Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

May 30, 2008

The potential folly of laptop programs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 9:51 pm

Next year our school division plans to implement a laptop program – nowhere near a 1:1 but we are putting a 15 – 20 set of laptops in each school in the division that wishes to participate in the program. I must admit that I approach this project with some trepidation. Are our teachers ready? Will the laptops be used for authentic, meaningful learning or will they simply be used to do old things in new ways? Have we provided opportunities for professional development that will ensure the technology is used to meet our students’ 21st Century learning needs?

Clay Burrell’s post, An Old Prophecy Confirmed? On the Uses and Abuses of Laptop Learning echoed some of my concerns as he quoted from a student post that speaks to the ‘coolness’ factor of their school’s 1:1 laptop program.

I’ve had too many teachers assign us to “make an iMovie” for this and that. I had to make an iMovie for my World Geography class and Asian Studies class. I was surprised when even my Spanish teacher told me to make an iMovie. It is obvious [our school] is trying too hard…to look cool.

The student goes on to describe a class where he feels the laptop has been used for real learning:

We use our MacBooks to interact with people from all over the world, and learn how to write for [a] true audience. Not just that, we learn how to accomplish stuff through networking and meeting new cool people.

While the MacBooks in the Writing Seminar classroom are shining, the other MacBooks in other classrooms are crying. They say, “what the hell am I doing here?”

Clay’s final comments on his student’s post are well worth keeping in mind as we begin our foray into student laptop computing:

Younsuk’s mention that Macbooks help learning by allowing students to connect and network with the world is something no teacher or administrator is going to understand without doing it. It’s 20th century education with a shiny bell and whistle otherwise. Just a new way to turn in homework. The immigrants in power will think it’s cutting edge, but the students will think otherwise.

It is so important that teachers understand that student use of laptops is about connecting, communicating, collaborating and creating. And yes, I do believe that in our school division we are moving in such a direction.

We are definitely more ready than we would have been a year ago for this student laptop initiative. I work with an excellent team of teachers who go way beyond providing ‘sit and get’ professional development for their teachers – hands-on, one-to-one, just-in-time, mentoring, and meaningful staff collaboration and other forms of ‘differentiated instruction’ will help our teachers ensure that we just don’t look cool but are providing meaningful learning opportunities for their students.

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  1. Donna,

    I to have mixed feelings about the new laptop initiative. I am more excited than nervous. I know that the laptops will be used for both the old style of teaching and new meaningful assignments. I am excited that my own staff has shown a lot of initiative and have related things I have shown them to assignments in class. I will have a large number of staff class blogging next year in what looks to be intersting and meaningful ways. I forsee a lot of classes moving beyond, “writing on the internet” and truly taking steps to global learning and meaningful networking.

    I am sure that if we focus on the positive things that are happening in technology in our schools, other will follow along.

    The future looks bright thanks to your work, the students, parents, staff and division office all owe you a huge thank you.

    Good on ya!


    Comment by Eldon Germann — June 1, 2008 @ 1:53 am | Reply

  2. “Build it and they will come…” If it worked for Field of Dreams, it could work for us.

    I have tried to share what I’m learning without being evangelistic about it. I’ve learned (the hard way perhaps) that if we want to be part of a collaborative environment, we ourselves have to be collaborative.

    Sometimes when I get down about teaching I can lively up myself by re-constructing my work as working and living art. Computers are just one of the tools (like brushes, paint, canvases, clay, stone, glitter…) that help us do this.

    Comment by Patricia Cone — June 1, 2008 @ 3:25 am | Reply

  3. What an exciting time for our division!

    We have moved beyond the walls of the classroom and into a space called “now” where we can connect, interact/react, integrate, illuminate, ruminate and create with one another. We are so fortunate to have visionary teachers, strong leadership and insightful committees open to new technology and yet grounded in deep thinking!

    Comment by Sherron Burns — June 1, 2008 @ 5:26 pm | Reply

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