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Volume 3, Issue 1
October 2007
In This Issue
What If Every Child Had a Laptop - and Nothing Changed
AALF Editorial: I Couldn't Teach Without It
1-to-1 Leadership and Learning : "Because there is no bottom to the page"
Why 1-to-1 Learning: Perspectives From a Superintendent
1-to-1 Questions and Answers: The best age to start a 1-to-1 program
Conferences and Events: Expanding Learning Horizons, T + L
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Well, for most of our Northern Hemisphere members, the new school year is now well under way.  For those "under the equator", you're heading into the last term of your school year. Either way, the excitement and challenge of building exciting learning experiences for our students continues.

This month's issue of One-to-One introduces our new editor, Karen Ward, who has recently joined AALF as Manager of Communications and Consulting Services. To launch her first issue as editor, Karen has pulled together an expanded series of articles for this, our October edition.

These include a report from another 1-to-1 Conference, ELH, the longest running 1-to-1 conference in the world, which is held in Lorne in Victoria, Australia; some thoughts around the best student age to start a 1-to-1 program; thoughts from Dr. Walt Buster and Superintendent Rich Merlo, with accounts regarding the power of 1-to-1 learning from California's Central Valley; and finally AALF President, Bruce Dixon, has some thoughts on what change a 1-to-1 initiative may or may not bring.  Thanks to these contributors for sharing their thoughts and experiences!

What If Every Child Had a Laptop - and Nothing Changed
By Bruce Dixon, President
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation 

Dixon Why would I even want to contemplate such a prospect?  Simply because as time passes, it too often seems like a possibility.  Yes, we know about the exceptional classrooms in every school, and we even know about some of the more prominent schools that are "carrying the torch" for what 1-to-1 can mean to students.  BUT,  we need to continuously be challenging ourselves, and asking whether we are doing enough.


It is not enough to give every child their own laptop, and not seek out ways in which such access can comprehensively change the science we teach our young people. A computer is the basic thinking tool for 21st Century scientists, and with their own personal portable computer, our young people no longer have to do science, but can rather, as Papert espoused, they can "be scientists" forming and testing hypotheses about areas of knowledge their teacher may or may not already have the answer for.


It is not enough to give every child their own laptop, and not look to comprehensively review the way in which you might be approaching the teaching of mathematics. So much of what we do today in mathematics is based on our use of the pen and paper medium, and as we move digitally, we will need to rethink what mathematics we are teaching.


It is surely not enough to give every child their own laptop, and not have the courage and confidence to continually be looking for new and engaging ways in which our students can develop creative powerful ideas around exciting projects that have an authenticity and relevance to them, that has not been previously possible.


OK, so that's the world we are all aspiring to; how do we get there? Well I do have some thoughts on that, and over the next few months I will share those with you, and I hope you can join in to what I think is a very important topic that we should explore openly within the AALF Community. When we have now nearly 2,000 people within our community, I'm sure there will be plenty of great ideas we can all learn from.

AALF Editorial
I Couldn't Teach Without It

By Karen Ward, Manager of Communications and Consulting Services, AALF

We all have defining moments in life. As an educator, some of my most distinct memories and the growth associated with those memories have come about because of comments or feedback provided by a student. A dozen years ago I first encountered the power of 1-to-1 learning as a teacher. I remember distinctly one of my initial defining learning experiences took place when a student named Russell offered, "Mrs. Ward, can I give you some help learning about laptops?" Perhaps his offer was based on self-preservation, but it was my inauguration into the concept of 'less is acually more,' that is, less traditional teaching insured more learning on the part of my students. At the time we could not 'bring the world into our class' because our campus was not wired, and yet many of the student outcomes we expect and predict today were present at that time as well. Students were more engaged and connected to their learning than I had ever experienced before. Teaching itself would not be the same for me, and by the end of the year, my pedagogy included, I can never again teach in any other type of learning environment.

For me, joining the Foundtaion as Manager of Communications and Consulting Services is an honor and evokes another defining experience in life. My aim is that these newsletters effect the same type of reaction on the part of you, the reader. Namely, I need the newsletter to help make anytime, anywhere learning a reality for students. This is the aim we have in mind for the Foundation and this newsletter. Your comments and feedback are as vital for me today as editor as were Russell's twelve years ago. With that in mind, I look forward to receiving your correspondence (kward@aalf.org).

