Just as it is not feasible to have students stand in line to share learning tools such as a pencil, paper, notebook, book, etc, it also doesn’t make sense for them to share a laptops. Students often need to work at their own pace in their own way. Laptops become a student’s assistant for thinking, drawing, writing, reading, analyzing, calculating, connecting, collaborating, producing, researching, presenting, and more. This does not occur if they are given only isolated pockets of time or have to wait until someone else is done. Their laptops provide anytime/anywhere on-demand access to information, thinking, learning, experts, collaboration, creativity and knowledge and more. As one student put it clearly, “When I can’t use my laptop, I feel like a part of my brain is missing.” Today’s collaboration does not occur with two students sitting at one laptop. It occurs with students using their own learning stations collaborating and connecting with like-minded people, inputing, discussing, interacting, simultaneously not one at a time. Furthermore, those people they are interacting with are not just the student next to them, but could be a student, adult, or expert any where in the world.
To be truly effective laptops must be woven into everything that is done in the classroom. Jean Piaget protégé and artificial intelligence pioneer Seymour Papert explains it this way, “People around the world have opted to use the computer as the natural medium. They have found this is the efficient way to do knowledge work. So, if we want to bring the children of the world into the knowledge economy, knowledge society, the computer is the only means of doing that. One to one allows children to take charge of their own learning.” True technology integration requires one-to-one access to technology that most of our society takes for granted outside of school walls and that our plugged-in world increasingly requires. Those fluent in the kinds of interconnected, collaborative work processes that laptops support and encourage have a distinct advantage in today’s world.
With a laptop students don’t just learn about science…they have access to tools to be scientists. They don’t write about books…they publish their own work that is viewed, rated, commented on and published to authentic audiences. They don’t just read history textbooks and answer questions at the end of the chapter, they become a part of history through simulating characters or producing content and information for the world in places like Google Earth, Wikipedia or through producing original digital videos They not only read books by experts, they become experts and have opportunities to connect and converse with experts and mentors in various fields. If technology is truly integrated, rather than an add-on, one-to-one is the only reasonable option .
Even in low-income neighborhoods our students have access to and are using 21st Century tools outside the classroom. For many education occurs after school where students learn about their world and prepare themselves for their 21st century lives. It is important that we provide students with the tools inside classrooms that engage them outside of class. Schools shouldn’t be a place where as one student says, “We have to power down.” The job of today’s educator is not to simply ensure student’s achieve proficiency in standardized tests measuring 18th century skills. We must provide our students with the opportunity to effectively use tools and resources they use outside of the school walls. Many students see school as an irrelevant institution whose only function is to provide them with a credential that their parents say they need.
Each day we move forward using outdated tools that are not relevant to the lives of our students outside of school we make our role less and less relevant to the lives of students. Students are already voting with their feet. We have dropout rates hovering around 50%. Many of those who stay in school admit they are bored and don’t see a connection between what they learn in school and their everyday lives. Internationally acclaimed educational designer Marc Prensky explains it this way. Our young people generally have a much better idea of what the future is bringing than we do.
They’re already busy adopting new systems for communicating (instant messaging), sharing (blogs), buying and selling (eBay), exchanging (peer-to-peer technology), creating (Flash), meeting (3D worlds), collecting (downloads), coordinating (wikis), evaluating (reputation systems), searching (Google), analyzing (SETI), reporting (camera phones), programming (modding), socializing (chat rooms), and even learning (Web surfing). We need to help all our students take advantage of these new tools and systems to educate themselves. As we educators stick our heads up and get the lay of the 21st century land, we would be wise to remember this: If we don’t stop and listen to the kids we serve, value their opinions, and make major changes on the basis of the valid suggestions they offer, we will be left in the 21st century with school buildings to administer—but with students who are physically or mentally somewhere else.
Additionally, when a student has ownership of something, these items are better cared for and maintained.
EduCon 2.0 is both a conversation and a conference.
And it is not a technology conference. It is an education conference. It is a School 2.0 conference. It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we want to come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. We are looking for people to present ideas, facilitate conversations, and share best practice. The Axioms / Guiding Principles of EduCon 2.0:
1) Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members. 2) Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen 3) Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around. 4) Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate 5) Learning can — and must — be networked
Making videos, communicating, creating their own programs, our children will take charge of knowledge. I believe that having the individual computers–each child owns a computer and has it all the time–is the only way we can empower really learner-centered learning.
Teachers in both Maine and Henrico County, sites of the largest one-to-one computing programs in the country, are strongly in favor of them, as are school administrators, parents, and the students themselves. This has been documented in multiple surveys and studies by a number of different organizations. These reports, and others looking at different one-to-one sites, suggest that students are more engaged in school, demonstrate greater independence and more self-directed learning, and show improvement in a variety of skills, such as writing. There also are unique benefits for students with disabilities, and as a result, special education teachers are especially enthusiastic.
Students are producing and creating for authentic audiences
Students are connecting and having ongoing conversations about their working In many cases work is assessed authentically by peers
Having conversations about work
Publishing work to authentic audiences