An Excellent New Year – Going 1:1

ENJOY 2012! – Excellent New Journey Of the Year!

It’s enough for you to do it once for a few men to remember you. But if you do it year after year, then many people remember you and they tell it to their children, and their children and grandchildren remember and, if it concerns books, they can read them. And if it’s good enough, it will last as long as there are human beings.  ~Ernest Hemingway

Week 19 – Let’s Get this Party Started!

 

In my mind, this is the week of fireworks, balloons, confetti and noisemakers!  We’ve waited a long time for this week to come to Benton High School.  This is the week our staff and students have been talking about for years – we are going ONE to ONE.  One laptop for each student changes learning.  It changes what we learn, how we learn, and why we learn.  We have had to deal with so many changes that I don’t know where to start to remind you of how far we’ve come.

We know preparing to go one to one has changed us…think back to where we were five years ago.  Wireless Internet throughout our building?  And now you are frustrated when you can’t get access wherever and whenever you want it!  Who would have guessed?  Using blogs and twitter to communicate to your students?  Did you ever think you would expect to use social media to reach your classes?   I know you have all been battling for years now as our laptop usage increased.  Giving each student a device will make that so much better. But it will also introduce a myriad of other issues we must not be ready to tackle.

We have a few MAJOR considerations and decisions to make in this first semester.  I realize that one of them has been made for us by default – printers.  Students will no longer print to our printers.  How does this change your teaching?  How does this change what you have turned in to you?  How does this change what and how you grade?  Have you thought through the glory and dark side of Air Drop? How about Google Collections?  If you haven’t thought much about that since our JEPD a few weeks ago, check out Ryan J’s screencast showing benefits and tips to getting that going in your classes (it’s one amazing tool if you didn’t know that already).

Another consideration is going to have to be class accountability.  If a student has a laptop and can do all the work you do at home, why does he need to come to see you in class?  That will be the great debate of the semester.  We must seriously consider the implications of this situation.  Attendance is not only required by our district but also by DESE.  We must make it not only necessary for a grade, but when it come to face to face learning, we must make that experience invaluable – one that can not be “made up” on a worksheet.  The thinking and conversation that comes from being together with other learners must be rich and rewarding.  How will this new challenge change what you do pedagogically?

One final consideration is classroom management.  With every student now having access to a computer all day, every minute – it will change what you do in your class as well as what you AND the student think you can do.  Are you ready for that?  Do you have a plan in mind when you want students to put away their laptops?  How about when you want to pause and have them pay strict attention to what you share?  How about when the kids are just working on a project?  How do you monitor where they are on-line?  Are they safe?  Are YOU safe?  Hopefully, you have already worked through all these issues.  It’s not like we haven’t been working with laptops in classrooms for five years already – we have!  But more than ever, we must be vigilant to what students are accessing.  We must teach them to be safe.  Don’t skip this part in every lesson you give in your classroom.  Remind students of the implications of a digital footprint.  Show them your footprint so they can follow a good role model.  And make it a joyful step into 2012!

~ Excellence is a journey not a destination. ~

Photos available under Creative Commons on Flikr: Parade Balloons Salt Lake City, Utah by Pink Sherbet Photography; Fireworks in Taipei…by [email protected]’s photostream; Confetti by smcgee; 1/365 Happy 2009! by foreverdigital.  Project Connect by Melissa Corey for SJSD.

Piloting our Future in Education

The Thinker in Paris

It’s taken me a week to decide what I thought about ISTE2010 – oh, not about what I learned; that’s easy, –but about what I wanted to do with what I learned.  Each year, this is my third, I find the conference has had a completely different impact on my thinking.  The first year, I was felt like I woke up from a coma in respect to educational technology and where the world was in respect to the progress in our schools (BTW, the answer? Dismally behind where we should be).  In my second year, I felt challenged as an educator in a leadership position (there’s a story behind this that I need to tell later), and Scott McLeod personally challenged me and sent me home to do something to advocate for educational technology in my school, district, and state (which I did).  And this year, my third year, I feel I am moved to action.  Action in a way that I am not sure of yet, but certainly action that I hope carries the name “pilot” as often as possible.

I like the term “pilot” I’ve decided.  Not just because I am one or I’m married to one.  Not because it’s a cool SUV that I would love to own (and want it sitting next to the sports car I plan to own next year). No, the English teacher in me figured out I want to skip the pilot nouns; I like the verb “pilot.”   I like it because the word itself seems hopeful to me.

At ISTE, Chris Lehman challenged my school team (we were fortunate to take 9 teachers to ISTE this year) to examine one system or structure of our school/classroom that we could change to make it better reflect our values or mission.  I was amazed that all 9 of us jumped on the fact that our future block schedule could revert back to a seven period day, and we knew that was not what was best for our students in respect to teaching and learning.  We all know funding drives it.  We all know it’s the easiest decision to fall back to for the school board.  We all know it’s the schedule that most people are familiar with which is what makes it so accessible.  What we didn’t know is why we were going to just lay down and take it when there just might be something out there that is better for our students AND fits the funding constraints we are facing. Maybe we should create something and PILOT it.

Then Ian Jukes got me want to live on the “future edge” with his challenges to step up to 21st century learning.  He reminded me about Moore’s Law and the new digital world that is not stopping for educators.  Then I listened to Howard Reingold, and he make me realize I had to put myself out there if I really wanted to make the right difference for my school.

Hourglass

My mind didn’t stop there.  There are so many things we do each day that just don’t work for student learning.  How many different sessions must I attend, books must I read, or data must I analyze before I challenge what I we do in my school?  I am tired of hearing myself say it’s a part of the system and can’t be changed.  I am currently reading Education Unbound by Frederick Hess.  It’s already making me want something better for my students and my teachers.

I am dying to step up to the challenge.  I think our district and our state sees that on the horizon – if Missouri public schools don’t try new things, challenge old ways, go where only charter schools have gone before – we are going to lose our kids.  I accept the challenge to find a better future schedule for our high school than what is traditionally easiest to accept.  I accept the challenge to encourage our teachers to teach beyond a test and reach kids in where service and creation (read The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida) are their future reality. And, I accept the challenge to bring the whole flat world to our students by pushing our community to understand, accept and demand a one-to-one environment for learning.  I am willing to do the work to pilot these ideas.  The way I see it, the time is here:  innovate or die.

So, ISTE2010 has me thinking.  I like the term “pilot.”  How about you?

KurtPilot_m

Photos:  The Thinker in Paris by dreamawakener on Flickr.
Kurt in Afghanistan by KurtWestfall on facebook.
Hourglass by James Birkbeck on Flickr.
All photos from Flickr: Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution and share alike distribution