After only one week at the American Embassy School (AES) in Delhi, I’ve had the opportunity to gain some great insight into the school from the perspectives of students, teachers and administration. I’ve conducted some classroom walk-throughs and met with multiple groups. One meeting in particular stands out in regards to the use of technology at AES. On Friday, I met with a student group and listened to them discuss their thoughts as they prepare for the transition to 1:1. Part of that discussion was around the device that their school will choose. The school is debating whether to move to 1:1 with iPads or the Mac Air. Interestingly, although most students (80%) already have some type of laptop, the large majority of students indicated they would prefer moving to 1:1 with the Air laptops. I was surprised by this finding from the student survey. The school is also meeting with each department to assess which device will better meet the needs of their department. Although the conversation around the device is certainly interesting, I found other parts of the student’s discussion much more interesting. In particular, students highlighted two extremely important points for all 1:1 educators. I must also say that I was blown away by the way students participated in the discussion. Not only were they extremely articulate, they also truly listened to one another and were able to respectfully debate with one another.
The first major point students made was about the ways that computers were currently being used. They delivered a message that I often try to deliver. They described how technology was often used in ways that didn’t really change what they were doing. It helped them with their organization and may have increased their efficiency, but it didn’t necessarily change the ways they learned. That message aligns with the ways that I often see technology used. My challenge to the administrators at that meeting was to aggressively try to empower teachers to use the technology in ways that will truly change the learning experience of students. Next week I’ll be working with the entire administration team, and I hope to help them develop a walk-through tool that can assess the ways in which technology is being used.
The next major point students made was that they wanted to be able to personalize their devices as much as possible and make them their own. The students had questions about the things they would be able to put on their devices as well as summer use. Obviously, both of these issues present challenges on school owned devices. They do, however, raise some questions to consider. Are there ways that students can keep their devices over extended breaks? If not all students, can some students submit “proposals” why they need their device? Are there other ways that students can make the device more personal so that they don’t need a second laptop or desktop?
When describing the design process, my colleague ,John Nash, always highlights the importance of hearing from all stakeholders. AES faculty were wise to meet with and listen to their students. The concerns, questions, and opinions they shared should help the school as they transition to 1:1. Similar conversations with student focus groups could also be valuable for any 1:1 school.
*On a personal note, I’m excited to say that I wrote this on my way to the Taj Mahal! It was more spectacular than I imagined!