Mark Brumley sent me this link this morning:

My first thoughts are:

1. Just because you are using laptops instead of desktops wouldn't necessarily change the fact that most educational computing is not transformative in any way. I'm very interested in hearing from those who know more than I do about 1:1 laptop programs, since I would imagine that pedagogy, not technology, is the key to success in these programs.

2. This reminds me of the recent study on educational software. Again, if computing just mimics the current teaching methodologies, how could you expect a change?

3. I think there is some good, common sense buried in this mess. Until you have teachers who are prepared to really integrate the technology into what they do, using a tool like Moodle, or the collaborative tools of Web 2.0, handing out a lot of laptops is probably exactly the wrong thing to do, and will result in exactly what the article describes.

In my to-read-more-carefully pile is an article that I think really relates to the current use of technology in schools:

I sent these notes to some online friends for discussion, and Andy Carvin said that he is right now blogging about this for his PBS blog (


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I wrote a letter to the NYtimes, since it's doubtful that they are reading our blog comments about it! Voicing our concerns in print might be a good idea.

On thing that distressed me was how the writer didn't really drill down into the implementation issue as the problem, not the laptops themselves.

I also felt the opening salvo was very sensationalistic though I didn't mention that in my letter.
I was at a talk by Mike Russell of Boston College recently when he showed a slide of kids with laptops being used in a classroom. It was one of those feel-good photos. Then he showed an eerily similar black and white slide of kids with typewriters in the classroom from the 1930s, and the juxtaposition was sadly enlightening. In both pictures, the students looked engaged and happy, but the idea was clear: not much really new here.

Mike's intention (and I interviewed him at, so you can listen and decide for yourself) is that schools have done the same thing businesses did--they brought computers into the their traditional environment and have tried to use them based on the same way things have been done before. The great benefits computers have brought to businesses in the last 15 years really occurred when the computer allowed things to be done in completely different ways.

My theory (and not necessarily Mike's) is that you can't force this process from an administrative side. A growing group of committed educators are going to find unique, compelling, exiting, and engaging ways to rethink classroom and educational processes because of the new model of the read/write web. My best vision for the job of our Classroom 2.0 network will be to provide a forum to facilitate the discovery and dissemination of those new ideas that truly make a difference. In my mind, the read/write web makes the computer a completely new tool--but one that looks like the same computer we had 5 years ago. So it should be no surprise that we're going to continue to see computers being used as the next logical step in writing (pencils -> typewriters -> computers) or research (book -> library -> internet) where the benefit to value is reasonably open for question.
Thanks for the references to the Times article and the Stager paper. No doubt the pedagogical underpinnings are the critical point in directing the use of computers in education and the assessment of what they can enable our students to learn.
To what extent do we want to ensure the acquisition of basic skills, basic knowledge measurable by standardized assessment by our students while encouraging them to be creative, insightful open to inquiry and collaboration with others who can encourage the development of these traits?
How can we instill skilled, disciplined, critical thinking without stilting imagination, creativity and innovation? How can we encourage the development of empathetic, moral and socially committed young people?
When we can answer these questions we will better know how to use computers and applications to help develop students capable of being better citizens of the emerging Global Society.
Thanks for this post, Steve, and thanks for all the thoughtful references you provided. Having read all the articles, and people's reactions, it becomes glaringly obvious: it's all about the teaching.

It's all about the teaching.

Go forth modeling the behaviors that will take us outwards into the global community, go forth expecting and requiring personal excellence and investment in the process and products, and things may just work out. I think one of our main jobs is to show and share quality work. Web 2.0 is a rather perfect vehicle for this. Another main job is to join together to scout and clear the path. We are pioneers.

I'm not sure Administration, on the local or national level, will be able to keep up with what's happening. From your references, and those of others as well, it's apparent how bogged down things can get. "Wait! We need to assess this! Let's use this old instrument--or let's devise an instrument to see how that instrument is doing..."

Onwards, backwards.

Much of the change in learning may occur outside of the schools, now. Or in addition to the low-level basics that are required. (The new interactive Web 2.0 skills could easily cover basics, with much increased student motivation. Collaboration--well, that isn't even asked of the students much of the time. How old-century is that?)

