The Return of the Format Wars

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BETA vs VHS. BETA had the better quality video, but VHS won and ruled the roost forever. Or at least that’s how the story goes. One ring to rule them all.

Which reminds me of the Windows Vs Apple computer days; and as Apple looked like going from being THE educational computer corporation to fading away, the growth of the Windows laptops. This is well before iPhones came along, and the educational push for ‘standardisation’, for ‘ease of use’ (whose use?) and for ‘consistency’.

I lived that, including teaching in schools which recognised the ‘personal’ in personal computer, but insisted on rolling out one-size-fits-all Windows PCs, typically Toshibas to all the students from Year 7 to Year 12 whatever their differences. High maintenance tools for the masses and, if you were good, you could put your own sticker on the back.

So, I’ve been pleased to see in recent years, more nuanced approaches to computers in schools, more subtlety, more variation and, especially with the growth of mobile, the responses of companies like Microsoft and Google of bringing their tools to a wide variety of platforms, cross-platform, VHS AND Beta. Microsoft’s software like Microsoft OneNote, Teams and Office 365 offers unprecedented collaborative power from your phone to your desktop. These tools are platform agnostic, hardware agnostic.

Since then, we haven’t seen as much of the corporation wars on hardware: Microsoft touted the drawing and handwriting of the Surface Pros, Chrome pushed the login and go of the Chromebook and Apple pushed the ‘industry standard’ for the creative arts of the MacBooks. My own students, in this border-less world, have tended to choose Macs, maybe because of the phone effect, or fashion, or because they seem simpler. But, there are some ACERs and HPs thrown in, though I’ve yet to see a Chromebook in the ‘wild’ of my classroom.

Interesting then, to see this latest foray from Microsoft, going back to the old days in this ‘case study’ of *Lowanna College* which fond that BYOD ‘can compromise, rather than support, classroom learning.’

‘BYOD programs they felt introduced too much complexity and fragmentation; if a teacher was to ask a student to create a presentation on their computers using PowerPoint, everything ground to a halt because only some had a device, only some had PowerPoint.

The circuit breaker is Lowanna’s new IT strategy which comes into play early next year which will see all Year 7s use the school recommended device which has both touch screen and digital inking capability along with access to school recommended software including Office 365.

Before settling on the Acer B118 device Lowanna surveyed teachers about how they would like to use technology to enhance learning and also gave deep consideration to the levels of support and insurance for the devices, to minimise any learning interruption should a device be damaged or lost.’

So, we come full circle, or at least we return to the old play that the adults know what’s best, that complexity is bad and that we can’t have ‘everything grinding to a halt’ because of a lack of PowerPoint. If we get the hardware right, it seems to assert, everything else will fall into place. That hasn’t been my experience.

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The Ipad Phenonemon

More and more schools are adopting the Ipad as their preferred 1-1 tool going forward, some in the Ipad trolley model I talked about earlier and some taking the decision to replace their traditional (how funny that sounds now) notebook program with an Ipad 1-1 program. It seems to be particularly happening in Queensland for some reason, whereas I think Victoria has formerly led the way in Australia with 1-1 notebook programs.

Redlands College has an Ipad portal, and there’s a detailed blog post here about their thinking on this.  I like the detail and depth of the thinking and that they’re clearly not simply following this as the latest fad, but see key advantages in this approach. It sound careful and logical and structured; and that’s how change and innovation should be managed.

Ipad 2

Okay, I admit it, I want one.

I’ve been hanging  out for the duration of the Ipad based on the sage advice of many tech-head friends who proclaim solemnly; ‘thou shalt not buy version 1 of any Apple product’. And I listened. And in a couple of weeks I’m going to be grabbing version 2, though I am too dignified to sleep outside the Apple store before opening time.

But I DON’T think this going to transform education anytime soon. For my senior Literature class, with a Toshiba tablet-pc in front of them, the uber-cool ipad would, in fact, be a step backward in terms of pure technology. Sans keyboard for example. I played around iwth an Ipad travelling around Spain last  year, and it was a fantastic tool for that kind of thing, but I’d hate to write anything much longer than a recipe on it.

And there are a ton of implementation issues that go along with it too.

So I want one, and so do half my students probably. But I cant see it as becoming THE viable ongoing real tool that students use for creating content.  More likely I see the 1-1 going the way of the 1 to many. And that students (and teachers) will access their information and interact with it in a variety of ways, through ipads and slates, through smart phones and netbooks and through more traditional notebooks and even desktops.

And, when I actually want to start writing something anything longer than this blog post, I’m gonna want a keyboard to do it. A real one with springy touchy feedback; perhaps one of those lovely little Apple blue-tooth ones!  Unless someone invents voice-recognition that actually works! But don’t get me started on that.

Excuses, Excuses

What Are Our Excuses, Again, For Not Putting Computers in the Hands of Our Children?

So began Scott McLeod’s blog post today which was backed up by an inspiring Ted Talk video about kids learning from each other. I couldn’t agree more that, with the price of powerful computing coming down and down we’re still so reluctant to put these most powerful learning tools into the hands of students in any systematic way.

So why not? Well, here’s some excuses I’ve heard

  • It’s too dangerous for students to be connected
  • It’s distracting
  • It’s not the real work
  • How do we test for it?
  • Our teachers don’t like it
  • It’s easier to keep the computers out of the classroom than re-educate the teachers
  • It’s not proven
  • It’s not literacy or numeracy
  • They can use computers at home
  • Their handwriting will suffer
  • It makes them hollow and vacuous and sallow and emaciated (or words to that effect!)
  • We can’t afford it
  • They won’t look after them
  • We can’t afford the bandwidth
  • I want them to look at me, not a screen
  • Parents don’t like it
  • It’s not collaborative
  • It’s too collaborative

I’ve honestly heard all of these, and mostly in these words!  I’ve seen schools begin a 1-1 notebook and abandon it because entrenched conservatism from teachers or parents made it ‘unworkable’. I think we’ve got to be bigger than that.

Below: the TED talk video

The Education Revolution

Video promoting the NSW component of the ‘Digital Revolution’, the 1-1 notebook (or netbook) program. NSW, which originally seemed unenthusiastic about the Federal Government’s plans to give each student a computer (where’s the infrastructure) seems committed now. Scott McLeod calls it a great idea in his recent blog post, and it’s hard to argue with putting powerful tools in the hands of our students.