Archive for Pam Livingston

1-to-1: Starting Well

This was also posted on the Microsoft Partners-in-Learning Part­ners Hot Topic forum

I have vis­ited and con­sulted for schools in the U.S. and over­seas around 1-to-1 and also researched 1-to-1 for many years. These schools are in vary­ing stages of plan­ning, imple­men­ta­tion, roll­out, refresh and analy­sis. Most want advice on how their pro­grams are going in any of these stages. There is always the chance to return and cor­rect, but schools save them­selves the most time if they start well. Here are some point­ers for this:

  1. Involve all your stake­hold­ers in the vision­ing and plan­ning. While not every per­son can sit on your Vision­ing Com­mit­tee, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from your fac­ulty, admin­is­tra­tion, par­ents, and stu­dents will bring out ideas and per­spec­tives you need for suc­cess. And don’t for­get stu­dents – they are the sin­gle largest stake­holder in terms of num­bers and impact on their lives.
  2. Visit, attend con­fer­ences, research, ask many ques­tions. Schools embark­ing on 1-to-1 have the lux­ury that many oth­ers schools did this already. Assem­ble your ques­tions and a team and take road trips to other schools and to con­fer­ences. Be sure to ask the tough ques­tions such as:  What went wrong? What did you learn now in hindsight?
  3. Give teach­ers devices first – at least 6 months to 1 year before students.
  4. Invest in Pro­fes­sional Devel­op­ment but under­stand it should be var­ied and job-embedded. Make it rel­e­vant to each teacher in each class­room for each discipline.
  5. Include an online learn­ing com­mu­nity. With­out a uni­fy­ing sys­tem that every­one is part of (and not email) you risk class­rooms in silos that are not con­nected. Make 1-to-1 be about col­lab­o­ra­tion with a 1-stop shop­ping loca­tion every­one uses.
  6. Know that pilots don’t tell every­thing. Most schools pilot and expect the teach­ers pilot­ing to be the doc­u­menters of every­thing. How­ever, the pilot teach­ers are highly moti­vated and likely early adopters. Their workarounds and moti­va­tion might not scale to every teacher and every class­room. Expect the year after the pilot when more teach­ers come on board to be bumpy when issues are uncov­ered that didn’t come up dur­ing the pilot.
  7. Pay atten­tion to logis­tics. Spare devices, power cords, bat­ter­ies, charg­ing sta­tions, cases, insur­ance all mat­ter. Your vis­its and research will help with this.
  8. If you’re going BYOD, make sure you know what you’re get­ting into. Good news is that many schools are suc­cess­ful and you can pick their brains. A great place for BYO infor­ma­tion is Thurs­day nights 9 p.m. U.S. East­ern time to fol­low #byotchat on Twit­ter and to search their archives. The peo­ple con­tribut­ing have solved many prob­lems and are very col­le­gial and will­ing to share their material.
  9. Invest in tech. Not just devices, but infra­struc­ture so that roam­ing devices won’t choke when stu­dents bring them from math to lan­guage arts. And not just
    infra­struc­ture, but peo­ple who under­stand and can keep your net­work effec­tive. When you inter­view, try to find help­ful peo­ple who under­stand that teach­ers need to be pri­or­i­tized at the top of their list.
  10. Ques­tion, ana­lyze, fol­low up, lis­ten, revisit, refresh, check, repeat.

There’s plenty more of course. But this is a good list to start. What’s on your list? Please share. Also if you’re going next week to the Microsoft in Edu­ca­tion Global Forum in Barcelona please look for me and let’s talk.

- Pam Livingston

BYOD, Communities — and a 1-to-1 Webinar

When invited to visit 1-to-1 schools, I pose two over­ar­ch­ing ques­tions – How are stu­dents involved in 1-to-1 here? How is 1-to-1 grow­ing your learn­ing community?

