The International Educator recently published an article I wrote, One-to-One Computing and Teacher Growth.
Feel free to read, share and enjoy the PDF here.
In 1990, I had the great opportunity to lead professional development at the world’s first “laptop” schools. Australia’s Methodist Ladies’ College and Coombabah State Primary School were the first schools anywhere to embrace 1:1 computing. MLC is a large independent school that committed to 1:1 computing in 1989. Coombabah is a public school and often overlooked for its place in edtech history. The efforts of the teachers at both schools changed the world and I am enormously proud to have played a major role in that effort.
In the early 1990s, I spent months working at MLC, and then numerous other schools eager to embrace 1:1 and the constructionist principles demonstrated by this pioneering school. In 1993, the MLC faculty and principal wrote a book to share their expertise, philosophy and wisdom with educators in other schools. I hope you find the nearly twenty year-old learning stories, recommendations and tips useful to you. I especially call your attention to the audacity of embracing 1:1 computing more than 20 years ago and the fact that laptops were a way of bringing Papertian constructionism to life.
The book, Reflections of a Learning Community: Views on the Introduction of Laptops at Mlc by Methodist Ladies’ College is long out-of-print and sadly removed from the Web where it resided for several years. As a public service to researchers, educators and historians (and with the help of the Wayback Machine) I am able to share the complete book here. Check out how hip the title of this book is for 1993, since “learning community” has just became all the rage twenty years later!
With any luck (and lots of effort) I will soon be able to publish the first doctoral dissertation evaluating the efficacy of 1:1 computing, originally published in 1992!
You should also read Bob Johnstone’s history of educational computing up to and including the early days of innovation at MLC, Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers, and the Transformation of Learning!
The chapters marked by an * indicate that the text describes some of my specific work at MLC.
Reflections of a Learning Community:
Views on the Introduction of Laptops at MLC
Section one: Computing at MLC
- Reconstructing an Australian School by David Loader, Principal at MLC
- The Promises of Educational Technology by Margaret Fallshaw, Computing Consultant, MLC
- The Audacity of Sunrise by David Loader, Principal at MLC
- A Laptop Revolution An interview with Pam Dettman, Head of Junior School
- Educational Computing: Resourcing the Future by by David Loader, Principal, MLC & Liddy Nevile, Senior Lecturer RMIT.
- A Practitioner’s Viewpoint by Maggie James, JSS (junior secondary school, grades 7-8) History Co-ordinator
- Computers for Kids ..Not Schools by Gary S. Stager *
- Initial Research Report by Helen McDonald
- A Technology School for the Future: A Proposal by Ruth Baker, Jeff Burn and Di Fleming
- Design and Technology: The Next Challenge by Ruth Baker, Head of Junior Secondary School, 20.9.1992
- Using Laptops in Schools: The Administrative Implications by Margaret Fallshaw, Computing Consultant, MLC
- Learning with Laptops: Who Pays? by Roger Dedman, Director of Finance, MLC
- Junior School Computing Curriculum by Steve Costa, Deputy Head, MLC Junior School (K-6)
- Computing and the New Teacher by Alison Brown, Teacher, MLC Junior School
- Holiday Program by Alison Brown, Teacher, MLC Junior School *
- Professional Development at MLC:Requirements for Teachers by David Loader, Principal, MLC
- Computer Pathways: A Model for Change by Di Fleming, Head of Middle School
- MLC Community Education and Technological Developments by Joan Taylor, Head of Community Education MLC
- An Elaborate Pyjama Party by Alison Brown, Teacher, MLC Junior School *
- Teacher Change: Philosophy & Technology by Helen McDonald, secondary English teacher & PhD. student from Monash University *
- Staff Development by Pam Dettman, Head of Junior School, MLC
Section 3 : Appendix
- MLC College Computing Policy
- A Constructionist Environment by Jeff Burn, Di Fleming & Margaret Fallshaw
While in While in Italy last week, I received email from Eugene Paik, a reporter for The Star Ledger newspaper. He read my blog post, BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century?, and was seeking expertise for an article on a New Jersey school district enacting a Bring-Your-Own-Device/Technology policy. I dropped everything and responded to his questions immediately via email since I was overseas. Besides, you can’t be misquoted when you respond in writing, right?
Paik’s article, Bernards Twp. district encouraging use of mobile devices, ran in the December 4th issue of The Star Ledger. That article completely misrepresents and distorts my answers to his questions. I cannot claim to be misquoted since the attributions to me are not printed as quotes. Sneaky, eh?
The following is how Mr. Paik reports my views on the matter of BYOD in Bernards Township, NJ.
Gary Stager, an international school-reform consultant and advocate for laptops in classrooms, said there are other issues as well. Not only are there challenges in training faculty on different devices and phone applications, but many school districts also mistakenly assume all electronic devices are alike.
A focus on mobile devices could prevent students from becoming familiar with software and hardware that require an actual computer, Stager said.
Here are my major issues with the reporting of my views.
- I NEVER EVER use the word training. It is antithetical to learning. Anyone familiar with my work knows this to be the case. You do not train professional educators! Training is what you do when you’re trying to get your chihuahua to piss on The Star Ledger.
- While I understand the space constraints required by writing for publication, the author decided not to raise my major objection to BYOD policies – inequity.
- I never said anything about students becoming familiar with hardware and software. My advocacy of computers in education is based on depth, breadth and fluency.
I truly wish that educators and reporters would pay greater attention to nuance and stop tossing around terms like “training.”
