|1-to-1 Around the World|
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation
For many school leaders, knowledge of 1-to-1 initiatives in other countries can be very limited. Unless you have been fortunate enough to have time for professional travel or connect online, most of the detail about the use of laptops in schools in other countries is restricted to an occasional news item or magazine article. This is unfortunate and unnecessary, so given our growing network of AALF schools, from time-to-time we will feature articles from schools around the world.
This month we start with three articles from Australia, featuring two first class educators, Michael Valentine from Perth in Western Australia, and Martin Levins from Armidale in northern New South Wales. While there has been much written about the origins of 1-to-1 programs in Australia in the early 1990s not much has been seen of late, so I'm sure you'll find their insights valuable.
I'm fortunate enough, or otherwise if you find planes troublesome, to spend a lot of time working with school and government leaders in an increasing number of countries in recent years. It is encouraging to see a rapid increase in the diversity of cultures now considering 1-to-1. While much of the early momentum towards 1-to-1 has come from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, in the past couple of years European countries such as France, Belgium, and England have also initiated significant programs.
However over the past twelve months, the number of countries now considering 1-to-1 initiatives has exploded, particularly across developing countries, with pilots in Brazil, Pakistan, Libya, and Chile to name just a few. This interest of course, has been largely due to the work of Nicholas Negroponte with the OXO laptop and Intel with their Classmate, and adds an entirely new dimension to the idea that every child should have their own portable personal computer.
There are many reasons why schools, districts, states, or countries consider 1-to-1 initiatives. For many like Maine, the main driver was economic; a state once thought of for its ship-building and forestry, needed to enhance its skill base. For others it is a clutch of reasons: improving assessment opportunities, reducing the burden and cost of textbooks, and improving a school's position within a community. But for most it all leads back to increasing the learning opportunities for their students, and the impact that has on their future.
All these reasons are behind the drive to 1-to-1 amongst developing nations, but for them there is also an even more critical one... their very survival. Many developing countries around the world believe that the changes we discuss so often in our countries, is significantly increasing the divide between wealthy and poor nations, and catch-up is no longer an option. What they are seeking is to leap-frog the work of developed countries by cleverly leveraging the knowledge and wisdom they are sharing, in the hope that it will give their people every opportunity for a better future.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Negroponte's desire to design a personal portable computer that does not necessarily require electricity, and where young people in extremely remote communities may be connected to the "outside" world via an ingenious web of peer-to-peer connections. This determination will add an entirely new face to the global impact of 1-to-1 over the next twelve to eighteen months.
As these programs grow in size and status, more developed countries will in turn be required to review their modes of computer access within their schools, and many more will see the value in their students having access to the expression medium of their time- a personal portable computer. But most importantly, more schools around the world of all cultures, will be challenged to ask themselves what impact the laptop is actually having on their student's experiences inside and outside school, and ensure they are truly seeking the most creative and innovative opportunities for their students to learn anytime, anywhere.
The Cold Mountain Project
Head of Junior School
The Hale School
Teachings boys who are twelve years of age to love literature and research is a compelling and quite personal teaching challenge. At Hale Junior School in Perth, Western Australia we seek to continue to teach boys to read, write, and research in the upper primary years so that they can broaden their knowledge of the world, be independent in their learning and refine their thinking skills. We use a literature-based model in this curriculum which requires the designing of modules of highly engaging literacy tasks based on an extract from a novel. Each project has up to ten tasks and may take three weeks to complete. The literature, research, and technology curriculum is the cornerstone of our Year 7 programme. As the Head of the Junior School at Hale School, I teach the literature, research, and technology curriculum to a class of twenty-eight Year 7 boys - and an increasing number of classrooms around the world in collaborative projects such as "Cold Mountain."
