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BIG CHANGE for $mall ¢hange PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cathleen Norris, Elliot Soloway on Tuesday, 03 May 2005

/cathie_norris.jpg/elliot_soloway.jpg1:1 works. In those classrooms and schools where each and every child has a computer equipped with task-appropriate software, and teachers, IT staff, and administrators are adequately prepared, then increases in student motivation and achievement are observed. No surprise: just as in every other venue, from accounting to scientific research, when technology is ubiquitous and provides task-appropriate support, significant productivity increases are realized. For elementary and secondary education, then, the only pressing question is “how do we scale up 1:1” so all children can benefit?
In the U.S. laptop computers were once seen as the way to realize 1:1. While Maine’s Governor Angus King spearheaded Maine’s 1:1 Laptop Initiative in 2002, he has publicly stated (April 25, 2005) that laptops are too expensive and lower-priced alternatives are needed in order to truly scale 1:1.  Fortunately, a broad range of “sublaptops” -- from small screen palmtops to 7” screen notepads – are emerging that can do 80% of what a laptop can do at 10-20% of the TCO (total cost of ownership).  Thus, after spending considerable sums to build its computing infrastructure, with 2-3 computers per room, a computer lab (or two), as well as wired and wireless networking, a school can now spend a relatively small amount of money to fill out that infrastructure and provide each and every child with their own, small mobile, networked, computer to use for all learning activities and for their own personal activities as well.

Why is it so important that task-appropriate technology be put, literally, into the hands of each and every child? There are two reasons. First, the children coming up these days are truly digital aged children; with wires wrapped around their heads, batteries stacked in mounds on their desks at home, and cell phones veritably glued to their ears they see technology as important. Therefore, if we are going to reach the “kids these days” we need to employ for learning that which they value in their everyday lives: technology. Second, instant on, instant off, easy-to-learn, easy-to-use sublaptop technologies become ePaper and ePencil and enable the digital kids to satisfy that very deep need we all have to express ourselves. While the digital kids find paper and pencil boring and unsatisfying, ePaper and ePencil afford truly new opportunities for reading, writing, collaborating, and researching.

Waxing eloquent about kids and sublaptops is wasted breath unless the teachers embrace the technology into their classroom. From our experience over the past five years, it is our sense that teachers find sublaptops qualitatively different from their bigger, more complicated, more intimidating cousins. In workshops with teachers, we see them holding the palmtops, turning them on, turning them off, tapping an icon, and then giggling. In all the years running Internet workshops, we’ve never seen teachers giggle about the Internet. The sublaptops are genuinely fun and not intimidating. And, we have found that teachers can comfortably,  effectively, and fully adopt and adapt the sublaptop technologies into their curricular activities in 1.5 years – half of  the three years that Apple Classroom of Tomorrow found it took for teachers to become effective with desktop technologies. 

But a major barrier to the adoption of 1:1 remains: we feel that mainstream educators still feel that technology has little impact on - is superfluous to -- teaching and learning. The origins of this deep-seated resistance to technology in school are multi-faceted. And thus we who do see the value of task-appropriate technologies for teaching and learning must respond in diverse ways – from citing quantitative studies of student achievement, to citing increased attendance and motivation, to citing compelling anecdotes of children doing what they do best – behaving in amazingly wonderful ways using sublaptop technologies.

Mainstream educators may well not perceive current classroom practices reaching a crisis situation – but it is a crisis, a crisis of relevance. Children today are even more divorced from school than children of previous generations:
“These students said over and over that their schools and teachers have not yet recognized – much less responded to – the fundamental shift occurring in the students….:” Pew Report
School simply does not take seriously what children see as important – technology. While the children of today won’t read paper-based books – even with all our anguished exhortations – they will read eBooks. It’s cool; it’s fun. So, why fight them? Give them eBooks on low-cost, affordable, sublaptop computers.

There was a point in time, when there was 1 pencil in a classroom shared by 30 children.
However, when pencils became available for each child, the teacher could now engage in profoundly different instructional activities. This represented a big change for $mall ¢hange.

Remember in the late 50’s when paperback books were introduced? The English teacher could require that every child have their own personal copy of Beowulf. Instead of trying to share 2 copies in the classroom with 30 students, which was a management nightmare and highly inefficient for learning, a teacher could now assign each and every child to read the same pages in their own book. Paperback books brought about big change for –again -- $mall ¢hange.

You can see where this argument is going. 

Tomorrow, each and every child will have his or her own, small, networked, mobile sublaptop computer. The instructional opportunities that such a 1:1 situation affords boggle the mind-- truly, big change for $mall ¢hange.

Cathleen Norris, Ph.D.

In leading the development of handheld technologies for teaching and learning in K-12 at GoKnow, Cathie continues to pursue her dream of making schools a better place for children to learn, to grow, to thrive. Cathie’s central design philosophy is that the key to being successful in K-12 with technology is to win over the classroom teachers by providing software that is truly easy to learn, easy to use, and incorporates just the right amount of educationally-appropriate functionality.  While a tall order, GoKnow’s award-winning handheld software, e.g., FreeWrite, Sketchy, Cooties, Fling-It, PAAM, etc. does have precisely those characteristics.

