Being a pioneer is never easy – but it can be rewarding

I attended a conference keynote by Jeff Mao, the Learning Technology Policy Director for the USA state of Maine. Why is Maine significant in the world of computing in education? They are the first and so far ONLY state to have adopted a one laptop per student (1:1) approach. Pioneering stuff.

Part of his talk was an admiration for Australia, as the first country in the world to officially go 1:1 in education. Yes, while there may be a perception that the use of laptops in schools is old hat in places like England and America, we are the true pioneers here. Australia is the only country to fully embrace this new, exciting, scary, fraught, and potentially revolutionary approach to learning.

So what’s the significance of this, where the potential for both great successes and great problems are all in the same package?  Much work and research has been done around the world on the use of technology enhanced education and the findings are, at worst positive and at best astounding. But, never before on a country wide level, we are first.

Schools across the country will all take their own approach, based on the nature of their students and the culture of the school itself. Teachers will adopt technology in the manner best suited to their personal teaching style, their subject and the nature of the content, as well as the school leadership’s willingness to foster a culture of discovery. If we encourage and admire a willingness to try from our students and want to develop a pick-yourself-up approach after a fall, we should model and display this ourselves. Some teachers will be early adopters of inspiring new approaches; some will be more gradual and cautious. In part, students themselves will dictate the speed of adoption as they enhance their capacity to be independent learners, support their teachers in the joint journey, and grow in their understanding of the deep potential; rather than stick with superficial uses such as chit chat on the Facebooks of the online world.

Whenever you’re a first, an early adopter, a pioneer, there are plenty of mistakes to be made, and plenty of learning opportunities to work through. Without these there is no progress, no growth, no snatching of victories before anyone else.

Our school is taking an approach that values the capacity and capabilities of its students and their contribution to this pioneering. As parents, we hope you will join them as a digital pilgrim on their journey; learning as they do, encouraging and supporting them, making it a joint learning exercise rather than seeing it as all too scary to be involved.

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