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A Note On Our New Partnerhsip

For many years now, the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation has provided thought leadership, advocacy, and a range of resources and information to educators and school leaders across the globe in support of their 1:1 initiatives. Most recently, Susan wrote to tell you of a White Paper that we had published which sought to give policy makers a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges that have faced some of the more prominent 1:1 initiatives around the world. This reflects the growth and maturity of this sector, and the inevitable acceptance by educational leaders worldwide of the opportunities afforded to young people when they have ubiquitous access to technology.

We continue to look for ways to support the extraordinary work of people such as yourself, and much of our work of recent times has been in seeking ways to enhance the critical role coaching can play in supporting a shift in teaching practice. As you would expect, the AALF website will continue to be a growing library of resources, research, and stories from educators around the world, and we will continue to develop White Papers and other material to support educators and leadership.

Additionally we have recently sought to give you increased access to more articles by a broader cross-section of well-respected writers, by partnering with Modern Learner Media, a company I founded with Will Richardson nearly a year ago. This partnership will provide you with more than 40 articles a year, focused on topics that are impacting education leadership and transformation, commissioned independently of any commercial sponsorship or advertising.

This will replace our less frequent AALF newsletter, and you will now have access to the articles through the bi-weekly newsletter Educating Modern Learners, edited by Audrey Watters; in turn this will allow Susan, Justina, and the AALF team to focus on the development of other resources such as the coaching material.

For those who want to dig deeper, there is an option to upgrade to a premium subscription to EML, however, there is absolutely no obligation to do so; though this has also proven popular, particularly for school leaders. If for any reason you do not want to receive Educating Modern Learners each week, please let us know.

I hope you will find real benefit in the regular articles and links you\\\\\\\'ll find in Educating Modern Learners, and in turn continue to support the work of the Foundation around the world.


September 16th, 2014 @ 12:56PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

New Initiatives and Partnerships for AALF

As many of you are aware from previous columns, over the past two and half years, much of our time has been invested in scaling a support network for 1 to 1 initiatives across the globe. This came as a result of the success of the original 21 Steps for 21st Century Learning leader’s workshops, which we originally developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Queensland, Australia around 2003-4.

In the decade since we have successfully run workshops for thousands of schools leaders across more than 40 countries. However about four years ago we realized the growth of 1 to 1 was out scoping the reach of the Foundation, and so we had discussions with a number of potential partners with an eye to scale well beyond the reach of our own resources.

This ultimately resulted in another partnership, this time with Microsoft, who subsequently funded the extensive development and deployment of a revised series of workshop resources for both school leadership, and workshop leaders ‘white labelled’, Design & Deployment. This has been a most successful initiative, which saw 17 workshops conducted in 7 countries for hundreds of school leaders from more than 20 countries over the past 18 months. Most importantly it also allowed us to run the workshops as Master Classes for 36 workshop leaders from around the world, who are now in turn able to scale the workshops across a much broader network of schools in their own countries and beyond. The last of these was held in Tampa, Florida in late May this year, and subsequently a number of additional workshops have already been hosted by our new network of workshop leaders.

Ultimately as you might expect, our goal with this initiative, was to provide school and policy leaders across the globe with the best possible resources and knowledge from the experience of AALF members, and to lay down the foundations for a successful deployment and development of a technology-rich learning environment for their students.

As we move forward we continue to seek ways for your Foundation to have the most impact within the scope of our humble resources.

Accordingly we believe with the reach the 21 Steps program has had over the past 10 years, we are finally able to focus our energies on what this ubiquitous access now makes possible, and in coming months we are hoping to roll out a new series of workshops focused on Coaching. These workshops offer schools an affordable, flexible and innovative range of strategies to support teachers in the shift in practice that technology-richness makes possible.

We’ll keep you advised of the workshops’ development, but if any of you would like to know more, or be involved, please contact Susan at seinhorn@aalf.org .

And while we will always seek to be pushing boundaries through the thought leadership and advocacy we seek to maintain through various articles, press releases, forum responses, and speaking engagements, we are also looking to increase the benefit you’ll receive through a new partnership with Modern Learner Media. This is an emerging US East Coast publisher which I am involved with, together with Will Richardson, and from next month it will allow AALF to provide members with a more frequent source of news and information addressing topics that I’m sure you will find of real interest.