The 2007 Cold Mountain Literature, Research, and Technology Project
The opening four pages of this novel, of which all students receive a copy, describe the thoughts and surroundings of a young soldier who had been injured in one of the major American Civil War battles. The boys of Year 7 at Hale School and the girls from Abbotsleigh School in Sydney and Leaden-Hall in Salisbury, England all received a project booklet as well as access to the on-line forum hosted by Hale School. They read with great interest the descriptions of the hospital and the lack of hygiene and of the medical havoc wrought by infection as a result.
The project booklet requires the students to respond to the text in three stages:
- Before Reading the Text: A large handwritten visual display of their knowledge about the text's key themes prior to reading.
- Text-Based Tasks: A series of questions designed to require reading "across the entire text" in order for them to be answered successfully.
- After-Reading Tasks: This is where we focus on developing the students' independent research skills, maximizing the use of their computers and have some wonderful fun with a creative task designed to generate enthusiasm for the topic and the project in general. Our research topic was "The History of Medicine" and the creative task involved studying a decomposing piece of ham! This was in response to a marvellous quote from the Cold Mountain text used to describe another patient in the same hospital ward as our key character. This character had lost his foot to "grape-shot," but as a result of subsequent infections (while in hospital), "The amputations had progressed past his knee and he smelt all the time like last year's ham." A multi-dimensional journal was kept using Inspiration software and a digital camera. The ham decomposed quite spectacularly over eleven days!
The boys from Hale School and the girls from Sydney and England used the on-line forum to discuss their research work, their responses to comprehension questions, and to graphically report upon the decomposing ham hanging in bags around their classrooms for two weeks! All students also prepared a piece of writing, "A View from a Window," to complement the essence of the opening chapter which focussed on a character looking out of a window dreaming of home.
The boys and girls use of technology was critical to the presentation of sophisticated, multi-dimensional, widely-researched projects.
Our technology platform allowed our students to prepare work of a superb quality. Each student used their tablets or notebooks to prepare:
- A journal of the decomposing ham using photographs and Inspiration software
- Responses to the questions based on the story
- Their own reference text (on the History of Medicine), drawn from on-line encyclopedias and websites (up to twelve pages collated from four websites)
- A precise, brilliantly-structured research document on medicine comprising information displays on ancient, medieval and modern medicine
- A movie of their final day's ham observation
- Extensive contributions to discussion on-line with peers across the world citing web-sites and writing ideas and answers to text-based questions
- A powerful piece of creative writing
In three weeks these students learned an enormous amount as a result of being engaged in their work and maximizing the use of their computers. The sharing of their ideas and ultimately their work was a powerful motivator for both boys and girls.
Creative and engaging teaching complemented with the extraordinary capacity of today's technology is a highly potent and exciting combination. We must ensure that the true craft of teaching is not worn away and that we celebrate idiosyncrasy and genuine academic depth in our classroom. We must steadfastly refuse to fall lock-stop into generic classrooms where the textbook and worksheet dominate. Such an environment is meaningless, monotonous and mechanical and learning is linear and passive.
Real teaching is engaging, constructivist, educationally-valid, and resonant to an extraordinary degree. Technology, professional creativity, and the capacity to design our own curriculum modules represent the ozone layer of quality, stimulating education for all participants.
|1-to-1 Laptops is Hard, Right?|
Director of Information Technology
The Armidale School
One-to-one Laptops is Hard, Right?
That's what I get asked when I tell colleagues and other educators that our school has embarked on such a program.
This year (2007), in our 600 student K-12 school, we gave out laptops to all students from grades 3 to 12 and one thing that has really surprised us has been how well the program has gone.
Our school adopted an approach that was learning-driven, backed with three years of laptops supplied to teachers with carts for class work, and an opt-in lease program for parents. Our infrastructure had undergone a refresh of both switch gear and wireless coverage so we were ready; only a refinement of our management policies and procedures was needed. And we're still learning here: while software and hardware are common to projects of this type, people, procedures and policies, this human "wetware," is very much peculiar to a given institution.
