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EdTech Update




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Dear Students, please lead a thoughtful revolution

I have been asked to visit about "where [our district] is going with technology"* with the student advisory council in a couple weeks.  Here is what I hope I have the courage to say:

Dear Students:

Where is our district going with technology? Good question and one that is not as simple as it may seem.

Here is the quick and dirty answer: I would like to see that every student have an individual computing device - a laptop, netbook, tablet, or some yet to be invented thing-a-ma-jig that will link wirelessly to our school network and the Internet. These projects, commonly known as 1:1, have been around for a number of years. In our own backyard, Loyola High School and Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Schools have initiated such programs.

We've done the spade work for this by installing wireless networks throughout the district that have guest access, using GoogleApps for Education for productivity tools and file storage, and moving as many student resources to the "cloud" as possible. Our libraries are purchasing e-books and e-reference materials. As the cost of such devices fall, the district will find a way, I'm sure, of either providing such tools directly or helping parents purchase them.

That's easy part. Here are the challenging bits...

Such devices alone will not give you a better education. Period. Every student needs to have the skills to use these devices to do more than just check his/her Facebook page. By the time you leave school, these devices and the resources they give access to should be tools that:

  1. Help you find and evaluate information that you can use to solve real problems.
  2. Help you produce and publish your own ideas and products you have created.
  3. Help you be more creative and better communicators.
  4. Help you be more self-directed and self-assessing in your education.
  5. Help you learn at anytime, from any location as all classes are supplemented [or delivered] with powerful online tools that clarify and enrich the subject matter. I am excited about online tools as tutors, including games and simulations.
  6. Help replace your library books and textbooks with digitally enhanced resources like this one:

7. Help you become better collaborative learners/workers, practicing with both local and international
    students and subject experts.
8. Help you understand and practice global citizenship and safe, responsible and ethical technology use.

Behind the scenes, technology needs to be productively used by teachers and administrators to:

  1. Design a custom, personalized school experience for every student.
  2. Use technology to gather, analyze and use data to create these experiences.
  3. Allow technology to deliver curriculum content so the teacher can guide, coach and design student learning.
  4. Facilitate timely and meaningful communications among the teacher, the school, the students, the parents and the community. (Eliminate as much paper as possible.)
  5. Use technology to streamline and economize all education support services so that more dollars can be directed to the classroom itself.

What do you think? Does such a future sound interesting? Does it sound like a real change in how we "do" school? A lot of adults - teachers, parents and politicians - would call it a revolution. And revolutions make us old people nervous.

If you want to see this kind of revolution that will use technology to help make your schools more effective and meaningful to you - not just the same old, same old with a few bells and whistles - you will need to be the ones who lead the revolution.

Not all revolutions require heads to be placed on pikes, leaders driven into exile, or the Bastille destroyed. Some revolutions are quiet, subtle and thoughtful. This needs to be one of them. You can foment a quiet revolution by:

  • Teaching your teachers about how you use technology to learn.
  • Taking classes from teachers who fit your learning style when possible.
  • Exploring options to traditional schooling [online classes for example] when you feel underserved by regular classes.
  • Serving on your school governering bodies (such as student council, the technology committee) and advocating for allowing the responsible use of student owned technologies and least-restrictive filtering of Internet resources.
  • Communicating with educational leaders and politicians YOUR ideas of effective education.

Technology alone won't create change. I am less and less convinced that adults will be able to fundamentally change how school is done.

I think it will be up to you...

*I am also going to be asked why some of our teachers are not using the Smartboards in their classrooms - a much more difficult question!

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Reader Comments (20)

We are also looking at student owned devices. The unfortunate part is that we are looking at it solely for the purpose of research. How are we going to have students utilize their phone's, or whatever "thing-a-ma-jig" that might come next. Getting it into schools is the easy part, as you have indicated. My question to the readers is how do we utilize these new tools effectively. Teachers are not going to be able to teach the same lessons, how do we train the teachers? Should we not be beginning to put our efforts towards that. I have seen firsthand that boring lessons enhanced with laptops are still 'boring'.