Topics covered recently include:
• Understanding the Role of Technology in Learning With Young Children
• The Science of the Mind in the Classroom of the Future
• Who “Gets” to be a Self-directed Learner?
• Assessment and Efficacy- what’s the difference?
• What Should School Leaders know about Adaptive Learning
• What the Maker Movement offers Learners
• Hacking the Textbook.

The newsletter, Educating Modern Learners, will now be provided free of charge to AALF members on a weekly basis, and is edited by well-known hackeducation writer, Audrey Watters. The newsletter contains no sponsorship or advertising, and will carry, on a weekly basis, independently commissioned articles by respected commentators and experts from around the world.

Additionally members will have access to a premium subscription for other resources such as white papers and books if they wish to subscribe to them.

We feel this will be a valuable partnership as it will again allow us to extend the range of resources for our members, at no extra cost to the Foundation, while freeing up internal staff who previously did an exceptional job publishing the bimonthly AALF newsletter.

From time to time you will, of course, continue to see news of the work of AALF in the EML, and, most importantly, have access to a much wider range of articles and information that will support your work.

As time passes, and the emphasis of our work, finally… finally moves from technology provision, to the ‘stuff that really matters’… unlocking the possibilities for our young people…we’ll continue to look for the best ways AALF can partner and leverage the best resources and support for our members.


June 17th, 2014 @ 2:02PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

A Short Test of Vision

Last time I said I would share some of the experiences of my recent travels. It seems only right to start with vision; right because, well, that’s where all good personal technology initiatives should start…but rarely do. No matter how often you run workshops for educational leaders emphasizing the importance of developing a well articulated shared vision, the importance too often escapes too many.

As you are no doubt aware, as part of AALF’s long-term objective of providing support for schools, states and countries undertaking 1 to 1 initiatives, we developed what has become known as the 21Steps for 21st Century Learning workshop, originally in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Queensland, Australia. Nearly 10 years later, I’m pleased to say that not only have we run these two day workshops for school and policy leaders who represent more than 7,500 schools across 25 countries, but we are now combining that with Master training to extend our reach even further.

By June we will have trained a further 20+ trainers, who we expect will in turn train many more in their respective countries. This has been a most significant achievement for the Foundation, as we seek to share expertise and best practice to preparatory initiatives around the world, and give their young people the best possible opportunities for their futures. At another time, I will share some stories from the wide range of cultures, and contexts in which we have run those workshops.

But to get back to my comments about vision. To emphasize the importance of a clear, shared vision, we always include an activity in the 21 Steps workshops which asks them to choose one of the following statements best represents the vision they have for their school/state/province/District/country’s 1 to 1 initiative.

So here is the quiz. From the recent workshops we have run, which statement do you think was selected by the most educational leaders in Mexico, and which one by educational leaders in the US?

1. We are going to address inequity in our education system and ensure every child has access to personal technology. The Digital Divide.

2. We want a school system that lays down a foundation for future economic growth.
3. We want to provide our students with unprecedented opportunities for 21st Century Learning.

4. We want to unlock the possibility of personalized learning for all our young people.

5. We think it’s time to extend the place of learning beyond school walls to better embrace informal learning opportunities.

6. Research now shows 1 to 1 improves academic outcomes, and consequently we want that for all of our students.

7. Providing 1 to 1 access to personal portable computers will extend and improve our assessment alternatives.
8. 1 to 1 will allow us to replace physical textbooks and provide expanded resources for our students.

9. Providing students with their own personal portable computer, gives our students the ‘learning medium of their time’.

10. By implementing 1 to 1 we will expand pedagogical opportunities for our students and in turn allow us to have higher expectations.

11. 1to1 will allow students to be better informed and make better decisions about what they do and learn in the classroom, becoming true self-directed learners.

I really like the exercise, as it always tells me something about the people and their countries’ priorities. Obviously there are some statements that would appear to be popular, no. 3, 21st Century Learning for example, and also obviously some overlap.