Our preparedness was boosted by the level of executive commitment from the headmaster down. Backed by teachers and students who wanted more, this was an essential paving stone on the road to 1-to-1.
Of course, it wasn't all teachers who were ready to go; waiting for all to come on board is like waiting for Godot: it'll never happen. It sounds harsh, but they'll either adopt or leave.
To help them with this decision, I had adopted the mantra of "changing, and staying the same," asking teachers to really think about what they are doing, and since 2004, the discussion in the faculty lounge turned from sports scores to what makes effective teaching to, eventually, what makes effective learning.
Initially, teachers can be easily seduced by the wow factor, although that rapidly fades as (good) teachers realize that gloss doesn't really make up for a lack of preparation or understanding. They take longer to realize that many of the shiny tricks are simple one-button mouse clicks and largely irrelevant.
An English teacher may worry that he, unlike his students, can't make a transition that flips between two video clips. He perceives that he is somehow deficient, but good teachers are not deficient in their craft, irrespective of their IT ability. So a teacher can turn this situation around, asking the student showing such an effect, "How has that transition advanced the narrative," shifting the focus away from the technology and back to the learning.
We're noticing similar changes in our students as well. Lots of people talk about student voices: how students now have the ability to express themselves graphically, but we're noticing more than this.
A ninth grade science class was working on the importance of binocular vision. One student generally described as "not capable of much" by many teachers grabbed his laptop after class and used the built-in camera to record his catching success with both eyes open, compared to one eye closed. He put the resultant Quicktime video onto his iWeb generated website (all of our students are provided with their own website).
Now here is the genuine wow factor: a student doing real science, designing his own experiments. Someone who is "not capable of much" doing real science in his own time, continuing his learning at home. Exciting, huh?
We're seeing similar things with students writing more because their podcast sounds lame, but also writing less because their movie is too long.
This apparent paradox is explained by Blaise Pascal: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time," meaning that writing concisely takes longer. Students asked to build a thirty-second advertisement have to do more thinking than one asked for a "five or ten minute" video. It also takes the load off the network!
I've found myself benefiting greatly from this approach as well. One of my "other" jobs is education columnist for Australian Macworld and I prepared for our rollout by writing columns on the infrastructure, management, pedagogical, and financial issues surrounding a 1-to-1 program.
The discipline imposed by writing for an authentic audience really made me refine my thinking about our upcoming project, reinforced the importance of reflective writing and helped me model what I wanted my students to do.
I'd urge you to look at our project. Because we wanted the emphasis to be on learning rather than the laptop, we christened our website "knowledge." You'll see more meaning behind this when you visit http://knowledge.as.edu.au.
If you'd like to listen to the podcasts of the Australian Macworld articles, you can do so at http://web.mac.com/martin.levins.
Reckon you can't afford 1-to-1? You can: if the argument is compelling enough, you'll find the money.
|A Profoundly Important Journey
Head of Junior School
The Hale School
In 1998 we stared with fascination at the trolley laden with fifteen Toshiba "laptop" computers. We had convinced the headmaster at the time that the Junior School deserved a stake in the "computer trial" and we were determined to succeed. There was talk at the time that some of our girls' schools in Perth here having the girls in Year 5 - 8 purchase their own laptops.
Imagine, one each!
In Australia in the 1990's it was certainly the girls schools leading the way with 1-to-1 programmes, the remarkable Methodist Ladies' College Melbourne experience had inspired many schools.
I vividly remember the elaborate process we undertook to set up these machines way back in 1998. The trolley was crammed to overflowing with blue cables, power hubs, network hubs, and a box marked "Xircoms - Fragile." What an understatement! The Xircom was a small attachment that linked the laptop to the blue cable that connected to the porter hub that connected us all to the network - most of the time! The Xircom had a ceramic core that the slightest knock would disable and make it unserviceable. My class of boys would attempt to connect all the pieces with the deft touch of a surgeon -but the slightest pressure would crack the Xircom connecter and another $50 would be charged to our Junior School technology account!
