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Posts Tagged ‘1:1 computing

I am stricken by the malaise that typically happens this time of year. (It’s something in the air, I tell ya!)

When I juxtapose blog entries like Why the iPad absolutely matters with Why Integrating MacBooks Into The School Curriculum Ain’t The Best Idea, I feel even worse. On one hand we have an energetic school principal with good ideas and experience with technology integration. On the other, we have a local school that tried 1:1 computing and seems to be failing (if we take that student blogger’s word for it).

I’ll take a byte out of Chris Dawson’s follow up to the principal’s guest posting and echo that a new edtech paradigm matters if technology is to be integrated meaningfully and effectively. But we are talking about systemic change and that takes time, money, buy-in and loads of effort.

That is not the only way to do things. Whole revolutions have started thanks to the efforts of individuals on the ground. The individuals in our case are teachers.

Teachers see both sides of the coin. They see what policymakers and administrators want; if they open their eyes, they also see what their students need. Most of the time teachers heed the call of the former group. But a few break out and focus on what is important.

[image source, used under CC licence]

These “rebellious” innovators see the third side of the coin, the side that goes all round and gives it depth. They change the way they teach to suit their learners and the times. They take advantage of relevant and powerful technologies. They do it in the face of blinder-wearing, pitchfork-bearing, 19th century steel-armoured opposition.

Well informed personal pedagogy matters. To deny this is to deny our learners what they need. Informed pedagogy gives teachers drive and makes teachers change way they teach, garner support and look for funding or collaborative opportunities.

Such teachers just do it even if they do not have immediate or local support. They find it internationally through personal learning networks (PLNs). If you are on Twitter, you might consider lists like:

I am energized from doing informal presentations at today’s LSL open house! Our research project is Pre-Service Teachers in a Ubiquitous Computing Environment: One-to-One Technology Enhanced Learning. (I think we should change “enhanced” to “enabled”.)

When I read ProfHacker’s article last week on Ubiquity in Higher Education, I thought that a principle they mentioned not only applied in here in NIE but also in mainstream schools. The principle? EVERY learner needs to have a device ALL the time. Scott McLeod has a similar call for K-12 learning environments.

My trainees using personal laptops during an Educational Psychology II session

NIE provided every teacher trainee with a laptop computer a year ago. The naturalistic part of our study investigates what trainees do with the laptops and how the devices might influence their learning and teaching. Our research so far reveals that:

  • while in NIE, pedagogical factors prevent widespread integration
  • while in schools during teaching practicum, infrastructural, social and policy factors limit their use, and
  • teacher trainees already own other mobile computing devices that they use as matter of convenience or choice.

The pedagogical barrier refers to some teacher educators not wanting their trainees to use the laptops during lectures or tutorials. The infrastructure barriers in schools include aging technology in classrooms, limited computing devices for students, and poor or non-existant reach of wireless Internet access.

Policy barriers include the ban on the use of personal laptops at work while allowing the use of school-purchased systems to which teachers do not have administrative rights. School network systems can detect when non-sanctioned laptops hook up to the network and some schools go so far as to not allow LAN hookups by not distributing cables or not allowing teachers to use their own. Policy barriers also take the form of administrative or social pressure not to use sites like Facebook. Interestingly, the practices vary from school to school even though there seems to be a central body from which the policies originate.

Our teacher trainees have their own iPhones or PSPs, or they have purchased cheap and light netbooks which they use for tasks both professional and personal. I think they unconsciously see the need to have continuous access to an Internet connected device. What that device is does not have to be a laptop computer.

These findings have led my group to extend the definition 1:1 computing. We are suggesting that the bureaucratic, technological definition is no longer relevant. Instead, a pedagogical and more humanistic definition is needed.

The traditional definition of 1:1 computing is administrative. It is a numbers game where the number of users is juxtaposed with the number of computers. In the best case scenario, administrators try to get as close to that ratio as possible by buying more computing devices. That can be an expensive affair. In the worst case scenario, administrators approve of computer labs where each student has access to one shared desktop computer. This limits access time to the technology and reinforces the idea that technology use is special instead of natural or transparent.

