Archive for October 2008

Irving ISD and the K12 Online Conference

October 28, 2008

This year Irving ISD has decided to borrow an idea from Jeff Utecht and his K12 Online LAN Party idea. We will be hosting a couple of live sessions for teachers in the area to attend, watch some of the K12 Online Conference and take part in some discussions with fellow educators.

The plan is to start the morning by viewing a couple of K12 Keynotes and discussing. Participants will then choose a strand (Getting Started, Prove It, Kicking It Up a Notch or Leading the Change) and a couple of sessions from that strand to participate in. Next, participants will get together with others who selected the same strand and take part in some face-to-face facilitated discussions. The purpose is to hopefully gather some new ideas from other educators from around the world (K12 presenters) and around the community.

In order for the Irving ISD/K12 extravaganza to be successful, we need some participants. Please join us!

The get together will take place at The Academy of Irving (map) on Saturday, November 8th and Saturday, November 15th from 9:00am – 12:00pm.  You will need to bring a laptop with you so you can view the on-line presentations.

Please join us to take place in the discussion (and bring a friend)!

I have included a flyer and podcast below so you can learn more about the Irving ISD/K12 endeavor.  Feel free to leave me a comment or contact me on Twitter (astevens74) if you have further questions.

Thanks and we hope you choose to join us in the discussion!

Listen to the IISD K12 podcast

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Why I Encourage Laptop Use in the Classroom

October 24, 2008

The entirety of this post is written in response to Why I Ban Laptops in My Classroom by David Cole, so you might want to read it first.

This year I am not “in the classroom.”  I am working this year full-time as an Instructional Technology Specialist on my campus which allows me to see in to many teachers’ classrooms and get a varied perspective on teaching and learning.  We are a one-to-one laptop campus as well as a career focused non-traditional high school, so I see many interesting learning activities taking place as I look through the windows of classrooms or go in to the classrooms to assist students and teachers.

As I walk through the hallways of The Academy I see students working collaboratively both on-line and in person; I see students interacting with text both digitally and traditionally; I see teachers lecturing traditionally and via pre-recorded videos students access via their laptops; I see hands-on activities, laptop-based activities and book-based activities; I see students engaged in their learning – students making choices, re-evaluating and facing consequences.  I see students getting a varied and effective education in a public high school – laptops are an integral part of this.

Laptops enable students to interactively participate in the classroom (and outside of the classroom) in ways they would be unable to without the aid of such technology.  With laptops in the classroom, students can still participate in a verbal discussion, but they can also extend that learning by participating in discussion boards, collaborative note-taking, instant messaging, Twitter, blogging, etc.  Students can deepen their knowledge of a topic or answer their own questions by accessing information via a search engine like Google during the classroom lecture or discussion.  In short, laptops give the learner more power to take charge of their education; they encourage learners to step away from the passivity of the traditional model of lecture and receive to the more active model of seeking information and learning.

Certainly I see students “off-task” on their laptops as I walk through the hallways, and I am okay with this because adults get off-task while working as well. In fact, while composing this post, I have been instant messaging with a teacher and a fellow ITS, as well as keeping up and responding with e-mail. I even took a break and read a news article some sent via Twitter, but I am still accomplishing my goal of composing this post in a reasonable amount if time. I am able to do all of these things because I learned how to manage my time; I learned personal responsibility; I learned how to multi-task, and I learned what happens if I do not get my work completed by the deadline. Students need to be afforded the right to learn these lessons as well – banning laptops does not teach them how to be responsible in a digital world; it does not teach them time or information management; it is the easy way out.

How does incorporating laptops work in practice?

Effectively integrating laptops into the classroom starts with a shift – a shift in pedagogy.  If the instructor continues to teach the same way he/she has always taught and simply views the laptop as a note-taking device then the integration will not be successful and students will definitely get off-task. It requires that teachers stop thinking, “This is the right way to do it because this is how I learned how.” It requires that teachers begin questioning, “What is the best way to present this information so my students (my students TODAY) are engaged with this topic and interested in learning? How do I prepare this lesson so that my students have some learning choices but still receive a rigorous assignment and deep understanding of the information they need?”

Effectively integrating laptops in the classroom demands that teachers take a step out of their comfort zone and give some of their “power” to the students. Gone are the days when the teacher was the sole purveyor of information; contrary to popular belief, teachers do not know EVERYTHING about their subject-area, but with the help of search engines like Google, students and teachers can quickly and easily locate the information they need.

Effectively integrating laptops in the classroom does not mean that they are used 100% of the time for every assignment because they may not always be the best tool. It is the instructor’s job while planning and teaching to assess student learning, offer choices and vary learning as needed to meet the needs of all students in the classroom… no one said good teaching was easy.

Finally, effectively integrating laptops in the classroom requires continuous learning on the part of the instructor (and students). It requires utilizing new tools, learning new skills, attempting new instructional strategies; it requires flexibility and change.

I encourage the use of laptops in the classroom because they can assist in extending learning to a higher-level – a level that may not be controlled by the teacher, a level that can transcend the walls of the classroom, a level that encourages collaboration and evaluation, a level that is active, engaging and fun.