Archive for the ‘integration’ category

What Kids Do in Computer Labs…

March 11, 2008

Well, it goes like this: My son, who is in third grade, gets home and is telling me about his day. I know, he won’t ZZZ.jpgbe doing this much longer. He tells me that he had computer lab today. He tells me they worked on keyboarding skills. He tells me they work on keyboarding skills every time they go to the computer lab. He tells me it gets boring doing it for 30 minutes. He tells me that even if you finish the lesson early, you have to go back and do it again. He tells me that every 5 weeks they get free choice. This is his experience with computers at school.

What does this tell you?


Disturbed and Angry and Sickened

February 9, 2008

sad face.gifWhat a title, right? Well, I just went through all of those emotions when I read this February 10th article from the Washington Post titled, A School That’s Too High on Gizmos. What can I say… you have to read it to see if you experience the same emotions. In a nutshell, it describes the teachers’ and students’ experiences in a very high-tech school in Alexandria… and most of what is reported is not good. Imagine – a new building, state-of-the art, all of the technologies anyone could want (and it turns out more than most want), and teachers who are disillusioned, turned off, and frustrated. Students who are recognizing technology for technology’s sake. The term used is “administrative technolust” –

“a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them.”

Teachers being told that they cannot use more traditional technologies (i.e. overhead projectors, chalkboards…). Technical problems continually interrupting learning. The mourning of face2face socialization and increased depersonalization. I love this one quotation from a student who admits that his favorite teacher

“isn’t into all this computer stuff. All he uses is the board — the whole board. He’s lively, energetic, witty and really knows his math. He forces you to pay attention; you can’t drift off even if you want to.”

I love that. It brings a balance to the conversation about 21st century teaching – that good teaching must precede effective technology use.

Now, there are so many issues to address in all of this – technology before training, unsupported infrastructure, mandated teaching styles, mandated tools, lack of mentorship, technology for technology’s sake, technology as magic bullet, technology diversion, poor leadership, and more… I think this might be the first article that I have read that includes so many illustrations of poor technology implementation. It also brings some insights into the great conversations that happened over on Scott McLeod’s blog Dangerously Irrelevant and Pete Reilly’s blog, Ed Tech Journeys, about whether technology should be mandated or not. And, in all fairness, it is one highly publicized article that I am sure does not capture the situation in a totally unbiased and objective manner.

Anyway, read it for yourself. How did it make you feel? Let me know.

New Podcast Content in iTunes U

February 6, 2008

PBS and others are now present in iTunes U. There are some great resources here that are now itunesu1.jpgaccessible freely via iTunes. These are wonderful resources that have relevance in the classroom, but would also make great out-of-class assignments where relevant. Of course, since they can by synced with your portable media devices, that means that students do not need to be tethered to a computer to listen to or watch this media. One can access the following resources there: history, art, music, science, museum artifacts, scientific research, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and PBS content.

PBS, in particular, has a great deal of valuable content that can be used to supplement the curriculum and instruction.itunesu2.jpg The screenshot below shows content from just one of 3 pages of PBS resources.

With so many great resources being made available, it makes the integration of podcasts and portable media players even more of a no-brainer. Of course, all of this content can be accessed on a computer as well. Depending on the goal and age, one medium may make more sense than another. And, with so many filtering obstacles in schools, this also makes it easier to bring content into the classroom that is not accessible from the school network. Content can be played right off of the teacher’s laptop or directly off of an iPod. Not so long ago, it was fairly difficult to bring this type of content into the classroom. You had to either record it at home and bring it in on VHS, or ask the library media specialist to record it for you (but that had all kinds of requirements and limitations…). Oh, and you had to (1) know what shows were to be aired, and (2) remember to record them (if you had that channel at home). Now, it is just a matter of looking through a list of already-aired shows and picking them to download and watch – whenever and wherever you want. So, no excuses now… (well, I’m sure you could still come up with some…).

Who Needs More Help?

January 4, 2008

This morning I read an article from the HeraldNews online titled, Future of education on display at school. It writes about how a laptop program has ‘transformed’ teaching and learning at this parochial girls’ school. It describes how students are benefitting from greater on-demand access to information, are taking notes digitally from text projected on a screen, how teachers are able to cover curriculum more quickly, and how math and science instruction is benefitting from 3-D modeling and virtual manipulation. The report also discusses how student engagement and enthusiasm have increased and does not deny the presence of a few distractions due to the new tool. As I read the article I acknowledged that these are all typical observations from a budding laptop program and that nothing really revolutionary in terms of learning was going on. However, students and teachers alike go through stages of adoption (at different speeds, no doubt) and one cannot expect radical transformations in learning overnight. But, the real kicker though was that there was the conception that having laptops and being able to access content online was the “future of education”. That’s where I let out a frustrated sigh. It is still about being good information consumers (important nonetheless). The article concludes with this quotation from an individual not connected with the school:

“The goal is for students to really recognize that you’re in an ongoing conversation with people all over the world … and then to contribute their own ideas to that conversation.”

Yes, Bravo! But, this was not happening anywhere in the school as described in this article. My question is, who needs more assistance in recognizing the power of conversation, creation and contribution of knowledge here? The students or the teachers? How can the students realize this potential when the teachers do not? Professional development really needs to move in this direction, beyond the mechanical to the powerful. Schools need to embrace powerful and meaningful learning through technology and FREE teachers from so many obstacles that continue to fetter them. Only then will we experience the ‘future of education’. For now, let’s be careful not to call digital 18th century modes of learning the ‘future of education’.

