I was fortunate enough to attend a Learning Technologies sponsored day with Travis Smith from Expanding Learning Horizons today. Interestingly, I was the only person from a primary school and I was fortunate enough to run into an old colleague and Moodle innovator, Jason Plunkett from Mount Gambier High School. I took a bunch of notes but Travis handed around a USB with his presentations, spreadsheet tools and other goodies so I won't replicate his content here but try to capture the essence of his advice and ideas from my own perspective as an educator exploring the possibilities of a 1 to 1 program for his school.
Travis Smith has over 10 years experience in the classroom teaching Psychology, Geography, History and English, and managed the very successful notebook program at Frankston High School in Victoria. He lectured at Monash University for many years in the Education Faculty and has presented at many conferences worldwide on the effective use of technology in the classroom. He was Deputy Principal at Frankston High School for two years before this year becoming the National Manager of Expanding Learning Horizons. The business works with schools Australia wide to assist them to implement 1-to-1 programs and develop and run effective professional learning programs for teachers within schools.
This workshop is aimed at teams of leaders from schools who are looking to implement 1-to-1
technology programs in their schools. Part of the day will revolve around case studies of what other schools
have done in their deployment of technology to students. This program will have a focus on the educational
value of technology programs for students and give leaders a chance to discuss and plan for the many aspects
of a successful and sustainable 1-to-1 program. It will involve a combination of presentations as well as time
to work in school teams on their implementation plan.
The morning started with an introduction from DECS's Peter Simmonds and a quick summary of where our system was in relation to the nation before Travis was introduced. His morning session was mainly focussed on the why for 1 to 1, and what it would mean for your school and your teachers. He described the use of laptops in the school environment as the biggest change in over a hundred years and the absolute need to be aware for progressive Professional Learning. Sessions after school for 90 minutes aren't going to cut it any more and the right sort of professional learning is costly but crucial. Travis's great quote was "It's all too easy to think that it's all too hard." He also pointed out that schools were the last place in the workforce still arguing about the role of ubiquitous computing.
He talked at length about the challenges a classroom of laptop laden students would have on the teacher. There are those who will fear the loss of control but this is too important to walk away from. It is important for teachers to be comfortable in software not necessarily experts and merely view the laptop as the tool to support your good teaching and learning. When teachers talk about not having time, it is important to remove the legwork for them. Effective classroom management is still the key to making it work, (my classroom, my rules) but there are big implications for the pace of delivery. He shared a sample of work designed in OneNote by a group of English teachers that utilised the power of digital resources and the higher order part of Bloom's taxonomy - creation.
Travis offered up a number of alternative ways that someone in a role like mine could re-think support for teachers. These could include term action research projects, curriculum planning with improved digital access and sharing success around the school in a more visible way. After a morning tea break, he talked us through "15 Mistakes You Don't Need To Make." This was timely advice from his experiences and covered aspects like pace of implementation, ownership of the laptops, who controls the software and laptop image, network readiness, technical and technician support, budgets, expectations for the community, student readiness and skill levels and re-thinking PD.
In the afternoon, we had time to work on our own school's planning. This was useful as Travis supplied us with a planning tool that asked a lot of key questions around readiness, and he freely offered a lot of conversation with me on my own school's possible directions and moves so far. All of the ground covered leaves me plenty to unpack and think through and take back to the rest of the school to work on. I certainly saw ways to improve on my effectiveness in my Coordinator role that I was unable to clearly see before today.
Tomorrow, I bring another classroom teacher with me and Travis is promising a lot of digital hands on as we look at what a successful 1 to 1 classroom looks like.