Going 1:1? How Would You Respond To Comments Like This?

I had the opportunity to appear on National Public Radio’s Here and Now Program last week along with one of our students to talk about our 1:1 iPad program here in Burlington at our high school. The segment was titled Educator Answers Your Questions On iPads In The Classroom While the interview went well, I really enjoyed reading the comments from listeners who choose to enter their feedback.  Our first appearance last March resulted in 122 comments and while this year’s appearance prompted a bit less feedback, I think it is important for people who pursue these types of initiatives to be ready to respond to comments like the one below.

For about three thousand years or more all that was needed  for learning and writing was some sort of pencil. Plato never wrote his master piece The Republic on an iPAD. Leonardo Di Vinci never used and iPAD. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa did not use an iPAD to write his Sicilian masterpiece The Leopard and Hemingway never wrote A Farewell To Arms with on a iPAD. Pencil and paper are a thousand times cheaper, yet we continue to spend my tax money on iPADs which don’t seem to improve learning, or on car race tracks as part of the Fiscal Mythical Myth phony deal which produced a modicum for revenue to pay down deficits. Apparently if a young person at school does not have access to an iPAD he or she can’t learn! The simple process of using pencil and paper is good for students. This simple process exercises and induces the brain growth plus coordination of other areas of a young persons developing body including learning how to write. So what does a young person really for a quality foundation to learn? He or she needs a grownup at home to help them with their after school home work. To many households in America have two people working and are to tired to help their children with their homework. Really, this is just a slick promotion for selling Apple products (which are quit good) which in turn make money for investors and does not guarantee success in the class room.

While there are a number of predictable questions that you will need to answer in regards to WHY

you support such a financially significant initiative, the one above is one that is common from taxpayers who don’t want to spend the money necessary to put modern resources in the hands of teachers and students.   I know I did not respond to all of the arguments that were made and I am not even saying that my comments were “the right answer.”  The point is that schools and/or individuals entering into this type of an endeavor need to be prepared to provide a response that they are comfortable with. Of course, the best part is that we have a growing number of schools creating concrete evidence of what can happen when these initiatives are implemented thoughtfully.

As I conclude with my response below, I am wondering how others would respond to this type of comment?

I agree with some of what you say, but the point is that none of the creators of classic work that you mentioned had the opportunity to use technology like an iPad.  While I have no problem with pencil and paper or someone who prefers to get a task done with those tools, I think we have to face the fact that the world has changed and that the jobs that our students will be working in will probably not be employing paper and pencils. Learning happens and it happens in many more ways than what you and I were programmed to think in our traditional experiences.

Having said this, I think that the role of public education is to prepare students for the real world. The fact of the matter is that the people outside of our schools, in the real world, are using these tools more and more. My doctor walks into the exam room with an iPad in his hand and the pilot who flew the last plane I traveled on also utilized an iPad in lieu of his old flight manual.

Whether we like it or not, I think that the our students need experiences utilizing modern resources like tablets or whatever comes next. While I do not think technology can be used to do everything (i.e. DaVinci’s masterpieces), I am pretty sure these great minds woud have taken

advantage of modern technology. In fact, I am thinking that Plato would have been much happier with a pencil that had an eraser instead of something along the lines of a metal stylus that was probably in his hands at the time.  

In regards to the change that has occurred with families in our world today, I do not think we can blame technology for that. My belief is that we can utilize some of the technologies we have available to keep families connected in a time when so many more factors keep them apart. While nothing can replace the physical presence of a family member or loved one, we need to be thankful that we have ways to stay connected when we can’t all

be together in the same place.

That reminds me, I need to facetime my son to see how his day went at school today. It’s so much better than a text or phone call. I am thinking Alexander Graham Bell would approve?!

33 comments for “Going 1:1? How Would You Respond To Comments Like This?

  1. Doug Baker
    January 11, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I think this was a great response! I am not sure that we do such a great job of helping the general public understand the paradigm shifts that have gone on (or are happening) in education! Perception that schools and families are what they grew up with or experienced are clearly incorrect. I believe most of the curmudgeonly comments that I see like this would be nonexistent if the community could walk into a MOST of our schools and see what students are learning, how they are learning it, and the rigor that is being implemented. Our teachers are doing great things in preparing children for the future…forge ahead!

