Realistically and pragmatically viewed, the district-level leaders of our nation don't yet conceptually understand the potential of Web 2.0 to the necessary extent to actually lead the changes needed, and teaching staffs are under supported in their development and understanding of digital-age tools, not to mention that many of our teachers don't have the temperaments for working outside their comfort zones (even though their system of tenure should wholly encourage this type of risk taking). These, however, are not our heaviest of bricks in the "big fricking wall." The heaviest and most substantial brick to circumvent is revenue.
Here it goes: I think we-as school district administrators-should guide our school systems in investing in bandwidth and high-quality web-filtering software in order to allow students to bring their own wireless devices to school. We should do this instead of investing all our revenue in a 1:1 environment. Here are some thoughts:
- We will never be able to uphold the technology staffing needed for repairs, neglect, malware, etc.
- Laptops and other wireless devices are now better quality and more personally affordable than ever.
- Student and parent ownership in maintaining the wireless device is very important to its ongoing care over the life of the device.
- In an age of mass personalization, it would be incompatible to force students to use a standardized device.
- With cloud services, we don't have to allow students to access our local servers. They can create and save everything on the cloud.
- Student-owned computers narrow the range of potential issues that school district administrators must be concerned about, such as personal use at home, archiving content, software downloads and preferences, simultaneous connections like 3G, etc. It's their computer.
- We continue the practice of providing micro-labs (5 computers in a classroom) in almost all classrooms, providing mobile computer labs, and laptops to check out at the library. This is not only currently done but also much more likely to be sustainable in the future.
Here's a snapshot of what it could look like. Students bring their own wireless devices into school and log on to the wireless system, much like you would at McDonalds. Because we've invested in bandwidth and an awesome web-filtering application that will allow us to empower students to safely engage online, we don't have to worry (as much) about inappropriate content or inappropriate access to our local servers. Since all students can't afford to purchase wireless devices and since computers break, we continue to have micro-labs, mobile labs, and laptops in the library available for use and check out.
A measured and thoughtful approach (to 1:1) may be better if our ultimate goal is creating a powerful learning environment where technology amplifies our existing pedagogical efforts. To take the "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach may be reckless, and haste is certainly not what we want to project to our local communities as we work through the implementation dips that are assured to come-just as dips would come with any initiative. Let's carefully consider all the ways we can create powerful learning environments where digital-age tools magnify our efforts in literacy, RTI, differentiation, STEM, etc.
Ok, now that we've solved that problem, on to helping to develop technology skills in district-level leaders and providing better access to and development for digital age tools for teachers.