Sony Ericsson introduces blogging phones (Via Robert Craven.) Yet another cross over article today… touching on Marc Prensky’s writings about how cell phones can be used in education, and all of the reading and writing I’ve been doing about blogs in education. We already demo moblogging from our phones during our Hard Fun presentations… but it looks like its about to become even easier and more common, even with pictures! “All the user has to do is select a picture and then pick the option for sending via ‘blog’ rather than MMS (picture messaging) or email. By default this will link the user directly to Google’s Blogger service.”
Palm Pilots Grounded (Via The Current.) This article from Newport and Costa Mesa’s local paper, The Current, is not nearly as shocking as the title, or the cover image suggest. However, it documents the fate of the EETT grant that I managed for some time in the Newport-Mesa USD. The funding provided a Tungsten E handheld for 1000 middle school students and 120 faculty members, the largest handheld program in california to date. The article captures a couple of quotes from me, and despite being stripped of their context, they do present a sentiment I can stand behind. It was a qualified success at best (much of the benefit was incidental rather than intentional, at least with respect to the grant as originally written), the staff was indeed surprisingly resistant, and a pilot program would’ve helped immensely… in hind sight of course. There were many lessons learned, which Steve Glyer and I have spoken on for various occasions, and which I shared at length with the reporter. I wish the article would have passed on more of those as well. Perhaps I’ll take the time to share them on this blog someday. ;)
Laptop computer technology is just like any other tool: it can be abused and used poorly or it can be leveraged powerfully to engage students. The major difference is the instructional philosophy with which the teacher approaches the educational enterprise. Why are we here in school? Do we just want students to fill out a virtual worksheet on the computer instead of a xeroxed worksheet with a pencil? Hopefully not. We need to use computer technologies in schools to help students cultivate REAL relationships with real people. We need to help students develop authentic literacy skills, not just good test-taking strategies valued only in the context of classrooms focused on high-stakes accountability.
Just yesterday I tried to make the same point to someone who emailed me about a 1:1 handheld implementation. I closed the email with “the most important factor in the success of a handheld implementation is your teachers.”
Professional development can (and in the case of the grant I managed, did) help. In retrospect, though, I would start out by targeting educational philosophy rather than technical skills. We were several months into the project when I realized what was wrong. We were helping teachers learn the Handheld Learning Environment, which is what I was asked about over email. The idea was that teachers could use this suite of interconnected open-ended applications for project-based learning with their students. During one training I was shocked to have a teacher say to me, “why do we need to go through all this? Isn’t it more efficient for me to write things on the board and for the students to copy them down?”
I remember thinking, “what planet is this person from?” But of course, we were just approaching the whole idea of educating middle school students from entirely different educational philosophies.