Integrate or Integral

November 1, 2007

keyboard_book.jpgI recenlty read a great post by David on his blog and it struck me that in our efforts to help teachers see and discover the great learning potential in new technologies that we sometimes get frustrated with them for not seeing things our way… that integration is not good enough… that technology use must be integral to everything they teach. I totally agree with him that it should not be seen as an add-on and that really we should be learning specialists who understand the potential of technology rather than technology specialists who are helping teachers teach with it. However, sometimes I think we have been guilty of not understanding where teachers are in their pedagogical beliefs and have not brought those beliefs into the equation. What teachers believe about teaching and learning directly impacts how they will leverage new technologies. For example, does technology help facilitate collaboration or problem-solving? Does technology supply tools that help amplify thinking, spark creativity, or visualize ideas? Does technology empower students and facilitate self-directed learning or the pursuit of unique interests?

Or, in along more traditional lines: Does technology help me generate worksheets, create puzzles, assess quantitatively, present information, create displays, find resources for my lessons, communicate with parents…

We have to understand the pedagogical framework that teachers are working from rather than impose our ideas of how technology use should look if it is integral to learning. What kind of learning? I think that the real issue here that drives technology’s integral role is how we view learning. Because let’s face it – for some, technology is just a pain in the neck and they use it as if they were putting a square peg in a round hole. They use it to please their superiors. Or, they try their best to steer clear of it altogether. So, I think the work that still needs to be done is to help bring vision back to teachers who have lost it, to help teachers no longer excited about learning new things find that spark, to rekindle their desire to connect with students, to help teachers take risks and to make failure safe, to reward collaboration and innovativeness, to foster a community of practice… I think THIS is where technology becomes integral. Any less, and technology, at best, is integrated. At worst, tolerated.

speaker_20.gifListen to this entry as an mp3 file.

Leave the Laptop at Home?

October 5, 2007

Taking NotesHere is yet more news report of frustrated professors having a difficult time figuring out what to do when technology enters the classroom. Often, the ‘solution’ is to ban them from the classroom, as some professors at this particular university are doing. Other institutions have done the same thing. I struggle with this as well, as I teach college students, often in a computer lab full of computers. We talk about the arrangement and type of computers condusive to a collaborative community in the classrom. I like to be able to see everyone’s computer screen rather than have rows of monitors that serve as walls between me and the students. It just makes things easier for me. It also makes things easier for the students, who are able to share with their peers more easily and are able to group in flexible ways in the classroom. Laptops make this even easier to achieve. However, when desks are in rows and students are all facing the lecturer who is lecturing… and laptop screens are up, fingers are busy, and no eye contact is being made with the lecturer, I do think problems begin to emerge. Let’s be real here… there are so many distractions sitting on one’s desk with a laptop… IMing, emailing, shopping, browsing, games,…. If I was a bored student sitting in a boring lecture, then why not?


The proportion of distracted students drops off significantly when there is a challenging and engaging dialog going on as part of the lecture… when students are more than just scribes. The few that choose to tune out for whatever reason should experience fairly immediate natural reprecussions – bad grades. But, this is not a fair analysis when one is a lecturer in a hall of 100-200 students. Then what? Is it time to rethink this particular model of instruction? What drives it anyway? Is it economics and the dollar, or is it sound pedagogy? Why is it that somehow we can leave sound padagogy behind in higher education because ‘it has always been done that way’ or “I did just fine in my class of 150 students.” or “It separates those who can and those who can’t.”, or “It teaches discipline and memorization of your content.”, or is it some combination of all of the above? I have been thinking about this for some time now. Do we just accept that some institutions of higher education are businesses… Learning factories? Will students begin looking for other alternatives in the near future? And, if class size is not the issue here and laptops are not welcome in smaller classes, then what is the issue – really? If a lecturer wants a quality class discussion, free of clackity-clack on the keyboard, why not just say, “Close your lids.” Any thoughts?

Put technology where it can be best used… In the classroom!

September 21, 2007

After reading this article on why textbooks have not taken off in digital format as much as was projected, one line stuck out in my mind. It was this: “We have a lot of technology in our schools, but most is not in the classroom, where students are every day.” What a sad statement… but all too true, I’m afraid. I am struck every year as I teach my own preservice students about the fantastic opportunities and tools that technology and the Internet afford – that there is a digital divide within the school walls, not just out in the communities where students live. I am talking about the divide between what we show and teach as best practice when teaching and integrating technologies into the classroom context – and the reality that faces many of our beginning teachers when they actually get out into their own school and classroom – Filters, highly scheduled labs, few labs, poor tech support, aging computers, technology coordinator gods who feel that it is their job to “control” what teachers do with technology and in the end, limit their opportunities with red tape, slow reaction time, ‘it can’t be done’ mentality, few computers in the classroom… And this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Now, I don’t want to come across as the pessimist here. I approach all of these opportunities with a high degree of optimism. But, this statement is just too true… that the very place technology needs to be – in the classroom – is often locked in rooms down the hall, locked to rolling carts, invested in district-wide infrastructure,… The ubiquity of technology in society is not often evident when students enter their classrooms. Some schools are more fortunate, of course. Many are not. We don’t require teachers to go down the hall to use textbooks in the ‘textbook lab’. Until we commonly see 1:1 computing in the classroom, I think our new teacher graduates will continue to experience this disparity and feel the frustration of unrealized learning potential.