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Another Reflection on ISTE 2010 — Soloway & Norris

4754425231_18b874a851_b-20100706-141612.pngThere are lots of reasons to attend an Elliott Soloway presentation. To get an energy fix is one of them.  Another reason is to tap into an avenue of fresh ideas about contemporary ICT in the classroom.  I attended “From Add-on Technology to Essential Technology: Constructing 1-to-1 Aware Curriculum” because of my interest in ubiquitous access to digital and networked information technology, and I know that Cathleen Norris and Elliott Soloway are smart folks who have immersed themselves in these aims for a long time.

I’m not a buyer of the hand-held solution. Although I think that there are some amazingly useful ways that smart phones and PDAs can be used in learning, I keep going back to what Nicholas Negroponte said when asked why he was promoting laptops when so many children in the developing world already have cell phones. He said that learning about the world should not be happening through a keyhole.  This comparison possible comes from an observation he makes in his 1995 book, Being Digital, about an Admiral’s preference to a large map, of a small computer display. ((Negroponte, Nicholas. Being Digital. New York: Knopf, 1995. 97-98. Print.))

That said, the takeaway from the Soloway and Norris session that I am already taking into other conversations is the distinction between essential and supplemental technology use. They made a compelling case that the research being done to assess the instructional benefits of technology that are looking at schools and classrooms where the technology is being used to merely supplement existing techniques, is not giving a true picture of the teaching and learning that those who advocate transformative technologies are calling for.

My iPhone and iPad are essential for me. They are where I go for the latest news from Afganistan or the Gulf Coast, movie showtimes, the weather forecast, or a synonym for “anticipation.” Without them, I have to lay my hands on the daily paper, hope that my wife hasn’t already put it in recycling, or that my son isn’t currently using the local section, or that the whole thing isn’t in the bottom of the bird cage already.  The iAccess to the information that I need is essential.

Today, we are working, playing and living in a networked, digital, and information-abundant environment, and learning today requires tools that are essential for accessing, working and expressing ideas and knowledge within this environment.

Supplementing old-school does not prepare our children for their future.

Comments

  • http://learningearnings.com David H. Wilkins

    I agree with Negroponte’s “keyhole” remark. There’s no way I could use *only* my Android phone. Both my kids use their laptops in addition to their phones, but mostly when at home. My daughter’s laptop is nearly indistinguishable from new, but my son’s is on it’s last leg (physically). I think the fragility of our current devices is an impediment to massive deployment.

    The OLPC (I have one of the original ones from the G1G1 program) was suitably rugged, but not “flashy” enough (IMHO) for our kids. The OLPC was slow, slow to type on and the OS was strange to kids that have been exposed to Windows. I think that Windows would have been too brittle for massive deployment. The OLPC Linux OS with the Sugar interface was hampered by the lackluster hardware to the extent that it felt sluggish.

    Even though I live in Birmingham, AL, I’m not aware of how well the OLPCs have been accepted in the Birmingham schools.

  • Jackie Gerstein

    I have been an advocate of Nicholas Negroponte and his vision for some time – see http://teachingwithted.pbworks.com/Low-Cost-Low-Power-Computing . I ended up purchasing the XO’s for my classroom to “test” them and knowing that for every one I purchased a second one was going to be donated to an underserved community. Both my students and I found them buggy. The program has not had the success that Negroponte expected. Maybe the new tablet PC will have greater success – http://blog.laptop.org/2010/05/27/xo3-marvell-and-olpc/ .

    For countries such as Africa where smartphones are plentiful and computers with internet access are not, the smartphone-mobile technologies provide a 1:1 solution. Steve Vosloo’s Literacy in the Age of Participation project that demonstrated such a solution. He believes that mobile phones are future of Africa’s education. See his TEDxSoweto talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yuzl8HvNMxg . The Daily Maoverick reports about it in an article entitled, “Mobile books the South African Way” http://www.thedailymaverick.co.za/article/2010-07-08-mobile-books-the-south-african-way . If as Vosloo states that South Africa has excellent mobile coverage and participation occurs through mobile phone, then why not connect with them, participate with them using these technologies rather than thinking that they need the same technologies used in more “developed” countries?

  • http://www.thisweekinedtech.com Buzz Garwood

    Hi David,
    I completely agree with the word “ubiquitous.” My district has a policy against students using their cell phones during the school day, with exception to lunch time. But just before we went on vacation, one sixth grader in my class asked if she could use a picture she had taken of an animal at her recent visit to the zoo. She said she had a cool picture of a lion she wanted to use in a slide show she was making in class for an upcoming presentation on lions. Then it hit me. Not the fact that she has a camera phone. Not that she took a picture and wants to use it in her presentation for school. What hit me was that in light of our strict policy on cell phones in the classroom, she had to ASK me. I said, heck yes. Upload it to Flickr, let’s pull it from there to the desktop and get that picture into your presentation. Let’s loosen up and open up here.

    By the way, I met you at ISTE 2010, and you graciously appeared in two of the videos I produced for Ed Tech Magazine K12 on the 21st century classroom. Thanks again for your willingness to participate in my little project for Ed Tech Mag. The company was very very pleased with what came out of it; I was happy to be given such free reign to pretty much cover whatever people and stories that stood out to me. I’m very grateful to have met you, discovered your blog and read so many of your poignant posts. Keep up the good work. I look forward to more great stuff!

    -Buzz Garwood


Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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