Day 2 of The Lap Top Institute

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Apologies: This is being live blogged, so there may be some awkward wording and grammatical errors. Italicized text are my comments and ideas.

I’m sitting in the audience of the school auditorium, waiting for the second keynote address, Pamela Livingston, who has just published a book about 1:1 initiatives for ISTE. The book is not yet available, but I am looking forward to her presentation. I’ve learned so much at this conference from all of the various perspectives.

I was especially intrigued by a conversation I had with an tech director of an independent school in San Jose. They require students to come to their school with a laptop. However, they do not specify a platform. He said that they have about 90% Windows machines, about 9.5% Macs and three students using Linux laptops. The only specifications were that the students be able to word process, build web pages, produce video, and many other information processing abilities.

It seems to me that a school that can make this work, is doing what they should be doing. Perhaps more conversation about this later. Right now, the keynote is about to start. I’ll post comments here.


Keynotes by Pamela Livingston Pamela is at an independent school in Morristown, New Jersey. She is a regular at the Laptop Institute. She said that writing her book was like refurbishing your kitchen, and having to redo it three times. I can identify with that.

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Her book is based on a masters thesis, which was an examination of the laptop programs at her school. It includes interviews with Seymour Papert, Alan November, and leaders in Main, Michigan, Denver School of Sci & Tech, and Henrico. She starts off making a case by describing the millennials. Today’s children do not know a time before computers. She distinguishes between multitaskers and unitaskers. She says that there is some controversy about this. My observation is that students are not so much multitasking, but that the are able to shift-task very easily. She suggests that laptops are “about to tip” from Gladwell’s The Tipping Point concepts. According the Livingson, school are now buying more laptops than desktops. This is important. Livingston sais that basic trends in 1:1 are that:

  • Allows students to get to the thinking faster
  • Supports constructivist instruction and self-directed learning, and
  • Helps students stay organized

She says that for teachers, 1:1 increases tech comfort for teachers, provides a wealth of curricular resources, and allows more frequent and effective communication with all classroom stakeholders. I agree with Pamela that this is obvious. These advantages are huge for teachers in the twenty-first century. Again and again, the fact that laptop programs increase attendance has emerged in their research. In fact families are moving to neighborhoods because they have 1:1 schools. Writing is also improved, as evidenced by research. Some new studies may indicate some improvement in test schools, but it is far out weighed by all of the research that indicates that the single most determining factor for test scores is the teacher. This was cool. She passed out pipe cleaners, had to fashion a crank, and we turned our cranks thiry times. She then said that we just provided five minutes of computing power for a third-world laptop (Negroponte’s $100 laptop). Livingston says that there are four elements for success:


  • Professional Development
  • Logistics (infrastructure, transporting laptops, storing laptops)
  • Technology Support

She lists some successful programs:

  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Forney ISD
  • The Peck School
  • St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School
  • Henrico

Laptop Roundtable & a Little Help from “Building Learning Communities”

 48 191757689 12B2De7D25Yesterday was an excellent start to the Lausanne Laptop Institute, my first — and I hope not my last. As you may have read yesterday, I opened the conference with a keynote on contemporary literacy, which seemed to have been well received. A vast majority of the attendees are from independent schools from 26 states and six countries. So the perspective is somewhat different from that of public schools and uniquely valuable to me.
Today I will facilitate a roundtable discussion on 1:1 issues and other topics that have been opened in sessions that were delivered yesterday or during the networking activity last night. To leverage the ubiquity of laptops and tablets in the audience, I’ve set up a wiki for people to pose their questions and then fill in answers as they occur during and after the roundtable.

Also, being that this is a wiki, I would like to invite interested parties outside of the Laptop Institute, and especially from the current Building Learning Communities Conference, to pose essential questions about 1:1 initiatives on the wiki and respond to others as the day continues and afterward. This could become a useful document — or not. We’ll see.

To establish a presence on the wiki, simply go to the wiki home page, click the register link, enter your name and where you are from (city/country) using no punctuations, and then hit the submit button. You will return to the wiki home and your name will appear at or near the bottom of the list. Click it to pose a question. If you are asked for a password, it is “teacher”. Also click the names of others that are colored blue to read their questions and perhaps participate in the answers.

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Two Conferences that will Surely Shine

 62 191013817 6E2Ccb2152There are two very wonderful conferences that get underway this week. Alan November’s Building Learning Communities conference starts tomorrow in beautiful and historic Boston, Massachusetts, and Lausanne Collegiate School’s Laptop Institute starts registration later this afternoon in music city, Memphis, Tennessee.

I just rode the shuttle in from the Memphis airport with a van load of educators, mostly an Iowa contingent. There was also a software seller from Charlotte who has some interesting sounding language arts products. The excitement was high as were expectations. Tonight is the Blues Boogie Bash, which I’ll either write about in the morning — or not 😉 Work begins then, but today’s for the boogie. Do I boogie? I forgot!