These ques­tions become impor­tant with a pro­gram with school-supplied or school-recommended dig­i­tal devices – and even more so with BYOD pro­grams. Because if you are expect­ing every­one to sup­ply their own device for learn­ing, you need to:

  1. Make sure stu­dents are fully involved and onboard right away. Bring stu­dents into com­mit­tees and have them part of sur­veys and the plan­ning, ask their opin­ions as experts.  They reside in the dig­i­tal world and are your most impacted stake­hold­ers in terms of their cur­rent and future aca­d­e­mic, career, pro­fes­sional and per­sonal lives. And keep ask­ing them, many times – for­mally and infor­mally. Fol­low up on their ideas and sug­ges­tions. If BYOD is bought in as a strat­egy by the stu­dents who under­stand your respect and under­stand­ing of them and who real­ize the entire pro­gram was built with their buy-in and feed­back — you will have tee’ed up your pro­gram for success.
  2. Schools needs to be brought together with tech­nol­ogy not seg­mented into class­room silos of tech­nol­ogy. Teach­ers need to choose class­room tools – but the school should have an over­ar­ch­ing online com­mu­nity for social learn­ing where every­one can com­mu­ni­cate and col­lab­o­rate in whole-school groups, in whole-grade groups, in whole class­room groups, and in project-based groups. This should be the same social com­mu­nity not a dif­fer­ent one in each class­room, grade level, divi­sion, or school. Build and grow your online social learn­ing com­mu­nity with your stu­dents so they have uni­for­mity and con­nec­tiv­ity as they move through your edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tion – and so that teach­ers can have a place for their PLCs and adult pro­fes­sional dis­cus­sion forums year-after-year.

I’d like to invite you to join Lord Knight, Neus Lorenzo, Leslie Wil­son and myself to hear our thoughts on 1-to-1 The Next Wave and why we think we’re poised at this very moment for some excit­ing things on the 1-to-1 front. Sign up here: http://swrt.worktankseattle.com/series/34/seriessignup.aspx

- Pamela Livingston

1-to-1 – Now and Then

I’m prepar­ing for a trip to school in South Korea in the process of a robust 1-to-1 pro­gram and reflect­ing on the past 7+ years work­ing with schools tak­ing this jour­ney.  Here are some over­all observations:

1. It’s still about the peo­ple – the edu­ca­tors, the stu­dents, the par­ents, and admin­is­tra­tors – and mak­ing sure voices are heard, stake­hold­ers are brought into all con­ver­sa­tions. Deci­sions should start with these types of ques­tions – How will [stu­dents] ben­e­fit and par­tic­i­pate? How will [teach­ers] lead? How will [par­ents] sup­port? Then ask the ques­tions again but switch the stake­holder name.

2. Every pro­gram is dif­fer­ent – because each school’s mis­sion, cul­ture, and goals are dif­fer­ent. Ensur­ing align­ment to the school or dis­trict is key.

3. Stu­dents need to be empow­ered and should be part of the plan­ning and dis­cus­sions, and not just as the tar­get of the program.

4. There is no such thing as over plan­ning or over com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Plans will change and be fluid. Every­one will fill in the silence with their own inter­pre­ta­tion if there is not enough communication.

5. Hard­ware and soft­ware keeps get­ting bet­ter, more flex­i­ble, and eas­ier to use.

6. An online learn­ing com­mu­nity is vital  — one that every­one can access – to elim­i­nate unin­ten­tional silos of learn­ing, clut­tered email and frac­tured stu­dent experiences.

7. Fur­ni­ture is improv­ing – check this out: http://www.ideo.com/work/node-chair/

8.  Wifi is bet­ter but a net­work audit is still de rigeur. Most hard­ware ven­dors will help out with this at a low price in hopes of get­ting the contract.

9. Learner-centricity and per­son­al­ized learn­ing is what 1-to-1 is all about. What a plea­sure to see it writ­ten into so many school 1-to-1 plans.

10. Logis­tics still count; lap­tops still break; insur­ance is still needed; elec­tric­ity is a fact of 1-to-1 life.

11. Par­ents are our best part­ners; when they embrace 1-to-1 in their home prac­tices much of the bat­tle is won.

12. Relat­ing 1-to-1 to pre­vi­ous fac­ulty work can be a smart move. One school mod­eled their pend­ing 1-to-1 in part on dis­cus­sions with their fac­ulty sev­eral years back on “what is a 21st cen­tury class­room.” The ideas of their fac­ulty then became the impor­tant frame­work for pro­vid­ing lap­tops to students.

