These are my notes from Jamie McKenzie’s Learning@School 09 early bird session, “Getting Attention in the Laptop Classroom.” MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

NOTE THE FOLLOWING: I AM SHARING THESE IDEAS WITH MY OWN REFLECTIONS AND CRITIQUES UNDER FAIR USE PROVISIONS OF U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW. OF COURSE THIS IS AN INTERESTING QUESTION SINCE I’M HEARING JAMIE PRESENT THIS IN NEW ZEALAND, NOT THE UNITED STATES. MY OWN CRITIQUES OF THESE IDEAS ARE INCLUDED IN ALL CAPS HERE, SO PLEASE DO NOT MISTAKE JAMIE’S IDEAS FOR MY OWN: MINE YOU’LL FIND HERE (AS WITH OTHER SESSIONS I HAVE BLOGGED) ARE IN ALL CAPS.

fno.org/nov08/attention.html
– this a long article which is the “meat” of this morning’s introduction
– I spent a long time working on this article, 15 years working with teachers
– I don’t get invited back if I have bad days
– It is possible to have utter chaos if you don’t use these tools right

As a teacher I like to do a lot of engagement strategies
– in an hour, I’ll provide 8-10 opportunities for students to talk with their partner / neighbor

I THINK JAMIE IS DEFINITELY MODELING A BEST-PRACTICE FOR LARGE GROUP PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT HERE. THE TURN-PAIR-AND SHARE ACTIVITIES THAT HE IS INTEGRATING ARE THINGS I CERTAINLY TRY TO DO IN MY SESSIONS AS WELL.

Today: If you are sitting by yourself, “consider a likely target” for conversation this morning

We are all focused on how to increase student learning and achievement
– key is engagement in the material
– I try to model these engagement strategies today

the word ATTENTION: I will pose a discussion question:
– as you work with a classroom that has a lot of technology
– you may often ask them to do something that has 10-12 steps
– you may demonstrate that first, and then say “go to it”
– then you may see one-third of the kids say “what do we do now?” after a short bit

Attention is not a big issue with 2-3 steps, when you have 10 steps it is

Our discussion question:
– All of you have a bag of tricks, 30-40K ways to work with children
– as we “stumble toward competence” we discard some things and pick up other things
– we start to change our repertoire

I have not find a place yet that offers professional development on how to manage this type of learning environment (the pedagogy)
– I think CORE is the best PD network in the world
– I don’t think this is offered here, however

Now: trade stories about how you gain attention

Managing learning in the laptop classroom requires considerable saavy

I THINK WHAT IS REQUIRED CERTAINLY IS SOME TECHNICAL SAAVY FOR USING THE LAPTOP, BUT THE PEDAGOGIC CHANGE OF NOT SEEING YOURSELF EXCLUSIVELY AS A DELIVERER OF CONTENT IS THE KEY. JAMIE IS GETTING INTO THIS IDEA NOW.

Some teachers have very strong control needs
– those teachers have seen their role as pouring information into kids’ heads (sage of the stage)
– I’ve seen “guides on the side” reading newspapers on the side, however
– reality is the “guide on the side” is not even on the side, they are in the middle, the moves required are very complicated to make sure

What is the PD that you will offer so that all the 60 – 70% of tea
-it is not a stand and deliver workshop experience

I started in 1972 doing my Master’s degree at Columbia College, hearing lectures about the inquiry classroom
– a misfit between modeling

Few have invested in PD to equip teachers with this saavy

We know trialing, having parters, peer-coaches, hands-on work with feedback
– much more effective methods than sitting in a classroom and being told what to do

Sparse Rsearch and Literature on Pedagogy
– no one is asking these questions about how to use theses tools effectively
– I went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, sat down with their director of education, but they didn’t have a decent evaluation strategy

Exception to this is Ewa McGrail: “The English Language Arts teachers in this qualitative study reported somewhat negative outcomes in social and material spaces in the context of laptop technology in their classroom.”

ONE OF THE BEST RECENT STUDIES IS THE TXTIP STUDY: “THIRD-YEAR (2006–07) TRAITS OF HIGHER TECHNOLOGY IMMERSION SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS JULY 2008”
– THERE ACTUALLY ARE A FAIR NUMBER OF STUDIES ON LAPTOP INITIATIVE RESULTS

Love to look at the first two sentences of the WikiPedia article for “educational technology” – the author is over-educated

So this teacher is looking at the “dark side” of the laptop situation
– there have been very few studies on this “dark side”

I believe this is a deep problem with our industry that we are not researching and sharing “our stumbling” and we need more insight into “the dark side”

ACTUALLY THIS IS WHERE WEB 2.0 AND THE BLOGOSPHERE COMES IN, ALONG WITH ACADEMIC RESEARCH. THERE ARE LOTS OF TEACHERS SHARING THEIR PRACTICES AND EXPERIENCES, BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE THINGS.