Here are Mr. Paik’s interview questions sent to me and answered on November 27th. My quite precise answers are indented.
Just a little bit of background about the policy. The district, in
Bernards Township in New Jersey, is mulling the proposal for its high
school and middle school students. They would use their smart phones,
tablets and laptops for instruction, and those who don’t have those
devices would be asked to share with students who do.
Here are my questions:
1.) The most common concern I hear about is that students would use
their cell phones to goof around (chat, use Facebook) under the guise of
information gathering. Obviously, the issue goes far deeper than that,
but I’m wondering if you agree that this would be an issue. Or are
critics incorrectly calling this the biggest problem when there are many
other issues to be concerned about?
I have worked in schools where every student has a personal laptop computer since 1990. Most recently, I launched 1:1 in a new Korean international school where every student down to first grade has a personal MacBook computer. Theft, breakage, loss have not been a problem anywhere in the world from Harlem to Sydney.
As for goofing around, there is a good deal of anecdotal and scientific evidence that children with computers are not only more social, but their social interactions tend to be work related.
If kids are goofing around or aimlessly surfing the Web, this is a function of an unimaginative curriculum or lackluster teaching.
I view the computer as an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that amplifies human potential. When the goal is not to use the computer to teach what we have always hoped kids would learn, perhaps with greater efficacy or efficiency, but to learn and do things that were impossible without the presence of computing, the work takes on a sense of life and urgency much deeper than Facebook.
It seems odd to me that an affluent district with a long tradition of educational computing, like Bernards Township, would adopt such a policy. Bernards’ students are much more likely to own real portable computers than kids in other districts where the BYOD policy seems to be “Let them eat cellphones!” Even if every kid can afford the quality of personal computer I advocate for learning, BYOD is still terrible public policy.
2.) One of the issues arising out of this is the divide between the
“haves” and the “have-nots.” It would appear that this would set an
uneven playing field for certain students. Could you explain a little
more about the significance of this? Would sharing devices be enough to
solve this problem?
First of all, if schools did not create moronic knee-jerk policies banning things kids own, they wouldn’t need to enact new policies to allow them back on campus. While there might be educational potential in cell-phone use, the real reason not to ban them is that we should not be arbitrarily mean to children. Schools need to do everything possible to lower the level of antagonism between adults and kids. Any idea, passion, question, expertise or gadget a kid brings to school should be viewed as a potential gift. It is incumbent upon teachers and administrators to build upon such gifts. That does not mean that BYOD is sound policy.
One problem with BYOD is that it enshrines inequity while pretending to be democratic. Some students will have much more power and capability when educational policy is left to the accident of family wealth. Not every object requiring electricity is equivalent. Since the computer is today’s primary instrument for intellectual and creative work, every child needs as much power as possible. The cost of providing every American youngster a multimedia laptop computer has never been more than a few percentage points of the annual per pupil spending and that price would fall dramatically if we committed to every child having a portable personal computer as Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon proposed in 1971.
3.) You mentioned the issue of teacher anxiety, and I’ve heard stories
in New Jersey about some teachers who aren’t familiar with smart phones
at all. In your opinion, do those kinds of teachers represent most
educators? Even if they form a minority, how big of a problem would that
Teachers, for a variety of reasons, are among the least comfortable users of computational technology in society. Asking them to teach in an environment when kids have random “devices” only exacerbates the problem and raises their anxiety. This is a bad idea for two reasons. 1) Not all devices are created equally. So, educational activities need to be predicated upon the weakest device in the room. 2) There is a tendency to think of technology in education as “looking stuff up online.” This is the low-hanging fruit and represents the most trivial potential of the computer.
4.) Considering the shrinking budgets many school districts are seeing,
why shouldn’t this policy be considered a good compromise between
educational quality and cost? I’ve heard some say that school-issued
laptops for students typically are not well maintained or cared for.
Wouldn’t students take better care of the equipment knowing it was their
Kids do take better care of their computer, even if it is on loan from the school. However, it is terrible policy to leave 21st Century learning up to the financial liquidity of children. Educators will suffer more dire financial conditions when they endorse the idea that the public need not finance high-quality public educational opportunities for all of its young citizens.
5.) I thought your argument about BYOT policies narrowing the learning
process was intriguing. What are the skills that students would not
develop under this policy?
Science, technology, engineering, mathematics, computer modeling, programming, computer science, music composition, film-making, personal fabrication are but a few of the learning opportunities rendered impossible or very difficult on a cell phone or tablet device – at least for the next couple of years.
Thanks so much for the quick turnaround. I appreciate it.
Feel free to contact Mr. Paik and express your concern about this reporting.
Read my original post, igniting this controversy.
In a perfect world, members of the edtech community would know better and stop equating cellphones with computing.
The following videos are a good representation of my work as a conference keynote speaker and educational consultant. The production values vary, but my emphasis on creating more productive contexts for learning remains in focus.
- For information on bringing Dr. Stager to your conference, school or district, click here.
- For biographical information about Dr. Stager, click here.
- For a list of new keynote topics and workshops by Dr. Stager, click here
- For a list of popular and “retired” keynote topics by Dr. Stager, click here.
- To learn more about the range of educational services offered by Dr. Stager, click here.
