Distributed Teaching and 1:1 Learning

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend EduBloggerCon at ISTE 2010 and participate in sessions about online learning, 1:1 implementation, student visions of education, and iPads as 1:1 devices.  I picked up some common themes in all these sessions that are worth putting in ink (bytes?).

First some centering questions: Why is 1:1 computing happening? The pain of setting up a device for every student, the cost of those devices, the legal crap about locking down certain sites, and the general hassle of it all should (and does) prevent schools from going 1:1. So why the big push? Is it being mandated by states or perhaps local boards of education? If so, what are the laptops/tablets/pad/touches supposed to be used FOR?

I’m not sure that everyone going 1:1 has a vision for why they are going 1:1, other than some general sense that technology is available and needed, so let me throw out some vision derived from our conversations at #ebc10:

Simply put, students need devices that allow for distributed teaching. Lets define this as students using and creating the resources for learning that are available online. For example, students in my AP Biology class spent hours this past school year watching the YouTube channels of other science teachers, their favorite being bozemanbiology. I’m a reasonably techie person but I haven’t managed to create my own series of video lectures yet, so I point my students to those resources that others have made. YouTube, iTunesU, and all the online college resources like MIT’s OpenCourseWare have way better resources than I could put together by myself and students can access them over and over whenever and wherever they want to. That’s the benefit of distributed teaching.

Some teachers are doing distributed teaching way better than I am. One of the conversations yesterday was with Monika Hardy (@monk51295) and her students about how they are taking advantage of distributed teaching to each create their own courses.  These students are planning their own courses based on what their interests are, rather than having to choose from a limited set of topics that the teachers in the physical school building are capable or willing to offer. The plan is for these students to design their own learning experiences with the help of experts in the field that they want to study. Some of those experts, by the way, are students that have set up their own YouTube channels and are producing their own tutorial videos, often at the request of other students (example here).

Imagine these brave, creative students trying to create their own online courses in a school that is tech-deprived, with a few laptops and crappy network infrastructure. These kids are out of luck, in such a case, as their videos fail to load, their Skype calls are dropped or painfully choppy, or they can’t add to the course wiki or upload to YouTube because the network is down or blocked.

What 1:1 learning ought to be about is enabling students like this to follow their passion beyond the bounds of the brick and mortar school to find and create the resources that will take their learning to the next level. In a final analysis, it does not matter which tools enable kids to do this, but they do need the tools to get to where the teachers are. As summarized nicely by Monika, our job as educators is to prepare them for this distributed way of learning by providing access, process (training), and a community in which to share their successes and frustrations. (Another good summary of Monika’s student session can be found here)

So why is your school going 1:1?

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