But the choice for Mexico was no.11....for very interesting reasons. The current Mexican government is very committed to improving their education system, and to do that they are looking to initiate a 1 to 1 program that will potentially reach more than 11 million students. They have had the foresight to start in the elementary grades, at Grade 5 level, and their academic and technology leadership is committed to overcoming what to many would appear to be very challenging circumstances. One of those is teacher quality, particularly in remote areas, where the level of teacher preparation can be extremely limited. Accordingly there are boldly exploring the ways in which a child with their own personal, portable, fully-functional computer might be able to compliment and extend their teacher’s expertise if it allows them to be better informed and make better decisions about their learning. Ambitious, but I think something to be applauded for its intent, and potential impact.

On the other hand...and yes, you know where this is going...some recent workshops across the States would suggest that one of the main levers for 1 to 1 in the US is no.7..to drive online assessment. A sad reality, associated with the obsession with common core. When we developed the list and included that vision statement, our optimistic view was that people might see 1 to 1 offering more creative formative assessment options…but unfortunately online testing is currently winning out in the States.

If this is of course simply a means to an end, and ultimately it does enable millions of American students to get access to a laptop when they otherwise would not have, then maybe there will be a hidden benefit...but...as I said at the outset, it just depends on how whether the assessment vision continues to dominate, or a more enlightened perspective evolves.

As I said, the vision exercise tells us a lot about intent and commitment, so we would really value hearing from you as an AALF member, as to the vision statement that drives your initiative within your school, District, region or State. I’m really interested in your thoughts.
April 15th, 2014 @ 12:52PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

A Lot Going On, But How Much Is Changing?

January is best known as BETT month, in most countries with the ironical exception of the US. First run in 1985 as the British Education Training and Teaching exhibition, this year it attracted more than 40,000 attendees from more than 100 countries. I actually attended the first three in the early 80’s and since then it has grown from a simple education technology show to what has become a week of conferences starting with the Education World Forum attracting more than 70 Ministers of Education.

All in all, it is now an exceptional opportunity to network with people from across the globe, and learn what is happening in schools around the world.

So what is happening? Well given the scale of the week’s events, and the sheer numbers and positions of people attending, this is a unique opportunity to get a snapshot of policy priorities and technology trends around education across diverse cultures.

Well I’d love to report that with such a unique gathering, I saw amazing possibilities; I’d love to report that after nearly 30 years BETT week has become a showcase of the sort of transformations that we hope for each year at ISTE, but never see; but I can’t.

You see, as we wander well into the clichéd 21st century, we are letting opportunities slip through our fingers. As I wander through this year’s BETT Show, I wondered just how much we are spending, have spent, on technology for education, for what?

Am I having nightmares when I see masses of non-brand trivial sub $100 tablets that are poor substitutes for what you can do with even a pen and paper, and ask, is this the best we can do?

Am I seeing things when I wander through masses of software on display that mimics much of the worst of the ‘80’s CML-ware, and am not impressed just because we now call them ‘apps’?...and am I delusionary if I end up walking out of the biggest education technology exhibition on the planet and ask why can’t we do better?

What I’ve learnt is that none of this really matters; and in 2014 it’s time we faced up to the reality, that for all the tens of billions we have spent on technology in education, for all the years of investment millions have made of their time, we have only just begun to realize the possibilities.

You see, what I did see during BETT week this year, were glimmers of hope. People in countries that we often pay too little attention to, showing courage that is too often lacking in countries such as the US, Australia and the United Kingdom. These are countries we should learn more about, because there is much to learn from them. In my next column I’ll share a little more about some of the countries that I think are showing the way about what might now be possible.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
February 11th, 2014 @ 11:27AM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As I fly back home from Brazil, after working in nine countries over the past eight weeks, life is frankly a bit of a blur.

Just when you thought it was safe to chill back for a while, it can all catch up with you. I’ll make sure I take time over the next few issues to share my thoughts about what I am seeing, but for this time I thought the old Western film title summed it up. As we come to year’s end, I’ll indulge your time if I may, to talk a little longer with you.

