I am not an educator. I don’t work in education administration, though I have sat in many principals’ offices. But I was motivated (which would surprise my former teachers) to write something after attending the HP/Intel Digital Learning Environments event Tuesday in Cary, NC.
I sat in on a presentation by Bruce Friend, director of SAS Curriculum Pathways, where he told a story about a focus group he attended. The group consisted of students and teachers at a resource-blessed school that had acquired the hardware and connectivity to roll out a sweet one-to-one learning program. But the laptops sat at the back of the rooms, taunting the tech-savvy kids, chortling at their pencils, paper and textbooks. One student said he wasn’t sure what was worse, not having laptops available or having them stacked in the back of the classroom, unused.
To quote an old Howard Jones song, “You can see the summit, but you can’t reach it. You can have a laptop but cannot learn with it”…or something like that. (Wow, he was quite the visionary in 1985.)
But I must disagree with him when he claims “no one is to blame.” At some point in the process someone said, “We’re cutting-edge! We have to get laptops in the classroom to engage the kids!” Great idea, but there was a large hole in that process. The teachers were not trained on how to integrate the laptops into instruction.
Leslie Wilson, president of the One-to-One Institute, was the opening keynote and echoed Bruce’s thoughts.
Introducing laptops should represent a major shift in how students learn…a shift towards the use of those pesky 21st Century skills we hear so much about. Are teachers expected to intuitively know how to make that shift? Could a plumber go from using a wrench to using the Plumb Laser 3000 with no training? Reinvention of one’s professional self is daunting and it’s not surprising that the school’s laptops sat unused, smugly wallowing in their untapped potential.
To help address this gap in classroom skills, SAS has partnered with the Friday Institute and others to provide such training, including how to integrate SAS Curriculum Pathways into classroom instruction. Clearly, HP and Intel are fellow evangelists. To revisit Howard Jones, with a one-to-one strategy rooted in professional development, “things can only get better.”