Watch both of these conferences glow by reading their blogs and viewing their pictures through Hitchhikr at:

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Information is a Science…

 5 6500382 8A0D4B6130I’ll be in Memphis for the next few days at the renowned Laptop Institute, on the campus of Lausanne Collegiate School, and at points across that river city where blues music, good food, and merriment are to be found. I’ll be making three contributions to the conference, a keynote address on contemporary literacy, an unconference-style session that will unveil itself in its own way, and a presentation on Web 2.0.

In the literacy keynote, I will describe how, during the past 10 to 15 years, the information that we use to accomplish our goals has become increasingly

  • Networked,
  • Digital, and
  • Overwhelming

These three emerging characteristics of information have, I believe, changed what it means to be literate in the 21st century. Reading, arithmetic, and writing continue to be at the core of literacy. However, there are other skills today that are as critical to a democratic and economically viable society as the ability to read text on a piece of paper. This development, I believe, should affect our notions of the basic skills as they are integrated into what and how we teach.

During the past two to three years, new developments in the information landscape have almost suddenly appeared. Their characteristics have long been known by a younger generation of video gamers, who prefer spending their time interacting with information and being a participant in emerging plots and character relations, while we, of an older generation, prefer passively consuming information, accepting the plots and characters laid down by authors.

The rise of blogging, podcasting (and vodcasting), wikis, and the glue that ties them and much else together, RSS, more closely align with the video game view of information than the blook-reading and film-watching mode that is my information consumption and was the central part of my education. The information landscape is increasingly a place that we participate in, observing our experience, reflecting on what we observe, reporting it to the blogosphere, reading, reflecting, and writing some more, and constructing uniquely valuable content — along with the junk. Information flows through new channels and on new levels and it is tied together through tags and folksonomies, remixed, and attracted back to us in new and educationally potent ways.

Today, as information becomes increasingly networked, digital, and overwheming,

  • Content rises increasingly out of conversation rather than formal and procedural publishing,
  • The behavior of content depends more and more on the behavior of its readers, and
  • People are increasingly connecting to each other through their content — through their ideas

These three emerging characteristics offer to change not only what and how we teach, but the very structure of the education experience, evaporating the definitions of teacher, learner, classroom, textbook, and all of the other firmwares of the institution, and making education an integral part of living. This, by no means, means the demise of the teacher, classroom, student, or even the textbook (though that surely must evolve into something far more networked, digital, and overwhelming). It simply means that what happens in the formal learning experience must look much more like on-the-job training, where we are helping children learn to become life-long learners.

Our indication of educational success must be much less a measure of what students know, and much more a measure of what they can teach themselves.

Image Citation:
Etech, “Laptops and Conversations.” Etech’s Photostream. 14 Mar 2005. 16 Jul 2006 <>.

In searching flickr’s creative commons directory, I was amazed at how much people love their laptops. 😉

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A Fact Check, Please…

On Wednesday, I spoke at the Tennessee Educational Technology Association Summer Institute. It was a great day sharing ideas with technology directors, technicians, and staff development folks. I was listening to some local news on my way back to the airport (driving an amazing Chrysler 300 that Dollar bumped me up to). The story that caught my attention was about a group of local educators who had just returned from a fact-finding tour of schools in China.

The first comment was that Chinese teachers were keen to learn how U.S. schools taught creativity. I’ll leave that issue for another day. Then a principal talked about how Chinese educators valued productive planning time for teachers. She said that while most U.S. teachers teach five or six periods a day, with a minimum of “on-the-job” planning time, most Chinese teachers teach maybe two periods, and the rest of the time is spent perfecting their lessons. She said that our teachers do their planning on their own time, and she didn’t see how we could possibly compete.

This is a paraphrasing of the statements, and I was trying to also listen to my GPS, while driving this huge but very fine car, and listening to the radio. A bit much for me. Can anyone corroborate this story, that schools in China give so much time to teacher preparation?

2¢ Worth!

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Some Backreading…

I’m on the road today, driving up to Western Carolina University to see my daughter be inducted into an honors society for social science students. Very proud!

I want to point back to a few blog postings that I issued during NECC. It seems that commenting was broken at that time, and I thought that they deserved more discussion than they received — or I could be wrong. Anyway, I want to urge you to read these, especially the library one…

Enjoy your reading 😉
About a dime’s worth!

In Defense of NECC

 76 183266895 104D7D6Fc3Here I am trying to turn a Thursday into a Saturday, and I keep reading fantastic blog posts and wanting to shout out comments. Theatre EduTech writer, Scott Walters, writes a compelling entry (Rehearsing the Revolution: Thoughts on NECC06 and NECC07) describing an evolution in conferences, and his ideas are echoed by Jeff Utecht and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.