It’s so great to see that 1-to-1 con­tin­ues to flourish.

- Pamela Livingston

 

1-to-1, Flipped Learning, and Online Communities

When I was first speak­ing with schools about 1-to-1 not long after edi­tion 1 of my book (now in its 2nd edi­tion) was pub­lished, two big ques­tions were – Is your school/district wire­less? Are you pro­vid­ing stu­dents with email accounts?  Back then, not every school could respond to both ques­tions in the affirmative.

Now we are see­ing more ubiq­ui­tous devices includ­ing tablets, lap­tops, smart phones and the com­plex­ity that ensues. This pre­vi­ous post went into some of the issues faced by schools when intro­duc­ing BYOD; the com­ments pro­vide more depth and ideas as well. Any 1-to-1 or BYOD school is wired now as it would make so sense oth­er­wise. Nearly all schools and dis­tricts offer some type of email for stu­dents if they are 1-to-1.

Like many, I’ve become intrigued by the con­cept of flipped learn­ing – an idea even more fea­si­ble when stu­dents all pos­sess some type of device that is as mobile as they are and which is used to learn, review and syn­the­size con­tent away from the class­room fol­lowed by more indepth social, hands-on learn­ing when back in the class­room. To me, it’s all about learner cen­tric­ity – if done right. This is a great thing and what we have always wanted – the learner has the resources at his/her fin­ger­tips, learn­ing and tools for learn­ing are con­ti­nously avail­able – and the user-created arti­facts of learn­ing are orga­nized and avail­able to the learner at any time.

How­ever, the piece that is also needed is some type of online learn­ing com­mu­nity. Rather than email, which we all know has become a boon­dog­gle in our lives and which stu­dents are mov­ing away from in droves, an online learn­ing com­mu­nity can offer a safe, con­tained space for teach­ers and students.

I’ll be pre­sent­ing at NCCE on Fri­day, March 1 at 2:30 a ses­sion enti­tled “A ‘Cloud’ for Flipped Class­rooms” which is all about how imple­ment­ing flipped class­rooms, or really most all tech­nol­ogy inte­gra­tion projects, ought to have the cor­ner­stone of an online learn­ing com­mu­nity. The ben­e­fits of a learn­ing com­mu­nity include:

  • Pro­vid­ing a cen­tral space for learn­ing that extends the classroom
  • Elim­i­nat­ing “Web 2.0 site of the week” syn­drome which results in
    • login fatigue (try­ing to remem­ber which ID and pass­word to use) result­ing from all the dif­fer­ent applications
    • frac­tured stu­dent expe­ri­ences (hav­ing mul­ti­ple inter­faces to know and navigate)
  • Pre­vent­ing email clutter
    • Rather than the teacher main­tain­ing lists of inter­nal or exter­nal emails, the com­mu­nity uses its own inter­nal messaging
    • Mes­sag­ing can include send­ing stu­dent doc­u­ments, mark­ing them up, and return­ing to the stu­dent via attach­ments – track­able and centralized
  • Threaded dis­cus­sions
    • Real dis­cus­sions can occur and be followed
    • Pro­motes collaboration
      • Stu­dents can work as a whole class or in smaller groups with teacher oversight
  • Increased stu­dent accountability
    • No lost paper – the Inter­net is every­where – even at McDonald’s!
    • Date and time is stamped with work turned in
  • Shared resources
    • Every­one sees the links, the resources, the pho­tos, pod­casts, etc.
    • Assign­ment post­ing, turn­ing in
      • The assign­ments and the work are centralized
      • Class cal­en­dar
        • A cal­en­dar for the class is avail­able to view events, assign­ments, assess­ments, etc.
  • Easy inter­faces
    • Stu­dents use social media now and most online com­mu­ni­ties emu­late this
  • A safe place to learn dig­i­tal citizenship
    • Prac­tic­ing how to be a good dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship using social media in a class­room com­mu­nity can pro­vide real exam­ples of what to do and what not to do, along with teach­able moments
      • Teach­ers may wish to imple­ment “L.A.R.K.” a con­cept from my book
        • Dig­i­tal learn­ing should be L — Legal (adher­ing to copy­right and other laws) A — Appro­pri­ate (images and ideas should not be offen­sive) R — Respon­si­ble (tak­ing care of dig­i­tal tools and resources) K — Kind (know­ing how to respect and be kind to every­one in a community)