Jody Watson

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJWatson14

I actually might be able to add this idea to my curriculum for the Spring...if I give my student a month lead time, will they be able to come up with three days worth of ideas for me to develop a lesson plan?

I have in the past asked them to tell me what they believe they should be learning in an academic technology class - most of the answers they give me are only enough to answer the question in the least amount of words possible (I still need to require at least one complete sentence).

Maybe I need them to read this post first -

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Beautifully written! 1:1 has always seemed to be the "cream of the crop" when it comes to school technology and every year as we CREATE cut our budgets - it seems so far out of reach for us to obtain it. Even the public school districts who are able to fund 1:1 - have a hard time keeping the programs going. (Note the Nov 21 Star Tribune Article - 1 student 1 computer proves costly) It seems the only successfully funded 1:1 programs (public schools) that are not on the chopping block, at some point, are schools that have states fund their programs. We are not so lucky.

I like the idea about student owned devices. It is important as administrators, teachers, and technologists that we create school/classroom networks/systems that are truly endpoint independent. Do you think we will ever see our "back to school list" contain:

Internet Connected Device (wireless Ipad, iPod Touch, Netbook, Laptop, Smart Phone) that can connect and log into Moodle, Google Apps, Infinite Campus, or any other X, Y, and Z?

I have to admit, I also like the quiet student revolution idea. As long as students can link devices, technologies, ect to learning - how can schools ignore them? We cant ban these tools forever! The students voice is very powerful and I would love to hear a follow-up post with your student reactions, ideas, comments...

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen Hegna

Hi Jody,

These are all thoughtful questions that thoughtful schools should be asking. You are not alone wondering about resolutions to these problems.

I would think about expanding my idea of what "research" entails... Might it encompass the use of the web to contact primary sources (people) via social networks, to document one's research process, and to collaborate with peers?


Hi Kenn,

One thing that may be inhibiting your students is just that they are so rarely asked to guide their own educational experiences. I be the more often they are asked, the better and more complete the responses will be.


Hi Jen,

I thought the responses to the Star Trib article were interesting as well - with many being right on target.

I don't hold out much hope of our district being able to afford to give all kids a device - maybe our economically disadvantaged we can help, but most personal tech access will need to come from families. I think we can accelerate this process by making sure that as many teachers as possible use online resources in meaningful ways.

If it's worth reporting, I'll let you know what the student advisory group has to say!


November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks for the article Doug. I have been working with teachers in the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong to transform the learning environment to be more inquiry-based and student-centered. One thing that you brought up was the use of technology to provide ebooks and other resources. I think that an essential change will be the replacement of traditional textbooks to digital ones; however, not merely digital replications of textbooks. The digital textbook I am envisioning is one that engages students and is interactive, using the best we know about teaching/learning and the capabilities of our current technology. An example of this is amBook (active media Book) that uses audio, video, animation, experiments, games, and self-assessment unlike any textbook. So far, teachers and students in select states have used it and find it to be a quantum leap ahead of other materials. The separation of textbook, software, and pedagogy is near an end.

November 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Salata

i enjoy the 1:1 program at school i think that it helps the students find the answers they need (except for the games). i also think that the students have more of a variety to find what they for projects, reports, papers, timelines, 3D programs, ect.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjesse

Hi Doug,
My name is Reanne Maskart I am a junior at Archbishop Prendergast. I have to say I am in total agreement with you. I believe that is the purpose of our Web 2.0/PLN class, preparing a group of student leaders for the revolution that is occurring! I think that all students entering in to a 1:1 community SHOULD read this post so they can grasp the gravity of the situation.
The purpose of technology in education is to further our knowledge in the right way. We aren't learning to use netbooks so we can check our facebook during class- it's so we can better our understanding of the availability of tools and people on the internet and be able to use that in a learning environment.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReanne Maskart

i agree. i second you.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermsuckow

Maria N Archbishop Prendergast High School

Dear Doug,
Your articile is right if students have the same amount technology then students wont have to worry about if they're falling behind others. Students are open to learn new things. So we keep profiding them with new information then they will stay interested. If students have old technology then they will get bored with it. We need to keep students interested and to keep giving them access to new technology and information.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria N

I think that computers are changing the way we learn. I think that it should be utilized by all schools. I feel as if have benefited from having are 1:1 program.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLuke B

This is such a great article. I am from Van Meter, and our school has a 1:1 program. We've had them for two years now and I think this was the best change for our school. Having computers was a big step for our small school of 600 students. We embraced the change though, we are now teaching our teachers how to use the technology.