Robert Foolan (?) has done great writing earlier in his life about change in schools
– now he’s gone to work with large organizations and is no longer one of my heroes
– he has a wonderful concept: “There is an implementation gap”
– when we bring something new into a school we tend to exaggerate its beauties, we market and sell it as the greatest thing since real coffee
– we make rules against instant coffee, and we hype the new thing
– and when people do it, they encounter the dark side
– so these leads to an implementation gap, and people feel betrayed when things go wrong
– instead of getting results we get anger and counter-attack in some areas

That is why visionaries move frequently, they have a tendency to speak to God, ride into a school on a white horse, and then start speaking on the international circuit
– after the visionary has left, I have done a lot of work in those schools

We have to have an authentic openness about looking at what could go wrong

I THINK JAMIE IS RIGHT ABOUT THIS, THIS IS WHY WE NEED OPEN LEARNING COMMUNITIES WHERE TEACHERS CAN SHARE PRACTICES AND EXPERIENCES, AS WELL AS TOOLS / IDES

More findings from this study shared by Jamie:
– limited physical space
– cumbersome furniture
– poor technology infrastructure
– the largely instrumental use of technology in numerous learning engagements

[NOW DOING SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS ON WHAT THESE FINDINGS MEAN]

I have had this idea that “toolishness is foolishness” where we do technology for the sake of technology
– this leads to putting the cart before the horse
– we’re doing it because we spent a lot of money, not because it is appropriate to the task

In our mind, we want our teachers to do something which brings the New Zealand curriculum come to life
– ability to look at an idea and think about what lies below that

One of the most simple stupid ideas is “testing kids all the time will make them better learners” has caught on worldwide, parents love it

BOY I KNOW A LOT OF PARENTS IN OKLAHOMA WHO CERTAINLY DON’T LOVE THIS TREND! I THINK WE ARE SEEING A BACKLASH TO NCLB RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OF GROWING ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT WE ARE OVERLY FOCUSED ON SUMMATIVE, STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENT

I have an activity with a photo: “Come up with 5 good traits of a good title”
– come up with cluster ideas

Often I find a bar napkin can work great for this
– paper is often a great place to start with this
– but I have some cluster diagrams I’ve worked on for 2 years that I couldn’t have done on paper

Here are the six elements of a successful lesson written about on my article:
1- Lesson objectives, content and design
2- Classroom landscape
3- Classroom culture
4- TEaching moves, strategies, tactics and procedures
5- Equipment
6- Assessment procedures

I’ve been doing a lot of work on synthesis and originality
– lots of being able to do this is being able to break that down into its component parts, unfortunately humans rarely do that

ICT strategy of TCO “total cost of ownership”
– business strategy brought into schools

“I have never found a school which has properly funded professional development”
– must address all 8 or 10 dimensions

I have a strategy called silence
– I have worked with a cartoonist for the last 10-15 years

I THINK THIS IS A GREAT IDEA. I’VE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL TO WORK WITH

Wherever I go I see this pressure for people to use the equipment without being clear about purpose

Landscape
– how do we arrange the laptops in the room
– all laptops were in rows when I came in, we rearranged the room so teachers were facing each other (tables front to back)

I THINK THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE TITLE, “GETTING ATTENTION IN THE LAPTOP CLASSROOM.” THERE CERTAINLY IS A TIME TO GET AND MAINTAIN ATTENTION, BUT I THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IS NOT MAINTAINING ATTENTION FOR AN HOUR, IT IS ABOUT ENGAGING STUDENTS WITH MEANINGFUL LEARNING TASKS. THIS IS THE PHIL SCHLECHTY POSITION/CONTENTION.

Now Jamie showing examples of classroom configurations in terms of seating, what configurations are better for learning

I THINK THIS IS A GREAT POINT. THE ENVIRONMENT HAS A HUGE IMPACT ON THE TYPES OF INTERACTION WHICH ARE POSSIBLE. I EXPERIENCED THIS ACUTELY A FEW WEEKS AGO WHEN I GUEST-TAUGHT A LESSON AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL OKLAHOMA COLLEGE OF EDUCATION. ALL THE COMPUTERS IN THE LAB ARE BASICALLY BOLTED DOWN. THE INSTRUCTOR’S COMPUTER IS IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM.

