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Posts Tagged ‘laptop

Recently I mused:

While lectures are still the norm in institutes of higher learning (IHLs), there are occasional rumbles that challenge this practice.

The first series of seismic activity occurred several years ago with the rise of MOOCs (remember those?) and at the height (and hype) of the flipped classroom. While this idea largely only changed the nature of the lecture and homework, it asked questions of mass lectures.

I also know of at least one IHL leader who considered repurposing lecture halls. I do not know how far he got with that idea.

Elsewhere, however, lectures are not just mainstay, some faculty have taken to banning laptops in lecture halls. Such news seems to be cyclical — it goes away and revisits with the regularity of the cuckoo in a clock.

Much like the cuckoo repeating its call, the reasons for banning laptops are the same, e.g., they are a distraction, handwriting is somehow better for retention, faculty just do not like the view.

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

The problem is not that students might get “distracted” as they take notes on laptop. Neither is doing so is somehow less effective than handwriting. (If you cite research on both, just be sure that is was not a foregone conclusion in search of data.)

The problem is that the students’ professors prefer to teach they way they were taught. They rely on lectures. They do not know any other way, or if they do, do not wish to change.

They bottom line is that lectures are efficient for transmission. However, this does mean that they are effective for learning. While older learners need to be more independent, be willing to struggle with content, and follow up on lectures, they do not deserve to be held back by someone else’s inability to learn.

Values are more CAUGHT than they are TAUGHT.

As modern educators, we need to be model learners first — fiercely independent, willing to struggle with something new, and following up with new strategies. We are not just fountains of knowledge because we have books and the Internet for that. We pass on and nurture values.

Dismissing student use of laptops as distracting or being inferior note-taking tools is to not value change and to not empathise with the learning process.

I LOL’d when I saw this tweet. It was a moment of truth and connection. Ask adults around you and you might get similar anecdotes of this shared experience.

But however humorous, the observation is superficial. It is probably what drove people like Prensky to create the concept of the digital native, i.e., kids born with technology are savvy with it because they are wired differently.

What proponents of the digital native narrative ignore is that we are first wired to play and explore. Our instinct is to learn.

If the available technology was a stick and mud, a child as a curious learning machine would use it. Some mud and even the stick might end up in their face or mouth.

Today the technology might be the computer or phone. A child is the same curious learning machine and the computers or phones stick as well. That child is no more a digital native than the previous one was an analogue native.

I often tell adult participants of my seminars or workshops that they are sometimes more native with some technologies than their students and children.

Take the use of Facebook for instance. Most adults and parents my age started using Facebook before they had kids or before their kids started using it. The adults are more aware of the usage, nuances, and changes in Facebook than younger learners. They might also be wiser about what to share and what not to. The adults are the digital natives in that context.

That is one of the key weaknesses in the false dichotomy that is the digital native-immigrant divide. It does not take into account context of use. A better but less well known theory is the digital visitor and resident continuum by David White.

Whether it takes a comic or some critical reflection, I hope more people read about how the concept of digital natives does more harm than good. After all, we learn not when we reinforce something we already believe in; we learn when we experience dissonance as we play and explore.

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!

The laptop celebrates 40 years, so says this Wired article. More accurately, the concept of the laptop is 40-years-old.

In the interview, Alan Kay, who first conceptualised the laptop, was reported to say:

my thoughts about an intimate personal computer were mostly of a service nature – that is, how could and should it act as an amplifier for human, especially child, endeavors?

So we have laptops, UMPCs and netbooks today. The cost of netbooks in particular are dropping and will continue to drop. Why are more of them not in the hands of learners? Why are educators needlessly clinging on to outdated mindsets and not using innovative ways of teaching and learning with netbooks?

And speaking of netbooks, let’s recall how Asus took the lead in producing what seemed ridiculous at the time. A small, underpowered but cheap and portable netbook for the consumer masses. Why? Because they could. Then netbooks from Asus and other companies became a roaring success and netbooks even topped Amazon notebook sales in September this year.

From a link in Dawson’s blog entry, I read that Asus may be phasing out the smaller ones to focus on larger, more powerful units. Why? Because they can. Dawson bemoaned the fact that Asus might lose the education market. Then again, what computer company thinks of the education market?

I think we will use whatever is available. After all, educators co-opted Microsoft Office, a product designed for business use. Look where that led us. Hmm, low level tasks, PowerPoint pedagogy, and form over substance.

Maybe Dawson has a point after all…


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