Monday, January 22, 2007

PULSE lap top posting -- response

Ron Canuel has produced a clever posting at the pulse concerning 1:1 computing. I posted the following response to see where the conversation will go. Hopefully we can get a debate rolling at The Pulse.

-------------------- the post below------------------

Let me play the "pencils advocate" for a moment. (A role I am unfamiliar with.) While I found this posting entertaining, I think it still didn't address the reasons why 1:1 computing is so powerful. You refer to research on the topic briefly. You state, "The research on laptops has clearly indicated that, as in any educational tool (I refer to pens, texts, lab materials, paper), integration is the key." Sure, but integrating a pencils costs five cents. Is this not significant in a real-world of shrinking education budgets? (by shrinking I mean the portion of the budget used for instructional materials)

Send us the research links in your next posting. These would go a long to quieting your critics.

Here are some thoughts from a typical (fictional) tax payer.

1) "I had some great learning experiences that were engaging and fun without the use of lap tops. Shouldn't we use the money for staff development for better instructional methods and more hands-on experiences for the kids, or maybe we can use the money to reduce class size which should clearly improve achievement instead?

2) I work in a high-tech industry and didn't have lap tops in my school. Why am I doing well?

These types of responses are not from people who are afraid of change or who are luddites. These are reasonable people who Tivo shows, check their Blackberries endlessly, and maintain encryption on their Wi-fi networks at home.

Also, in my experience, when teachers resist the use of technology there are often good reasons. This posting may be an example of Cuban's "exhiliration / scientific-credibility / disappointment / teacher-bashing" cycle, particularly when you turn to blaming the lesson plan for the lack of lap top success in some settings. What do you think?



Judith Comfort said...

This guy is a bully. Silence your opposition in one fell swoop. There's tons of evidence to refute all of his "claims".

Obviously he hasn't spent much time on the battlefields of the average classroom. Most kids are responsible with computers, but every high public school class includes at least: a few kids high on drugs, one sociopath, one vandal, 3-5 learning disabled etc, etc. Teachers have enough of a responsibility managing this crew. Add 30 machines to the mix.

Jim Forde said...

Hey again Judith,

I am hoping that Mr. Canuel will respond so we can all have an exchange on edtechnot.

You're right about the challenges of the typical classroom. While most of my classes weren't like the one you described, there were often very real logistical reasons why integrating technology was a tough thing to do.

It always comes down to one question for me, "What does great "X" teaching look and feel like?" Place any subject into the "X", answer the question and then do it. If that happens to include technology ....great. if not...great.

It goes back to your earlier comment about tech being a tool.

JIm :-)

Judith Comfort said...

I agree - "It always comes down to one question for me" too -
What am I trying to achieve in the classroom and what are all the resources available to me: digital, print, human, equipment, tools, technology etc. I have trouble elevating digital to "Brave new world" status (i seem to recall similar hyperbole about television being the demise of print in the 70's); i imagine the invention of electricity changed lives in a profound way, too). Stuff gets invented that modifies culture, but we are still, in the most essential way, the same as the last generation and generations before.

Jim Forde said...

I agree with you Judith. There are definite ways in which ed tech can and does contribute to a quality education. It is when we lose perspective that the conversations go in the wrong directions.

Also, I agree with your point about new technologies and about the rate of change that occurs between generations. I always take exception with people who like to label the current kids as "twitch speed" or some such title.

In a very practical way, there simply hasn't been enough evolutionary time for there to be a fundamental difference. It doesn't make biological sense.

My feeling is that great teaching is a lot about story telling as it was when our ancestors sat around warm fires and transmitted culture to one another. The relationship, the emotion, the personal meaning, it all matters.

Once again, though, if tech contributes meaningfully to this process, let's have it!

All the best.

Jim :-)

Tom said...

It concerns me he says lead in pencils as an environmental hazard. Graphite? Maybe it's a joke.

I think research into using laptops will always be inconclusive. It's not about the media. It's about the effective use of a tool. It's always about good teaching.

The key to me is I can create a large number of situations that have been proven through research easily and quickly using technology.

I found adding computers to the mix made managing my "crew" at a school for students "unfit" for normal schools much easier. These included a number of drug users, vandals, sexual offenders, sociopaths and convicted criminals(it was interesting). I could access a variety of materials that were attractive to them and fit their needs better than the static books I had in the room.

I also think we've got a responsibility as teachers to do something to prepare kids for the future and computers are part of that future. Will some kids do fine even without any exposure or training early on? Sure but would more students have more chances if laptops were in everyone's hands. There's a certain amount of leveling of economic playing fields here.