Lots of little things are happening right now, along with some bigger things that aren't ready to share yet.
Mean Time To Repair
A lot of people never connect their iOS device to a computer but I was keen to embed the process of regular syncing in our workflow to ensure that our devices are backed up.
We had our first hardware failure late last week. One girl's iPad developed a dead strip across the screen that was unresponsive to touch. She dropped off her iPad, I backed it up and restored that backup to one of our spares and she was back in business within one hour.
Media interest in this little project has taken off over the past week or so. It all started with the Daily Record and their slightly unfortunate and, um, wildly inaccurate claim that:
pen and paper have been pushed aside in favour of computers. At Cedars School of Excellence, in Greenock, all the lessons are now taken using iPads.
Well, not exactly. Using the iPad in every subject is not the same thing as saying every lesson is delivered using the iPad. Some will be, some won't.
Lots and lots of tech blogs simply regurgitated the Daily Record's piece without verifying any facts with me. I guess that's the nature of the beast.
Some actual journalists did do some actual work, though, and here are a couple of good pieces:
- Parmy Olson at Forbes: The School That Gives Kids Their Own iPads
- Nicole Kobie at PC Pro: Q&A: The Scottish School That Bought All Its Pupils iPads
Don't miss the comments on the PC Pro story, though. Really, they're a hoot.
Q & A
Some questions or, should I say, assumptions commonly arise in these comment threads. I'd like to answer some:
Did my taxes pay for this outrage?
Not one penny of it. We charge parents a fee and cover our costs that way. Incidentally, those fees come out of money that's already been taxed to pay for that child's state school place that's not being used.
Are you no longer teaching children to write?
No, kids are still learning to write. Consider, though, that a child starting school this year will not leave until 2023. Now think about how much you hand-write today and imagine how much less you'll be writing in 2023. I can't see handwriting retaining its privileged position forever.
Are you no longer reading books?
We're experimenting with eBooks and I'll report back on how that goes. I can guarantee you, though, that school pupils rarely value the "rich texture of paper". Most school books get printed on stock that looks more like a slightly stiffer sheet of Andrex than the weighty, luxuriant pages of a fine-art book.
Many printed materials for Scottish education are not availale in electronic form so, even if we wanted to eradicate the paper book, it will take some time.
Won't the children lack "proper" computer skills?
Define 'proper', 'computer' and 'skills'. Now define them as commonly understood in the year 2023, which is when a pupil starting today will leave school.
I've never taught to specific software packages and never will. Of course, we have to use actual real software, but there's a big difference between "teaching Excel" and "teaching spreadsheets". Don't forget we still have MacBooks and iMacs too.
This is a constant tension in educational technology: do you teach for the current "business environment" or do you teach for learning? I prefer the latter. I'm not doing this just to produce the next generation of cubicle fodder.
A child graduating our school this year started school when the Apple Pippin was still current. How can I possibly know what specific technologies will be used in their career? It's beyond absurd to even pose the question.
Aren't you experimenting with children's futures?
Yup, but that's nothing compared to the experiment that all of Scotland is engaged in with Curriculum for Excellence.
This might not work. In three years we might not renew our lease and we could easily go back to a situation where kids get an hour a week using computers. Does that sound like it will be a defensible idea in 2013? Not to me.