“Gary Stager My Hope for School”
Clip from the imagine it!² The Power of Imagination documentary
This is What Learning Looks Like – Strategiest for Hands-on Learning, a conversation with Steve Hargadon
2012 San Mateo Maker Faire.
Ten Things to Do with a Laptop – Learning and Powerful Ideas
Keynote Address – ITEC Conference – Des Moines, Iowa – October 2011
Children, Computing and Creativity
Address to KERIS – Seoul, South Korea – October 2011
Gary Stager’s 2011 TEDxNYED Talk
NY, NY – March 2011
Gary Stager Discusses 1:1 Computing with the Omar Dengo Foundation
University of Costa Rica – San José, Costa Rica – June 2011
Gary Stager’s Plenary Address at the Constructionism 2010 Conference
Paris, France – August 2010
Gary Stager Excerpts from NECC ’09 Keynote Debate
June 2009 – Washington D.C.
For more information, go to: http://stager.tv/blog/?p=493
Dr. Stager interviewed by ICT Qatar
Doha, Qatar – Spring 2010
Learning Adventures: Transforming Real and Virtual Learning Environments
NECC 2009 Spotlight Session – Washington, D.C. – June 2009
More information may be found at http://stager.tv/blog/?p=531
© 2009-2011 Gary S. Stager – All Rights Reserved Except TEDxNYED & Imagine IT2 clip owned by producers
I recently enjoyed the privilege of being the opening keynote speaker at the annual ITEC Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The topic of the keynote address was, “Ten Things to Do with a Laptop: Learning and Powerful Ideas.” It is one my most popular keynote addresses.
Despite the video quality, this is one of my best recorded presentations in recent years.
Ten Things to Do with a Laptop – Learning and Powerful Ideas
Keynote Address – ITEC Conference – Des Moines, Iowa – October 2011
In 1990, I began helping schools across the globe realize the transformational learning potential of a laptop for every child. From the start there was a recognition of the certain inevitability that every student would own their a personal mobile personal computer in the near future, whether school provided it or not. Twenty-one years later, way too few students have a personal computer and the very issue seems to become more controversial with each passing day.
Schools and school districts who have come to the personal computing party decades late now have conjured a cheap less-empowering way to produce an illusion of modernity. They call it “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) or “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT) and it’s a terribly reckless idea for the following reasons.
BYOD enshrines inequity
The only way to guarantee equitable educational experiences is for each student to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities. BYOD leaves this to chance with more affluent students continuing to have an unfair advantage over their classmates. This is particularly problematic in a society with growing economic disparity.
Real people don’t want a device
What was the last time you walked into a Best Buy or Apple Store and asked the clerk, “I’d like to buy a device please?” Nobody does that. You buy a computer. A device is something you buy for other people’s children when you’re pinching pennies or have too low expectations for children.
BYOD simplistically creates false equivalencies between any object that happens to use electricity
Repeat after me! Cell phones are not computers! They may both contain microprocessors and batteries, but as of today, their functionality is quite different.
It is miseducative to make important educational decisions based on price!
A wise mentor of me told me long ago that important educational decisions should not be based on price. It’s immoral, ineffective and imprudent. Who is to blame when BYOD fails to realize its potential or creates unforeseen problems. For forty years, visionary educators like Alan Kay, Seymour Papert, David Thornburg, David Loader and countless others have demonstrated that the cost of providing every child with a powerful personal computer (laptop) is between 2-5% of the cost of schooling. These costs have fallen in recent years. Plenty of schools and districts have reordered priorities to provide each student with a personal laptop. Doing the right thing is a matter or priorities and leadership, not price point.
BYOD narrows the learning process to information access and chat (when students aren’t being punished for either)
Information access, note-taking and communication (presenting, sharing, publishing) are the low-hanging fruit of education and represent the tiniest fraction of what it means to learn. Looking up the answers to someone else’s questions online in order to write an essay or make a PowerPoint presentation reinforces the status quo at best while failing to unlock for children the wondrous opportunities provided by computational thinking.
BYOD increases teacher anxiety
Schools have largely failed to inspire teachers to use computers in even pedestrian ways after three decades of attempts. A cornucopia of various devices in the classroom will only amplify teacher anxiety and reduce use.
BYOD diminishes the otherwise enormous potential of educational computing to the weakest “device” in the room
Some educators are excited by using “technology” to teach things we have always wanted kids to learn, perhaps in a more efficient fashion. My work is driven by an understanding that the computer is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that makes it possible for children to learn and do things in ways and domains unthinkable or unavailable just a few years ago. Such empowerment is impaired when educational practice needs to be limited to the functionality of the least powerful device.
BYOD contributes to the growing narrative that education is not worthy of investment
We reap what we sow, educators who placate those who slash budgets by making unreasonable compromises at the expense of children, will find ever fewer resources during the next funding cycle. Education must not be viewed as some competitive, commercial, “every man for himself” enterprise that relies on children to find loose change behind the sofa cushions. Democracy and a high quality educational system requires adequate funding.
Oh yeah, check out the brand new Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad and high-def video camera being carried by the tech coordinator who decided that students should be happy with whatever hand-me-down devices they might scrounge. Let them eat cell phones!
It takes a special pitch to ask a school or school board to buy one of something for every student. You better make sure you ask for the right “device.” Kids need a personal computer capable of doing anything you imagine they should be able to do, plus leave plenty of room for growth and childlike ingenuity.
Of course teachers should welcome any object, device, book or idea a student brings to class that contributes to the learning process. Every thing a child brings to school in her heart, head or backpack is a potential gift to the learning environment. However, BYOD is bad policy that constrains student creativity, limits learning opportunities and will lead to less support for public education in the future.