Let’s start with what I’m inspired by. I’m inspired by the work that is now exploding out of the Maker movement, and in particular the impact that Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez’s book, Invent to Learn is having. Most of you know of their work, but this really is ‘an idea whose time has come’ for them, and the depth of understanding and experience they bring is unmatched anywhere. Next steps are the rethinking that it is causing as it reverberates through policy and curriculum leadership, who are finally questioning why they ever decided computing in our schools, should be secretarial, rather than computational.

While on that topic, Susan and I were heartened by the first steps we saw in New York last month, at the Conrad Wolfram Computer-based Math Conference. Here we have the embryonic signs of a respected cohort of mathematicians who are leading the thinking about what mathematics should look like in our schools in a technology-rich world; and it doesn’t involve ‘hand-calculating’. Conrad’s TED talk was obviously the big kick-off a couple of years ago, but slowly a globally group of leading mathematicians are challenging the insaneness of continuing to teach “hand-calculated mathematics” in a world where such functions are completely irrelevant.

On the other side, the bad continues to be the political opportunism around the shift to ubiquity in our schools, that I have written about before. Sadly it is, if anything gaining momentum, for the moment at least, so we are seeing poorly informed policy advisors, partnering with politicians whose goals are simply defined by the election cycle, reaching out for votes. While I don’t believe it’s my place or the Foundation’s to publicly list those places of concern, (although I did break the rule last month in light of the down-right stupidity of the LA decision) I am still in awe of the shallowness of some of what is happening.

As most of you would, I’m sure, agree, the shift to large-scale personal technology initiatives should be a cause for celebration. But when it is reduced to ‘tablets for votes’ we should all call it out. Readers of this column know the move to ubiquity is way too important to be trivialized by short-term political opportunism, so we must be diligent in keeping focus on the ‘main game’. While there is little we can do to intervene in this madness, (though not from a lack of trying on my part☺)… we should nonetheless always be looking for how we might collectively, as a community, be able to re-direct the energy, and funds, for more fruitful outcomes. I know it’s hard when the best point of intervention is often even before it becomes public knowledge, which leads me to the ugly part.

There has, for more than two decades, been an interesting, and at times a synergistic relationship, between the education community and technology industry around ubiquitous initiatives. At the outset the concept was met with straight out derision by the corporate technology sector, with the rare exception of innovative leaders such as David Henderson at Toshiba Australia, and Tammy Savage at Microsoft in the mid-90’s, who stuck their necks out and literally put their jobs on the line in fighting for corporate engagement around the emergence and vision of 1-to-1. Others have followed; corporate leaders who have recognized the vision we share, and have sought to do their best to support it in many ways. But, of course, that is not always the case.

I speak of the Tablet Vermin, and yet more opportunism coming this time from unfortunately too many technology companies who believe a circuit board with any size screen at the lowest price will fulfill every student’s dream…or at least every politician’s. The ugliest piece is the reflection it has on the worst side of capitalism; taking advantage of those often most in need. This is NOT a time to dumb down the technology to suit a budget, or poorly informed policy makers and politicians. This is NOT a time to forget the ‘basics’ of exactly why we believe so strongly, that every child should have access to their fully functional, personal, portable computer; and it is surely NOT a time to forget what that makes possible for young people, rich and poor, for their futures.

So let’s commit to 2014 as the year in which we all ‘come out of our shells’ ☺ and celebrate publicly just how far we have come, just what this ubiquitous access is making possible, to squash, once and for all, this trivialization of the capacity of what young people are capable of.

All the very wishes of the season; think of what we’ll be able to achieve in 2014, given just how far we have come this year.

….as always, I’m interested in your thoughts…

Best regards
December 11th, 2013 @ 1:20PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

The Tabletization of Learning

Sometimes when I read articles about ubiquitous access these days, I find myself feeling a little tentative. You know, you want to believe it’s all good, and everyone is embracing the sorts of things we have all worked so hard to achieve…but sadly, there is no Santa Claus..and they are not all what you hope they might be.