Full dis­clo­sure: I man­age a great (IMHO!) prod­uct that does all this. But this list above applies in gen­eral as well. 1-to-1 needs an online learn­ing com­mu­nity to unleash its true potential.

Your thoughts and com­ments are welcome!

-        Pamela Livingston

Global Learning Webinar 10/24 — An Answer to “What to Do with 1-to-1″

1-to-1 is as good as what you do with it. If edu­ca­tors view this as a vehi­cle for crit­i­cal think­ing and 21st Cen­tury learn­ing skills, and are ready to allow stu­dents to roll up their sleeves and get deeply into think­ing, analy­sis, ques­tions, prob­lems, and ideas, 1-to-1 can offer the facil­ity, resources and tools to make learn­ing hap­pen in deep and mean­ing­ful ways.

An impor­tant man­i­fes­ta­tion for 21st Cen­tury learn­ing today is global aware­ness and under­stand­ing. The chal­lenge is for stu­dents to embrace our new global world, develop an under­stand­ing of other cul­tures, hone skills and increase knowl­edge of other ideas and peo­ple. 1-to-1 deep­ens this because stu­dent have at their fin­ger­tips paths to research­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing, shar­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing online.

A leader in global learn­ing is Lucy Gray. I’d like to invite every­one to par­tic­i­pate in a free Webi­nar all about Global Learn­ing from Lucy who heads up the Global Edu­ca­tion Con­fer­ence. It will be Wednes­day 10/24 at 1 p.m. East­ern. Please sign up here and feel free to invite others.

Hope to see you there!

Pamela Liv­ingston

Why 1-to-1 — Scott McLeod — Free Webinar 9/26/12 1:30 p.m. Eastern

While the real poten­tial of 1-to-1 learn­ing is unleashed in the class­room with teach­ers and stu­dents, it takes a vil­lage to make this hap­pen. And every vil­lage needs a vil­lage leader with acu­ity. This is part of what Scott McLeod and Nick Sauers work on day in and day out — help­ing to con­nect the real­ity of 1-to-1 pos­si­bil­i­ties for learn­ing to the daily lives of prin­ci­pals, super­in­ten­dents, and other administrators.

Few peo­ple are as spot-on as Nick and Scott with knowl­edge, exper­tise, under­stand­ing and the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate to school lead­ers. They’ve walked the walk and know what lead­er­ship in schools involves because they are hands-on school lead­ers who have super­vised and lead many oth­ers in schools.

So I would like to invite all of you to a free Webi­nar this Wednes­day by Scott McLeod you can sign up for this week. It’s spon­sored by my com­pany, School­wires, as part of our thought lead­er­ship pro­gram. This pro­gram seeks out lead­ing edu­ca­tors and pro­vides a forum for their think­ing accord­ing to their exper­tise. It is not a “ven­dor” pre­sen­ta­tion, it is just a plat­form for School­wires to sup­port inno­v­a­tive and for­ward think­ing. I’ll also give a slide at the end reflect­ing on Scott’s ideas from the per­spec­tive of the Tech­nol­ogy Direc­tor (my back­ground for many years.)