Now discussing if you made a list of the things students could do with laptops (10-15 things) most teachers have just used things at the bottom

publication “Educational Leadership” comes from ASCD
– are constantly telling us about “the new new thing”
– lots of articles written by early adapters
– 3 years later many of those things are discredited but we never hear from those people

The idea of flexibility is foreign to many people designing a learning space, wanting to design a learning space which cannot be changed/altered
– those individuals are major obstacles for those who

I AGREE WITH THIS POSITION THAT FLEXIBLE LEARNING SPACES ARE NEEDED. THE PERSON NEXT TO ME IS POINTING OUT THAT WE DO HAVE FLEXIBLE LEARNING SPACES IN SOME NEW ZEALAND SCHOOLS.

Classroom culture: “Success with a room full of laptops requires attention to attitudes and norms. The behaviors of students will either support or undermine the learning depending upon the classroom culture.”

Now: trade stories about how you’ve tried to encourage these cultures in your school

In the article I list eight attitudes and issues

ONE OF THE THINGS I’M CONSIDERING IN RESPONSE TO WHAT JAMIE IS SAYING IS THAT THE MOVEMENT OF THE TEACHER WITHIN THE CLASSROOM AND LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IS REALLY A KEY LITMUS TEST. SOMETIMES THE LAYOUT OF THE CLASSROOM SEEMS TO SUGGEST THAT THE TEACHER IS NOT MOBILE. FLEXIBLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS SHOULD SUPPORT LEARNING FACILITATOR MOBILITY.

Problem when we ask for class attention: if you don’t get 100% eye contact, you will have those 2-3 people who will ask “Now what do we do?”
– for this reason you must get total attention. We must have this if we are going to have learning that is really rigorous.

THIS IS REALLY INTERESTING. I THINK RATHER THAN BEING VERY AUTHORITATION IN THESE MOMENTS DEMANDING 100% COMPLIANCE, WE CAN AND SHOULD ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO ASK AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER IN THEIR LEARNING. THIS IS THE “ASK THREE THEN ASK ME” RULE FOR THE CLASSROOM WHEN IT COMES TO QUESTIONS WHICH ARE NOT PERSONAL.

Teaching moves
– a laptop classroom requires quite a repertoire of moves…

journaling and becoming a reflective learner is key
– how we do that is to “step outside our activity track” to be reflective about it

I AGREE, THIS IS WHY BLOGGING ABOUT OUR LEARNING AND CLASSROOM PRACTICE IS SO IMPORTANT AND SHOULD BE EMBRACED MUCH MORE WIDELY

Now referencing fno.org website “The Wired Classroom”
– another example of self-assessment for teachers
– see part of the article “How does the teacher act”
– rubric for self-rating which teachers can put into their journal
– this was created in the mid-1990s for constructivist classrooms
– I don’t believe classrooms should be 100% constructivist classrooms, that is a very slow process, smart teachers can change their delivery methods

I THINK ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING WHAT JAMIE’S TALKING ABOUT IS USING BLENDED LEARNING STRATEGIES

THIS REMINDS ME A BIT OF LOTI AS A FRAMEWORK FOR SELF-EVALUATION OF TEACHING PRACTICES, WITH BUILT-IN ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE VALUE OF

I wrote a whole book about “just in time” technology”
– most schools pursue a model of “just in case”
– companies have tried to convince us that 1:1 learning is the best situation

I have seen people get sucked into their own screen, there have been rooms that have too many laptops
– I think it is really smart to have laptops on carts so they can be rolled in when they are needed

I REALLY DISAGREE WITH THIS. A TEACHER OR LEARNING LEADER CAN CERTAIN ASK EVERYONE TO GO “LIDS DOWN” AT TIMES. LAPTOP LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS BECOME MOST IMPACTFUL WHEN EVERY LEARNER HAS A LAPTOP, AND WHEN THEY ARE ALLOWED TO TAKE THEM HOME.

There is a counter-approach in some schools where not everyone has a laptop, but they are available when needed
– I’ve been to classrooms without blackout curtains so when you turn on the data projector, you can’t see anything

I have also been to schools where they have crummy laptops
– often the people who order the laptops are business people
– the sole criteria which has been used to purchase the laptop was price

I DEFINITELY AGREE WITH THIS: PRICE POINT OF THE LAPTOP IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. IT IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING WHEN YOU LOOK AT SCALABILITY FOR LAPTOP INITIATIVES, HOWEVER.