Such was the stunning realization I had from a very recent New York Times Article, with the pithy headline, No Child Left Untableted. Now the title has to provoke interest, credit to the sub-editor, but as you reach deeper into the piece by Carlo Rotella the warning signals come in loud and clear.

You see this is a story of one of Amplify’s latest conquests, in Greensboro, N.C., where more than 15,000 students now have tablets from Rupert Murdoch’s latest adventure into education. And as if Rupert wasn’t enough, the mastermind behind Amplify is the former Chancellor of NY Schools, one Joel Klein. Need I say more?

But this is not an isolated example of what is emerging, sadly it is becoming a trend. The Corporate sector has found the Education Treasure Chest, and it’s called “ubiquitous access to technology for all students”.

Now as hypocritical as this all might sound, coming from someone who has devoted a number of decades driving Papert’s 1 to 1 vision , there is more to be told. You see, what is happening has very little, in fact in most cases, nothing, in common with that original vision. This is all about control, and, you guessed it, money.

This story, in the Times, does give some insight into where Murdoch’s cronies want to take ubiquitous access, but there is more you should know about how he uses his considerable, if not unprecedented influence.

In recent weeks my own little humble island continent had a national election, and Rupert, a former citizen, and not for the first time, wanted a change of government. He wasn’t subtle about it….you don’t have to be when you own nearly 70% of the country’s major newspapers ( yes, I do mean 70%)…but if you want a snap shot of how he uses that monopolistic power, have look at this...and yes, he got his change of government.

Is this the sort of person, or company you would want anywhere near your child’s school?

But sadly, that is not the most disappointing part of this explosion of corporate interest in 1 to 1, because the good folk at Apple, with their iPads, have seemingly opened a veritable ‘Pandora’s box of triviality’ that is undermining much of the extraordinary work of the past 15 to 20 years. It didn’t have to be this way; but they just couldn’t resist the temptation, so instead of developing a genuinely fully functional personal portable computer, they gave us a ‘dumbed-down engagement device.’..and they’ve sold tens of millions of them….too many of them to students. Fortunately a number of their competitors have seen their error of Apple’s ways and are showing more respect for young learners needs with fully functional devices.

Maybe I’m just a purist, or maybe I am starting at the wrong end, but I thought we all agreed, many, many years ago this was meant to be first and foremost about learning. I thought we agreed the only place to start was with a clearly articulated vision of how kids learn, and then from that we could build out extraordinary possibilities for a child having 24/7 access to their own computer… to use as Gary Stager says as “ an intellectual laboratory and a vehicle for self-expression.”..or as Alan Kay expressed so many years ago as “an instrument whose music is ideas’. I saw none of that in the shallow examples outlined in the Times article, nor in the many similar stories I have come across recently about the “tabletization’ of learning.

Our priorities are not the priorities of companies like Amplify and others who are seeking to leverage the momentum to 1 to 1 for their own commercial gain.

There’s nothing wrong with profit, in fact in most cases it’s a very good thing. But why can’t companies that set their profit sights on education, and that are massively over endowed with funding and influence focus on the things that really matter...like how kids learn; like effective pedagogy; like the possibilities of the future and not the traditional practices of the past?

You don’t use technology to control kids, it’s meant to be about liberating learners. That means new thinking about trust, new roles for new contexts, and new models for learning, for schooling and …for doing business with schools.

This is not a time for ‘oh, well, we tried’…it’s a time to standup and speak out. It’s the time for educators across the globe to take the lead in the public debate around education and the unprecedented opportunities technology offers our young learners, to ensure they reach the bold and ambitious heights we’ve aspired to for them for so long.

….as always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
October 3rd, 2013 @ 11:09AM | 3 Comments | Post a Comment

Unacceptable: L.A.s iPad Troubles

Ok. Enough is Enough.

I want to qualify what I am about to say, because I frankly think now something needs to be said.

Firstly I do not normally, publically at least, comment on individual 1 to 1 rollouts. Anywhere. Our role at the Foundation has been to provide support, thought leadership and advocacy in whatever form that takes. No matter how often we have seen hiccups, or mistakes or oversights; to date I have simply tried to be Mr Half-full, and we have celebrated the hard work and energy that is always invested in implementing a 1 to 1 program.

