Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Computer Labs 2.0

It seems most classroom computer labs have been organized based on the placement of the electrical units and Ethernet drops and/or by having all the screens facing in one direction to make it easier for monitoring computer use. This setup often creates a challenge for anyone working on a computer while trying to pay attention to the instruction going on at the board. During tech workshops, I often see teachers switching back and forth between the whiteboard and computer trying not to fall behind. As we redesign and rethink the classrooms of the future I wonder if we can give the labs a facelift as well.

A short time ago I visited John at Jefferson Middle, in part because I was curious about his new lab setup. His lab looks a bit like a coffee shop with elevated seats and circular tables positioned around the lab with wireless laptops on each table. With a flat screen plasma on the wall, John’s lab has an inviting feel to it. And although I didn’t see it in use with students, I really liked the arrangement. And I’m betting the students prefer it as well.

Now if he’d only add a coffee station in the corner and charge me three bucks for a cup of house blend, I’d be there every day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

21st Century Tech Literacy

My five-year-old is teaching my three-year-old how to use the computer. My wife and I have been impressed by the patience she's shown with him. Currently he is receiving a heavy dose of instruction on mouse skills and how to navigate through the Starfall website.  

Although my daughter is very special to me and I am very proud of her, I'm not sure if her experience with technology is that different from her peers. But I know she'll enter kindergarten next fall with quite a bit of "computer time" under her belt. She knows how to access the Internet through “the Firefox” and knows Mommy and Daddy will allow her time on "educational sites." 

To be clear I'm not advocating a lot of screen time for young children, and we monitor what sites she is on and how long she is online, but I would wager she is as comfortable on the computer as some adults I know (maybe more). I can’t help but wonder, if she is representative of a larger group of digital natives entering the classroom, I wonder if education is keeping up with them. 

Recently I talked with a friend of mine who is in technology and also has a child starting school in the fall, and we both shared our desire for our children to be engaged with technology in school at an early age. The technology vision for the school will play a big factor in his decision on where his child will attend—not just the equipment but what teachers and students (even kindergarteners) are doing with it.. I don’t know if a trip to the computer lab 45 minutes once a week for “computer class” is what he is picturing, nor is it enough to prepare our future students for digital literacy. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Network Literacy at NCTIES

I first saw Will Richardson present a few years ago at another NCAECT conference, and it was one of my favorite sessions. He presented again this year at NCTIES and did not disappoint.
If you are interested in instructional technology, webtools or education you might want to start following his blog. I find his ideas to be really interesting and provocative. I like his sessions because even when he is presenting on a subject I think I already know about like RSS, he still manages to bring something new to the subject.
I attended three of his sessions, and the last on Network Literacy was perhaps my favorite. I think he described it as "a thinking session for personal learning networks." There were several ideas I'll take from the session, but here were a few of the best: the need for us to teach kids and model how to build networks in safe, effective and ethical ways; teaching kids to become "clickable"; and if you are in education, and you don't feel pushed, then you are not paying attention.
It was time well spent.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Preconference at NCTIES

The North Carolina Technology In Education Society Conference cranked up in Raleigh yesterday with the preconference sessions. Our historical adventure overcame a few obstacles-- a tornado drill? really? What were the chances? But in the end, the session really yielded some great results and interactions with educators around the state. 
The session was held at the NC Museum of History and focused on integrating technology with NC History. Our group toured the museum, collecting ideas and pictures, then planned and created a product for the classroom using Activstudio. It was a great way to start what promises to be a great conference.