December 12, 2005

Wayne Gretzky on educational reform

The one to one computing issues has been around a while but until recently has not captured my full attention. Now it has.

I am realizing more and more that we must do as the great one says, “I skate to where the puck is going, everyone else skates to where it is.” Thanks to Governor King for resurrecting that gem. But it’s true. Although many see the value in a one to one initiative, few are convinced or determined enough to see this to fruition. However, you can add another state to the list. This means the idea is not as radical as it used to be. I’m more hopeful the students in my new division may be part of a new revolution.

After reading Mark Prensky’s Adapt and Adopt article, I sent it out to all our technology people and our superintendents and prefaced it with it as “my technology vision” I received some interesting comments. I’ll include them here without names just because I didn’t ask permission but want the ideas to be part of the dialogue.

Customization of every computer would create many, many more systems that simply stopped working and were no longer functional. Who would maintain these systems? IT resources (human resources) are extremely limited as it is, the costs for this model would be much higher than it currently is. The initial cost of a computer is very small when compared to the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) over time. Here is a link to a case study of TCO at the Texas School District, http://classroomtco.cosn.org/texas.pdf. It is true that TCO will continue to decrease, but at this time one-to-one computing is still a VERY expensive model. MIT is currently developing a sub $100 notebook ($100 Laptop Initiative)

By definition, the kids would have notebook computers as opposed to desktops. Notebook computers as a shorter life span are VERY limited in capacity and are not readily upgradeable or expandable (i.e. if new, innovative technology comes out you may end up in a situation where none of the notebooks can take advantage of it. TCO of a Wi-Fi enabled notebook alone is pegged at 3 to 4 percent per year higher than non-enabled notebooks which equates to $197 -– $325 annually (Gartner Group).

These are challenging issues. Can someone address these? I can’t. But I still think there’s a way. There is no doubt that cost is a huge stumbling block. But are we still able to provide students with the same education with a lab setup or even pods? What is reasonable access?

  • Once a week?
  • Once a day?
  • Anytime?

Here’s another response to the Pensky article.

I agree that we need to do new things in new ways in education and technology is one force of change which should be used to its advantage. I’ve learned not to get too uptight about not knowing everything about working technology because the kids help me. What I try to do is get them to think about what they are doing. We have gotten kind of lazy about thinking and problem-solving independently. We are creating a non-thinking generation and a lot of that has to do with the power consumerism has in/over our lives. We are all considered items that can be bought and sold and the marketplace would have us believe our minds should be consumed by thinking about how we are going to “get” things or decorate our bodies. Unfortunately this takes up a lot of our time. And a lot of people like to be told what and how to think whether it is through media, religion or politics. We are seldom open to true debate or thought anymore. We are all supposed to be the same. This is something I think we need to address in education and if technology can do this that is great.

Some kids will be more engaged learning through technology; others are engaged by art or music or words or other people. Don’t you think? I know all children need to have access to technology and know how to use it to their benefit. I don’t think it is acceptable that some people of my generation don’t even try to enter the computer age, but I suppose as with everything, one has to have patience. My generation does seem to be becoming more computer literate.

There are a couple ideas here. One being the need to emphasis literacy in varying levels. If indeed students are developing literacy in an online environment, as educators, we are compelled to be involved in their understanding. The ideas mentioned here have little to do with technology but a great deal about learning in general.

One to one computing is simply about recognizing this is where so much of learning occurs. Like it or not, this is the world we live in. Tim Wilson mentioned in his podcast that he talked to a group of 6th graders and mentioned that 10 years ago when those students were still in diapers, the internet was brand new. Consider the changes in technology in the past 10 years. Now consider the changes that will occur in the next 10 years. Is your head spinning?

To paraphrase Governor King, “Michael Jordan didn’t become the greatest basketball player by going to the basketball lab for 45 minutes a week”.