The Intel corporation recently announced sub-$400 laptop for students in school– and that laptop may end up supporting the WRONG vision of teaching and learning that our students and society desperately need for the 21st century. According to C-Net’s “Low-cost PCs” article from June:

The Classmate PC (left) is an Intel-designed laptop with a 7-inch screen and flash memory instead of a hard drive. It is designed for use by youths in developing countries. Teachers will be able to conduct lessons on laptops while students follow on the Classmates. If students try to surf the Web while class is in session, the computer will block them and warn them politely to pay attention.

new intel laptop

Give me a break. This is ridiculous. We do not need computers that merely support a transmission-based model of education! Many if not most of our secondary kids are bored out of their minds already in high school, and that is a big reason so many drop out. The computer will “politely warn students to pay attention?” I think I’m going to be sick…..

The webcast discussion between Ian Jukes, David Thornburg, and Barry Vercoe from NECC 2006 was one of the best discussions about the issues at stake in 1:1 learning and education in general that I’ve heard in a long time. I posted some notes from this session (which I virtually attended from here in Oklahoma today) on a wiki page, which relate to school reform. A few of the better comments and thoughts from the discussion were:

  • Jukes: It’s about getting kids to think and collaborate, not using the technology
  • Thornburg: Story of Brazilian design lab creating software for Motorola Razer phone: They can’t find the people in the US with the requisite skills to develop it! NCLB is hurting the development of creativity for US students! School should not be about regurgitation of information!
  • Thornburg: Linux and 1 laptop movement is a social movement: When did joy leave education? Anything that brings back the fun will be great. The MFA will be the next MBA, I agree with Daniel Pink. My son is prof of fine arts and electrical engineering.
  • Thornburg: We need a planet filled with creative people, not just a nation, enjoy each other and our cultures like salad, not a homogenized puree.
  • Vercoe: Innovation occurs when there is a clash of ways of thinking
  • Jukes: quotes from Neil Postman: tipping point is grade 3: elementary school students love school, secondary students love lunch — elementary teachers teach kids, secondary kids teach content
  • Thornburg: the rewriting of NCLB in a few years will be a great opportunity to change our educational focus at a high level
  • Thornburg: We are human beings but we are also human “doings” and we need to do more stuff. Our schools should look more like “make” magazine

I also loved what David Thornburg said about MIT loading the $100 laptop not just with software, but with an educational philosophy wedded to the constructivist learning theories of leaders like Seymour Papert. Isn’t this obvious when you read the article above about the Intel $400 laptop?! This is why I want my kids going to a school where they and their teachers are using Apple laptops, instead of those by the major PC manufacturers in the US today. (Ironically now Macbooks have an Intel processor, but I digress….) The point is, when it comes to education and our need to ENGAGE kids through technology and innovative teaching, Apple gets it while so many others do not.

We need a sea change in education, but I think we must maintain our individual focus on small, local changes. As Brandi said in our skypecast tonight, small steps are the key. Helping one teacher start using blogs with students, or start using a wiki… using skype to have a conversation across the planet with other students and teachers– these are the small but powerful disruptive changes we need to be making each week in the classroom.

Glaciers can take a long time to melt, but eventually, they do crack, recede, and shrink. The ideas of many people about education may follow a similar path. I know many of us would like to speed up the process with a little dynamite under the glacier– but I think that is just what we are doing when we embrace disruptive technology uses– like blogs and digital storytelling. Darren Kuropatwa describes the effect of blogs in his classroom as being “like a neutron bomb.” That sounds pretty disruptive, don’t you think? I’d guess that does a lot to not just melt the glacier, but remove major parts of it to let the stream beneath it flow out into the wide, open world.


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  • Wes, I think a lot of educators walked out of Negroponte’s keynote at NECC oohed and aahed, but as was discussed at the edublogger meetup later that evening he did not talk at all about what the OLPC would do for the education of those children. It was very helpful for Dr. Thornburg and others to fill in that gap. Otherwise that message would have been totally lost at NECC

  • Wes,
    Thank you so much for your consistently excellent posts. I wish that my own high school kids’ teachers would read your thought provoking ramblings. It’s very hard as an educator to see what is NOT happening in my kids’ classrooms.
    I want to be the neutron bomb at the local high school and I frequently speak with the teachers and have emailed them a number of educator blog sites. I’ve yet to see anything integrated in to their teaching and they are losing my kids. Only two more years and they will be done….

  • Wes,

    Wonderful post. I think you’re exactly right about engagement and not the technology you use.

    Incidentally, many people have been complaining about the new Macbooks. I wonder if that has something to do with it?

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