1-to-1 Leadership and Learning
"Because there is no bottom to the page"

By Dr. Walt Buster
Director, Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute
California State University, Fresno, CA

That response of a young boy to his teacher's inquiry about why his enthusiasm for writing had improved since the arrival of his laptop has greatly affected my thoughts about equity and education.

This incident happened when I was Superintendent of the Clovis Unified School District in Central California.  The young boy had a new laptop and was supported by a teacher who had learned about the power of technology thanks to the early support of Anytime, Anywhere partners and educators. 


Prior to this classroom visit, I had attended an early invitational meeting in Seattle where the concept of anytime, anywhere learning was explained.  It was clear that the mission defined by the school board in Clovis to engage every student in rigorous learning, was supported by anytime, anywhere learning.  That visit led to the hiring of several outstanding learning specialists to support teachers in integrating technology into their lessons and the purchase of many laptops.


Today, I direct the Central California Educational Leadership Institute at California State University at Fresno and the new Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation has become an important partner. Our region of California is one of the most economically depressed areas in America.  The fifteen districts we support have large numbers of second language learners and significant instructional challenges. We have districts in large urban areas and some that are located in very remote and rural areas. 


One of support efforts of the Leadership Institute was to take some local leaders to the AALF conference in Boston. Rich Merlo, the Superintendent of the very rural Corcoran Unified School District, attended the Boston conference and brought a district team. The team left with new ideas and the determination to provide their students with laptops in order to increase student achievement. Where many leadership teams would find excuses for low student achievement, Rich and his team saw great opportunities to increase student success.  High standards for all students, staff development focused on building learning communities, coaching for principals, and laptops integrated into instruction are key components of the instructional action plan adopted by his school board.  Clearly, there is no bottom of the page" in the Corcoran Unified School District.


AALF is committed to building our own learning community composed of district, school, classroom and community leaders like those in Corcoran.  We are creating a network of leaders who are committed to creating engaged classrooms for all students.  


There is no bottom to our page as we continue to give every learner, regardless of their economic status, every technological support that will give them access to future success.


Thank you for joining us in this essential work where there is "no bottom to the page"!

Why 1-to-1 Learning
Perspectives From A Superintendent

By Rich Merlo, Superintendent

Corcoran Unified School District; Corcoran, California


Corcoran logoAs an educator, I know the potential that technology can provide for student learning, but to what extent does a school district commit to seeing that every student have access to these tools on a consistent basis?  And the big question is why should a school district make this commitment?  After looking at our own belief system in Corcoran Unified School District, our vision and goals, and the benefits of a one-to-one learning program, we no longer asked the question, "Why a laptop learning program?"  We changed the question to, "What excuses do we have for not committing to a laptop learning program?"  


There were several compelling reasons for our decision.  One thing we realized was that without access to laptops many students in our educational system would lag behind with the learning and technology curve by the time they reached post secondary education or a vocation.  We also took a hard look at the lack of opportunities "our students" had in using technology on a daily basis.  The contrast was striking: students are born in a digital world with almost innate skills and proficiencies in technology, and yet we remain teaching and expect student learning to be done with 20th century tools.  As a district we took the plunge because of the sense of urgency we felt for our students who need this opportunity.  The benefits outweighed the costs. No contest! 


After less than a full school year of laptop use by 8th grade English teachers, those teachers responded, We can never see teaching without laptops.  This confirmed to us that we were going in the right direction in committing to a one-to-one laptop learning plan.  During our second year of implementation English teachers acknowledged the difference they were observing in the attitudes of their students toward learning.  Additionally, teachers reported the following:

·         We are instructing differently.

·         We are using more resources for teaching.

·         Laptops help build student background knowledge.

·         Students are being assigned more projects.


We heard comments like, I couldn't believe it.  From the first day 100% of my students have been on-task and learning!  and,  I found that students were skipping other classes but not mine because they were using laptops in class.


We are currently in the third year of a multi-year implementation plan.  District administration and our school board looked at our vision and goals and knew a one-to-one program fit in our "Destination District" vision.  Our goal is to insure that every 6th through 12th grade student have access to a laptop at home and at school throughout the school year. 


