23 Things about Classroom Laptops

ruddstoolboxLAPTOPS in the classroom will be for many teachers a rude awakening or a liberating departure – depending on your ideology. There is no disputing the fact that students will have a printing press on their desk.

Schools are not ready for this; but teachers have to be – so I’d like to put forward 23 things teachers might consider in regard to a problem that we’ve been talking about for a very long time.

I highly recommend you read this post about Dr Alan Kay’s thoughts over at Parallel Divergence. I was thinking it was 3 years ago, and have been corrected! – I love the inter-webs.

So in the tradition of 23 Things, here are just some of the considerations that teachers might consider in the lead up to laptops ‘hitting the classroom’ as Nathan Rees puts it.

1. Modding Behaviour

Students will also want to mod the laptop, which will probably be locked-down. Modding it, or circumventing the security will be a mission for some students – as a laptop is so much more useful when it’s tuned to the user.

2. Work avoidance just went digital

Laptops present a wealth of opportunities for the strategic learner to avoid work: low battery; lost wifi signal; ‘lost’ files etc., a range of ways to rebel.

3. Screen-wagging and DVD Draw popping, display flipping, keyboard locking …

An interesting behavior – Students often like to ‘waggle’ the screen back and forth in group discussion. They don’t even know they are doing it much of the time, but is often distracting to the teacher. It is a sign that they are in private conversation and off task. Find ways to make them accountable for their own time. Students may ‘prank’ others by locking their keyboard, remapping drives, setting the keys to type backwards, flip the display etc.,

4. File Sharing

Sharing is a behavioral status currency. A laptop is an excellent way for students to share video and music they have downloaded illegally. Students will share work via flash drives, hard drives as well as emailing it to each other.

5. iGoogle or other portal to friend-networks

Laptops represent an opportunity to stay connected with friends, there are numerous ways to stay connected, and students are increasingly using asynchronous methods such as Twitter and Plurk, not just Messenger. You need to find ways to bring that into class, not try and ban it.

6. Search

Learn about ways for students to ‘search’ beyond Google, and create lessons around how information is shaped to appeal to a diverse range of learners. Googling and using World will be incredibly tedious for students. If you don’t know how to use visual search engines, custom Google search, Wonderwheel yet … now would be a good time to find out.

7. Sage on the stage

If you stand at the front of the class, you’ll see the back of laptops, so movement around the class is important. Sitting students in rows doesn’t work like it used to. The best place for the teacher to be is online and mobile – learn to multi-task and be prepared to access and work with students – online after school (great way to build respect).

8. Learn to use ‘mass’ collaboration tools and create learning spaces

Find ways in which one or two students can ‘share’ work with many. Create online spaces where students can use ‘friend-networks’. Do not expect or ask students to work alone as they used to – that is the last thing they find motivating. Teachers will not be provided with these spaces – they need to be created in context with the needs and preferences of their learners.

Example: Three students take notes; then share with others; who then improve them online.

9. Digital Blooms

Learn about Andrew Church – (if you really must stick to Blooms).

10. Use Diigo – everyday.

A Diigo account – even if teachers do nothing else, learning to manage student progress via Diigo is a critical skill. Use Diigo as a forum, a learning management system and an exercise book!

11. Don’t be boring!

Using a laptop to type in answers to textbook questions, print them out and hand it is absolutely facile. Your textbook is NOT compatible with student motivation towards technology. Boring computer activities lead to work avoidance strategies and self-interest use of the internet.

12. Don’t try to win the proxy war

Filters can be got around, they will always find a way. Entering a proxy war means more wasted time trying to work out what sites will work – You have to test your lessons using THEIR proxy (web access) – as you’ll find that things you want to use are blocked. Overtly policed and blocked networks are counter-productive.

13. Learn about Enquiry, Problem and Project Based Approaches to learning

Social construct approaches work well with technology – but take MORE preparation.

14. Music soothes restless minds – or distracts them

Consider allowing the use of headphones for study (yes the like music), but also consider how great they are if you are giving them a YouTube to watch or a Podcast. Encourage them to remix, recreate and construct new audio – to put intrinsic interest to positive use.

15. The wipe-board is no longer the hub of activity – unless you put it online.

The board is not the place to ‘look’. Consider how it can be used to work with ‘small groups’ to workshop ideas – and use the laptops as a student management tool to keep them busy and focused on work – not you or the board.

16. Parents!

Parents find it hard to judge if students are working at home – or playing (socializing). The lack of text book and pen might send the wrong signals. Run parent orientation nights! – Get in guest-expert to talk about the issues and benefits – get parents onside.

17. Get a school mentor! or enroll teachers on professional learning plan (not a ‘tools’ trail – they suck)

If you don’t have an ICT integrator, or cant identify a teacher-blogger, then get a mentor. Invest in a long term, 12 month, mentor program to allow teachers to undertake a course that leads them through the re-establishment of new skills and classroom management strategies. You won’t achieve this in a day’s in-service. Make sure you are working with a practitioner at all times, not a ‘consultant’ who can’t drop into a school and model their theory in practice.

18. Empower and enlist your Library

Librarians are teachers with an additional skill – enlist them in your classroom as a team-teacher. Don’t ask them to find online resources for you – that’s lazy, as them to teach you how to do it, or teach your students.

19. Teacher will use the same strategies as students when the going gets tough

I don’t know how, I don’t like to, No one has told me … expect that some teachers really do believe that schools never change and will refuse to change their teaching approaches. You won’t get 100% buy in – even if they nod politely in staff meetings – asking for help is challenging for some – and age is no indication of belief and attitude.

