Following on the heels of some rather dispirited posts last week, I was happy to read the headline of the print version of this Sunday’s Daily Oklahoman newspaper: “Reading, writing and iPods? Howe school erases boundaries.” The article is excellent, but I think the video (“Howe students in the classroom”) is even better:
Howe Public schools is one of the ONLY districts in our entire state to provide students with laptop computers for their use at school each day. Unfortunately Howe does not YET let students take those laptops home and have access to them 24/7, but they certainly are on the right path to appropriately integrating digital technologies into the classroom with their work not only in 1:1 computing but also with iPods, a weekly school podcast (“CLE Live”) and new a distance learning virtual field trip about Spiro Mounds created and shared by Howe students.
Tomorrow on February 18, 2008 at 10 am US Central time, students from Howe will be broadcasting their weekly podcast news show LIVE from the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Check out this page to tune in to this event LIVE tomorrow.
Lowrey Public Schools is the second Oklahoma school district I’m aware of to offer laptop computers to ALL students, in their case to 5th – 8th graders. A video was shared last week by Tulsa television station KJRH (channel 2) providing more details and background about the Lowrey laptop initiative. (An embed link option is not available for the video, unfortunately.)
The only other public Oklahoma school district of which I’m aware that is providing laptops for students (starting in the fall of 2008) is Crescent Public Schools, which was recognized two weeks ago as the 2008 Oklahoma Technology District of the year. In all of these cases: Howe PS, Lowrey PS, and Crescent PS, there are some common denominators which I think are very significant.
- All of these are small, rural school districts. I have yet to meet a leader in a large Oklahoma school district with the VISION and drive to make 1:1 computing a reality for the students in his/her district. Educational technology innovation in the state of Oklahoma when it comes to 1:1 computing continues to be defined by small, rural school leaders.
- The vision and support of the school district’s superintendent is PIVOTAL in each of these schools walking down the 1:1 computing journey. As others have noted, without vision and strong leadership from the top we’ll continue to just see “islands of innovation” in our schools rather than broad-based, across the board change and reform.
- Each one of these school districts has chosen to purchase Apple Macintosh laptop computers for student and teacher use. This is not just a coincidence– Virtually all the innovative school districts with which I’ve worked in the past (there are a few exceptions) have been and continue to be campuses where Apple computers predominate. There are a lot of reasons for this.
I do not know of a single public school district in Oklahoma using Windows-based laptops for a K-12 1:1 laptop initiative. My thought on this is: Why would any informed school leader WANT to use windows-based systems for 1:1 learning? When you have an extensive understanding of multiple operating systems, you are interested in empowering learners (both teachers and students) to become media CREATORS and not merely consumers, and you don’t enjoy battling constant malware attacks on your school network….. the choice to select Apple as your school computing platform becomes readily apparent and easy to make. As leaders of the higher education 1:1 laptop initiative at the University of Texas at Austin shared with our group on a site visit back in 2005, a successful 1:1 learning project is SO MUCH MORE than answering the question, “How cheaply can your company deliver these laptops to my organization’s loading dock?” A key question to ask is: What computer platform can best enable our learners to achieve the LEARNING goals of our organization?
If your school district is just focused on coercing teachers and students to achieve minimum standards on state mandated assessments, through a combination of distasteful tactics focused on inspiring fear as well as a dislike for public schooling overall, by all means DON’T suggest a laptop initiative. Don’t plan on your district experiencing sizable GROWTH either, however, based on the innovative approach your teachers are taking toward learning in the 21st century. Howe Public Schools continues to GROW in its rural area, and the reasons seem pretty clear. Students and teachers are engaged in digital learning which can not only be fun and meet “the standards,” but also helps them develop the skills they’ll need for success in the workforce of the 21st century.
Educational technology can be exciting and “sexy,” but the bottom line question to ask is, “What and how are students and teachers being empowered to CREATE and COLLABORATE using the technology?” In the case of Howe Public Schools, the answer is “a lot of media with a lot of videoconferencing and web publishing.” There is digital EVIDENCE of this available in the above links– just watch a few episodes of the Howe PS podcast, CLE Live, to see for yourself. If you’re online tomorrow at 10 am US Central, check out the live broadcast by Howe students from our state capitol.
How are we going to change the predominant pedagogy in our schools to a more student-centered, constructivist model, and reverse the destructive agenda advanced by NCLB to an educational vision which values and actually supports 21st century skills? Part of the answer is by AMPLIFYING the outstanding digital work of students in our local communities, both here on the global stage of the Internet as well as in our towns, in face to face meetings with parents and others.
Go Howe, Lowrey, and Crescent! How much are 4 bedroom houses in your communities running these days, anyway? Got room for a new family in town?
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