Are we taking a risk?  Indeed, but there is no comparison to the risks our students are exposed to by waiting.

1-to-1 Questions and Answers by Bruce Dixon
Q: What is the best age for stucents to start a 1-to-1 program?

A:  One of the most common questions that people ask when considering introducing a one-to-one initiative, is at what age or Grade level should they start?


While of course there is no correct answer to this, there are, however, many options available, and it's worthwhile takingtime to consider what might be best for your school community.


The most common grade levels that schools have initiated programs have been the second to last year of elementary or primary school, and the first year of middle or high school.  Depending on the grade levels that you have within your various sub schools, this might equate to grade 5 and grade 7.  Unquestionably some of the most exciting student work to date has come from lower grades due to the natural synergy, with the timetable for elementary or primary classes giving teachers much more flexibility in their daily programs.  Also, in primary or elementary classes, a  teacher who is aware of the potential of laptops to explore new avenues and ideas can do so without being subject to the boundaries of 40 or even 80 minute lessons.  However, that is not to say that there aren't some extraordinary examples of work being done in more senior grades.


As we find more and more schools moving towards 1-to-1 initiatives, the question will be asked more frequently, just how young can you start?  There are many things to consider in such a question, not the least being the logistical issues related to weight and security amongst others; however, most importantly of course is the educational value to the child who will have access to the laptop.  Indeed, several prominent districts across North America have implemented successful initiatives starting as low as Grade 3, with students as young as eight years old.  Eastern Townships in Québec, Canada, is a good example of such an initiative with the Director-General there, Ron Canuel, sharing those experiences earlier this year during our 1-to-1 Leadership Summit series. While discussing the program in Eastern Townships, Ron said that the outcomes for his students have been extremely worthwhile and as a result he has had many groups from other provinces and other countries visit his schools to look at the impact laptops are having on younger children.  Of course there are the perennial concerns regarding the impact that keyboard access may have on handwriting, spelling and the like, but the diligent teacher will always be aware of these issues and ensure that these core skills are not ignored, even when children have access to a keyboard at a younger age. In fact, as many would know and contrary to many people's expectations, much recent research is now pointing to the real value that resources such as spellcheckers are having in improving spelling.


Probably one of the more exciting developments in recent times has been the release of lighter and smaller laptops, which, while still fully functional, nonetheless are most suitable for use by children of a younger age.  It will be interesting to hear the experiences of these younger students,  so if you are in a school where students in younger grades are using laptops, please write to us and tell us of your experiences so that we can share them with other members across the globe.  (send your stories to stories@aalf.org).


Then of course, at the other end of the school, in junior and senior years, or Grade 11 and 12,  there is often an even bigger challenge - but we'll save that for next time!

 Conferences and Events
  Expanding Learning Horizons 15th Annual Conference

Fitzroy StudentsAugust 26-28 this year saw the 15th Annual Expanding Learning Horizons Conference held at Lorne, in Victoria, Australia. This event is the longest running 1-to-1 conference in the world.  Each year it attracts a wide range of experienced 1-to-1 educators, as well as "newbies" and school leaders.


Having gathered a solid reputation for exceptional keynote speakers, this year was no exception, with a list that included Will Richardson (US), Chris Poole (UK), Paul Curtis from the New Tech High in Napa, and local speakers David Warner, Nicole Caporn and Jeremy Hetebry. With nearly 300 Will Richardsonpeople attending, the event broke into a series of breakouts, workshops, and a SchoolTech stream for School Technology Professionals; there is also a school leaders discussions group that follows each major keynote address to discuss issues in more depth; basically, there is something for everyone involved in 1-to-1.  So, if you feel like a trip down to Australia next year, keep an eye on www.computelec.com.au/elh and mark a few days off towards the end of August!

On October 17, 2007, Bruce Dixon, AALF President, will be the Breakfast Speaker at the NSBA's annual T + L Conference, to be held this year in Nashville, TN. His presentation, Anytime Anywhere Learning in the Age of 1-to-1, will address leadership qualities and styles conducive to starting and sustaining 1-to-1 initiatives. Registration is required. For more information, go to www.nsba.org/t+l/
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