Out computers are tools, but it isn't just about the computers. Having them has been great but the computers are doing more than just eliminating text books. They are changing the way we are thinking here at Van Meter. I know I have been thinking differently I am using social media like Twitter, to connect with people. I recently connected with the mayor of our town. He is going to help me with my interest of public relations. I hope the more I learn about communication, and public relations the easier it will be in college, and in the business world. Without these computers and new methods of teaching I would not be as motivated, and I would not be this interested in my schooling. I think we have such an advantage over kids that don't have a 1:1 program. We are expanding our knowledge further than just a text book, and what our teachers can teach us. It truly is a revolution, a revolution for the better.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia Albaugh

Excellent post! It truly portrays the core ideals of the social and education revolution that we are defiantly entering. Our society is moving into a more technologically involved community in both our school, workplaces, and homes. If we are not ready, if we are stubborn and do not move forward, and if we refuse to get involved into the revolution, we will fall behind in this global society that we have entered. Thank you Doug for writing this article. I am a student in a web 2.0 class at MBAPCHS and it has allowed me to learn more about social media, creating my pln, and learning how to sift through information than I could have alone. Very cool video as well! It is awesome to think how much better education would be if this tool was universal. Your article is an inspiration to students and educators everywhere and I hope that many get a chance to read your article and take what you wrote to heart to utilize these ideas in their environment. If one day every classroom, student, and educator were able to utilize these tools, this education revolution would be in full motion forward into the future! Truly an amazing post!!
Thank you for sharing your ideas,
Nick K from Monsignor Bonner

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick K MBAPCHS

I am a student at a 1:1 school. We have laptops for grades 6 to 12. There are about 600 people in the whole school grades K-12, so it isn't a very big school, but even in our little school changes are happening because of technology. We now do more projects that we used to, and students have more responsibility. Like anything there are pros and cons to this. Not all of the students are as responsible as they should be, and, as with all technology, there are problems that can set everyone back. Although, I do think that the good things outnumber the bad things.We have access to more information, and have so many great tools available at our fingertips. It is a change, and some people don't like change, but I believe it is a change for the better.


November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaphne

Dear Doug,
My name is David L. I am from Monsignor Bonner and I am in the PLN class. I agree that 1 to 1 will allow us to be more creative and publish our own ideas. It helps us to be self directed learns and find new tools that will enable people to do more things. Also 1 to 1 will help kids with technology and teach them to use different tools, websites and plenty of more things. This will allow both students and teachers to connect with other students and teacher from different schools, they can collaborate on ideas and new tools.

I liked your article very much.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid L

Hi Doug,

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your post Dear Students, Please Read a Thoughtful Revolution.

These few lines are just awesome and so RIGHT ON.....

If you want to see this kind of revolution that will use technology to help make your schools more effective and meaningful to you - not just the same old, same old with a few bells and whistles - you will need to be the ones who lead the revolution.

Technology alone won't create change. I am less and less convinced that adults will be able to fundamentally change how school is done.

I think it will be up to you...

We are a 1:1 laptop school at Van Meter (Iowa) and it is amazing how things have changed. And you are so right....It is not the technology alone...The thinking has changed. The playing field has leveled....not just with students, but with teachers. The teachers are not the only teachers anymore...the students are also the teachers. And this is okay. This is the really powerful transformation that we have all been lucky enough to be part of. We are part of an environment filled with respect, creativity, collaboration, connecting, thinking, learning, and one of CHANGE. At Van Meter, we want our students to find their PASSION. Through this transformation we encourage them to think, lead, and serve. To be part of something bigger...outside of the walls of their school and into the world. This is where every one of our students are going to make a difference and mark on the world in their very own way.

