Saturday, December 12, 2009

Creating the Future of Learning

I was lucky enough to attend an event hosted by Scott McLeod, director of the Center of the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), on December 11, 2009 in Ames, Iowa. Scott brought in Will Richardson, “Learner in Chief” at Connective Learning and the author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms now in its 2nd Edition, published by Corwin Press. Will definitely left an impression on the 40 guests composed of superintendents, principals, Department of Education, AEA, and business and industry.

The speed of technology advances and how it is affecting business and the way business operates. "Businesses must be listening to this conversation or they will not last", stated Will Richardson. Those that are not believing the Twitter revolution, should know that Best Buy has 1200 people at the ready to answer questions via Twelpforce. If you are someone who complains about the "wait time" of a customer service call, you probably need to find an alternative way to ask your question. Twelpforce answers questions faster than their phone customer service.

How does this impact education? Is education listening to this conversation?

Todd Whitaker states that "we are no longer in the business of teaching anymore, we are in the business of learning". Helping teachers "learn" in this new environment will help them help their students. Below are some of the things that definitely made me stop and think: Please share your comments and become a participant in 21st century learning.
  • Enabling students to connect with learners from all over the country who "share their passion" and can help them learn.
  • A school's 3 year tech plan should be about curriculum.
  • Need to have a curriculum in place to support having a device in every students hands.
  • Are we teaching students to read and write in a linked environment (I am including many more links in this post) No one is teaching this; why?
  • Our current assessments don't assess creativity ( a skill identified as critical by business)
  • If our students are not Google-able by the time they graduate then we have failed them.
  • Education is coming close to our "oh crap" moment. We can't just put devices in their hands but look at curriculum and assessment.
  • Wikipedia has over 400,000 changes per day. Errors yes, but they can be changed.
  • An MIT math textbook had over 100 errors but it can't be corrected without buying another textbook. Online or collaborative online texts can not only be changed but updated immediately.
I assure you, Newell-Fonda is listening to this conversation. Our laptop program was a great step in providing devices for each 9-12 student. Now we are seeing that is just a piece of the puzzle, and more important, we need to create a curriculum to support our access. The board will decide how much farther to expand our 1:1. During the grade realignment process, it was promised that grades 7-8 would be included. More updates on that after our December 14, 2009 board meeting.

Another step is addressing standards for 21st Century Learning like those of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). According to NCTE, 21st Century readers and writers need to be able to:

• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
• Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

I fully understand this will not be easy and probably not met without some resistance and skepticism, but Newell-Fonda will take steps to improve. One thing we have done a pretty good job of is sharing our journey of our 1:1 program with others. In our second year, 12 other schools in Iowa have joined us and we need to continue to share, collaborate, and pursue partnerships.

Apple Open House - January 13, 2009, Newell-Fonda High School

Newell-Fonda High School in collaboration with Apple, Inc., will again host an open house to let other schools come see how a 1:1 works. This will be a 1 day event that will enable any visitor to see first-hand what teaching and learning looks like in a 1:1 environment. It will be an exciting day filled with more exciting news concerning Newell-Fonda's journey.


  1. This month I had my first opportunity to participate in a Scott McLeod workshop with several dozen administrators. Mr. McLeod has a solution to the implementation problem: Teachers become leaners right beside their students. When the professionals receive training on a new piece of equipment, a new software package, or an educational website, the students should also receive the training.

  2. Couldn't agree with you more, and vice versa, teachers should not be afraid to let students show them how to do certain things. Check out this video done by one of our students.

  3. I particularly like these two: "A school's 3 year tech plan should be about curriculum." & "Need to have a curriculum in place to support having a device in every students hands." Curriculum is absolutely key, here. It's not about devices, it's about instruction.

  4. Another powerful & challenging comment made by Whitaker: "We are no longer in the business of teaching, we're in the business of learning!" It's exciting to see the giant strides Newell-Fonda is making in the area of technology! One big challenge seems to be, in the midst of the excitement of 'new' technology, that it is the TOOL to get to the learning, not the end GOAL! With that in mind, how do we know that students are learning, or are we assuming they're learning when implementing these amazing "tools?"

  5. Esther,

    You are right on track with where we are headed. Yes, we have celebrated the excitement of technology, but that has never been the goal. Rather, the goal is to create the 21st century "learning" environment. In fact, we are working on the core values today during our professional development.

    Measuring student learning can be tough, but we see letting students show mastery in different engaging, relevant, and rigorous ways will help us move "learning". How to show that will come in time.