From the article you referred to by Andy Carvin: "'s easy to forget a very basic axiom: if you're going to make a fundamental shift in how students and teachers access technology, you better be prepared to make lots of other fundamental shifts in how you assess and teach students."

And your comment: "If computing just mimics the current teaching methodologies, how could you expect a change?"

A response to Carvin's article by Bob Irving: "Far better to look at learning first: how do people learn, what is our curriculum, what thinking skills are we trying to teach?"

It would be fun to make mission statements for various parts of Classroom 2.0. Let's keep moving forward and see where this all leads us. Thank you for developing a web habitat in which we can experiment, share resources, and have a sense of working together for a larger purpose!
Well said Connie.

I do think thought that it's both about the teaching AND about the planning. We have to think through our goals and expectations, anticipate problems and plan for them, or be flexible enough to adjust when unexpected ones crop up.

We do have to model the change we want to see in the world, as you said.

Great points, and I was thinking MUCH the same thing as I walked
around SLA today and saw kids using their laptops in powerful,
collaborative ways. It *does* require a paradigm shift, tons of
planning and then, it also requires an understanding that it's
*still* not a panacea. Will already wrote about how we've struggled
with the issue of iChatting this year, finally getting to the point
where we walk a balance that is occasionally messy, but in the words
of our esteemed colleague, Brian Crosby, learning *is* messy.

But also, too many folks have this thought that if we just hand the
kids laptops, *presto* learning happens. You need a web-based
learning environment that acts as a virtual center of the community,
that gives the kids something to anchor the learning that happens,
you need courses that teach kids how to use the laptops to further
their learning, not just how to use them, and you need a vision of
education that is progressive and project-based so that the kids can
use them as research, communication and creation tools.

And yeah, I just described SLA. ;)

-- Chris
This seems SO important:

"You need a web-based learning environment that acts as a virtual center of the community, that gives the kids something to anchor the learning that happens"


"you need courses that teach kids how to use the laptops to further their learning." This is what Marcie does, right? I think this is huge. A class where the purpose is to help the kids understand how to use the computer for their different subjects, and gives them hands-on help. I'd like to learn a lot more about what's done in that course.
Yep, that is Marcie's course. And essentially, here's our equation for doing it.

1) Stream classes so that kids take as many 9th grade courses as a cohort. (At SLA, it's English, Biochem, History and electives.)
2) Give the kids a semester long 9th grade tech class.
3) Identify a bunch of tech skills you want all kids to have.
4) Have the 9th grade tech teacher work with the core stream teachers to identify content and projects that could be used to teach those skills, and have the tech teachers use her class time to teach the skills.

Here are the benefits:
1) Classroom teachers don't have to be the experts at teaching tech.
2) Students are taught tech "just in time," learning tools that are applied to their learning, so that kids can see how the tool transforms their experience as students.
3) Helps to create a spirit of interdisciplinarity and collaboration among faculty.
4) Helps to create "teacher-leadership" role as tech teacher (Marcie, in our case) really has the ability to work with many different teachers to help infuse technology / teach new literacy tools.
This is a great program in my mind. I spoke to a group of technologists last night and mentioned what you were doing and I could see the wheels turning in folks minds.

Chris--had you seen something like this before SLA? Did you model it on another program?
It's an upgrade on the program we started at Beacon 10 years ago. A group of us sat down and came up with it at a summer workshop that was a tech staff development around a grant to bring a T1 line into Beacon. Beacon had streamed classes and a progressive educational outlook, so just making the technology elective serve that just made sense.

Still does.
OH MY GOODNESS! Articles like this make me want to scream! People would use an article like this to fuel some close minded thinking. The #3 point you made is exactly what I believe is the issue. Train the teachers, make them fully understand how to apply the technology to improve student learning and they will see the improvement. Technology isn't going to make a difference by itself. That would be like saying that a pencil makes for good writing . . . it is the instruction given to the student and the student's ability to apply that instruction that makes for good writing . . .not the pencil!
Okay . . . I just read the banter about the pencil and I apologize for the comparison. It goes back to the fact that technology is a tool, and a fantastic tool at that. It can't be blamed for poor learning. When I don't have engaging projects going on, I too, have some of the problems that they are describing. But again, it goes back to engaging lessons and projects. Pencil and paper activities have never led my students to forget to go to lunch, or out for recess, where with tech projects it has happened many times!



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