This year I have been fortunate enough to teach a very special group of young people in a PLN/Web 2.0 course that I developed with Bill Brannick from Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School in Philly. I have a group of students in Van Meter and we have connected with a group of students at Bill's school too. Our blog, The Student PLN Connect, is one place that we have connected our students and a place for them to be heard. On the side of the blog you will see all of our students own blogs. We connect through Skype, Twitter, and email throughout the week. The students are just finishing a collaborative project that they have been working on with a partner in the other school. To offer this experience to these students and to see the powerful connections has been amazing. My daughter, Brianna, is a student in the class. To see her Skyping and talking with her friend Reanne in Philly while working on a research project together 1,000 miles apart is so incredible. This experience is teaching both of the girls valuable skills and giving them a sense of how powerful connections can be.

And the element I love the best....the chance for our young people to have a VOICE in their education. For them to make a difference in the world. They are connecting to what they are passionate about and creating learning experiences personal to them.

Today we Skyped for a few minutes with our classmates in Philly. Earlier in the day I had sent them the link to your post and asked them all to read it, discuss, and reflect. I just got done reading the comments that they left. I am so proud of each one of our students in #vanmeterbpchs They are our future and we need to let them be heard! :)

Thanks Doug for everything you do. I hope to see you soon.


November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon McClintock Miller

I agree with you compliantly. Technology has changed dramatically, because students have more options doing reports and projects.

November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan Corey

Great thoughts, Doug. Shannon Miller and I were talking today and she sent me this link. I don't think any apologies are necessary and you should not feel in the least bit sheepish about any of your thoughts. It is going to take a reinvention of how educators deliver instruction to ensure that all students are successfully prepared for their next phase of life--hopefully universities or colleges. The job market is not going to ask students what were your scores for your 5th grade end of grade tests. They will ask how do you solve problems, work collaboratively with others, collect information, organize it and present it. Are you creative and a critical thinker? If the answer to all of these questions is YES than WE have done our job. Now the next step is to get all teachers, administrators, and Central Office Staff on this same page. That's the hard part. Paradigm changes take time. But ohhhhhh the great results. Thanks for this thought provoking blog entry.

Hi Students,

Thanks for your comments. I believe the student voice is among the most credible on educational blogs. I hope you continue to contribute to these discussion!

"Changing how people think" is a dangerous! Are you making people nervous? I hope so!

I love the word "defiant" in your response. We could use a little more student defiance in the pursuit of improved teaching and learning.



Thanks as well. As you know, your comment and some of the student comments became a guest blog post. Thanks for permission to do this.


Hi Kevin,

I appreciate the words of encouragement. Now we'll see what MY boss thinks of them.

All the best,


December 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Doug, your post is so undeniably TRUE, REAL, and is NEEDED to be EMBRACED by all stakeholders. AND, you are so right about it taking a "revolution" to make it happen.

In the small, rural district where I work, change is hard for some to embrace. Unless it is "required" by the principal or administrators, only a few are willing to try something new. Fear holds back many..fear of change, fear of failure, fear of not knowing as much as the students may know, but the greatest fear is LACK OF SUPPORT from the stakeholders.

In my role as Instructional Technology Specialist, I am to help provide training and support but many times I am seen as the "fix-it" person. Our Tech Dept is short-handed and I do help out wherever is needed, but I love working with those teachers and students who are embracing those skills our students will need to have developed when they graduate and go beyond their high school to college or workplace.

We (stakeholders in general across our nation) are not truly preparing students for a life beyond their diploma where they can compete nationally and/or globally. The research and statistics is out there that supports this notion of how our students today are behind in so many areas compared to other countries. This is such a travesty and a disservice to our students. What you posted above, along with many other posts above, needs to be fully digested by all stakeholders as it is the fuel needed to power a body of change.

So, people, who else is for this? I teacher, one student, one stakeholder at a time.

Great post! ☺

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnita Harris

Thank you, Anita, for sharing your concerns and experiences. You speak for the majority of tech integration specialists and librarians working, I believe!


December 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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