As I sit here on the last Friday night of my school holidays, I reflect thoughtfully (which is a skill in itself) on the term that my class has had in our new learning environment. At the start of term 2 last year, I began to investigate the possibility of setting up a 1-1 class at my new school. I was new at the school last year and was not overly sure how well this would go down with my colleagues / administration. After looking at the fantastic 21 steps document produced by my employer (note: great sucking up!) and talking to a teacher of a year 7 class at a nearby school (Arlene Smertherst) it was decided that our school was going to take the plunge and dive into the world of 1-1 computing in the primary school. All systems were 'go' and we were going to implement this in 2010.
Various other things came up throughout 2009, and around half way through term 4 (October) it looked as if it wasn't going to go ahead. An expression of interest was sent home to parents and my principal warned me that he didn't think that it was 'going to get up'. I began to get disenchanted and prepared myself for the worse. I then went of paternity leave for 5 days and came back to school to a pleasant surprise. Out of our 90 odd year 7 students, over 60 had applied to be a part of the program. Now our principal decides that we are going to have two classes in year 7 involved in 1-1 learning.
So our year begins and our kids receive their laptops and they are so excited. My fellow teachers on my year level were very supportive but there was some apprehension from other staff members. One actually said "I would love to do it but I don't know if I could use it enough to make it worthwhile." I just smiled at this comment and thought to myself "Got to love teaching in the 21st century!"
So what have I learnt throughout this term in 1-1 environment?
So many things that I already believed in were reinforced and it was amazing to see the risks that some of my kids took. The hardest thing that the students have had to adapt to was the fact that they were more in control of their learning and had flexibility to demonstrate their understanding in lots of different ways. One example is that we did a science experiment early on in the term and I asked the students to demonstrate their understanding of the experiment however they wanted. They all were a bit dazed for a moment (it was kind of freaky actually) and then a light bulb switched on. I received very different pieces of work all getting to the same destination (note to self: a new blog entry - does it matter how we get to the destination?)
I have also had reinforced that technology is a very engaging tool for learners if you can tap into what works for them. If I use the analogy of a piano player playing the guitar, it is going to be ugly and not a lot of fun. If learning is not engaging, authentic and meaningful to students, then we are going to struggle to get to them excited to learn. I realise that engagement is not the 'be all and end all' of 1-1 learning but boy does it help! My students regularly come into the room before school starts and students emailing me throughout the holidays and uploading items to their blogs.
So has 1-1 learning lived up to its hype so far? My definitive answer is yes and much much more! I can only see the learning experiences of my students improving as we try and implement more flexible learning situations. If I can be inspired by the great work of educators such as Shane Roberts and Joseph Perkins, my kids will receive the quality educational outcomes they deserve (and hopefully go well on everybody's favourite test: NAPLAN!)
One final thing: thanks to everyone who left a comment on my previous entry. I am looking for feedback. I am enjoying using Twitter as a means of spreading the word. Comments just inspire me to keep on going.