NECC: Howard Levin Laptops

Martin Levins
1 July, 2008
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Howard teaches at The Urban School, San Francisco
1:1 school for 6-7 years, but year 9 and up only.
(Howard is no relation, even though he has a cool surname ;-)
This session is essentially the same as his presentation last year, entitled "Making the laptop disappear"
He maintains that the essential ingredient for any 1:1 laptop program is a supportive Head of school (although a 1:10 staff:student ratio with average class size of 10 may help ;-)
No "technology" taught aside from a 6 hour orientation for 9th graders where they create a movie and a personal website.
Stresses communication, organisation, information, and production as the main goals of the program (similar to knowledge.as.edu.au)
Identifies the "capture generation" where everyone has access to a camera (or audio device)
I’ve seen students use this sort of functionality, but they often need assistance in articulating what it means, or perhaps what is and isn’t relevant.
He identifies the laptop as a place for all your "stuff"
Tagging replaces indexing, and mind mapping (Inspiration et al) assists planning, but encourages (or at least allows) Crowderian approach and needs to be available all the time, but there’s a disconnect here between students and their linear trained teachers.
The real differences are in communication which goes up exponentially. Teachers may not be able to cope with this as they are used to an episodic, summative assessment communication rather than a formative, guiding communication.
Laptops can mean that a lot of traditional "classwork" is done out of the class.
Interestingly, (and a bit off topic) he moves to his changed perspective on Interactive Whiteboards. Now very supportive, because he sees students now able to replay ideas and development of concepts discussed in class.
Still very much didactic though. Personal thought: is it worth spending this sort of money for the small percentage of time that the necessary didactic or expository teaching, or will it encourage this as a sole learning experience?
On to collaboration and the dreaded dichotomy between collaboration and cheating raises its ugly head. (sigh)
He looks at using software such as Logger Pro to numerically analyse and interpret motion data (he uses a bunch of kids on a trapeze as an example)
Finally, he alludes to (but doesn’t really expand on) authentic audiences for productions which demonstrate understanding, and spends some time on audio presentation and voice to text software to assist kids who can’t write and therefore can’t express their understanding.
Summarised on his blogsite
Authentic audiences expanded on (a bit) at the telling stories website

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