July 23, 2024

Downunder and Back and Back Again

I returned three weeks ago from a whirlwind trip to my adopted homeland, Australia, where I enjoyed the great privilege of being a Visiting Scholar at the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College. I led a master class broadcast via videoconferencing across South Australia and to the world via the Web. I was also the keynote speaker for a terrific conference in Brisbane, Queensland not far from the first school 1:1 “laptop” school where I led professional development nineteen years ago (Coombabah State Primary School).

I then flew home, taught two grueling sunrise-to-sunset weekend doctoral courses, attended to various domestic adventures. Just as my might New York Jets began disappointing me, I boarded a flight to New Zealand in order to be the opening keynote speaker at uLearn09 in Christchurch, a city I’m visiting for the first time. My keynote is “10 Things to Do with a Laptop: Learning and Powerful Ideas” and I’m also leading two workshops of “The Best Educational Ideas in the World: Your Ticket to Constructing Modern Knowledge.” Immediately after my second workshop I fly via Sydney to Melbourne, Australia to lead a day of professional development at Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) before returning to Wellington, New Zealand three days later to lead another day of PD before jetting back to the USA (via Auckland) that evening.

Working at Methodist Ladies’ College, albeit briefly, is quite a thrill since it is famous for being the first school in the world to have a personal laptop computer per student. In fact, my colleague Steve Costa has been teaching 5th and 6th grader with laptop since George Bush Sr. became President of the Untied States (Yes, 1989!) It is rare that you get to know the “patient zero” of any movement, but my friend Steve Costa was the first teacher in the world to teach with laptops and he has been doing so everyday for 20 years. That fact only adds to his remarkable gifts as an educator.

From 1990n through the mid 90’s I spent months and months working at MLC and then the dozens of schools hoping to emulate the school. At that time, MLC was led by the most important school principal of the last half century, David Loader. David saw something in me and trusted this kid from New Jersey to do anything I believed would make his school better. He spared no expense when it came to enhancing the learning environment for his students and teachers and afforded me constant access to the principal, a privilege I rarely enjoy these days. I learned so much from my work at MLC. It will be great fun to return after more than a decade away.

Few of the dozens of teachers I mentored are still there. Some have retired and many others went on to lead their own schools, run companies or become academics. So, I can’t wait to meet another generation of MLC teachers. Hopefully, we’ll get to work together more in the future.

For those of you interested in the history of 1:1 computing in schools, especially Methodist Ladies’ College, read Bob Johnstone’s book, “Never Mind the Laptops,” and watch this blog for announcements of old documents I’ll be republishing in the near future.