Tag Archives: laptops


There is at once a sensibility and futility of Bring Your Own Technology for schools.

The practical sensibility is that it would end the increasingly difficult situation of supporting the costs of maintaining organisation sized collections of technology. Particularly within the rapidly changing computing world, maintaining it, keeping it trouble free and doing so while most users have possibly more powerful equipment at home or certainly more personalised and learner oriented.

The futility is that we can’t use them properly. Schools simply use computers are replacements for text books, school worksheets, library or encyclopedias. That doesn’t need personalisation, it certainly doesn’t need the most powerful. What it does need is to keep the status quo of schools who are under the demands of external assessment systems, which have no way of recogising or allocating a number grade to student work.

If we were to start allowing students to be creative in their responses to assignments and projects, if we were to give creative options to students in how they approached their learning, then the traditional way of recognising achievement of syllabus content would be next to impossible. Teachers are not trained or experienced in this area, they haven’t encountered the capacities of technology when applied to learning.

How would they allocate a grade to student work? How would they condense an entire semester’s work into a pithy sentence or two in the end of term report? How would they be able to successfully designate dux through a mark with an accuracy of 2 or 3 decimal places?

The pipe dream of students bringing and being responsible for their own technology would be extraordinary. We’d have to change assessment schemes. We’d have to find some way of recognising individuality. We’d have to find some way of coping with students who learn differently from the ‘norm’. We’d have to make provision for teaching them applications skills on programs that class teachers may not have even seen. We’d have to hand over some power and not assume teachers have all the answers.  Ludicrous!

BYOT, pftttt!


An issue that is increasingly important for students and of vital importance for any leader and evangelist of ICT in education is the capacity to take regular classroom activities out of that classroom both spatially and temporally. We are, like many, a college with insufficient face to face teaching time; so access to the learning minds of students outside school hours is vital. Tools that tap into screenagers enamourment of social networking and technology are an important solution to this problem. Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell identifies five major uses for blogs in education.

First, teachers use blogs to replace the standard class Web page. Teachers post class times and rules, assignments, project, notifications, suggested readings, and exercises.

Second, and often accompanying the first, teachers post links to Internet items that relate to their course.

Third, blogs are used to organise in class discussions.

Fourth, teachers use blogs to organise class seminars and to provide summaries of readings. Used in this way, the blogs become “group blogs”—that is, individual blogs authored by a group of people.

Fifth, students may be asked to write their own blogs as part of their course grade.

Farrell’s fifth use of blogs could, with little change become, requiring students to construct their own lesson material or compile their findings of ongoing experiments or exchange possibilities with peers – within a stipulated project, either teacher or student generated.

For an example of this; a Year 9 Science class, via www.blogger.com (See pictures below) were required not to submit a final assignment paper but produce a blog of the experimental progress concerning water quality and associated flora and fauna in a waterway in Centennial Park. Review by peers counted for as much of the final mark as the teacher input. Blogs were specifically chosen so as to raise digital literacy, remove possibility of a last minute all nighter, allow considered reflection or contributions and access by the teacher in non-school settings. The science teacher was also able to improve the students learning by adopting uses 1, 2 and 3 (Farrell). The class teacher used the students’ own blog entries to link to sites of interest or further exploration (use 2). The ‘scaffold’ in the students own head served as the basis from which to explore and so expand. The teacher also had a blog entry to act as a reference page to review the topic as the study progressed, acting as an advanced organiser page and an index to the students’ own work (use 1).  While not a use specific to the project, discussion was encouraged across the blogs as to the interest level and completeness of peer work.

Blogs can be in-house, but the resultant ‘in captivity’ nature then negates the value of being internet based. An important value of a blog is that students know they have a more public reach; that they are potentially in the face of an audience of global proportions; having outside review as a real possibility gives gravitas to their approach and writing.

Sample blog entries from yr 9 Science class.

I have finished writing my scientific report. All of the experiments and observations and research I completed taught me a lot about an area that I live so close to but knew hardly anything about. I found the open ended investigation really interesting and enjoyed doing it. Now that I know so much more about the protected wetland, it makes me want to help maintain its existence. It was fun, but it feels good to be finished!
Today i tested the turbidity and salt presence of ny first 2 samples and as they were from the harbour they were very high salt. I am going to do my moisture and organic content of my 2nd lot of soil samples. Because the science teachers are using the drying oven at school i have to use the second oven in the boarding kitchen. The kitchen won’t let me use their scales so straight after school today i went to phillip and weighed out 2 lots of each soil and what i will do is put all 8 in the oven but i will take the first 4 out at an hour and a half and the other four at 3 hours because i am unable to weigh them inbetween so this way the first ones will be moisture and the second organic. This weekend i hope to go and take more pictures of the gardens and work on my report.
due to miss b being away on tuesday, i have had to delay my parent rock, texture and colour testings. these tests are the last ones that need to be completed so every test has been completed at least once. they will be tested during lunchtimes, whenever miss b is available.
once these are complete i can begin sections of my report that invlove methods and results.
i have already begun writting my draft report; the introduction and reference section.
also called the Health officer from Randwick council- Mark Leona about the new stormwater system that has been installed. results from this arent determinable yet as to how it has impacted as it is still early days but i did get some details on the system.

the regeneration number did not respond, this reference is not too important though.
nor did the Environment officer at randwick 9399 xxxx

Digital Literacy course for Yr 6

I have begun to write a course for my Year 6 class.
This is proving to be difficult and I might end up producing a lot of it on the fly.

