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1 to 1 Learning

February 12, 2010

Just opened my latest read…”1-1 Learning; Laptop Programs that Work, 2nd Edition by Pamela Livingston. I am only a few pages in and can already tell this is going to be the kind of book that kills a highlighter. I thought I would share a few early gems of learning from the book…

1. The Digital Assistant
Livingston describes studies that have examined how young people interact with a computer. Rather than thinking of it as a “tool” as it is so often referred to, Livingston says young people use a computer more as a “digital assistant.” She describes it this way:
“…a tool can help with the completion of an activity but an assistant can support thinking and learning in a much broader way than a tool can.” She argues that a tool has one primary purpose, for example, a hammer can help by driving a nail, a screwdriver by turning a screw. A digital assistant, on the other hand, “can serve as a database for work and file, a sketchpad and planner for projects, a publisher for reports and papers, and a conduit for research that provides access to online resources.”

-What a great job of describing why a laptop in the hands of every student is so much more than a tool. It is more like an entire chest full of tools that is ever changing and evolving to meet the changing needs of the student.

2. Multitaskers vs Unitaskers

We have all heard of the term “multitasking.”  I think we all know that it means doing several things at once.  Some people are very comfortable having several things going on at once while others are not.  Have you thought about which type you are?  Have you thought about whether which type you are is a choice?  Livingston describes thinking by Mike Muir, one of the architects of Maine’s successful statewide laptop program.  Muir argues that the current generation of students are innately multitaskers.  This means that they find it natural to learn in an environment where they are surrounded by multiple inputs and sources of information.  Think about this:  if you have children…do they prefer to listen to music while doing their homework?  Do they have several programs open on the computer simultaneously?  If they have two different tasks to work on do they ever work on them simultaneously, switching back and forth often between the two?

While touring a 1:1 school recently I noticed a girl working in study hall.  She had her computer open and was reading a book.  I asked her what she was working on and her response was…”I am reading “The Taming of the Shrew.”  When I get bored I play this game for a couple of minutes and then work on my math.  Then I switch back to the book.”  That is true multitasking.

Most people born prior to 1980 (many teachers) would go crazy if we asked them to work in this way.  They are unitaskers….one thing at a time.  The thought of having their focus so divided would be unnerving and frustrating to them.  Muir turns that paradigm around by saying;

“The mistake we sometimes make, however, is thinking that we are helping them by having them focus on only one thing at a time, when in reality a multitasker can feel as frustrated and anxious when asked to focus on only one thing as a unitasker does when asked to perform multiple things at once.”

3. Getting to the Thinking Faster

The bottom line of this section is that computers help students become much more productive, allowing extra time for them to develop the higher order thinking skills that everyone agrees are crucial to success in later life.  Computers help students get past the basics and get to the thinking faster.

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I guess I am officially old…

February 4, 2010

Check out this new resarch by Pew..some of it is not surprising (teens LOVE facebook and are almost constantly connected to the internet), some of it is (only old people are using Twitter and blogging)…wonder how long until facebook jumps the shark for something we haven’t even heard of yet…

This study does underscore how ubiquitous being digitally connected is for our youth (93% of those 12-17 are online) and how the nature of that connection is ever evolving (12-17 yr olds equally split in terms of their preferred on ramp to the internet between laptops and handhelds)

The older set is following along well with a 10% increase in social networking sites (read: Facebook) in the last YEAR among those 18 and older.  Blogging, while increasing among those over 30 (count me in), has decreased 50% in the past three years among teenagers – from 28% down to 14%.  Interesting trend…

Here is the article:http://ow.ly/13MhN

We are not immune…

February 3, 2010

Consider this scenario- you are diagnosed with advanced cancer…you must decide what sort of treatment to seek.  You have a choice between two doctors.  You meet with both and listen as they describe their planned methods of treatment.  The first doctor discusses the latest breakthroughs and innovations in cancer research and how they fit into a plan of treatment.  It is clear that she stays on top of the latest treatment methods and research.  She tells you that throughout the course of your treatment she will be consistently monitoring your condition and adjusting treatments to meet your body’s individual needs.