These fifteen notebooks were shared by eighty-four Year 7 boys for twelve exciting months where we used them solely in our English Learning Area. Our IT department worked tirelessly to help make our teaching plans become reality as we interacted with the technology. Our classrooms resembled a workshop as the carpet was covered in a tangle of blue cords and power cords. Cleverly designed power-hubs sat on each desk and a couple of printers worked tirelessly to cope with the queue of boys working to connect their computers to them.
It was a time of great innovation and excitement, we had opened the door labeled "Technology in Education" and realized we were on the first steps of a long, never-ending journey. What we hadn't realized was how powerfully this decision would challenge and inspire our teaching.
Our boys responded wonderfully to the computers and we quickly offered pods of thirty laptops to Years 5, 6, and 7 within a couple of years. The school then moved to wireless and after some bandwidth issues we felt we were ready for the biggest step of all. A 1-to-1 notebook proposal received the approval of the Board of Governors and I put together a presentation to parents one evening in 2002, extolling the virtues of our plan based on what we had achieved to date and what we could achieve in the future.
Our decision to embrace 1-to-1 technology, quite appropriately, compelled us to explain to our school community the benefits of such an expensive decision. We had long-banned commercial worksheets and tedious textbooks from our classroom and I wrote incessantly to parents about the true craft of teaching being so personalized and experiential. We had, and still steadfastly do, embraced Wiggins and McTigh's "Understanding by Design" curriculum model to ensure that we avoided uninspiring, linear style coverage of a learning area as well as ensuring we didn't implement an array of isolated, highly engaging activities which were intellectually disconnected from our educational goals. We resolved to acknowledge that technology would enhance this style of curriculum development if we remained committed fully to the principles of the backward design process.
We had pledged to our parents and ourselves that we were committed to offering an educational experience that would be engaging, multi-dimensional, and perhaps most significantly, allow for individual creativity. "Intelligence is far more than information" we had acknowledged and yet the overwhelming expectation of our boys, our parents, and even many educational technology advocates was that: a 1-to-1 programme would open the door to endless reservoirs of information. We despaired at the concept of producing a generation of efficient information managers. In 2002 we produced a memorable information evening for parents after weeks of ensuring we were not compromising our teaching and learning principles to convince them of the merit of 1-to-1. We used music, video, boys working on stage, and a bit of oratory to explain to our parents how their boys would:
- Participate in knowledge
- Consume knowledge
- Critique knowledge, and
- Produce knowledge
in all its various forms using technology in a constructivist classroom.
It was striking how well this succeeded. Where so many were comfortable with a future classroom being a mechanical, meaningless, and monotonous environment we had introduced them to a world of real teaching. Real teaching is a craft that inspires the energy of enterprising teachers and their imaginations. When you complement such a person and their classroom with 1-to-1 technology, you prod and challenge them to reach for ambitious educational goals - not technological efficiencies. Our Year 7 curriculum has evolved into an extraordinarily creative, multi-dimensional academic experience with an enduring and valuable reputation.
In 2007 our Junior School now has 200 computers including tablets for our Year 7 programme. Most importantly we have established an educational community where our Teaching and Learning Philosophy complements the extraordinary capacity of our computers to create a unique school, a school where the teaching team feel they are enjoying a period of their professional career they will remember forever.
Our journey has demonstrated so irrevocably that outstanding teaching and extraordinary technology are a potent combination. Such a combination allows the teaching team to strive to achieve ambitious educational goals with creativity, purpose, energy, and a professional zeal that recognizes double rewards: the promise of success and the promise of continued revelations about our teaching capacities and potential.
To conclude, paraphrasing Bertrand Russell, our recent technological history makes me acutely aware that there can be no finality in the affairs of education, there is no static perfection and un-improvable wisdom to be achieved.