Friday, June 22, 2007
Just around the corner is Laptop Institute, a think-tank hosted by Lausanne Collegiate School that brings together over 500 attendees from around the world engaged in laptop/Tablet programs. This year will be my first visit to this event so I am expecting big things. I will be discussing teacher uses of DyKnow software as well as conducting several hands-on humanities classes in the Lenovo laptop lab. I am anxious to gauge attendees' views on new mobile devices like the UMPC.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Elizabeth Helfant from MICDS overcame stage fright to have one of the most interesting and useful presentations of the event. She talked about using DyKnow and Tablets to create Civil War presentations in 4th grade, to facilitate data collection in outdoor labs, and for distance teaching when teachers are sick. And they have only had the software for five months!
Jim Vanides from HP, Julia Williams from Rose-Hulman, and Terri Bonebright from DePauw led a rather lively session on assessment. The main problem discussed was the fact that most people want to see statistically significant grade/performance increases for teaching with technology vs. no technology...and this is nearly impossible to show. Perhaps this isn't the holy grail. Perhaps we cannot separate the teaching from the technology. Beyond measuring test scores, there are many other relevant assessments from tracking retention rates to leading focus groups to videotaping classroom instruction. Panelists agreed that the effective assessor must start with the end in mind because there are many different indicators of success that each require a different type of assessment. Grant makers are looking for very specific goals and corresponding assessments that support the goals. Jim stressed that assessors must get beyond the jargon of "engagement" and instead dig deeper and tell the story of how technology changed a facet of the teaching and learning environment.
Our friend Ben at TaylorU has already posted on what he learned from UGM. Customers can sign on and find out more on our community site. There are several posts in the forum and we will also be uploading mp3s or videos of many of the sessions.
Monday, June 4, 2007
While deep state funding cutbacks cast a shadow over most Michigan schools, there is one bright spot that I am very excited about: Taylor School District. Now you may be thinking, "I have never heard of this district let alone anything about tech use." Maybe so, but new Director of Technology Scott Jacobs has other plans.
Jacobs and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Lynette Sutton are creatively using special ed monies to revolutionize English and math instruction across their district with Tablet PCs. About 10 mobile carts will be deployed throughout the middle schools and high school this fall. I believe that this represents the biggest commitment to Tablet PCs by a Michigan K12 district to date. But they aren't stopping with computers.
On the infrastructure side, Jacobs tells me that they are upgrading their Internet pipe to fiber, as well as ensuring that each cart has two commercial-grade APs. They are investing in training for teachers as well as centrally-managed classroom management and interaction software built for the 802.11x environment.
However, the main reason that I'm going to watch this one closely is due to Jacob's extensive experience in IT and in the classroom. As a former teacher, he has the unique ability to understand how technology is adopted by all types of teachers and students. Tablet PCs and Ink-enabled software show much promise in helping visual and tactile learners--many of whom are in special ed programs--succeed. I imagine that Jacobs is thinking through not only how this program will affect classroom instruction but also how it will promote parent participation or even distance learning (which Michigan students are required to do).
Look for more updates on Taylor's project this fall.