I think that it is important to note, that these very radical and valuable ideas are coming from bloggers. By nature, we are radicals. In another time, we would have worn black arm bands with our fists in the air. Today, we blog. My point is that many, perhaps most, NECC attendees come to learn the “How To.” They want step-by-step instructions, and they are seeing brand new things in the exhibitors area. We too, who have attended conferences for years (decades) should be seeing new products and concepts in the exhibitor halls, and we are right to demand it. But the conference, as is, is not a failure. Thousands, I suspect, left fully satisfied.

The results, however, remain in the air. The step-by-steps and the new technologies (podcasting, blogging, and the still emerging video game concept) taken back into classrooms around the world, lead to nothing unless they are accompanied by the “why” part. “Why” this is important, should be a part of every presentation and of equal measure to the “How.”

I agree with Susan’s intrigue with a “new conference format”. I wonder about a parallel conference. In a sense, its already there with the birds-of-a-feather. But as I’ve stated before, I think that it should be extended to run along side the breakout sessions. They should be a meeting of minds within the context of communities of interest with no presentations, just discussions. And they shouldn’t be relegated to the end of the day.

Two more pennies.

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Josh Thomas’ 3 Ps of Conference Presentations

 72 182575536 68F1946Ca4I’m home for a day, and thinking about turning it into a Saturday. It’s not an uncommon desire, but the last time I succeeded was during the last days of the 20th century. Just too many very interesting things to do.

Reading through my aggregator, I ran across a very well expressed post (NECC Wrap up & Reflections) from Josh Thomas (Pondering). I think that everyone agrees that NECC was great. It was energizing, exhausting (not a bad thing), we made new connections and enhanced old ones, we learned, and we taught. Still, conferences are an evolving thing, and, like the Web (1.0,2.0,n…) this evolution is accellerating. Josh talks about the three Ps, that he believe should be a part of conference presentations. the first two, he found missing from many of the sessions he attended.

Apart from the folks I mentioned (Dewitt Jones, David Warlick, and Will Richardson), what was missing from sessions, in my judgement (and others, I think), was passion and purpose. Too much How To; not enough why. Too much incremental improvement; not enough revolutionary ideas. Again, it wasn’t all missing — Will (Richardson) was terrific … what folks (I think) come to these sessions to hear: he was passionate, provocative, and purposeful. But too many of the sessions missed the first two P’s.

I hope that the NECC folks are not taking offense with these criticisms. They are constructive and expressed because we love NECC, and want it to be everything that our greatest dreams imagine. Probably, that is impossible, but if we express our dreams, then there’s a chance that what’s great can become even better.

We’re all looking forward to Atlanta!

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An Information Map

I spent a few hours last night at the vendors dinner, and opening event for the TETA Summer Institute. I must say that I was impressed with the turn out, considering that the conference was at a middle school some ways from Nashville. People had to weight spending hours talking to vendors, with enjoying the distractions of Nashville. Then there was the food. That explained a good part of the large turnout.

 58 187664469 24D0767Ada OI talked with the folks at Plato, Riverdeep, and Discovery Educator Network. But, because the attendees are mostly technology directors and technicians, most of the exhibits were geeky. They were routers, security solutions, racks, and lots of stuff that I don’t even understand. I saw this computer screen, and had to take a picture. At first it looked like a video game, but then on closer inspection, I guessed what it really was, a way of visualizing your school’s wireless access points and the various computers that are drawing on the info. Robert Daniels, Account Manager for Coleman Technologies, Inc. described it to me. Looks like fun.

Now, this is exactly what I would want to have — if I was a principal. I would love to be able to see where digital networked information is being used in my school, the information hot spots, and the black cold spots where it is not. I’d want to know who has their students laptops out and using them, and who doesn’t.

Now this begs the very important question, “Can a teacher be a good teacher without using technology?” Of course the answer is yes. But I ask another question. “Is a teacher doing his or her job if they are not using technology?” My answer to that question is a resounding, “No!” Literacy must be an integral and constant part of our students learning, and any educator who believes that literacy is merely the ability to read text, count and calculate, and write a coherent paragraph on paper is still preparing their students for the 1950s. I guess this is really the topic of my keynote today.

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On My Way to TETA Summer Institute

 55 187381393 2C80319851I do love to waller in my own geekiness. I’m sitting in the plush (and public) business lounge at Charlotte’s Douglas Airport. They have work carrels and comfortable lounging chairs, and ample outlets. (RDU seems to have switched off the few outlets that are in the A Terminal.) I’m grazing through blog entries from NECC, via Hitchhikr, and ran across Jennifer Wagners TechTeacher’s Thoughts entry NECC — Final Reflection. In it, she mentioned a new production from Inspiration, InspireData. This looks really interesting.

So I’m downloading it, sitting here in a comfortable chair, waiting for my Nashville flight and tomorrows keynote and Web 2.0 session. Too Cool for School!

BTW, any of you who might be attending the TETA conference, I’ve registered the event on Hitchhikr with the following tag: teta2006summer

It’s sort of long, but with two conferences each year, they needed more than just the acronym and year. I’m looking forward to the event.

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