A Vision: one-to-world

This post was inspired by Alan November’s February 2013 article: Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing  (I encourage you to read it, then come back for my 2 cents.)

My 2 cents… What we have seen in the past 15 years or so is a move from one ‘tech fad’ to another with, in some cases, little focus on the real need: best first instruction that offers multiple modes of learning for all students to be successful. At some point we all probably have been guilty of focusing on the wrong things, especially when the toys are sometimes just too cool to ignore. The problem, as Alan points out, is

Adding a digital device to the classroom without a fundamental change in the culture of teaching and learning will not lead to significant improvement.

Let’s start with a trip down memory lane….

I started teaching in public schools in 1997 after working in a number of non-for-profit organizations. Since arriving in education the available technology has definitely changed. At my first job we had a lab of Apple 2es that you could sign up to use. Unfortunately for most of the students these were put in without any professional development for the teachers  so most didn’t understand what to do with them except play  ‘educational games’, or simply chose to not use them. (Great for me and my students since we were able to go in often.) As the computers advanced the programs became more advanced as well. In some cases though drill/kill computer games replaced drill/kill worksheets.  More engaging for students, sure… more educationally promising, not so sure…

Enter the LCD Projector and the ability for teachers and students to now project their presentations. I actually won an award in 1999 from NYSCATE for my ‘Biographies’ unit where I had my students research and create a ‘biography’ PowerPoint presentation on their famous person to share with other fourth grade students. A simple application, but at this point I was on my way to realizing the potential of project-based learning using technology. The award included an LCD projector that I used in my classroom and shared with the building for those who wanted to sign it out. (Wow, how far we have come since then.)

Luckily for me the year after winning this award offered me many opportunities to learn how to truly integrate technology into my existing student-centered classroom. I was offered an opportunity to become involved in a ground breaking mentorship program where a group of teachers in the region were trained on how to infuse technology into learning. We spent Saturdays learning software programs like Inspiration, and a new online interface where we could engage with our mentees in a virtual online mentoring program.  Looking back it was 1999 and there truly wasn’t too many other programs like this. The best part of this program was that it had its priorities right: Learning FIRST, Technology second. But, let’s not forget my own educational pedagogy was already centered on inquiry, project-based learning. To me technology was a natural addition into my learning environment.

Enter SMARTBoards, and other interactive Whiteboards. The intention of course was to get students up and moving, interacting with the technology. Certainly it does have potential, and I have seen some great interactive lessons but don’t forget it is for only one (or in some cases two) people at a time to be interactive with the board.  It also can turn into a glorified tool for the ‘sage on the stage’ if again there isn’t a, ‘fundamental change in the culture of teaching and learning.’

Enter netbooks, ultrabooks, tablets and other mobile devices. Many school districts have jumped into the 1:1 fray, some being successful, but many not so much.  The missing component again is the vision. Flooding schools and students with devices won’t change the learning culture. Before moving to a 1:1 program schools need to think through the process and needs of the stakeholders. More importantly, as Alan points out, they need to have a vision and start looking at the possibilities from a ‘1 to world’ perspective.  Thinking of it as a ‘1 to world’ focuses on the global component of learning or as Alan says:

This simple, one-word change takes us beyond the focus on the boxes and wires and alludes to why we are making the investment in the first place. The planning considerations now evolve from questions about technical capacity to a vision of limitless opportunities for learning.

So, once again it boils down to a vision.  If a district, building, administrator, or educator doesn’t have a vision how can they see results and truly affect change? I’ve heard people say they don’t have time to articulate a vision. I say that you can’t afford not to take the time. Without a vision and follow through districts will continue to throw money into technology without seeing any improvement in learning.

Please Know:  I am not against technology, rather I’m truly excited about the possibilities.  I just don’t want us to lose sight of what the ultimate goal is: learning and success for all students.

3 thoughts on “A Vision: one-to-world

  1. Hi Dodie,
    I read the article by Alan and your comments about one-to-one computering, too. I agree with you and Alan about establishing a vision. This vision should focus on “changing the culture of teaching.” If our teaching culture stays the same, what’s the point of getting the devices? I know that using technology correctly, can enhance learning while engaging our students. For example, I love doing projects at the end of the school year after testing because it keeps the students engaged and focused on learning (if they are authentic projects). This pass school year, I had the students to complete a digital project using any multimedia tool about a disease or health career (a list was provided to choose from and a rubric was used) and present the information to the class. I was really impressed with their creativity, level of engagement, and the final project. I noticed that students with challenges and the unmotivated students were really engaged and excelled too. I am developing more lesson plans for projects for the coming school year that will have a discussion forum to address any problems about the projects which another student may be able to help with. Since, I really want to provide an environment where all students can be engaging learners and contribute something meaningful to the group.

    As a teacher, how can I take an active role in assisting in developing a vision which includes changing the culture of teaching at my level? So once the vision has been established, how does one go about getting the funding for the resources in a struggling school district? Do you have any suggestions? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Jacqui Carter

    1. @carter5470 Thanks for the comment. I think you are already affecting the vision by living it,and exposing your students to such rich learning environments. As far as financially supporting your work I would just say never give up. I have found smaller grants within my district, in my community, and state to be easy to get and they do add up. Good luck and thanks again for your response.

  2. Hi Dj. Followed your link from Alan November’s posts comment sections. Do you think this is possible from a developing world’s point of view?

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