“You can lead a student to the Internet…

… but you can’t make them think” was a defining comment from 1 to 1 pioneer Gary Stager when he visited Trinity College last week, and spent time with a collection of teachers and IT staff over a long lunch to discuss technology in the classroom.

Gary Stager sharing with Trinity College staff

And, as one of Tech & Learning’s top influential people on the subject, he provided a lot of worthy advice. He’s been around the block several times, and most likely seen and heard most of it before, but it was an excellent opportunity for many of us to find out a little more from a master on the importance of technology in education used the right way.

What follows is a summary of what I personally took away from the session. There were 20 other people in the room, and their stories might be different. (In fact, Trinity’s official version can also be found online.)

For any brilliance below, feel free to credit Gary Stager. If I have misconstrued any of his messages, assume error on my part.

Less us, more them. Delegate work to the students, and err on openness. It’s more manageable for teachers to share work, and it also has huge educational benefits. For example, implementing peer to peer assessment in addition to the more traditional teacher only assessment. Try not to be the star of the show all the time. Develop a deeper role of trust in the students. Lower the boundaries between a teacher and a learner.

Why the iPad vs Netbooks/Laptops. They are durable, cheap, instantly on, have a massive battery life, and are easier to maintain. Other staff present added that the iPad frees them to teach rather than spending time trying to make things work and that the low profile of the device on a desk or on a lap created less of a barrier compared to laptops.

When you make simple things easier to do, it means that complex things are possible. By using good technology, students are able to create much richer presentations using a range of formats, whether it’s video, audio, animated, visual, etc. It engages them, and is more appealing to others. We need to try and get out of the “It has to be awful for you to learn anything” mentality.

How to link assessment to the technology? Get peer reviews by students. Err on open work rather than “keep your eyes on your paper”. We’re an interconnected world. Have students critique other student’s essays.

All the work should be available online. Keep it wherever you like, Facebook, a blog, etc. Students can create a portfolio that is not only accessible to their immediate teachers and classmates but can be used by them to connect to a wider audience and to demonstrate their abilities (for example when applying for university or for a job).

Think about how best to use the time when we are physically in the same space. If it’s run of the mill stuff, let it be done outside of the class. There’s plenty of collaboration opportunities available that don’t require physical presence, but not all. Use the time wisely.

If you find an app/product that works, stick with it. Don’t get caught up in ‘Software du Jour’. While new technology can be appealing, it’s worth assessing whether the benefits outweigh the difficulty in migrating. E.g., if you’re using DropBox and it does the job, there might not be a need to jump to whatever else has just been announced in the cloud file sharing space, just because it’s got some hype or a couple of minor new features. I like this advice because you can expand it into the whole technology in education argument. If an iPad which obviously is hardware du jour is going to create more pain and less learning through it’s implementation, it’s worth thinking about whether it’s worth using. (So far though, it seems like it’s worth it!)

Evaluating our iPad pilot is exactly what we’ll be doing for the next few months. So far, it’s been an exciting journey!

What do you think is an important consideration in implementing technology in a classroom?

First Post.

Trinity College at the University of Melbourne began an iPad pilot in August 2010, and we hoped to have a blog started around the same time to talk about our experiences. Unfortunately we’ve been so busy running the pilot that the blog took a little longer than initially hoped.

Nevertheless, here we are!

We launched the pilot with roughly 50 students and 20 staff exploring the use of technology in the classroom. The academic pilot program aims to realise the potential of students and teachers by liberating creativity and promoting exploration and critical inquiry. Its educational aims can be encapsulated in a single phrase: to go further, faster, and with more fun.

iPads at Trinity are being used in the full range of subjects with the August Entry students, including English, Chemistry, Drama, Economics, Environment and Development, History of Ideas, Maths and Physics. Students and staff are also incorporating the iPads in welfare and social activities, from attendance tracking to Chill Out sessions.

Over coming weeks we look forward to sharing our victories and losses and what we’ve learned along the way. We’ve already been in contact with a range of developers and vendors to give them constructive feedback on their products, and we’ll also be making our own changes and improvements in coming months as we learn how to best utilise the tools before us.

In the meantime, feel free to read an article about our pilot that was written by a journalist at Techworld or a short video showing the distribution of iPads to students.