As you are probably aware, I have been working in schools with a laptop per child since I led professional development at the world’s first laptop schools back in 1990. Recently, I helped an international school launch 1:1 computing from first through eighth grade.
I believe that less is more, but since software was purchased at once, I recommended the following assortment of constructive creative software for student use across the curriculum.
MicroWorlds EX Robotics
Curriculum areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (S.T.E.M.), Language Arts, Social Studies, Computer Science, Art
MicroWorlds EX is a multimedia version of the Logo programming language. It is designed to have “no threshold and no ceiling” and to be used to create personally meaningful projects and solve problems. MicroWorlds may be used across the curriculum to bring stories to life through art, text, sound and animation; concretize formal mathematical thinking; and creative interactive programs, including video games. MicroWorlds does not publish as nicely on the Web as Scratch, but it holds much more power and functionality as a programming language.
MicroWorlds is a general purpose programming environment that grows with the learner and offers a level of challenge regardless of expertise. Computational thinking and problem solving skills are developed while expressing even artistic ideas with mathematical language.
MicroWorlds EX is based on the work of Seymour Papert, the “father of educational computing,” and colleague of Jean Piaget. In the mid-1960s, Papert began writing about every child having a personal computer. MicroWorlds EX is a software embodiment of his theory of “constructionism.”
MicroWorlds EX contains built-in Help, Vocabulary Reference, Tutorials, Annotated Samples & Techniques.
Curriculum areas: Language Arts, Social Studies, Art
Pixie is a graphics and image manipulation program designed for young children. It contains lots of templates and tools to inspire storytelling and visual creativity. Photos and other graphic files may be imported into Pixie for all sorts of manipulation.
The products of Pixie may be exported in a variety of formats for insertion into other programs, including MicroWorlds, ImageBlender, Animation-ish, Pages, Keynote and Comic Life. It is also integrated with the safe and free image library by and for children, Pics4Learning. Pixie is intended for K-2 students at the school.
Curriculum areas: Language Arts, Social Studies, Art
ImageBlender is a more grown-up graphics and image manipulation program than Pixie, but carefully designed for children (and their teachers). You might think of it as PhotoShop for kids. ImageBlender contains lots of templates and tools to inspire storytelling and visual creativity. Photos and other graphic files may be imported into ImageBlender for all sorts of manipulation.
The products of ImageBlender may be exported in a variety of formats for insertion into other programs, including MicroWorlds, ImageBlender, Animation-ish, Pages, Keynote and Comic Life. It is also integrated with the safe and free image library by and for children, Pics4Learning. Pixie should be used by students from grades 3 and up.
ImageBlender 3 Users Guide
Tech4Learning’s Online Teacher Community – Connect (You should join!)
The Creative Educator Magazine (free)
Pics4Learning free photo library for education
Curriculum areas: Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, Mathematics, Science
Animation-ish is a three-level tutorial based animation program that is deceptively easy to use and incredibly powerful. It was created by best-selling children’s author and illustrator, Peter Reynolds (The Dot, Ish, The North Star, Judy Moody, Stink…).
Be sure to take advantage of the online tutorials and built-in video inspiration!
Complex ideas from across the curriculum and engaging stories may be created with a remarkbale clarity and level of sophistication. Animation-ish, like Pixie and ImageBlender work great with the Wacom drawing tablets.
Animation-ish exports its animations in Flash, QuickTime and other formats that may be published on the web or imported into most of the authoring programs being used by teachers and students.
Curriculum areas: Language Arts & Social Studies
Comic Life allows you to design and print stories and newsletters in the form of comic books or graphic novels. Photos and other static graphics may be imported. This is a great vehicle for supporting the writing process.
Curriculum areas: Social Studies, Mathematics
InspireData is a tool for visualizing data. It’s a hybrid spreadsheet, database and survey tool that allows learners to interrogate data and test hypotheses. It may be used to conduct surveys on one computer or online. Students can then download that data or any tab/comma-delimited file found on the Web for use within InspireData.
InspireData allows for multiple visual representations of data – Venn diagrams, histograms, pie charts, scatter plots and more. Most importantly, its flexibility and ease-of-use allows students to make sense of when one representation would be more suitable than another. InspireData contains mathematical tools for performing calculations and the ability to assemble views of the data for a visual presentation.
The program comes with a large collection of interdisciplinary activities which may stand alone or inspire other inquiry.
Curriculum areas: S.T.E.M.
PicoBlocks is a visual form of the Logo programming language, created by the same person responsible for MicroWorlds EX Robotics, but limited to the control of the Pico Cricket robotics system. The block programming screen metaphor is similar to the way in which LEGO and the Cricket elements are assembled. This is intended for grades 3 and up at the school and may be used to bring a variety of curricular topics to life.
PicoCrickets are based on research from the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. Here are some resources for learning more about the ideas underlying PicoCrickets.
Curriculum areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (S.T.E.M.), Language Arts, Social Studies, Computer Science, Art
MicroWorlds Jr. is a version of MicroWorlds EX, with fully-compatible syntax, but designed for younger children with lower literacy levels than required by MicroWorlds EX.
The reading skills of this school’s students makes this less of an issue, but children without the the problem-solving abilities of their more advanced classmates might do well to have the option of working in MicroWorlds Jr. At younger ages the same projects may be adjusted for use of either environment.
