One to One Computing as the Third Pillar of Future Schools

The joy and perhaps the bane of implementing technology embedded instruction is that the moment the shovel  goes into the ground the hardware and technology used are likely obsolete before too long. The latter is clearly the “bane” in that the planners and spenders really can’t keep up with the advances and improvements of technology that tumble over each other.

But the joy is the discovery that there is a NEW technology, a NEW capacity that when properly used and properly put in place can unleash and perhaps accelerate learning, at minimum motivate and drive learners, at best, be more effective than the old manners of teaching.

Dr. McLeod’s advocacy for one to one computing’s system wide implementation in our schools of the future has incredible promise for tomorrow’s students. The range of possibilities one to one computing has for students, to both propel and impel their learning curiosities, to help them create new learning is clear to those who have seen it in action.

Maslow spoke to the hierarchy of needs through which all people might pass. It starts with meeting a person’s individual, most basic needs like being fed, and being kept warm. I sometimes think of technological innovations’ implementation as Maslow’ first level. In other words, if a new technological approach is to take place all the basic needs, starting with proper planning for the infrastructure’s implementation and ending with a sustainable, infused, highly personalized professional development plan must be accounted for.

We in education have all been victims of the innovation du jour, you know, whatever new change that may have come down the pike and now is hailed as the Holy Grail of educational practice. And we have all been victims when the innovation has fallen flat on its face, not necessarily on the change’s merit or lack thereof, so much as the poor planning and leadership that was not invested to ensure that the change might actually have had a chance to succeed.

So yes, Dr. McLeod’s third feature of a school of the future, one to one computing, is a vital variable in this school’s effectiveness. And yes, even while we speak of the future, we are obligated to remember history by hearkening to Santayana’s assertion that          “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”,

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Scott McLeod’s Seven Components Part Two – Projecting the Impact of Project Based Learning

“Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.”

A professor I had a million years ago, Jack Zevin, of CUNY Queens College once distributed what was an upside map of the then Soviet Union ( I told you it was a million years ago). Nothing of the country, the cities, the rivers and geographic  features were named. He invited each of us to pick any spot on the map and then to describe the culture of the civilization who lived there.

You can imagine the spectrum of skills and knowledge we had to drag out of our frontal cortexes to begin to piece together a theory of the cultural habits of our make believe peoples; the kinds of government they had, their religion, shelters, food, etc. I’m shortchanging the description because it is probably worthy of a blog post of itself.

And that was my own introduction to inquiry based learning. I do recommend his book, Inquiry Experiences in the Classroom. A terrific experience it was, as it changed my whole approach to teaching back then and has impacted my thinking about true, deep thinking ever since.

And that is the first thing I thought of as I pondered Dr. McLeod’s second component of a  future school. I wondered, and I lamented why over forty years later, this call for project and inquiry-based learning that he supports still needs to be called in the first place.

Shouldn’t it have become the rule rather than the exception in our instructional and organizational practices? And why it has not is worthy of blog posts of themselves as well. Nonetheless it is refreshing and assuring that educator – reformers like McLeod see and call for its rule rather than the exception.

Certainly McLeod’s advocacy is tied to his first component, that of Mastery Learning and one could wonder how you could have component one at all without a commitment to component two! For how can learners truly master material and deep thinking without both instructional practice focused on project-based, experientially anchored activities, and school organizational practices meant to train, upgrade and sustain teachers’ collective efforts to reach those same ends.

To be sure there are sources for project-based learning and inquiry. P21.org cites these within its literacies. I can think of Mock Trial, Mock U.N., the Odyssey of the Mind competitions, the INTEL competition as examples of deep, experiential learning. However these challenging, thought provoking higher order skills activities are typically restricted to the “gifted” or high achieving youngsters under the illusion, I think, that these are the only kinds of students able to engage such kinds of thinking.

I write to some of these issues in this blog series and to http://edufuturingdotcom.wordpress.com which is about the systemic issues associated with effective school reform. I also speak to experiential teaching in http://seriousgamesdotme.wordpress.com.

And so curricula now aspires to Common Core Standards, whose mastery are more nearly assured by recreating instruction in America’s classrooms. That is certainly laudable and maybe not  too late.

And once again as noted in my first post in this reaction to Dr. McLeod’s offering, we can only hope that leadership creates collaborative communities of learners to change the paradigm of teaching from sage on the sage to guide on the side.