Supervising a laptop program, I get to meet with interesting people from all over the world who come to see what we do. We talk about hardware/software, professional development, computer science and more. But if you were starting an educational technology program, where would you start?
I would start with decision-makers. If your school is top-down, then your admins need to believe. If you school is more faculty-centered, I would start with the faculty leaders. No matter what, if those who direct the school are not involved, progress is even more difficult than it need be. A bottom-up approach can be tough (although not impossible – viva la revolución de la tecnología!).
That being said, the training for these folks is pedagogical, not technical. Sure you can train people on software, but if they don’t know why, then what’s the point? Educators’ strength is their ability to see possibilities for their students. It is also their weakness, because their vision tends to be within their comfort zone. The vision push I am most interested in is project based learning. Computers, the Internet, and all the other tech tools work best when students have time to push the limits over an extended period of time. 30 minutes at the end of class surfing a website does not a laptop program make. Two weeks grappling over the question “who writes history,” now we’re talking…Technical tools allow students to spend time analyzing, struggling, interpreting, communicating all in the name of understanding. There is no test on which to recall random facts, but rather a project to demonstrate deeper understanding.
Some of my favorite project based learning (PBL) resources include: this video of Seymour Papert talking about PBL, George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia magazine’s PBL site, 4teachers.org’s PBL checklists, the PBL Design and Invention Center, and for some thought-provoking reading, try David Warlick on breaking the standard mold of education or the Department of Education report, Technology and Education Reform (ch. 8).