Lots for me to ponder this summer and I hope going to NECC helps in that regard. Just to refresh the memories of both of my regular readers and as background for the rest, I teach in a 45 year old classroom that has an ActivBoard, a built -in ceiling speaker system, 30 – eight year old Apple iBook laptops, 1 original Airport hub (that is supposed to support 10 computers online, but that has to support my 30 and 30 more HP laptops sometimes), 2 digital video cameras, a digital camera, a scanner, a Lumens projector and I might have left a few things out. My school district labeled my classroom its â€œModel Technology Classroomâ€ 2 years ago when it paid to have my Activboard installed. My fifth graders and I just finished our 2nd year together and are heading for a third when I roll with them to sixth grade next year.
Iâ€™ve tried to leverage the distinction of having this â€œmodelâ€ room and 1:1 laptops to â€œget awayâ€ somewhat with doing things a bit differently, and have done so pretty successfully. However, Iâ€™ve never actually been told that I have that freedom, so I do so at my own peril. In other words, if something â€œgoes wrongâ€ admin could claim they had no idea I was going â€œoff programâ€, and they are just appalled that I did so.
Iâ€™m at the point right now where that is really going to be a problem. My students started out this pilot having almost no tech savvy at all (they are very â€œat riskâ€ students) and now they are getting sophisticated enough that they are ready to go to the â€œnext levelâ€.
Whatâ€™s the â€œnext levelâ€? Well I wish you were here to help me completely flesh that out, but it has to do with having my students using these tools to do their own learning and deciding how to share their learning â€¦ you know, making them learners. Having them able to research and make appropriate contacts with others (with still a lot of guidance from me â€¦ they are just 6th graders) to gather information and then make good choices on how best to archive and share what theyâ€™ve learned. Thereâ€™s more to it than that, but thatâ€™s the gist.
So what is the hold up? Well, for one the prescribed reading and math programs actually require you to follow them without deviation and that alone eats up almost 3 hours, and now we will have a required 45 minute â€œIntervention Blockâ€ each day, so after lunch and recess (which might get cut back) that leaves you with MAYBE an hour each day to do science, social studies, music, art, PE and so on.
So you can see I am having to completely work â€œwithinâ€ a system and still try to do a â€œmodelâ€ program that might lead decision makers in my state and school district to rethink things a bit. Iâ€™m both discouraged and challenged by that. Our laptops have done amazingly well for being 8 years old, but they are really showing their age now and I just wonder how they will do this next year AND what will I do after that? I have no real prospects for replacing them. Many days I wonder how things would be different if we had newer ones and a faster, broader connection â€“ it wouldnâ€™t even have to be blazing fast, just fast. At one point I was approached about doing a pilot with OLPC laptops, but that fell through with our latest round of budget cuts. Also, how will I do if these laptops become unusable and there are no replacements? Will I be able to go back to not having easy access? I guess we will see.