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Digital Age Education requires constant re-evaluations (Why 1:1, Why Apple?)

Posted by jturner56 on August 25, 2013

This week sees us preparing for the annual start-up of the 1:1 laptop program for all grade 5 students. As the first school in the area that went 1:1, with students buying and managing their own laptop from Grade 5 onwards, there is much to be proud of right through to Grade 12.

Nevertheless, any digital age organisation should be continually evaluating it’s digital approach as the winds of technological change blow harder than ever before. As part of this, conversations with parents identified two main questions which will be addressed at the roll-out, and which I share today.

The first is: why 1:1?

1:1, where each student has their own digital learning tool / learning environment, has going on 25 years as an in-school approach, and has been constantly under the microscope for a variety of reasons. Happy to go in-depth on the history some other time, but from the perspective of the Grade 5 introduction the following underpins our belief in 1:1:

  • learning in the digital age requires an at-hand digital learning environment,
  • such an environment supports personalised learning pathways and interests,
  • information access has been re-defined by the web,
  • so too tool digital resources from Twitter to VLEs,
  • schools have a role to play in ensuring digital skills and digital citizenship are provided for all students to be members of a valued community,
  • cognitive development in the digital age is intrinsically linked to an individual’s digital experiences. One only has to compare new students with limited or negligible computer backgrounds to those with strong experiences in 1:1 programs.
  • collaborative learning spaces, underpinned by personal digital learning devices, provide strong learning opportunities,
  • finally, access to wider audiences provides communication, feedback and connections hitherto unavailable.

In short, I could not see an educational approach without a personalised digital device as appropriate for the digital age (but concur with this within a balanced, socially progressive culture).

A question arising from this in our case is: why Apple?

The school uses Apple laptops for a variety of reasons. These include

  • learning productivity due to efficiencies in minimising downtime,
  • media reliability and power,
  • upkeep costs,
  • availability of creative tools through iWorks and iLife
  • consistency of tools
  • network ROI, and
  • inter-operability with Cloud, Mobile etc.

I could, of course, also argue from viewpoint of alternative technologies (and indeed have taught with Windows and even Linux). Similar contentions re iPads could also be made. This later consideration being of emerging importance, although the most recent review reinforced the laptop value from Grade 5 upwards. A school new to such considerations may find otherwise.

The point being that community expertise is a strong base for continuing use, and our school has such a strong base, but dangerous if used as the sole basis.

Technology is not the issue, even if we are happy to continue with our relationship with Apple. This, though, is under the same reviews as those that have seen our email system recently replaced by Gmail, a differentiated-stationed approach to iPads in early years, and an emerging evolutionary approach to BYO.

So any worthwhile school will always be re-evaluating against its core values and objectives; which should include considering the learning potential of new technologies across three related levels: centralised, curriculum and choice. More on this next week.

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