Secondly, I obviously only have news reports to go on, and so I am just hoping that what I have read in recent days regarding the first stage roll-out of iPads in LA School District has been incorrectly reported. But for those of you who haven\'t caught up with the reports, here is an excerpt from the LA Times report, and here is a summary from a recent issue of EdSurge:

\"LA UNIFIED\'S SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS: Last week, the Los Angeles Times regaled us with reports on LA Unified\'s $1 billion iPad troubles. First, students circumvented security measures and visited \"unauthorized\" websites such as YouTube and Facebook. (Using the word \"hacking\" would be giving kids too much credit; Ars Technica explains the simple steps they took.) Then 71 iPads went missing, and \"senior district officials acknowledged that they haven\'t decided on consequences if the $700 iPads are lost or broken.\" So school officials took the devices back from students--but only two-thirds have been returned. \"You can\'t do nothing with them...you just carry them around,\" one student said.\"

As I said at the top of this article, enough is enough. This is simply unacceptable. These sorts of issues, and the reporting of them give computers in schools a bad name, a very bad name…and most notably undoes much of the good work that has gone before them.
Did you hear that?…gone BEFORE!!..yes, surprise, surprise…. this has been done before, thousands of times..in more than 30 countries around the world; across tens of thousands of schools across the globe; providing and supporting more than 20 million kids across those countries with the learning medium of their time..access to their own fully functional, portable, personal computer..a laptop.

To all of you, who, as loyal supporters of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, are, I’m sure as frustrated as I am. We just don’t need this sort of stumble from a high…possibly, the highest…profile 1 to 1 deployment at least in the US..since Maine..and yes, look how well they managed their initiative..and as pioneers!
I’m sorry, but this sort of ‘policy clumsiness’ just has to stop. This is our young people’s future you\'re playing with, and so in future, wherever the next large deployment is scheduled ..(and there are at least a dozen that we know of for more than a million students each within the next 12 months)…could you please start showing some 21st Century Policy Leadership, and follow some very simple, easy to follow, tips:

1. Reach out beyond simple Literature searches and learn from what others have done.

2. Look for Frameworks or Deployment schedules that have been developed from the experience and knowledge of schools and schools systems who have successfully deployed 1 to 1 programs previously. Without playing favourites, AALF’s 21 Steps to 21st Century Learning, is a 2 day workshop developed from the experiences of hundreds of schools effectively rolling out 1 to 1. It has in turn been directly and indirectly used as the bible for 1 to 1 deployments to millions of students across the globe for more than 12 years. There are obviously others.

3. 1 to 1 initiatives are NOT, I repeat NOT a technology program; never was, never has been…despite how they are often reported. This is about providing exceptional, and unprecedented opportunities for deeper, more complex, more creative learning for our young people through the provision of their own fully functional, portable, personal computer. Providing the laptop is just a very simple first step on a long, hard and incredibly exciting journey.

4. Finally it is therefore on THIS basis, and this basis alone, that you must make all your decisions….. Not what is the cheapest; not what is the coolest new piece of shiny technology…but rather what will provide your young people with the most powerful choices, the most profound opportunities, to engage in learning that is relevant, worthwhile, and meaningful within the context of the technology-rich world they are growing up in.

Good luck...I sincerely hope the lessons are learned and my suggestions are helpful.

Bruce Dixon
October 3rd, 2013 @ 11:07AM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

Dumbing Us Down

“Just when we thought it was safe to go….”

Funny isn’t it, but in 2010, AALF and the State of Maine hosted a Summit at Point Lookout in that state, which in many ways was a celebration for how far we had all come. No longer did we have to spend endless workshop days or keynotes building the compelling case for ubiquitous access; no longer did we need to be wary of the detractors and naysayers who were pushing back to the legacy of past education practices..and no longer was it necessary to argue that what we stood for was not ubiquitous access to technology, but rather what it now made possible...or so we thought.

...then along came the iPad...and we hit a wall.