For 10 years, Cathie was a high school mathematics and computer science teacher before moving to the University of North Texas where she is a professor in the Department of Technology and Cognition. In the fall of 2003, Cathie published a seminal paper on her Snapshot Surveys on the state of computer and Internet access in K-12 classrooms in schools and districts nationwide. That research establishes the fact that the lack of impact of computer technology on student achievement is not due to issues of teaching or teachers, but is solely due to lack of access to the technology.  Indeed, given the economic situation in the U.S., handheld computers are the only way that each and every child will have access to their own personal computer.

Cathie is the immediate Past President of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the leading international organization for technology-minded educators.  From 1991 to 2001, she was the President of the National Educational Computing Association (NECA) that organized the premier conference on technology in K-12.  As she brings both a classroom teacher’s perspective, a scientist’s perspective, and most recently, a business perspective to the use of technology in education, Cathie is a much sought after speaker both nationally and internationally.  And, Cathie is a co-founder and the Chief Education Officer of GoKnow, Inc., an educational software company in Ann Arbor, MI devoted to making sublaptop computers the computer of choice for K-12.

Elliot Soloway, Ph.D.

For the past 25 years, Elliot has worked to improve K-12 education through the use of computing technologies. His latest venture, GoKnow, Inc., is demonstrating how handheld computers can transform K-12 classrooms by enabling, finally, 1:1 computing for each and every child. GoKnow provides administrators, teachers, students and their parents/guardians with a complete, handheld-centric solution. GoKnow’s award-winning handheld software, e.g., FreeWrite, Sketchy, Cooties, Fling-It, PAAM, etc. are based on 15 years of classroom-based research at the University of Michigan.

Starting out as an Assistant Professor at Yale University, Elliot worked in the New Haven Schools, bringing in the first personal computers to middle school classrooms. For the past 15 years, he has worked in the Center for Highly-Interactive Computing in Education, at the University of Michigan, developing learner-centered software and curriculum for personal computer technology, Internet technology and most recently, handheld technology. For the past 6 years, Elliot and his colleagues in HI-CE have worked in 28 middle schools in Detroit, with over 10,000 students. Most impressively, when using HI-CE’s technology-enriched science curriculum, 15% more middle school students pass the state-mandated tests when compared to other reform programs, while the scores of those students who pass the MEAP tests score 10% higher than their peers in other programs.

Elliot has published over 200 articles in books, journals, and magazines, and has received numerous national awards. In particular, in 2001, the undergraduates at the University of Michigan selected him to receive the “Golden Apple Award” as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year at UM. In 2004, the EECS College of Engineering HKN Honor Society awarded Elliot the “Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award.” And, Elliot is a co-founder and the CEO of GoKnow, Inc., an educational software company in Ann Arbor, MI devoted to making sublaptop computers the computer of choice for K-12.

Comments from the forum:
BIG CHANGE for $mall ¢hange
Andy    May 7th, 2005 - 3:11 PM
I'm wondering if the title should be more, BIG CHANGE for quite a lot of $mall change.

What automatically springs to mind is the other costs associated with using this technology in the classroom. If we think about the most tangible, i.e., the costs of networks, and the integration of handheld systems with other school systems. Then this may result in a significant increase in costs. Admittedly, it is surmountable, however, it needs to be factored in. The other big cost area for the effective implementation of a technology are those associated with culture and staff development. The leap from the effective and appropriate use of hard backs to the use of paper backs wouldn't be that high, all parties should be reasonably happy /  comfortable with the technology and it's range of uses. However, for effective and sustainable embedding of handhelds in the classroom I'd argue is a significantly greater leap, therefore, and effective and sustainable adoption would need to be supported. Again gobbling up resources. So, although I agree in principle with the message, perhaps I'd question the title   Smiley
Re: BIG CHANGE for $mall ¢hange
shartley    May 12th, 2005 - 10:14 AM
What is not taken into account is the 'cost' of supporting this technology in school.  As someone who was a school Governor when we introduced a ICT Suite you suddenly realise that you need additional skill sets within the teaching staff, and if they don't exist, how they will be bought in or provided.
As part of an MSc I am trying to develop a framework that will assist in this decision making progress - is it cost-effective in education/training terms to introduce this new technology.  What are the factors that have to be considered when trying to decide if to move to this new technology, and if you had an online tool to help you would you use it? (My current list extends to at east 25 different factors ranging from the social/cultural aspects to the technical aspects.)
Re: BIG CHANGE for $mall ¢hange
teach534    September 3rd, 2005 - 12:36 AM
After our Open House the other night and explainiing the benefits of Palms in our classroom (and experiencing the reactions of the parents), I am thinking about the impact of having students and Palm-savvy teachers putting on an "Open House" of a different kind.  Getting people (parents, school board members, administration) to understand the benefits of various technological tools in the classroom is an important aspect in gaining 1:1 ratio of student and technology.  Any other suggestions?

Teach534
Re: BIG CHANGE for $mall ¢hange
jonnyf    September 12th, 2005 - 12:51 PM
I hope I'm not being too commercial for your forum (Graham said you wouldn't mind! Embarrassed) if I put in a plug here for my company. It seems relevant to the posting, and indeed to the forum in general.

We produce software that allows teachers easily to create interactive learning materials for wireless handlhelds, and maintain a website where these lessons are hosted, and student responses stored: the materials (and the responses) can also be accessed from home, or anywhere, on any device with a browser.

We'll be at the Handheld Forum in October, or check out our website www.i-Guide.org.

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