Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No Shirt, No Shoes, No iPads

I received an email this afternoon from a colleague who wanted to share a story and raise a number of questions. 

A teacher just told me that someone she knows has a daughter who is part of the LPN program. The girl pays tuition because she is an adult. Well, they were asked to purchase a bunch of books and the girl did, but on her iPad. Well, when she went to class the teacher told her that she could not use it, that she needed the books. So, they had to re-purchase the books and a rolling suitcase to carry them around.

It's taken me a bit of time to wrap my head around this. I have found myself debating this situation as both a parent and as an educator. The parent side of me would have demanded to speak with the principal/director/supervisor. I would have raised hell for a lack of better words. Why can't my child use his/her iPad to access their textbook, class notes, etc.? What's the difference between the ebook and the regular textbook? Where in the syllabus does it say that the textbooks have to be actual printed textbooks? 

I can assume that the supervisor and or teacher would have begun pointing to various policies and procedures that have been set forth by the learning institutions. "We're sorry - such and such learning institution has a strict ban on student-owned technology devices in the classroom. This policy includes the use of cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices."

This drives me absolutely insane! In my opinion there is no reason why that student could not use his/her iPad to access the ebooks that they downloaded for his/her course. It's even more infuriating that this is a continuing education/adult education program and the instructor has an issue with another adult using his/her iPad to access their ebook.

This happens in continuing education programs; this happens in K12 public programs. Again, we expect our students to walk in, unplug, and go to class. Why? Why do we have to unplug? Why do we have to leave our computers, our tablets, our smartphones at home, in our lockers, in our bags? Why can't we download our textbooks onto our iPad, take notes on our laptops, and look up answers on our smartphone? 

Obviously, we need to have a plan in place. We need to figure out the particulars before allowing the students to stay plugged in. However, we should not limit our students from accessing technology - from learning! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Day of Encouragement/A Day of Frustration

What would your ideal classroom look like? Would it consist of several work stations? Maybe a full laptop cart? Would you like a closet full of iPads? What if we threw in a few iPod Touches? Obviously there would be WiFi access and an interactive whiteboard to top it off.

I discovered that classroom today - sitting empty.

It was frustrating. Here sat an ideal classroom environment geared for exploration, collaboration, and research going to waste. Unfortunately, those in charge focused on developing a fully integrated classroom without focusing on the classroom. And there sat their ideal classroom - empty.

The day was not a total loss though. Although the computer lab set relatively empty, there was a steady stream of teachers stopping in to ask questions, learn more about this or that, share what they have done with their classes, and discuss what they could do with their classes. We experimented with Moodle, took a look at Edmodo, and shared several lists of apps that we could install on those iPads sitting in the close.

So how do we get these teachers into the computer lab? How do we take their ideas and bring them to life? They obviously had all the tools in place, so what was missing? Why wasn't the lab being used?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Technologies vs. New Behaviors

I spend most days developing and facilitating professional development workshops focused on this device, that application, or a combination of something else. I develop projects that incorporate latest trends; I devise ways to implement and integrate applications into various classroom environments. I facilitate a multitude of workshops with a multitude of teachers in a multitude of districts. Such is the life of a Technology Integration Specialist.

And then I came across a recent blog entry by Dr. Scott McLeod on his site http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org in which he shared the following quote:

Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies - it happens when society adopts new behaviors.  - Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, p. 160

Like myself, Dr. Scott McLeod, visits a number of schools. And he noted that "many schools that have new technologies, but not enough of them also have new behaviors.

And with those words the preverbal light bulb went off as these words rang so true to my own experiences.

We tend to focus on the technology. We tend to gear our instruction towards this application or that process without looking at the grander scale of the program. We want to integrate technology into the classroom without focusing on the classroom. We want to explore new ideas without addressing old ideas. We want to change the face of education, but we don't want to change how we teach.

Technology is part of the solution; it is not the sole solution. Rather than micromanaging the implementation of this or that, we need to think globally. What behaviors do we want our teachers to model in the classroom? What applications can we integrate to support that model? How would you structure your classroom - your building - your district to meet the demands of 21st century learning? What applications, programs, tools, training, resources do we need to make this dream a reality?

The success of new technology lays within the adaptation of new behaviors. It has been said that the whole is more than the sum of it's parts. We must address education as a whole if we are to succeed in the classroom. We must focus on the how if we expect to see success with the what.