Funnily enough, it’s not the ‘device’ that is the problem…or what it makes possible…but rather what it does NOT make possible that is the real worry; and of more concern, the manner in which it has seemed to fill a void for those people who have always wanted to believe that incrementalism is the real platform that technology should enable.

Incrementalism in taking us back to some of the saddest examples of ‘educational applications’ from the computer-managed learning (CML) days of the ‘80’s; incrementalism which simply allows kids to continue to do the things they have always done, but a little better, through their \\\'judicious\\\' use of their iPads...and incrementalism which means rather than being disruptive, they can be accommodated within a traditional school environment.

Is this really the best we can do? Is this really what we have been working for these past few decades?

Not for mine.

You see what really fired me up for these few words were conversations I heard on several occasions at two recent US conferences.
They usually started with something like...

\\\"We now a policy where every child has an iPad\\\"

Why?...What for?... I thought that 20 or 30 years ago we all agreed that we first needed to be clear on what we wanted our students to DO with a computer, and what software that would require, BEFORE we selected the hardware...or has that now changed, just because iPads are so cool, cheap (sic) and start-up quickly?

This was sadly reinforced when I was recently at a forum of some of America\\\\\\\'s top Math teachers, many of who had iPads, and at the start, the forum leader said:

\\\"Name the Math software that your students have previously been using that they can no longer use on their iPads\\\"

\\\"Fathom, MathType, GeoGebra,\\\" the list just went on.

So my question is obvious...

WHY, then oh why, did they have their students buy them? The one standout Math application, FluidMath they came up with that could be used on an iPad, required the use of a pen, which of course is ironical, because Steve Jobs swore they should NEVER be used with iPads (but of course are now made by 3rd party manufacturers).

To quote Gary Stager, who together with Sylvia Martinez is taking the opposite tack and reigniting teachers and kids’ enthusiasm for serious learning around powerful ideas with their ‘Maker Bible’, Invent to Learn (www.inventtolearn.com)...

\\\"Apps do simple things reliably. Learning requires more complexity, flexibility and room to grow. iPads are a tool of compliance, not a tool of empowerment\\\"

Don’t misunderstand me, iPads are great technology, when used fit for purpose. But I really do wonder…is our long lamented, but continuing fascination with shiny new objects still getting in the way of commonsense?

We should expect more. Not just from our kids, but also from ourselves.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
July 30th, 2013 @ 1:27PM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment

Leapfrogging or Headbutting. Which access strategy do emerging countries deserve?

With all the energy that many of us have focused on a child’s right to be able to reach their full potential through access to their own personal portable computer, our biggest challenge has surely been providing access to those in the most extreme learning environments.

These are the young people in extremely poor circumstances in developed countries and the vast numbers in emerging countries. Surely the most dramatic impact comes from those who are able to overcome those challenges in extreme environments, and the role of technology in addressing many of the Millennium goal challenges cannot be understated.

Certainly the precedent comes from the manner in which millions in developing countries have been able to leapfrog the communications barriers in their communities through the introduction of mobile phones. No longer do they have to replicate the pain, cost and time to construct telegraph poles and wires for the landlines that were so prominent in developed communities. Instead they have the opportunity to ‘catch up’ and in some cases, pass, (Kenya’s mobile phone reach a case in point) developed countries communications networks and dramatically improve their economic outcomes.

This leads us to look at the technology access strategies that are being promoted in the developing world. As readers would know only too well, AALF mission is focused on 1 to 1 access for ALL young people, as part of their right to an education that offers them the best chance to reach their potential, which in a modern world, means they are technology-enabled.

There is no doubt that OLPC have lead this mission proudly over the past 5 years, and initiatives like Intel’s Classmate and Millennium project have also made universal access a reality for millions of students across the developing world.

So it comes as somewhat of a shock to find that there are still significant initiatives being driven by a range of NGO’s, corporations and funding agencies for what is euphemistically called ‘increased access’ to computers for students in developing countries. I’m of course talking here of thin client labs, shared server programs and variations on Lab themes, which simply deny a child 24/7 access to their own personal portable computer.

Have the past 3 decades not taught us anything?

Do we really think that young people in developing countries must first go through the pain students in the developed world suffered through decades of shared lab access?