Please sign up to join us this Wednes­day, 9/26 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. East­ern at  ow.ly/dWv2K 

Hope to see you at the Webinar,

- Pamela Livingston

BYOD Questions to Consider

The buzz in 1-to-1 right now is about BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — and it’s not a fad and it’s not going away. There’s a con­ver­gence of fac­tors caus­ing it including:

  • Hard­ware is diverse and at price points that are more affordable
  • Schools are hyper bud­get conscious
  • The “cloud” (pre­vi­ously called The Inter­net, the Web and the Infor­ma­tion Super­high­way) is ideal for core apps which are free or inex­pen­sive with such as Google (although be sure to use GAFE), and Zoho
  • Par­ents are real­iz­ing that a dig­i­tal device is nec­es­sary for learning
  • Schools want to be sure stu­dents pos­sess 21st Cen­tury skills

But BYOD upsets apple carts right and left. We’ve been build­ing school infra­struc­tures for a long time that have sup­ported a data-centric model in that IT direc­tors allow or dis­al­low devices on the school net­work accord­ing to a set model which is partly about good design and sup­port, partly about sup­port­ing what already exists and partly about not tak­ing on new projects or approaches that require more work, resources, and skill sets. And I’ve been a tech direc­tor in schools so know first­hand that open­ing a can of worms when it impacts the net­work, the laptop/desktop stan­dard­iza­tion, and the hard­ware replace­ment plan is not some­thing many peo­ple will relish.

But then there are the stu­dents. They grow and develop and move to the next grade level and out the door to col­lege and to life. They need to be empow­ered and learn in an envi­ron­ment that encour­ages them to think and write and research and pub­lish and present and ana­lyze and cre­ate new ideas and solu­tions to prob­lems. They also need to own and under­stand the vehi­cles used for learn­ing. So this might mean BYOD.

In order for BYOD to work well there must be a strong part­ner­ship between admin­is­tra­tion, Board mem­bers, teach­ers, tech­nol­ogy, stu­dents, and par­ents. Every­one is going to be impacted by 1-to-1 no mat­ter how it is imple­mented, whether BYOD or a stan­dard hard­ware plat­form either pro­vided or spec­i­fied by the school or dis­trict. But with BYOD it’s likely you are going to see some push­back from tech­nol­ogy peo­ple because of the com­plex­ity, change, work, plan­ning and resources required. So here are some ques­tions to consider:

  • Have you vis­ited a BYOD school or district?
    • If not a team with rep­re­sen­ta­tive stake­hold­ers should do so armed with lots of questions
  • Are you already using Google or Zoho or some cloud solution?
    • With­out cloud apps BYOD is going to be nearly impos­si­ble to imple­ment in a mean­ing­ful way
      • You need the entire school/district com­mu­nity to be able to com­mu­ni­cate, pub­lish, present and share centrally
  • How will you define BYOD?
    • Will there be a min­i­mum device or specification?
    • Will smart­phones be one of the devices?
  • How’s your net­work — is it ready for
    • Wifi every­where with mul­ti­ple roam­ing wire­less devices
    • Cen­tral­ized data secu­rity (Bar­racuda, Light­speed, etc.)
  • How will you address logistics?
    • Will stu­dents be charged with keep­ing their devices charged, ready and safe/secure?
    • Will you have “loaner” devices?
    • Will devices be locked up somewhere/somehow dur­ing lunch, tests, sports?
  • How’s your curriculum?
    • Are teach­ers already used to assign­ments in Google and in using online social media tools so that stu­dent work is already free of hard­ware require­ments — and hap­pen­ing in “the cloud”?
  • How’s your dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship education?
    • Do stu­dents already know how to keep a respect­ful appro­pri­ate dig­i­tal footprint?
      • In my book I talk about L.A.R.K. — tech­nol­ogy use by stu­dents should be L — Legal, A — Appro­pri­ate, R — Respon­si­ble, K — Kind
  • How’s your com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel with par­ents, students?
    • If the device is pur­chased, main­tained, repaired and man­aged by par­ents and stu­dents, it’s going to be impor­tant to com­mu­ni­cate often and well
  • How’s your budget?
    • Unless you have planned fully for the changes of BYOD you might be blind­sided by some upgrades or unex­pected costs so make sure to ask these ques­tions when you are vis­it­ing BYOD schools

There are ter­rific schools that have been BYOD for years, The Harker School in San Jose comes to mind for instance. Many peo­ple I respect have been writ­ing about BYOD includ­ing William Stites who posted this blog post for Edu­ca­tional Col­lab­o­ra­tors early this year, Lisa Nielsen who wrote about debunk­ing BYOD for T.H.E. Jour­nal and a recent arti­cle in Dis­trict Admin­is­tra­tor starts with a quote from Lucy Gray who I respect very much — this entire arti­cle by the way is an impor­tant read. The Lap­top Insti­tute which is highly rec­om­mended will have threads this sum­mer in Mem­phis on BYOD.