Curriculum areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (S.T.E.M.), Language Arts, Social Studies, Computer Science, Art
Designed at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is literally a cousin of MicroWorlds designed by many of the same people. It’s a graphical version of Logo intended for storytelling and video games developed for publication on the World Wide Web. The software is free and does several things brilliantly. However, it lacks the range of possibilities and power afforded by MicroWorlds EX.
The Scratch web site is a rich place for children to share their projects and collaborate with others. Scratch programs may be created in countless languages, yet worked on locally due to ingenius translation abilities within the software.
Scratch is used to program and control the WeDo robotics materials at the lower primary levels. When the WeDo interface is plugged into the laptop, extra programming blocks appear within Scratch.
Curriculum areas: All
Pages is Apple’s very fine word processing and desktop publishing program that should be the basis for all written work at the school. It can also export its files in Microsoft Word and PDF formats.
The best thing about Pages are the built-in templates that turn anyone into a polished graphic designer. The Web is full of free and low-cost additional templates if you wish to expand your output options.
Curriculum areas: All
Keynote is Apple’s visual presentation program filled with more powerful features and simpler functionality than PowerPoint. Keynote includes presenter notes, the ability to record narrration timed to slides, animation, powerful graphic tools and the ability to export in PowerPoint, QuickTime and PDF formats for use in other programs.
You may search the Web for other Keynote templates – free and low-cost.
Curriculum areas: All
Make and edit video for interdisciplinary projects and for sharing information in specific subjects. Exports for publsihing on the Web, CD, DVD and YouTube.
Curriculum areas: Language Arts, Music
GarageBand is an incredibly powerful tool for recording audio, dubbing audio tracks on movies and loop-based music composition. It may be used anytime audio helps tell a story or set the mood.
Curriculum areas: All
iPhoto is the personal image library built into the Mac. It’s where teachers and students should store and touch-up their photographs. However, you’re not just limited to digital photographs. Any image file may be imported or dragged and dropped into iMovie for later retrieval. Garageband, iMovie, Keynote and Pages use this image library for dragging and dropping your images into other multimedia uathoring programs.
iPhoto may also be used to create photo books, picture books, calendars, greeting cards or order professional-quality prints.
For more than basic photo touch-ups, ImageBlender should be used.
Curriculum areas: Mathematics, Social Studies
Numbers is Apple’s spreadsheet for performing calculations and making mathematical forecasts. Spreadsheets are an incredibly powerful tool across the curriculum.
Search the Web for classroom spreadsheet projects or activities. Anything written for Excel or Numbers will work fine. Excel is MicroSoft’s spreadsheet. Numbers exports in Excel format and opens Excel files with ease.
- Gary Stager’s robotics resource web page – filled with resources for planning and teaching with robotics materials across the curriculum
- Gary Stager’s laptop/1:1 web page- filled with resources for planning and teaching with laptops across the curriculum
- Comprehensive collection of recommended books and resources for creative educators
- Gary Stager’s wildly entertaining and informative blog
- Gary Stager’s biography
- Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute web site
- The Constructivist Consortium web site
- Gary Stager on Twitter
In addition to the keynote addresses, presentation topics and workshops offered here (including the three popular keynotes listed below), I have created new hands-on minds-on workshops and presentations.
Gary Stager’s most popular keynote addresses:
- Ten Things to Do with a Laptop: Learning & Powerful Ideas
- The Best Educational Ideas in the World: Adventures on the Frontiers of Learning
- Twenty Lessons from Twenty Years of 1:1
New workshops and presentation topics:
Invent to Learn
Join colleagues for a day of hard fun and problem solving where computing meets tinkering and performance. A secret yet timeless curricular theme will be unveiled Iron Chef-style. Participants will work with a variety of software, hardware and found materials in four domains (virtual, tactile, audio and video) to express the theme in a personal fashion. The day’s intensity will lead to impressive gains in skill development and a greater understanding of effective project-based learning. Computer programming, filmmaking, animation, audio production, robotics and engineering are all on the menu. Bring a laptop and camera or video camera We’ll supply the rest. Invention is the mother of learning!
Electrifying Children’s Mathematics
There may be no greater gap between a discipline and the teaching done in its name than when the beauty, power and mystery of mathematics becomes math instruction. One can only begin to address the systemic challenges of math education by understanding the nature of mathematics. Nearly 100 years of efforts to increase achievement with unchanged curricular content continues to fail spectacularly; yet, we do not change course. This workshops moves beyond the goal of making math instruction engaging to providing educators with authentic mathematical thinking experiences. Such experiences acknowledge the role computers play in mathematics and society’s increasing demand for computational thinking. Project-based approaches with mathematics at the center of the activity will be explored. Traditional concepts such as numeracy, geometry, probability and graphing will be investigated in addition to exciting new branches of mathematics rarely found in the primary grades.
This workshop is designed for teachers of grades 3-8. It may also be offered as an ongoing course with a greater emphasis on curriculum development and action research.
How to Teach with Computers
The increasing ubiquity of computational and communications technology in classrooms creates challenges and opportunities suggesting a need for a refresher course in learner-centered education. Project-based learning, classroom centers, interdisciplinary curricula and collaboration supercharge the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. Classroom computing affords schools an additional opportunity to recalibrate values and improve teaching practices on behalf of learners.
This hands-on minds-on workshop helps expand your vision of how computers may be used in knowledge construction while exploring pedagogical strategies for creating rich computing experiences that amplify the potential of each learner. Mini activities model sound project-based learning principles and connect various disciplines across multiple grade levels.