20. Leadership is critical!

Powerful learning, comes from passionate, motivated teachers who never stop learning. Don’t lock-step these people by industrialist notions of hierarchical power play – or resort to moral or ideological pressure to teachers to do more. It is a long slow process to renew learning, not overnight change. Recognise how important the goodwill of staff is – given the absolute lack of central government funding to invest in teachers – the way it is investing in infrastructure. The criteria used to target ‘future leaders’ is not going to be as effective as it once was, so be prepared for innovation to come from the grassroots.
21. Get student advisory / maintainers.

Students make great tech experts. Enlist them in general maintenance of laptops – don’t assume students know how to care for laptops! – Learn about OH&S, OOS in regard to the Ergonomic use of laptops. If all you do is put them on the desk, then there are some serious OH&S issues happening. Develop a maintenance and support program – and allow students to run it. Let students have a BIG say in how IT Support should work.

22. Plan for ‘wi-fi’ down times or server failures.

Do not make the laptop the center of the activity – just in the same way we never made the ‘calculator’ the centre. A lesson should not fail or win – because of the laptop or lack of.

23. If you don’t have a learning management system – get one.

If you’re a department get Moodle, if you’re a teacher, use Edmodo if there is no Moodle. Managing digital learning is thought, not labour intensive (of can be).

If you are a school leader, then my suggestion – come up with a strategy and long term professional learning program for staff. If you don’t have one, drop me a line. Don’t assume that it will all just work or get better – it won’t – you are going to have to find ways to invest in people – even if the politicians won’t.

Look forward to any more tips – or mods to this list!

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27 thoughts on “23 Things about Classroom Laptops

  1. Thanks for this; so true.
    Teachers also need to be prepared to learn from the students. If you are not so confident with the tool, get someone who has used it and feels comfortable with it to help you. If that person is a student you can then gain knowledge from their perspective and at times get some great ‘inside tips’ as to how they keep making things (read things they shouldn’t be doing) disappear from their screens…
    Andrew J

  2. A great list – thanks Dean.

    I am ‘dropping you a line’ – what are your ideas about a long term PD program?

    • I’ve been invited to spend some time DET Innovations next month, and I really would like to see something online to take this general list into a practical programme.

  3. A great list Dean.

    I have actually just blogged a short post about 1:1 as well, nothing to the degree of yours though.

    Am currently putting together a strategy for the schools I work with re 1:1 as we have some going next semester and some planning for the start of next year, so lots of your thoughts resonate really well with we are thinking.

    See you at CEGSA

    • Mines just a splattering of things, based on experience, and conversations with K12 teachers & Organisations, its great to get hear so many are planning for this, we can but hope that there will some federal funding to come – you never know with Kevin these days. :)

  4. Great list.

    I’d add: Blog and Read Blogs.

    Blogging is a unique style of writing. Perhaps singular in its ability to tell a whole story or present an entire argument simply by the placement of a single hyperlink.

    Blogging is also an extremely powerful tool for formative assessment. Consider the student who blogs daily coursework and by the end of the year has a unique digital portfolio.

    Teachers using blogging in a 1:1 classroom will need to understand how to evaluate what it is that they are looking at in student work. And they need to create methods of evaluation appropriate to the new media.

    Student blogs should not be just digital recreations of paper journals and notebooks, nor should assessment of digital media merely be based on paper expectations.

    • absolutely! – and that is where learning really changes – changing the artifacts of learning. Love your blog btw …

  5. Hi Dean,

    thanks for the referal to the Bloom’s stuff – its at edorigami.wikispaces.com
    Even though I have been working with Bloom’s for a while, I agree with Dean’s comments, don’t just stick to Bloom’s its useful but not a panacea. Consider sensory learning to are your students visual, auditory, kineasthetic or read/write learners. You can address different learning styles easily in a digital medium.
    Look at Gardner’s MI too. There are easy and straightforward ways of incorperating these learning styles and preferences and pedagogical appraoches into your teaching practice.

    Also I feel there is huge benefit in the engagement that your students will have as the become digitally enabled in the classroom as well as in the rest of their lives

    Andrew Churches

    • Thanks Andrew, I think Blooms is very much the ‘backbone’ taxonomy that has been embedded in teacher-training for so long – your work is mandatory reading for newcomers to educational technology.

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  7. Thanks Dean, I love this!, the list goes on first it was 10, then it was 23, Next will it be a-z on L4L.
    My Favourite is #19.Teacher will use the same strategies as students when the going gets tough.

    I would like to add.. have year 9 train the trainers.. because if the teacher is useless in the room, the students will be their own best mentors. May be frightening for some, but revelating for others.

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  10. We are just about to roll out laptops to yr 10 students. As a teacher librarian I like your comments about using us to team teach. We are busy trying to help plan curriculum units to cater for laptops also.
    Many teachers here are worried and are expressing concern about teaching with laptops and I think they will all be very interested in your tips.

    • Thanks, I see Librarians as teachers with an extra skill – and if someone was mad enough to give me a school to run, Librarians would be on the curriculum and the Library the hub of digital learning spaces. I baffles my why teachers don’t work more closely with Libraries and Records Offices.

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  13. this was so helpful! i have to do a report, if i were a representative from California and i have to write a bill to have ever school across the country to have a laptop and an ipod in their classroom. this was great!!!! thnx<3<3

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