My trainees using a jigsaw strategy during an ICT tutorial

Our research group believes that a more progressive definition of 1:1 computing takes into account how people already use technologies available to them. A teacher might already own a smartphone and also tote a laptop. A student might also have a phone but also carry a mobile gaming device in their backpack and have access to a desktop computer at home. They use one computing device at any one time to complete a particular task. This may be a matter of choice or convenience. We think that 1:1 computing should focus more on what users do and how they learn with these devices.

It is insufficient to simply provide mobile technologies to users. Doing this fulfils not just a bureaucratic 1:1 ideal but also a technological one. Simply putting technologies into the hands of users does not mean that they will know how to use the devices, much less use them effectively for teaching and learning. In the context of teacher education, our idea of 1:1 computing includes providing the support (technical, instructional and pedagogical) so that teachers and teacher educators understand and learn to apply pedagogies that are more relevant to ubiquitous computing.

We must reframe the concept and practice of 1:1 computing. If not, I fear that we will not only waste money, we will also expose learners to ill-conceived and implemented ideas on technology-enabled learning.

[image source, used under CC license]

Anyone who learns about the Apple tech in Maris Stella High School would probably say yes to the question. But only from a hardware standpoint.

There aren’t many schools here with 1:1 computing schemes. Crescent Girls School was among the first and I have heard that Anderson Secondary jumped on board last year.

I have observed 1:1 computing in CGS and was not particularly impressed. This was not because they weren’t using Apple systems but because old, tired pedagogy limited what students did in class. For example, one class used their tablet PCs to solve math word problems. But all that happened was a change in medium (from paper to screen). There was no technology-mediated student-student or student-expert communication or searching the WWW for alternative solutions or the modelling of creative and critical thinking as a result.

While the blog author mentioned the pros of having Apples on the Maris Stella campus, he also mentioned how the school limits access to Facebook and the use of wireless USB modems. Schools are entitled to do these things, but these actions limit learning opportunities and reinforce the non-real world bubble that schools get trapped in.

Yes, some workplaces limit or even ban Facebook or instant messaging. But workers find creative workarounds. If Maris Stella is doing anything to mirror the real world, it must be this! However, employers find that such tools are a necessity in today’s world. Just do an online search on how companies integrate Web 2.0 tools into their business or follow relevant RSS feeds to learn how.

I am glad that the boys in Maris Stella have such an excellent platform to build upon and learn from. I have no doubt that a few teachers are using it judiciously, creatively and effectively. But I urge the school authorities and teachers to find ways to integrate such social networking tools into curricula. After all, their students and many of their teachers are already using them socially, so why not educationally? The days of the LMS (learning management systems) are over; it is the dawn of the SLS (social learning systems).

What would I learn without RSS? Very little! RSS is one of my personal PD (professional development) tools and with it I learn or get something reinforced every day!

One blog I follow is Chris Dawson’s. He recently asked how important is 1:1 to literacy? He doesn’t have all the answers (no one does), but he asks some pretty good questions. He has a follow-up today on getting your teachers started with 1:1.

On his blog today was a feature on virtual autopsies via surface computing. Another of my favourites! Surface computing, that is, not autopsies! Alas, I have practically abandoned my efforts in surface computing due to a lack of support.


Video source

I think that surface computing is not only more intuitive, it also promotes other literacies because you must be able to manage, manipulate and create with digital media. These might include the interpretation of various types of images or the creation of videos or screencasts to illustrate ideas and processes.

Thanks to a Tuck Soon, I discovered a my paper article yesterday on how some North Vista Primary School students were using netbooks.

primary-school-netbooksClick the image above to see a larger version.

I am glad and mad for a couple of reasons. First, the reasons why I am glad.

I have written about netbooks before, the earliest almost a year ago. I am glad that people are taking this concrete action of putting netbooks in the hands of learners.

Of course, technology alone is not going to help students learn more or better even though it is an enabling factor. Case in point: The journalist chose to highlight how the boy said that YouTube was his source of information. I am glad that the boy was able to find and defend his answer, but I hope that his teachers model and teach information literacies.