Modern schools face several challenges; among them are the questions at the heart of this workshop. Once teachers are finally convinced to use computers as instruments for learning, do they have creative project ideas and do they possess the pedagogical skills necessary for success?
This minds-on hands-on workshop will feature mini-projects designed to nurture sophisticated inquiry, computational thinking and artistic expression across disciplines and grade levels. The presenter will also discuss pedagogical strategies for using computers in an effective fashion as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. These strategies illuminate principles of sound project-based learning and honor the individual learning styles, talents, curiosity and intensity of each student.
Dr. Gary Stager has thirty years of experience helping educators maximize the potential of computers and create productive contexts for learning on six continents. He led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools, created one of the first online Masters degree programs and was recently recognized by Tech & Learning Magazine as one of today’s 30 most influential educators.
The Future of Learning
When we say, “We’re preparing kids for the future”, it might be handy to review what we already know about creating productive contexts for learning and give serious consideration to the habits of mind demonstrated by today’s creative class. This workshop engages participants in minds-on activities requiring reflective practice and visioning exercises that use provocative video clips to explore the learning lessons of experts. Hands-on computing activities are added for workshops longer than 90 minutes in duration.
Personal Laptops in the Primary Grades
There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding young children’s computer use and not just by the folks who think modernity is turning children into brainwashed zombies. The edtech community has a lot to answer for in its “hand-me-down” approach to computers in the lower primary grades and the embrace of software that may be at odds with the pedagogical practice or educational philosophy of a school. This keynote address or hands-on workshop will explore ways in which computers, especially personal laptop computers, may be used to enhance the most childlike aspects of learning, amplify human potential and celebrate creativity. We will situate computer use in the theories of Dewey, Piaget, Papert, Montessori & Malaguzzi while arguing that young children need more computational power than older students. Playful examples of computational thinking among primary school students will be shared.
One-Hour Teacher Education
Award-winning educator, Dr. Gary Stager, will explore everything a modern educator needs to know about learning and school reform in less than an hour! School improvement is dependent on a recognition that we each “stand on the shoulders of giants” and can learn from the lessons of others. Successful 21st Century educators not only possess practical knowledge about the change process and technology integration, but a working understanding of the learning theories that propel those interventions in a way that benefits children and teachers. The rollicking presentation is intended to inspire, inform and entertain! The theory presented will be connected to contemporary best-practices and the personal experiences of the presenters. Follow- up resources, including Web links, videos, articles and suggested reading will be provided.
What Every EdTech Professional Should Know About Learning
Educators, including tech coordinators and CTOs concerned with advancing educational practice should situate their professional actions on not only best practices, but on theoretical foundations as well. “Standing on the shoulders of giants not only informs decisions that benefit the educational enterprise, but increases the potential for successful interventions. The presenters have observed a shocking level of “educational literacy” among their colleagues in the edtech sector and have decided to do something about the situation in a high-spirited witty fashion. Every person concerned with education would benefit from a refresher course in the powerful ideas and lessons learned from great thinkers and school reform efforts of the past and present. This one-of-a-kind session is deigned to light a spark under attendees to sustain their high-tech innovations by building upon a solid theoretical foundation. Follow-up resources, including Web links, videos, articles and suggested reading will be provided.
Roger & Me – Roger Wagner and Gary Stager
2 screens, 2 computers, 2 characters
Eavesdrop as two edtech pioneers and old friends regale each other with hilarious and profound tales of computing, magic, chemistry, history and suspended adolescence. Each mischief maker will have their laptop connected to a giant screen so they may spontaneously share interesting props, tell stories and engage in multimedia mischief-making. Be as amazed, inspired and entertained as Roger and Gary are whenever they collide. Hilarity will ensue!
This keynote promises to be like no other!
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“Some people think outside of the box. Gary is unaware of the box’s existence.” – Futurist, Dr. David Thornburg
Dr. Gary Stager, an internationally recognized educator, speaker and consultant, is the Executive Director of The Constructivist Consortium. Since 1982, Gary has helped learners of all ages on six continents embrace the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. He led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools (1990), has designed online graduate school programs since the mid-90s, was a collaborator in the MIT Media Lab’s Future of Learning Group and a member of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s Learning Team.
When Jean Piaget wanted to better understand how children learn mathematics, he hired Seymour Papert. When Dr. Papert wanted to create a high-tech alternative learning environment for incarcerated at-risk teens, he hired Gary Stager. This work was the basis for Gary’s doctoral dissertation and documented Papert’s latest institutional research project.
Gary’s recent work has included teaching and mentoring some of Australia’s “most troubled” public schools, launching 1:1 computing in a Korean International School beginning in the first grade, media appearances in Peru and serving as a primary school S.T.E.M. Director. He was a Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University and Senior Editor of District Administration Magazine. His advocacy on behalf of creativity, computing and children led to the creation of the Constructivist Consortium and the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute.
In 1999, Converge Magazine named Gary a “shaper of our future and inventor of our destiny.” The National School Boards Association recognized Dr. Stager with the distinction of “20 Leaders to Watch” in 2007. The June 2010 issue of Tech & Learning Magazine named Gary Stager as “one of today’s leaders who are changing the landscape of edtech through innovation and leadership.” CUE presented Gary with its 2012 Technology in Learning Leadership Award. A popular speaker, Dr. Stager was a keynote speaker at the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference and at major conferences around the world. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College on several occasions.