It must dovetail with the regular curriculum, hopefully be a little in front so that when they need computing skills to produce something a little beyond the regular essay-type assignments, they think in terms of digital storytelling or take a multimedia approach.

I also want to avoid handing them worksheets and paper based material (I’m an advocate of gracefully grandfathering all text books).
This must be partly self exploration and mostly practical.

It should make them competent in the 9 elements of digital literacy at least those pertinent to 11 year olds. And in context of, making the technology they have part of their creative world, not just a tool to Google and word process with. Their own online protection is primarily important and as such they may end up using social networks such as Facebook or something similar. At least they’ll have a chance to learn how to use it sensibly and to their advantage, rather than stumble and post inappropriate pictures and comments. It must cover many of the common Web 2.0 tools we take for granted (Twitter, Bogs, Wikis, Delicious, Etherpad Etc.)

Here’s the extent of the thought process so far.

Digital literacy course

Comments and constructive input welcome

Is a laptop school fundamentally different from a school where students have laptops?

I think so because of where the focus is; it’s on who carries responsibility for using the technology. Teaching staff have done a fairly poor job over the last 20 years in adopting technology (remember that this is a broad stroke statement and not a comment on those individuals who do some truly remarkable things in a classroom). Maybe it’s time to stop banging our heads against the wall for teachers who don’t, won’t, or can’t get with it. Stop putting pressure on the overworked, on those too overwhelmed to actually consider upskilling, on those too old for this new fangled stuff, on those who won’t make any sacrifice in the long holidays they have, on those for whom the same old same old has sufficed for the last umpteen years, and leave them alone…       to teach. Let them just teach.

But, how about putting the effort we waste in shepherding unresponsive teaching staff to PD into making self directed, self responsible, self contained learning machines out of the students. Give them the transferable skills to administratively look after their learning, their notes, their portfolios, to research better, to develop maintain and share a personal learning network, to be critical of data sources, to know what to do when things go wrong, to make technology as much a part of their learning process as a pen.
Have them do this independently of the teacher, without making it an interruption to the teacher’s teaching style by having it as just another thing on their desk, like pencils, paper and text books.  We refocus who we concentrate on – all the school ICT integrators who’ve been banging away at teaching staff and admin workers and school leadership for years and years now – forget them, if they don’t want to join in leave them behind. Let’s try leading the revolution from where all revolutions come – bottom up. Governments can throw money our way, they can sound bite the term ‘digital education revolution’ all they like – they can’t make one – they can’t lead one, they don’t get it. Governments don’t start revolutions, they live through them, or in most case they don’t. Hmm let me eat cake.

Julia Gillard (bless her cotton socks) spouts on about a digital education revolution and throws some money at some hardware and a bit of infrastructure. Pointless. Nice, thanks for the laptops, but pointless. The same excuses will be trotted about again and again. The same old PC Vs Mac war will erupt again the same old poor me from primary teachers will flare against senior teachers, and around and around we will go.
Governments should be working at the extremities – training new start teachers better and assessing school leavers in a totally different way – but that’s for another blog post.

So how about a school where kids have laptops. NO not a laptop school a regular traditional good school, but kids happen to have laptops.
If we claim some of the KLE teaching time to show students how to research efficiently, to be critical of information sources, to maintain file structures and documents with proper tags so study becomes more structured and less daunting, to form PLNs to work in collaborative ways with peers to produce material in multimedia options and not just printed paper based ‘essays’, to establish links to current data sources, to do all the cool brilliant things we know should be done with ICT, then we have started the revolution.

Teachers don’t have to give up anything (yet) administrators don’t have to find money to send teachers to PD that they don’t even want to do, ICT coordinators won’t need to get so many grey hairs so soon and yet ICT might just get a chance to strut it’s stuff.

So – what shall we teach these laptop owners?
How to aggregate via RSS useful, current and appropriate information
How to develop a PLN
How to construct a digital footprint (positively)
How to search the net via the right tools the way that gets the best results
How to present their school work in a creative way

How to express their creativity through the applications available
How to connect with their peers to share work and ideasHow to develop a Twitter following
How to construct a self reflecting e-portfolio
How to choose the right software for the job
How to blog your homework
How to think about how you learn
How to…

Go on – add to the list