The second doctor proposes a method of treatment that was considered state of the art…in 1981.  No recent research, no advanced methods.  When you question him on his proposed treatment and the need to update his methods he says “This was good enough for my patients 20 years ago and it is good enough now.  I see no reason to change.”

Which doctor would you choose?  The question borders on insulting.  Of course you would go with the doctor who has stayed up on current research and best practice in treating your condition.  The scenario itself is preposterous because no doctor who was using methods that had not been updated in twenty years would even be allowed to practice, much less have patients that choose them for their healthcare.

So why do some in education seem to feel that we as PK-12 educators are immune to the need for change and improvement.  I can walk into almost any school in America and find teachers using methods if not actual materials that were generated during the Carter administration if not earlier.  The basic method of instruction in far too many classrooms and schools is remarkably unchanged from 20, 30, 40 years ago or more.  David Warlick has said of this generation “No generation in history will be so well prepared for the industrial age.”  That would be a compliment if the industrial age had not ended many decades ago.  The next generation needs to be prepared in a way that will help them succeed in the world they will inherit, not the one their grandparents did.  The shift in the economy, the workforce, and all other aspects of life in the last twenty years could not be more clear.  If you need convincing of that check out some of the information presented by Dr. Scott Mcleod of Iowa State University.  You can find his blog at http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org.

All of this data makes the need for sweeping change in education clear…however we as a PK-12 system still seem to think ourselves above it all.  We are the monopoly; the grand American public education system, and we don’t have to change for anyone.  Certainly an organization as large in scope and with such a storied and successful tradition as ours is not affected by cultural changes.  A great comparison to the current feeling of immunity demonstrated by public schools is that of the Big 3 auto makers that ruled America and Detroit specifically throughout much of the 20th century.  These titans of industry thought themselves immune to the changes in automotive design and fuel efficiency that were embraced by foreign auto makers in the 1960’s and 70’s.  The next time you bump into one of the executives of these companies, ask them how that feeling of immunity turned out for them.  Better yet, see it for yourself.  Find a picture of any large parking lot circa 1960 or before.  You can count the number of non Ford, Chrysler, or GM cars in the picture on one hand.  Now find a picture of a large parking lot today.  If the number of Toyotas and Hondas in the picture does not vastly trump the number of “American” cars, you need to check the date on your picture.

My point is they were not immune to change…and neither are we.  Students are not our birthright.  We have to stay current on best practice and the use of technology to prepare students for a technological world or we will lose them.  Just like Honda and Toyota were there to stand in the gap when the big three refused to change, so too can we as educators and an educational system be replaced.

The choice is ours.

So it begins…

February 2, 2010

Hello out there…so begins my first steps into the world of blogging. I have decided it is time for me to start modeling the 21st century skills that we expect students to gain and one of those is communicating digitally. I am not sure how many, if any, will take an interest in what I have to say here but I will stick my neck out and say it anyway. A month ago I never could have pictured myself blogging. Then again a few months ago I had no idea what Google Apps were, had never touched an iPod touch, and certainly had never dreamed about Twittering (or Tweeting as I had to learn it was called.) But here I am. The number one thing I have learned about learning is you better be ready to change. Things never stay the same and the sooner you realize that and come to terms with it, the sooner you will be able to embrace change and all of the ups and downs that go with it.

In this blog I plan to write about my thoughts on education, technology, change, and occasionally the Iowa State Cyclones and how vastly superior they are to the junior college down the road in Iowa City. 🙂

I honestly have no idea where this will go from here. I have no idea if the things I have to say will make any sense to anyone. I have no idea if anyone will have an interest in reading them. There are however two things I am sure of. #1 – I am open to the experience and #2 – I am excited to see where I take it and where it takes me.