Gary was the new media producer for The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project – Simpatíco, 2007 Grammy Award Winner for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year. Dr. Stager is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and a Senior S.T.E.M. and Education Consultant to leading school architecture firm, Fielding Nair International. Gary also works with teachers and students as S.T.E.M. Director at The Oaks School in Hollywood, California.
About Gary Stager – The Stager Difference
Contact Gary Stager
Speaking, consulting & professional development and mentoring services by Gary Stager
Reviews of Gary Stager’s recent work
Please subscribe to my very occasional newsletter!
Gary’s Web Sites
- Gary’s blog
- Constructing Modern Knowledge
- The Daily Papert
- The Constructivist Consortium
- Gary’s web site
- Gary’s articles on The Huffington Post
- Gary’s most recent newsletter
- Super cool gift ideas for makers & tinkerers
- Articles and papers by Dr. Stager
- 1:1 Computing resources
- Recommended books for creative educators and parents
- Robotics in education resources
- “Digital Reggio” resources
- Logo resources
- Planet Papert, a web site dedicated to the powerful ideas of Seymour Papert
- Five articles on effective project-based learning (PDF)
- Tinkering resources compiled by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez
- A Constructionism Primer (2011)
- The Gary Stager Video Collection (presentation videos)
Curriculum Not Required Hugo’s learning story (2012)
Breaking Bread (2012)
Technology is Not Neutral (2012)
This is What Learning Looks Like A collection of learning stories and resources (2011)
The Best Education Books of 2011 Three must-read books and some other suggestions (2011)
Dumbing Down (Computer Literacy) (2012)
Mission Accomplished (rethinking Accelerated Reader) (2012)
Choice, Duh! An article detailing the critical elements for successful project-based learning (2011)
My 1:1 Toolbox (2011)
Creativity software I recommend for student laptops.
Where is the List of Tech Skills? by Gary Stager
My response to the quest for measurement of student “tech skills.”
Curriculum Not Included (how to create problem solving classrooms) (2012)
Radical Reformer, my 2005 interview with Dennis Littky
Wanna Be a School Reformer? You Better Do Your Homework First (recommended books)
Seymour Papert’s Eight Big Ideas Behind Constructionism
The five TED Talks I would share with children
My provocative article about interactive white boards
Huffington Post article, Who Elected Bill Gates?
The Year of the Laptop (new article 10/10)
Seymour Papert’s long-lost 1990 speech (transcript) on school transformation, Perestroika and Epistemological Pluralism
The Original Twenty Things to Do With a Computer (1971) by Seymour Papert
Teaching Children Thinking (1971) by Seymour Papert
The Book Every Educator Should Read (2/28/2010)
Want to know who is trying to takeover public education? Read Gary Stager’s cover story, School Wars, from GOOD Magazine
Gary Stager’s recent spotlight presentation from the National Educational Computing Conference (high-quality video) – Learning Adventures: Transforming Real and Virtual Learning Environments
Gary Stager’s keynote debate from NECC 2009 – Recipe for a Disruptive Keynote
Computing and the Internet in Schools: An International Perspective on Developments and Directions
From the archives, a monograph written by Gary S. Stager, Ph.D. in 1996
- Paper for ACEC 2008
Why Thomas Friedman Does Not Compute
Gary’s critical review of The World is Flat and the education community’s knee-jerk reaction to it.
Published in the December 2005 issue of District Administration
A Schoolmaster of the Great City: A Progressive Education Pioneer’s Vision for Urban Schools (book from 1917) by Angelo Patri
Gary Stager’s role in the history of classroom-based “laptop learning” is documented in the book, Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers and the Transformation of Learning, by Bob Johnstone.
Gary Stager’s article about Australian Deputy PM Julia Gillard’s education adviser, Educators can learn nothing from Chancellor Klein’s visit (from Crikey)
Books Discussed in Some Presentations
- After you read Dennis Littky’s book, The Big Picture: Education is Everybody’s Businesss, you MUST read Doc: The Story Of Dennis Littky And His Fight For A Better School. This recently republished book by Susan Kammeraad-Campbell may be the first education thriller ever published. Anyone who wants to understand anything about education should read these two books.
- Radical Reformer
Dennis Littky drew on his 30 years of education innovation to create a new school model. Now he won’t be satisfied until he replicates it throughout the country. (An extensive interview with Gary Stager)
- Radical Reformer
- Will Richardson has written perhaps the best “how-to” book for computer-using educators since Dan Watt’s Learning with Logo in the 1980s. Will’s book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms is a must have for every educator or citizen interested in understanding Web 2.0!
MySpace Unraveled: What it is and how to use it safely by Larry Magid and Anne Collier takes the incredibly novel position of suggesting that you know what you’re talking about before setting policy at home or in school. The book teaches adults how to use MySpace.com so that they may more rationally discuss social networking with children.
- Macarthur Genius and school principal, Deborah Meier’s book In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization is an incredibly important read for all school leaders.
- Perhaps the two best books ever written about Learning:
|By Bob Johnstone
Foreword by Gary Stager
- Excited about the possibility of emailing a bicycle? You must read Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop–From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication by Neil Gershenfeld.
- Learn about “micronations” and think of creative curricular connections. Lonely Planet has just published a tour book for those of you interested in traveling to some of the world’s micronations. Unfortunately, Talossa is no longer accepting reservations. Read Lonely Planet Micronations.
- Bridging Differences – a semi-weekly critical writing on school policy issues – a must read!
