of people telling each other what kids should and could see in their school networks, all the while the little darlings are going home and REALLY wanting to explore those sites because there are adults who have told them NOT to go there. Sigh… same story now as it was in the old days when boys would cruise the magazine racks for the occasional adult reading material so easily in their reach and so easily accessible. Same holds true today. But… that is not what I want to reflect on here. Instead I would like to write about Sean’s comments around the ubiquity of the tools that may or may not be blocked in his district. The fact is that we all have a goal in our technology implementations that Sean describes so well. He states:
Soon after access is all around you, it doesn’t even feel like “technology,” it just feels like the way things are done. This is a good thing, for when technology becomes invisible, we can finally focus on the value added from new uses of these tools. The world is moving quickly toward wireless access in all corners.
In my schools, we are now operating on a new wireless network and finding that it has freed us up in so many new ways. Truthfully, the power of this tool alone is worth the price of educational admission at most schools, where roaming bands of learners find that access is found in any corner of the campus. We worked to ensure that the access is fully realized in the fields, cafeterias, student lounges and playgrounds with the realization that we need to have access where the students are located and stop worrying so much about locating the students in a lab or classroom. By developing that freedom of space, you also free up the time of your community to learn and grow in any space and at any time.
Ultimately though it does come down to getting the machines in the hands of the students. Sean writes:
If your school isn’t at a 1:1 ratio of students to laptop computers… and the students don’t take them home with them night by night, all year long… then you don’t yet have an ideal learning environment for 2009 in my opinion.
If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know how I feel. Frankly speaking, I believe I have staked a lot of my career on the belief that a learner needs the tools of thought, voice, action and deed. For a construction worker a shovel may be the tool of his trade, or another it may be a ruler, level or even his voice. For a learner, the tool of information access, information creation and information processing is currently a laptop computer. I cannot even imagine getting my work done without it. I also have to ask how a student can get through school without the tool that virtually every adult uses day in and day out. Computers, whether on a desk or in a bag, are here to stay and getting more and more accessible each and every day.
In our CBL workshops we spend some time talking about the effects that the computers in each student’s hands will have on the working relationship that teachers and students develop over time. The fact is that by giving students access like a laptop will certain democratize and “flatten” the social structure of a classroom. All of a sudden the teacher is not the ONLY resource to student for knowledge and in fact, the knowledge held in the head of an instructor may be “dated” or even wrong. This, of course, moves all conversations to classroom management. Frankly speaking I have been struggling finding resources for teachers on classroom management that will make them feel empowered and more comfortable. Some of the more sage instructors will tell me (and their colleagues) that “good classroom management is good classroom management, laptops or not”.
While I want to believe that is mostly true, I do think there will be some “figuring out” how to make it all work. Thanks to my friend Blair Peterson, I was sent to the Friday Institute for Educational Innovations which is coordinating a study of 1:1 classrooms in North Carolina. I found some great resources there and a great NING that is growing up and taking shape. Take a look!