BYOD can be a solu­tion if you do your plan­ning and home­work and try to fig­ure out up front exactly what you’re get­ting into and plan care­fully. You’ll want to be ready to rethink your net­work as not being about enabling a few mod­els of spe­cific con­trol­lable devices but instead as a path­way to the cloud where your school/district-wide learn­ing com­mu­nity resides.

- Pamela Livingston

1-to-1 and Creating/Publishing Something New

There is so much power and poten­tial in hav­ing every stu­dent have a dig­i­tal device avail­able for school or home use. It means hav­ing at the student’s fin­ger­tips nearly any resource for writ­ing, pub­lish­ing, research­ing, plan­ning, graph­ing, edit­ing, shar­ing, and col­lab­o­rat­ing.  It also means all these resources along with the files and work cre­ated by the stu­dent are com­pletely mobile and avail­able as needed. Teach­ers in 1-to-1 envi­ron­ments no longer need to dis­trib­ute resources and col­lect them later, and there­fore can relin­quish their roles as the sole dis­sem­i­na­tors of knowl­edge.  Noth­ing jump­starts student-centered learn­ing like 1-to-1.

Unless 1-to-1 hap­pens to be solely about hav­ing a device to fol­low along with a teacher.

There are schools where 1-to-1 is about a teacher using a pro­jec­tor and bring­ing up a work­sheet while stu­dents, using their own dig­i­tal devices, fol­low along at their own desks with their own elec­tronic copies of the work­sheets.  Where stu­dents do not have the oppor­tu­nity to explore or col­lab­o­rate but still face front in desks in rows, albeit desks with lap­tops or tablets on them.  Where teacher-centered learn­ing is auto­mated and facil­i­tated so that work­sheets aren’t handed out any­more but still are inte­gral to learn­ing.  Where stu­dents aren’t asked to be part of the plan­ning or the ideas of the school, in spite of being the stake­hold­ers with the most at stake in terms of their futures.

But there are also schools where stu­dents cre­ate some­thing new and dif­fer­ent and where teach­ers have adapted to the role of co-learner and where think­ing and projects and col­lab­o­ra­tion flourish.

It’s the nature of schools that mate­r­ial and con­tent must be learned so there is a place for dif­fer­ent deliv­ery and method­ol­ogy.  Some­times stu­dents do face front and there is whole class instruc­tion needed even in the most effec­tive and student-centered spaces.

But if 1-to-1 is totally and com­pletely, with­out excep­tion, in every learn­ing space about teacher-centered instruc­tion — is it truly worth the time, energy, and cost?

- Pam Livingston

Conferences That Work — And Why I’m Loving this Book

I am read­ing this book Con­fer­ences that Work — Cre­at­ing Events That Peo­ple Love by Adrian Segar.  I’ve known Adrian for quite a while since attend­ing the excel­lent edAC­CESS con­fer­ence for the first time while an IT direc­tor at an inde­pen­dent school some time ago.  I’d seen the book in pdf ver­sion when Adrian asked me and sev­eral oth­ers to give feed­back, I thought it was great then, now think it’s even bet­ter in print (and check out the Web site as well which is descrip­tive and will start your cre­ative juices flowing.)

How­ever I’m not plan­ning a con­fer­ence right now, I’m redesign­ing a 2-day work­shop Mid­dle and High School teach­ers in Iowa at a school dis­trict about to go 1-to-1.  Why would the idea of peer con­fer­ences be applic­a­ble for a work­shop of teach­ers?  Because, frankly, most PD (pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment) does not deliver what teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors want — real learn­ing, under­stand­ing, and applic­a­bil­ity to the point of mean­ing­ful repli­ca­tion in the class­room.  And also while we’re being hon­est here, I am becom­ing less and less inter­ested in the stand-and-deliver ver­sion of pre­sen­ta­tions — keynot­ing, pre­sent­ing face-front ses­sions, watch me and I’ll show you things and hope to make it fun and excit­ing and also try to involve you.