Twenty years ago this past summer, I led professional development at the first two schools in the world where every student had a laptop. You read that correctly; 20 years ago! Those two Australian schools, 1 private and quite well documented – Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) and one public and lost to history – Coombabah State Primary School, finally realized Seymour Papert and Alan Kay’s 1968 vision of personal computing. Every child had their own laptop and learned to program in LogoWriter as a way of exploring powerful ideas across the curriculum. Their teachers, predominantly computing neophytes, learned to teach programming and as a result thought deeper about thinking. We had little doubt about what children would be able to do, but expectations were high for teachers.
At MLC, I was trusted to do whatever I thought would improve the school. I worked in classrooms with teachers as my apprentice so they could see through the eyes of their students and their laptop screens what modern knowledge construction looked like. I ran workshops, took dozens of teachers off-site for multiple-day immersive learning adventures, worked across K-12 and had complete 24/7 access to the very busy school principal. I recently asked MLC Principal David Loader what he was thinking when he hired a 27 year-old American with no formal academic credentials, paid him to work in his school for months at a time and have complete authority to do whatever he felt was right, regardless of the risk? David at first looked confused by the question and then matter-of-factly said, “I gave anyone who showed initiative the same level of authority.” He then rattled off the music, art and catering teachers who were indeed given free reign to do the impossible on behalf of kids.
MLC quickly became recognized as one of the best schools in the world and led the way for other schools eager to embrace personal computing. Within a few years, hundreds of thousands of Aussie students had a school issued laptop. I had the great privilege of working with dozens of Aussie “laptop” schools in the early 90s. Along with my colleagues, we invented the future. My work in schools where every student has a personal laptop computer has taken me around the world several times.
My work at MLC is well chronicled by Bob Johnstone in his book, Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers, and the Transformation of Learning, and in a recent essay I wrote, “Hard and Easy,” as part of Pamela Livingston’s book, 1-to-1 Learning, Second Edition: Laptop Programs That Work. In 1995, ASCD published an article I wrote, Laptop Schools Lead the Way in Professional Development, in Educational Leadership. On the 10th anniversary of my work in laptop schools, I produced a “Laptop Self-Assessment” rubric to determine how a particular school measured up to the goals my colleagues and I set back in 1990.
Since my early work at MLC, Coombabah and other Australian schools, I’ve worked extensively in “laptop” schools around the world. (Subscribe to my occasional newsletter to learn about new 1:1 videos and other resources to be put online in the near future.) I collaborated with Seymour Papert and advised his colleagues in Maine prior to the law providing a laptop for every 7th and 8th grader in the state. I inspired and collaborated with the Eastern Townships School Board in Quebec where 6,000 3rd-12th graders have MacBooks and I was a member of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s Learning Group.
In April of this year, I had the privilege of celebrating my 20th anniversary of 1:1 and work in Australian schools as the keynote speaker at the Australian Computers in Education Conference in my adopted hometown of Melbourne, Australia. This evening I will be the keynote speaker at the European Laptop Institute in The Hague.
In a few weeks I will return to Seoul, South Korea to work at The Chadwick International School, a magnificent new progressive international school that will eventually serve K-12 youngsters from Korea and abroad. In a few weeks, my colleagues and I at Chadwick will once again change the world when every student from 1st grade onward will have their own personal Macbook computer. Robotics, programming and deep project-based learning across the curriculum will be the hallmarks of Chadwick’s approach. We will move past the low-hanging fruit of information access and language arts and use the computer to create new learning opportunities and amplify student potential across the entire school.
Not since the early 1990s have I had the opportunity to work in a school and mentor teachers so closely over a long period of time as I will at the Chadwick International School. I have spent the past six months or so as a consultant helping with the planning process; including policy issues, purchasing, professional development, visioning and curriculum integration. Look out for great things coming from this exciting school.
Within hours of returning home from South Korea, I fly to to speak in Peru, where hundreds of thousands of children own an XO personal laptop. I’m excited to get the chance to work with my old friend (from the mid 1980 Logo days) Oscar Becerra
December 2-3, I’ll be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to be the keynote speaker, along with Dr. Chris Dede, at the Great Lakes 1:1 Computing Conference.
At some of these upcoming conferences I will not only be delivering my keynote address, Ten Things to Do With a Laptop: Learning and Powerful Ideas, but also brand new keynote, Twenty Lessons from Twenty Years of 1:1 Computing. That session, dealing primarily with leadership and policy issues was presented recently at the ISTE Conference, National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference and the NSBA Technology + Learning Conference.
From the very beginning giving a laptop to every child seemed like an inevitability. Computers were getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful. Of course children would have their own before long.
For the first time in 20 years (now 40) we had the platform available to begin realizing the ideals of Dewey, Kay and Papert. There was never any talk of experiment or pilot or project or initiative. Laptops were purchased for students because it was on the right side of history and the right thing to do.
At the recent Australian conference a Monash University lecturer told the audience that we should go slow with 1:1 because the jury is still out and the evidence yet to accumulate to justify the investment. The moderator, Jeff Richardson of Trinity College, snatched the gentleman’s iPhone, asked the audience how many people live in homes where there are more computers than humans and then suggested that children deserve no less where they spend most of their waking hours. The dirty little secret is that thirty years after microcomputers came into most Western schools, children get to use one for less than an hour per week. The Australian moderator asked me if I’d like to contribute anything to the suggestion.
I told the Monash lecturer that, “the first doctoral dissertation demonstrating the efficacy of 1:1 computing was published in 1991 in his department.” I own a copy. It’s time to move on! The kids deserve nothing less.