    • January 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Well put.

      I would add that providing the information — and the invitation to come into our schools — is our responsibility and our duty as educators in a free society.

      We all respond based on our paradigm, and if we haven’t been in a school since we graduated, then why would we NOT believe that school is the same as when we were there?

      • January 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        Yes Wes, parents had quite a different experience when they were in schools so if we just look at them like they are ignorant for not getting this then we are shortsighted. My experience is that once they see what their students are doing with the technology and see how excited the students are about doing it, they are sold.

    • January 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Doug,

      Thanks for your feedback. It is so important that we share what is happening with our communities. Thankfully, this is so much easier due to the integration of technology. In addition, schools that I have seen doing this work well have parents in routinely to assist them in learning about the technology and how to use it in their own lives. It is a great way to bring people together and really start to become a community of learners!

    • Jan Rafter
      March 7, 2013 at 6:10 am

      The person who wrote the anti ipad response contradicted himself because Hemingway did not just use pencil and paper. He used a new modern tool that revolutionized writers: THE TYPEWRITER! I’m sure when it first came out there were the naysayers who said it was a foolish waste of time and tax payer’s money trying to teach students to type. Maybe writing on it was not even REAL writing?? I agree with Patrick, we should be teaching students to use modern technology to not only write, read, perform complex math problems, communicate, demonstrate, “exercise and induce brain growth” just like paper and pencil only way cooler!

  2. January 11, 2013 at 11:09 am

    ICTs make it possible to change education. It takes courage to question the old truths, and imagine new possibilities!
    @colegioflama

  3. Ed Fuller
    January 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

    How would you respond to the question: :”Is there any research that shows such a significant investment has any pay-off in terms of student learning or other student outcomes?”

    • January 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Ed,

      I think there is growing research along this line. Project Red is one place that spends a great deal of time researching effective 1:1 practices. But ultimately, I think we need to continue to focus on the fact that the teacher is the game-changer in the classroom. From what I have seen, effective teachers are adept at employing the right resource at the right time. When you put a web-enabled device in the classroom, which allows access to so many more resources, teachers benefit as do students. If we are not seeing improved student outcomes then I would look at professional development as the cause and not necessarily the device.

      I guess the question I would ask as well is: How do we know the investment in resources we are buying now are paying off? I am thinking of textbooks… At the elementary level, we are seeing students writing a great deal more on tablets than they did previously on paper. We are confident this will lead to better writing scores.

  4. January 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I would reply that pencil-and-paper combination were only invented in the 1560s and represented a significant advance in learning technology at the time. http://www.officemuseum.com/pencil_history.htm

    • January 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks Stephen! Well said and much more concise.

  5. January 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Patrick, you write and think with clarity and vision and I enjoy your blog. As the Principal of a school with 1:1 computing, I love answering these queries and comments, too.

    1) The first thing behind this question is fear of change. The ironic thing is that people who claim schools and instruction don’t need to change with technology don’t really dislike technology. They are just attached to a particular vision of school… that includes a particular version of technology. Paper books and pencils are technology, too. One of the monks who used to copy religious texts by hand, pre-Gutenberg, probably griped about “kids these days” and how they were going to lose the art of illuminating and translating a text by merely sharing tomes freely among themselves.

    Also, I guess adding to a community conversation via blog is good enough for this writer, but not good enough for children in our schools. Why not?

    2) Another element in this comment is what I call ‘tax patriotism,’ in which one holds schools partially responsible for the fiscal condition of our government and economy, and thus wants to punish them by starving them of operating funds. When I hear this, I say: “Yes, schools sometimes waste money — you’re right. At my school, we’re working on NOT doing that, and here are some examples how we’re doing it.” Of course, this person’s preferred version of a school, with no technology, is supposedly superior to one that furnishes an I-Pad for every student. All the companies that are the economic engines of our economy provide technology for their knowledge workers and many of their manual laborers. The writer needs to research the economic principal of ‘opportunity cost.’ I would recommend starting with wikipedia!

    3)Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to a point regarding the function of the brain and the impact of writing with a pencil. The world of brain research has exploded in the last 40 years, and we know things now that we didn’t know a short time ago. We absolutely SHOULD read and digest the research that indicates which learning processes are superior to others. I’ve read a bit of it, and I’m always reading more — and it is one of the things that convinces me 1:1 computing is a great idea for learning.