I want every­one to get their hands dirty myself included and to expe­ri­ence what adult learn­ers need — prac­ti­cal ideas they can use, medi­ated by their own needs, oppor­tu­ni­ties to do and not just view, time to try and exper­i­ment and expe­ri­ence pos­si­bil­i­ties, metacog­ni­tive time to dis­cuss what they are learn­ing and what they are grap­pling with, and some­thing they will come away with and have to use again at the end.

So thank you Adrian for an excel­lent book the ele­ments of which will be included in a future work­shop for me, even though it won’t be a “con­fer­ence” per se.

- Pamela Liv­ingston (Cross Posted at 1-to-1learning.blogspot.com)

Student-Centered — Really?

I’ve been work­ing with a team from Edu­ca­tional Col­lab­o­ra­tors to help a school dis­trict plan and imple­ment their 1-to-1 pro­gram.  We were defin­ing focus group ques­tions and I sug­gested (and the team fully sup­ported) adding an impor­tant stake­holder rep­re­sen­ta­tive group to the mix: the Stu­dent Coun­cil.  How often do we talk about being stu­dent cen­tered and then how often do we pull back when it means real involve­ment by stu­dents – not as the end recip­i­ents of poli­cies and reform efforts that will impact them every day and even­tu­ally impact their future aca­d­e­mic and pro­fes­sional lives – but as think­ing con­tribut­ing decid­ing mem­bers of groups that for­mu­late and adjust these efforts and policies? 

One of the favorite schools I vis­ited was The Put­ney School in Ver­mont.  I was part of a two-person team from edAC­CESS eval­u­at­ing their tech­nol­ogy plans.  What impressed me the most was their morn­ing meet­ing.  Hav­ing worked in inde­pen­dent schools, I know that morn­ing meet­ing always involves stu­dents and teach­ers and is a hall­mark of how com­mu­nity hap­pens.  But there was a sense at Put­ney that stu­dents were really unfraid to speak out and that teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors didn’t run the meet­ing or the school and allow stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate at set times – every­one together ran the meet­ing.  Put­ney has stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives on their gov­ern­ing bod­ies and we had sev­eral meet­ings with stu­dents (with­out teach­ers present) dur­ing our time at the school. 

Yes­ter­day, Lisa Nielsen, who blogs as The Inno­v­a­tive Edu­ca­tor, pre­sented at the 140 char­ac­ter con­fer­ence #140conf.  I couldn’t attend but have been work­ing through the pre­sen­ta­tions by this group of excel­lent edu­ca­tors. Lisa men­tioned stu­dents at Nat­ick High School who worked together to bring up their dis­agree­ment with the MP3/4 player ban put in place (as an aside to this link once again I am dis­ap­pointed in the vit­riol of many gen­eral com­ments to arti­cles that appear in pub­lic news­pa­pers – yet another argu­ment for teach­ing dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship.)  These stu­dents worked through the sys­tem and even­tu­ally got the school to go back and reeval­u­ate their pol­icy.  A great story – but – will there be a day when stu­dents get heard on the front end and not the back end of these decisions? (See Lisa’s whole post and Prezi which is all about student-centricity — you won’t be disappointed.)

I hope every­one at schools and dis­tricts might think deeply about this ques­tion: “How do you involve stu­dents when for­mu­lat­ing the poli­cies, plans, deci­sions and direc­tion of your school?”  And the answer is not an occa­sional poll or announce­ment after the fact.  It’s mak­ing stu­dents more than recip­i­ents of what hap­pens to them every day, it means mak­ing them deci­sion mak­ers.  Real involved deciders and vot­ers and not recip­i­ents of infor­ma­tion just after-the-fact or just as a check off item (“did we say some­thing to the kids?”)  The biggest and most encom­pass­ing change from 1-to-1 is student-centered class­rooms.  But it all only really works well if you also have student-centered schools with stu­dents shar­ing in the deci­sions that shape their lives.

- Pamela Livingston