The 2011 Horizon Report K-12 has been posted to the New Media Consortium’s Website, and it has the writing that’s on everyone’s wall in education these days: Cloud Computing and Mobile Devices are imminent in K-12 education, listed as 1 year or less to implementation.
I happen to know that the TDSB is experimenting with moving the load for office applications and even the OS itself off of the individual computers and into the “cloud”, which will surely be a test of our network infrastructure, but might save enormously on the cost computers.
I, for one, am excited about the possibilities and potentials of both these developments, but they are not without their causes for due concern. With so much now riding on our network, will the infrastructure be able to handle it? I know from speaking to elementary colleagues, that moving to web-based reporting has been a nightmare – slow-downs and hanging connections being the major headache, as thousands of teachers try to complete reports at the same time, straining the network capacity.
Cell phones are another very contentious issue. While I feel I am easily able to adapt my pedagogy to suit the new TDSB direction, I know there are others who will be disappointed by the decision to allow cell phones in school. There are a number of excellent teaching opportunities that come from this, but there is also a great deal of trepidation, fears of increased distraction amongst an already distracted and disengaged student body, and risks of cheating on traditional tests and assignments.
My personal belief is that we have already been dealing with these fears, as students have been widely ignoring the old board ruling that forbade the devices in the first place. The new board ruling still allows teachers the discretion to ban the devices whenever they feel it detracts from student learning, but it also allows teachers such as myself, who have been dying to exploit these valuable resources for all they are worth, to do just that.
Everything must begin with teaching appropriate use – this is a teachable skill, and a very necessary one if what I’m hearing from university experiences are any indication. Our students will graduate, go on to own Smart Phones, and if we don’t teach them about appropriate use, there could be major ramifications for their post secondary achievement and/or future careers. Let’s teach our students how to be polite phone users, engaging and paying attention when appropriate, and using their phones only when it is acceptable to do so. We can teach the good habits our students lack, and in my opinion, we have an obligation to do so.
One part to getting students to buy in is to allow them to use their devices – as dictionaries in English class, to reference Google Earth for geography, to pull dates and figures from the web in a history class, to record the results of an experiment in science. We can even use these devices to conduct multiple choice diagnostic tests using websites like Poll Everywhere, share calendars with due dates, and (god forbid), tweet or text reminders to the class for field trips and special events.
If we leverage everything that students are bringing to school in their pockets, we stand a much better chance of getting to that coveted 1:1 ratio of students to devices needed for paperless classrooms, e-texts, and full integration of IT throughout the school curriculum.
Let’s take from the report the positives of these changing times, and approach our challenges as necessary to reap the extensive rewards in the end.