Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tool 8 - Polemics and Procedures

I learned that the teacher will be responsible for multiple syncs for all OS and app updates for each device. This is not unexpected, but it adds to already overloaded plate. Syncing new apps is not all that is involved as there will be regular updates required for each app. The more edu-bang with the iPads lies with width and richness in the variety of apps. The more apps the longer the updates will take. Although it is recommended that OS updates not be done very often, my experience has been that new versions of apps require an OS update and these often take a fair amount of time. This issue may be a welcomed and valuable opportunity to develop and enlist a cadre of student experts to help with the management.
With regard to the Netbooks, I will be interested to see how these units will hard connected to the network for periodic pushes with only 2 drops (actually no drops at present!). Connecting to the drop used for the phone on an overnight/weekend basis would not be a problem, but using the drop dedicated for the network printer would prevent, in my case, 6 teachers from printing from home. Perhaps the district will provide a switch for this purpose. That issue aside, the new Netbooks don't seem to be appreciably different from the COW mini-dells we have been using. I think the webcams will prove to be a wonderful upgrade.
I look forward to deeper training on the use of the iPads to better streamline the process of hunting, using, and maintaining a rich array of apps.


This issue of streamlining equipment and processes is HUGE. By far, the lion's share of blogosphere posting is devoted to tools and their application in isolation of the other factors that occupy the Space and Span of the classroom.
Space has become a major consideration when you consider classes of 30+. The literal placement and movement of bodies is something to be managed. As problematic as this can be, there is within the space component the concept of equity management. Creating rotations to manage student use of too few resources is an absolute nightmare. On the one hand, it is good for this issue to be student run. On the other, it runs head long into the inequity of giving deserving students the additional time they actually do need and the issue of the technology wall flowers who by design never advocate for themselves. The only real answer to the equity issue is a 1:1 set up. This is where the app revolution and the near 100% access to hand held devices is the real savior. Space issues will always be a problem in classrooms designed for 19th century learning.
As problematic as the Space issues are, the Span issues are what make 21st Century learning seem near impossible to pull off. Even the best managed class of 55 minutes is really only about 45 when you consider bean counting duties, near constant administrative interruptions, and necessary student movements. You add an online access glitch here and a reiteration of instruction there, a trouble-shooting issue here, and the putting away and counting of equipment there....not to mention the vital relationship building and differentiation that MUST occur, you can easily find yourself at the end of the period with almost nothing accomplished. At some point, the BigWig bean counters who insist on pounding their Utopian square pegs into the reality of the classroom's round holes will realize that their outcome expectations simply do not match the outdated physical plants the taxpayers demand and the impractical-to-learning re-mastered schedules the bureaucrats command. This administrative inertia - the tendency to overload the plate without ever questioning the plate itself renders 21st century learning/outcomes a pipe dream.
Two possible solutions: walk out in disgust or innovate around the madness. In my past mind, the answer has been PBL - (Project, Problem, Passion Based Learning) Under the public school regime, this is very much akin to beating one's relatively soft skull against the hardest wall of imagination. The answer to my present mind, like PPPBL, is a real pedagogical shift - one that has been argued for at length for decades - the workshop model. The difference is that it is doable and it produces bean-countable results. The vision outline for the learning that takes place is initially planned and executed by the classroom teacher - one that KNOWS (and by design HOPES)the plan will be changed. It is very little lecture, listen, regurgitate and very much outlining parameters, encouraging risk, discussing creative departures, and creating safe spaces and spans for confusion, failure, perseverance, re-thinking, re-doing, and finally independent learning....Another discussion. Suffice it to say, there is more than ample research to support the notion that the workshop approach is not only congruent with 21st Century outcomes but conducive to achieving them.
The workshop model with our new tools is the answer for one simple axiomatic fact: it expands the span - it adds time - actually it adds the illusion of expanded time. The trick is managing the pieces - or as my valued colleague and workshop mentor refers - the "Rocks" of the workshop. It is an upgraded return to elementary centers. Each teacher should have her/his own set up. All that is important is that the tools available are always in use. My situation will consist (ideally) of 7 stations: 1) ActiveBoard - word work, peer editing, model analysis; 2) Student PC's - Google Docs - individual or team; 3) Netbooks - research, creative image and video endeavors; 4) iPads - interactive apps, creative endeavors; 5) Small Group Instruction - Teacher Facilitated - ad hoc groups based on anecdotal/formative assessment or student request ; 6) Small Group Work - Student Facilitated - still don't get it student reteaching ; 7) Work - Individual or Group - Just need some space and time.

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