How about batteries
– will they ever invent a battery that will get you through the day
– I have been to plenty of places where you could just use the laptop half the day
– some places do buy extra batteries, extra chargers
– why would you fail to spend that extra $200 and lose half the instructional day

Last major element: Assessment procedures
– picture from the front of a Sydney pub: monkeys hearing no evil, seeing no evil, speaking no evil

We should think of assessment as being used for guidance and assessment
– without assessment it is like we are driving through the fog on autopilot and praying

I ASKED A QUESTION OF JAMIE: WHAT SCHOOLS ARE DOING THIS BEST? WHAT TEACHERS ARE DOING THIS BEST? DO YOU HAVE LINKS TO THOSE TEACHERS? HE RESPONDED THAT HE DOESN’T KNOW OF ANY SCHOOLS DOING THIS REALLY WELL. HE

Heroes and early-adopters have different behaviors, one of the worst thing we can do is design professional development based on the behaviors of those educators
– that is a strategy called evangelism
– need to look a the late adapter

Normally my books cost $20 US, now I’ll make these available to you now at $20 NZ

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  • Jason

    FYI… perhaps I speak for the quiet masses or perhaps I don’t, but think-pair-share drives me nuts when I am at a presentation. Just sayin’…

  • Jason: That is interesting. I wonder how many others share your dislike for turn-pair-share activities during presentations? I don’t think it should take up tons of time, but I’ve found that it is important to have participants in conference sessions engage in dialog about the topics and issues.

    I certainly do acknowledge that some people come to a presentation wanting to simply be passive and receive information, rather than participate or be actively engaged. I have run into this at some sessions which have been setup more as “conversations” rather than presentations. The unconference model is quite different in this way, challenging participants to make contributions to the learning rather than just listen and receive information.

    Like other learning contexts, I think it’s important to recognize that people learn differently and every teaching or learning approach is not going to resonate or be effective with everyone.

    I’ll be interested to find out how many people share your view… I may do an anonymous poll the next time I’m wanting to do a turn-pair-share activity during a presentation or workshop and see how many attendees share your view.

  • Jason

    Hi Wesley. That’s a fair response, although I don’t think that not wanting to turn to a stranger and talk about something some you are internalizing (and in my case, researching and tweaking my own experience as I am listening…I have a personal wiki that I have up during almost all presentations that features everything from my curriculum and lesson plans to lists of resources that I like to modify and add/subtract as I go along) as a passive or not engaged. I agree that conversation is important but I have never felt that activities like think-pair-share is conversation at all but rather feels like a forced exercise that substitute for conversation. I was at Learning 2.0 in Colorado last weekend (a conference that advertises itself as conversation) and I felt the presentations that utilized T-P-S and its cousins were forced and awkward while the “unconference” informal topic tables in the afternoon were quite intriguing and valuable… as a regular workshop presenter myself, this is a topic of great interest to me…

  • I’m with Jason. I would far rather have a back channel open to converse with others, or use my own Google doc to jot my own reflections. The forced turn-to-neighbour feels so token. To genuinely engage with someone on an idea takes longer than the time allowed (and I would be real irritated if we were given that much time) and it just feels like ‘flavour of the decade’ for conferences.
    Personality thing for sure as Wes said. I went to see Roberta Flack in concert this week and wasn’t excited that she got the audience to sing all bar the first verse of every song – I wanted (and paid) to hear HER sing. I prefer to sing along to the iPod 🙂

  • “Heroes and early-adopters have different behaviors, one of the worst thing we can do is design professional development based on the behaviors of those educators…”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Current PD is NOT based on early adopter behaviors. If it were, we might actually be getting somewhere… – Mark

  • @Jason: I am very keen to catch up after being in NZ this week and hear more about how the Colorado unconference went… I am definitely interested in this issue as well. I sense it is important to provide opportunities for engagement and dialog during the session… I do agree a backchannel can provide this more readily than a forced T-P-S.

    @Dorothy: In defenses of T-P-S, I’ve had experiences where the presenter’s provided time for reflection has given me an opportunity to meet someone I might not have otherwise and learn some new insights… I think it is important to ask good questions for people to reflect on, rather than just saying “respond to this,” and I don’t always do a good job of that myself as as a presenter in these situations.

    @Mark: I agree. I think all teachers should be passionate, be reflective practitioners, and be striving to make more connections with their kids. I disagreed with this point by Jamie as well.

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