Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lessons From 1:1 | Toward a One-to-World Learning Environment

Four years ago, I started getting the itch for a 1:1 classroom. I wrote grants, begged for computer lab access, and did everything short of kicking and screaming to get what I wanted.


Halfway through the school year, I received a Chromebook for every student as part of a campus experiment. Then, I received ten more to try as part of a district experiment. This was all after receiving two iPads from a grant. We had more computers than students, and, in some cases, twice as many.

What Did I Learn?

Be careful what you ask for ... I got it! Not the computers. I learned what it was like to manage a classroom that could shift gears without a trip to the copy room. I learned how we could collect ideas, concerns, and questions from the entire class and use it all as part of the lesson content, merging student voice and formative assessment. 

But still, it wasn't enough. I constantly had this feeling like something was missing. We went beyond replacing paper worksheets with digital ones, and the lesson plan would never be the same because it could change drastically based on student needs. Homework was shrinking to almost nothing because we were getting so much done with our class time, yet I had a feeling like there was something more we could do.

Digital Learning Farm

I was fortunate to have attended a keynote by Alan November the previous summer, so I bought his book and read it almost in one sitting. It's not a long book, but the stories jumped off the page because they showed me what we were missing in our "one-to-too-many" setting.

The book presents the idea that classrooms, like farms, are places where things grow. Alan calls it the Digital Learning Farm. Being a history teacher, I couldn't help but relate it back to Thomas Jefferson's concern about how industrialization would take away our freedom because of how we would become slaves to the clock.

From Industry to Information

Classrooms and schools have long been criticized for being too stuck in the industrial model, so I embraced the digital learning farm. Perhaps the Web is like a farm, yet students can grow by cultivating knowledge and making publishable things that can be harvested to feed the world. Maybe connected technology would bring together the best of both industrial and agrarian economies to make an Age of Information that even Jefferson could appreciate.

I'm not there, yet. I have more to learn, which is why I've decided to write about it here and share the project that I am working on. It's called the Digital History Farm. I wanted to specialize my approach a bit because there are a lot of resources being developed as digital history. It's huge, actually.

These are resources that my students can both learn to better access and make contributions to if I implement some of Alan November's approach to technology integration. For example, instead of reading clips of primary sources and secondary interpretations, which are important, my students made a spreadsheet of all of the items and amounts taxed by the Stamp Act.      

One-to-World

Alan November's ideas about 1:1 are not aimed at discouraging the initiatives. He knows, however, that too many schools have placed the selling point and vision on the device instead of the connectivity, the opportunity, and what it means to foster Web skills that can leverage powerful databases to find and solve problems.

My lesson designs have plenty of room to grow, especially when it comes to providing opportunity for new lines of inquiry and broadening the conversation to engage authentic audiences from around the world (https://goo.gl/vEUX0Y, accessed 12-30-16 at 10:55 EST).

Recent Posts to Digital History Farm (click or touch images)



What's Next?

At the publishing of this post, the pages in the horizontal navigation of the Digital History Farm blog were incomplete. The goal is make the blog a place for resources as well as sharing of the featured content made by students. The project will grow and likely change, so stay tuned for updates.

Please leave a comment on the Digital History Farm if you have suggestions.