Let the students drive?

Good post over at Clay Burrel’s blog, reflecting on his school’s 1:1 program and how students see it.

An Old Prophecy Confirmed? On the Uses and Abuses of Laptop Learning

My comment:

I think that this is a trap many 1:1 schools encounter, forcing the tech and “making good use” of the expensive new toys. If students are not seen to be making iMovies constantly, the board will question the program and revoke the funding.

What if we did this instead? What if we gave the kids the laptops, because there is no doubt in my mind that kids need anytime anywhere access to these tools, and we relied on them to decide when and how they wanted to use them?

What if, instead of teachers continually telling students how to learn or how to communicate their learning, we instead formed a partnership with the students and allowed choice in student products? What if we stopped worrying about the cost of the laptops and allowed some students to leave them in their backpack for days on end if they simply did not need them?

So, in this scenario, the kids have the technology. The teachers have the curriculum and the learning outcomes, benchmarks, standards, whatever, and the students can use or not use the technology tools based on their learning styles, interests and aptitudes. Students and teachers need to learn about the technology tools and what their options are, but teachers only need to assign a task like this: Show me that you have learned X. Use whatever medium you like, imovie, pencil and paper, blog, podcast, etc. Communicate to me and your peers (or dare I say even an authentic audience somwehere) what you have learned. You have a laptop and all the tools you need. Bonus points for using the tech tools in a way that we have not seen before. Let the students teach us about how they use technology.

What if we stopped trying to force the technology and instead allowed different students to use different tools based on them, not us?

Imagine all the students, learning things this way….

Change is slow in education and change in technology in education has been particularly slow, compared to the rate of technology change and penetration in the “real” world.  I think that comes in many ways from schools and teachers trying to be experts at it and not giving students enough ownership over their learning.  Teachers have to assign the projects and set the tasks and if they are not comfortable with the technology or they only know the one thing they learned in the PD they got in August (used to be PowerPoint and now its iMovie), they use that over and over, even when it is not appropriate to the task.

The power and potential of technology, as we can see by the evolution of the web to a democratizing platform of user-driven content and services, is that individuals can use the things that work for them.  We must engage students in a partnership for learning.  Give them the tech tools and let them run with them.  Let them teach us and teach each other how they can best use the tools for learning.  Let them innovate.  Let them experiment.  Let them fail.  Let them learn.