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peeking into the frontier

just attended my first session at necc2008, 1:1 Laptops and Seamless Integration: Peek into the Frontier presented by Howard Levin of Urban School in SF.  I visited his school two years ago, as we were preparing to roll out laptops for all of our students. the key message that we learned at the time was (in the words of mary) “it’s not about the technology“. it became our mantra, spoken with gusto and an undetermined east coast accent.

now, two years later, i was quite interested to hear about Urban’s thinking, now in their seventh year of integrated laptops. many of the messages are the same, “making the laptops disappear”, “enhancing writing is enhancing thinking”. i think the mantra holds true, it is really not about the technology.

i watched as questions were flying at Howard afterwards about this specific technology and that specific technology, and i remember how we must have sounded when we visited. probably asking many of the same questions.

there were a number of ideas presented, many were the same ideas as before, still as strong as ever for enhancing learning. using audio+email to enhance language learning and music. using video and still cameras as inspiration for art. using inspiration to brainstorm and outline. good ideas never get old. the challenge is simply doing it. getting teachers to shift their model. as i reflect on how far we’ve progressed in just the past two years, i am very excited about the next couple years. we’re not doing all of this yet, but we’re on the road.

two things that howard presented that were shifts for me. first was his statement that they were going 100% on their smartboards. he said that this represented a shift for them as a school, that he was a previous critic, and he has changed his mind. he showed a quick video of a math teacher using great use of her smartboard.

second was the voice recognition software. i wonder what the reaction would be if we outfitted some students with this technology? would the teachers or other students think differently about the work that was produced? personally, i don’t think that it should be viewed any differently, but i just wonder. I will have to discuss this with the others in my group and see what they think.

Categories: Education.

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