Did we really not learn anything from the years of research showing the limited educational outcomes from the billions that was spent on the ill-conceived SHARED access model of labs?

Do we so underrate those young people in challenged environments that we would rather have them head butt the possibilities that technology access can offer through the compromise strategy of shared labs, rather than leapfrog to greater education outcomes through personal 1 to 1 access?

Ah, but that’s just not possible, I hear those driving these legacy program advocates say. Well, tell that to the millions of young people in developing countries around the world whose educational opportunities have already been profoundly impacted through 1 to 1 universal access.

It IS now time we stopped hanging on to failed programs and legacy strategies that compromise the chances for these young people in the most extreme of circumstances.
Surely it is time we put all of our energy into expanding those universal access initiatives that have been proven to have a real impact on the lives of young people in all countries across the globe.

...As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
May 29th, 2013 @ 2:10PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

Why Do We Need Innovation in Education?

We are indeed living in interesting times. Never before have we seen such widespread agreement across countries around the globe that the key lever for their economic futures is education; just not the type of education we currently have. Such a paradox must surely challenge our long held beliefs in upholding the status quo. Indeed it would seem the question is no longer should we change the education our young people are currently receiving, to rather, by how much should the change happen.

To date it’s fair to suggest incremental would be the most optimistic way of describing the change that has taken place in a limited number of schools to date, rather than anything fundamental, radical or disruptive. Yet as we let the years go by, debating the nature of change, its virtue and the possibilities, legions of young people continue to march their way through our schools, tolerating traditions that have long lost both their meaning and purpose.

So now we see a new entry point to the dilemma, called Innovation. While it is largely semantics to review to what extent change, innovation, reimagining, rethinking et al are targeting similar end points, though taking different journeys, it’s seem that innovation is the most palatable to educators and educational leaders.

I recently asked a global audience of teachers, ‘when was your last failure?’, and was met with largely blank stares. At the recent New York Maker Faire, Seth Godin referred to the value of ‘learning by doing things wrong’…which after all is the way that most of us learn, most of the time? Not just in an academic sense but even more so in physical sports or crafts, cooking or trades we are continually learning by doing things wrong, because…we take risks; we try something out to see if it works; to see if we can do it well…. yet how often do we see that practice encouraged within our schools?

In such presentations I like to talk about one of our best known ‘failers ’, James Dyson. While vacuuming his home, he became frustrated with the lousy suction of his vacuum cleaner. The bag and filter clogged too quickly, reducing the suction to the point where it didn\\\\\\\'t work. Over 15 years, he built 5126 prototypes before he found the one that worked. 15 years and 5126 failures. How did he find the solution? \\\\\\\"Wrong doing.\\\\\\\" His mantra...Fail fast, and iterate to another possibility; be agile, don’t spend all your time planning something that might be based on wrong design assumptions; develop a Minimum Viable Product and try it out. Do we ever think that way about innovation in our schools?.... because that is the way large companies today develop new ideas, new products and new services. I wonder if Dyson had reflected on his school experience as being lousy, would he have innovated for a better solution 5000+ times until he found one ‘that worked’? No he wouldn’t, and none of us ever do…not 5000 times, but sadly for most, not even once. ..and yet we generally agree too much of what we offer is lousy.

If you work at Valve, one of the largest online gaming companies in the world, they state very clearly in their New Employees Manual...\\\"No-one has ever been fired at Valve for making mistakes. It wouldn’t make sense for us to operate that way. Providing the freedom to fail is an important trait within the company. We couldn’t expect so much of our individuals if we penalised people for errors.\\\" Could it be that our loathing of failure within schools results not so much in high standards, but rather low ones?

You see, I think any discussion around innovation in our schools, across any dimension, within the projects, pedagogy, or whole school reform, but first embrace the concept of learning from failure, from doing things wrong. Building a culture that supports risk-taking..an anathema to many school leaders. Until we can do that, we will continue to be limited to marginal instrumentalism which will aggravate the problem rather than solve it.

As always, interested in your thoughts!
April 2nd, 2013 @ 5:20PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment