Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Students Bringing their own Tech to School.

I'm still despairing about the General Purpose lab attached to my library. The teachers are running up against the "browser version" wall and can't access some of the great sites that are out there. (This is my sad little refrain.) However, I was encouraged by a link my son Nathan sent to me. The Eee PC is a compact laptop, with a flash "hard drive" that sells for around $350. It runs Linux and comes loaded with Open Source software, a microphone, a camera, wifi and memory card slots. Very cool idea. They're not gaming machines by any stretch of the imagination, but perfect for word processing and on-line research.

I'm finding that more and more of my students are coming to school with a laptop. At any one time, there is at least one laptop in the library, connected to the wireless network. And of course, their computers can run circles around anything we have at school. Just wait until Christmas...I've been telling any student who will listen that s/he should strongly hint for a laptop under the tree.

So, maybe I'll turn the computer lab into an espresso lounge...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Perils of Web 2.0 and Lesson Design

Last week a teacher came to see me, quite excited about incorporating some of the new Web 2.0 tools into the classroom. Unfortunately, our General Purpose lab cannot run a new enough browser to use the new tools. This is not the first teacher to have hit this roadblock. Wikis, blogs, interactive spellchecking sites, web-based mind mapping (Mind Meister...very cool) and a host of other very useful resources...we can't use them in the lab.

In my ID course, one of my classmates raised four key factors for schools to consider. He called this an "adoptability assessment". Here are the areas:
1. Time
2. Reliability
3. Seamlessness
4. Expertise

Each of these points can be a deal breaker for a teacher trying to integrate technology into his/her instruction.

Time: Especially in senior examinable courses, teachers feel that they are on the "final exam" 100 yard dash. They feel that they can't take ANY time out to do anything that might slow the "content delivery" schedule. If there is a bit of a learning curve for the students (or the teacher), it might not be "worth it." This is also an issue with the limited amount of time any one teacher can access the general purpose lab in our school. It is so heavily booked that you are lucky if you can get 2 consecutive blocks!

Reliability: This is another key consideration. Teachers, unless truly infotech savvy, will throw up their hands if the lesson does not proceed as planned. (See "time" above) Compatibility issues (software and hardware), and school equipment that is hopelessly behind compared to what students have at home (our GP lab runs system 9.....ack) are all speedbumps. And an easy fix for a techie teacher might be an insurmountable hurdle for a neophyte.

Seamlessness: Sometimes pen and paper is the way to go! It's a great idea to use Inspiration software for webbing. But what might be a 15 minute, pen and paper activity could end up ended up taking a whole block....and that doesn't factor in additional time for fooling around, crashing, losing work, rebooting, and re-mapping.

Expertise (Gap): In my school, I am available most of the time to pop in to the general purpose lab and troubleshoot...I am often asked to do this for teachers trying out a new idea. I am happy to help....it might be a simple printing problem, it may be that the site will not load (some hate Explorer, some hate Netscape...our lab won't run Firefox)...it might be that the great site that worked at home will simply not load. Ooops, there goes the lesson!

These factors may not seem "important" from an ID standpoint, but if we are designing lessons and units for real teachers to use with real students in real but usually sub-industry-standard labs, then they are very real issues.

On a related note:
Here's an interesting link to Steve Hargadon's blog that discusses this issue in a related way.
(Although I'm not sure agree with his "brain wiring" statement.) And he links to the Classroom 2.0 site that is looking for ways to help teachers do more with the technology! Take a look.

Check this out:
Also, Bubbl.us is an easy web based mind mapping tool...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Blended Librarian?

As I was reading Chapter three of the Instructional Design text, it struck me that this process (ie. analyzing the learning context) is what teacher-librarians are exhorted to do as an element of the CPPT (Cooperative Program Planning and Teaching) part of their job.

When teachers come to the library to plan a unit or "flesh out" an existing project with the TL, the librarian often uses some kind of planning form that covers very nicely the "Before" "During" and "After" recommendations listed at the end of the chapter. p 52 (See link for a sample TL form here. PDF)

Instructional Designers come in many shapes and disguises! Interesting to think that this might be a "trendy title" that teacher-librarians should add to their resume! (See Blended Librarians link. ) Although this link points to an academic librarian context, I think it fits perfectly with what high school librarians need to be doing... and many already are.