Vision

I’ve had a couple of opportunities to reflect on this recently.  Last week, Zoe Branigan-Pipe was in town to co-present with me at a local school.  We had a wonderful opportunity to solve all of the world’s problems in our drive back and forth to the city and during our time in the evening.  When all was said and done, we had pretty much shared our own thoughts and vision about technology and learning spaces in education with each other.  After she returned home, she shared her thoughts in a blog post.  The reference to Talbot Trail Public School involved a tour of one of the GECDSB’s newer schools build on a theme of exploration.  The concept of theming was based on the premise that a whole school can be a learning place and not just a collection of classrooms.

We also talked about the concept of ubiquitous internet access.  Internet access for research, collaboration, and construction really is becoming a right in schools.  For years, it has been my personal vision and indeed a shared vision with the superintendents that I had the pleasure to work with, that students and teachers should be able to access these resources from any learning location in any building whether it be a traditional computer cluster, a conference room, a student desk, a bean bag chair, the staff room, or just sitting on the floor in a hallway when it’s appropriate to do so.

Zoe and I even talked about reaching our teacher candidates via Skype or some other technique rather than putting in the miles to always drive to a face to face meeting.  It’s an interesting concept – not necessarily to replace face to face observations but to enable more frequent observations and hence feedback.

When the concept of computing anywhere in a location was first broached, the whole concept was poo-pooed.  It would never work; it would be too expensive; bandwidth would be compromised; and the list goes on and on.  For every good idea, there were “concerns”.  Fortunately, the course was stayed and wireless access is available just about anywhere within the district.  It opens all kinds of opportunities for teachers and students and professional development.  Even the event that Zoe and I presented at took place in a gymnasium with 40-50 teachers all connected wirelessly to the school’s network.  The school technician went the extra mile to make sure that connectivity wouldn’t be an issue for us and it certainly wasn’t.

Implementation of a project like this could be done at various levels.  Certainly, the primary goal would be to connect school equipment to a wireless network.  Fortunately, the district had the foresight to realize that was too limited in scope.  Do we disenfranchise teachers who bring in their own devices?  Do we disenfranchise students who bring in their own devices?  The proper decision was made and is very supportive of the vision of connectivity everywhere.

This really hit me with a Twitter message from the Superintendent of Education and Information Technology this morning.

I really had to pause to think about what that really meant.

On a regular day, there would be principals, vice-principals, support staff, administrative folks, teachers, and thousands of students who would be connected to the network using board provided devices in 70+ different locations.  To triple the number of devices connected just is mind-blowing to me.

But, dig a little further…just where are these “personal devices” being used?  You’ve just got to know that it’s in a conference room, a student desk, a bean bag chair, the staff room, or just sitting on the floor in a hallway.  If that’s the case, isn’t that where we want to be?  Technology at the point of instruction.  Access available the moment it’s needed or desired.

In my eyes, that goes a long way towards the ultimate learning space.

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2 thoughts on “Vision

  1. I’ve been bouncing around the same ideas: http://temkblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/mobilizing-technology-access-in-schools.html

    I was asked by Bill Mackenzie the other week, “which would you rather have, more computers in labs, or faster/more stable internet?”

    No question, I’d got for a resilient, flexible, fast network. The vast majority of students have their own devices, they might not always be ideal, but almost every student has a device of some kind, and they all emphasize mobility and constant access. If we refocused all the money spent on desktops, netbook and tablet labs would be available. Library/learning commons could sign out available tech to those who need it, schools could be rebuilt around learning spaces rather than class rooms.

    The tech has already mobilized, it’s the http://www.okokchina.com/Files/uppic19/student%20desk%20and%20chair655.jpg that hasn’t.

    The trick is to convince the ‘it can only work if we keep on doing what we’ve always done’ types to let it all go.

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  2. Interesting choice to have to make, Tim. One is a short term solution and the other a longer term, recurring solution. I just read your blog and would question some of the finances you quote but beyond that, I think that the spirit is there. The concept of damage to school equipment is very real and I partly attribute it to no ownership of the equipment and disrespect because students have better equipment at home. Do we need to turn the tables so that students and family own the technology? Will that ensure a healthy respect for it?

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