I do not like the numbers games that people play. The netbooks were reported at originally costing S$1,000 each. After an educational discount, each cost S$600. Who are they kidding? You can buy a decent netbook without the discount for S$600-700, even less if you go for Linux driven ones!

I’m hoping that there was some really good software was included in the bundle, e.g., computer management software and an automated system of installing updates. But what they would need beyond Web 2.0 applications like Google Apps (which all Singapore schools will get by default by the end of this year) is beyond me. These are netbooks for crying out loud!

Though the cost of netbook ownership is not exhorbitant, there will invariably be some who cannot afford it. I wish schools took suggestions like mine or come up with more schemes to leave no child without a netbook at home or at school. See what Oz is doing with netbooks or what this school in the UK is doing with the iPod Touch.

The other number that presents more questions than answers is the 32 out of 40 class periods a week in which the netbooks are used. A number like that might make administrators happy. But what exactly are they doing with the netbooks. Yes, the newspaper article mentioned a show-and-tell and taking photos in the schools ecogarden. But you can do this without netbooks.


Video source

I hope that the students of North Vista get to do things like digital storytelling (link opens a YouTube video). Or that they go beyond the basic searching for information and actually create and collaborate, something Alan November mentioned.

I realise that I am an outsider and do not have deep knowledge of what is going on in the school. What the reporter saw was but a subjective snapshot. But these principles still hold true: 1) Without powerful and relevant pedagogies, the technology is used but not integrated, 2) the medium can change but the teaching and learning do not. I hope that the school skilfully blends content, pedagogy and technology so that its students benefit in the long run.

It was a from a talk by Peter Reimann of the University of Sydney that I heard about a programme in Australia to enable 1:1 computing among students.

Then I found this YouTube video about how students in New South Wales, Australia, would receive Lenovo netbooks in Year 9. If they do well academically by the time they were in Year 12, they keep them.

It sounds like it is not just a technology distribution programme but one that also focuses on technical support, cyberwellness and multiple opportunities for learning.

More information about the NSW Digital Education Revolution here and here (PDF).

Good on ya, mates!

Play a word association game and start with “Portugal”. Football fans might mention “Ronaldo”. History buffs might say “Megellan”. Practically no one would mention “edtech initiative”.

But they should in light of an initiative that has put laptop computers in the hands of nearly 1 million secondary school students! Here is a snippet:

the end-cost to students’ families is only €50 to €150 for laptops that would otherwise sell for more than four times that amount. Qualified low-income families receive theirs for free. The Escola computers come with a one-year mobile broadband contract for €17 a month (discounted from the normal €23), and other plans are negotiable depending on the providers.

All teacher trainees will eventually get to experience 1:1 computing here in NIE. Teacher educators will have to ramp up on more progressive and relevant pedagogies to take advantage of the technology.

But what will our trainees face when they are posted in schools? When will all students in Singapore schools have ready, reliable and relevant access to technology?

The notebook PC scheme begins early for some preservice teachers here in NIE. Those on the degree programmes can collect their PCs this week. The incoming batch of trainees for the July 2009 semester will also benefit from this scheme.

I applaud this initiatve to allow preservice teachers to “immerse themselves in a culture of pervasive and effective IT use early in their teaching career”. However, I hope that this move does not cover the same ground as MOE’s first IT Master Plan. Simply putting technology into the hands of teachers does not mean that they will use it or use it well.

I am certain that the trainees, particularly the younger Net-gen ones, will use their new notebook PCs in ways that we expect and in ways we cannot predict. But with always ready access to the Web and communication tools, they and their instructors need to learn how to take advantage of this affordance during within and outside the walls of NIE.

Measures are in place to try to promote meaningful 1:1 computer use. I am part of a research team that aims to monitor this phenomenon and I will invariably be involved in providing training for my fellow teacher educators.

I can be sure of one thing as NIE embarks on this bold journey. Mainstream students are difficult enough to teach; teachers are even more difficult to teach because of entrenched mindsets. What then of trying to change mindsets and behaviours of teacher educators? ;) I relish the challenge!


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