  6. Heather
    January 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    While reading the comment, a few things went through my mind. The most important thought I grappled with in thinking of how I would respond was how can we educate our communities about the greatly needed shift in our educational system? When we put something like an iPad in the hands of our students we are handing them a tool that can take a person any where in the world and open them to the ability to reach higher levels of knowledge and learning. Your response was concise and cleary answered the comments proposed. Technology is quite scary for many people because it is moving so quickly. We need to be open and ready to move with it or we will, as a nation, fall short. I applaud Burlington Schools for taking the initiative to hold solid to the ground for what you know is best for your students to achieve high standards and become successful citizens.
    Keep moving forward. Your students will thank you in the future (if they haven’t already)!

  7. January 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Outstanding response to a common concern, Patrick. Focusing on the goals we have for our students is absolutely the way to build support for a vision.

    Once we venture into any kind of public forum, such as the comments section of a newspaper, we find that a sizable slice of the public is opposed to just about any kind of spending on schools, and there’s really no moving them (and if you try too hard, you must be a spineless bureaucrat bent on enriching yourself at the expense of hardworking taxpayers… :).

    But we can all agree that it’s important to prepare our students for the world they actually live in, and I think you’ve articulated that message exceptionally well here. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Jovo Bikic
    January 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    A great response! I would add that tools like iPads, computers, tablets, etc, open up the opportunity for those who may not be able to communicate with a paper and pencil to communicate their thinking and ideas. Maybe there were many more Platos and Di Vinci’s that have lived and could have contributed to our human evolution. Just think if Stephen Hawkins lived 200 years ago, and how all of his great thinking would have been lost if not for the technology that allowed him to communicate. Think how the smart phone has brought about revolution in the Middle East. The collective intelligence and speed at which we are evolving socially is directly linked to the use of this technology, let’s celebrate it and give every child the opportunity to shine.

  9. January 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I think I would simply ask them why they wouldn’t want kids to have the opportunity to learn with the latest technological advances. What about learning in schools equates to learning in old school ways?

    • January 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      Yes, Great questions! I wonder what technologies these folks had in school that were new to the time period? Typewriter, chalkboard, abacus…

  10. Seth Hellerstein
    January 13, 2013 at 2:40 am

    The perceived problem is not the new communication technology. Both sides of the aisle – pro and anti – need to learn when enough is not enough and when it is too much. For those who reject new forms of communication and creation, don’t knock it till you try it. For those who embrace this new form of communication, try hard to distinguish effective networking from some need to be noticed. Both sides need to take stock of their hubris and ego. To the naysayer: the classics are just as good on an iPad. To the blog breathers, don’t lose yourself in a morass of commercial networktivity.

  11. Olive Woodward
    January 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    That curmudgeon didn’t even avail himself of spellcheck. His complaint is rife with typos and missing words. How did his pencil and paper help him in this case? He needs a proofreader at least…

  12. Pete Laberge
    January 14, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I have to agree with the original comment! (The one you had trouble replying to…)

    The important part of teaching and learning is: 2 (or more) people, some knowledge, and a desire to share… and learn… and do. Boards of education, schools, colleges, universities, teachers, and students… need to rediscover this.

    All this icrap (etc.) stuff is basically “Flava of the Day” junk by huge companies that have no care, and basically discovered that the educational system is so stupid, it can be sold anything. In 5 years, it will all be sitting in the trash (great for the environment!), but will anything have been achieved for all the millions of dollars spent? Will it have been a waste, a wash, or an investment?

    In China, Africa, and other places, (often only using a single chalkboard and some crude slates), they are out-learning us. Why? They have Real Teachers who actually know something (facts, methods, techniques, actions), know how to teach it, and want to. And Real Students who really want to learn (internalize) and do! Most people in the teaching/educational profession in North America are in it “purely for the power and money”. And maybe 15 minutes of fame on Youtube, or Pinterest.

    Modern students speak, read, and write in tweet talk. A sentence is rarely longer than 120 characters. A paragraph is 4 maybe 5 sentences at most. A topic is perhaps 5 paragraphs. Read the great essays of history. Compare it to student output today: grade or high school, college or university. (Even adult output!)

    These kids today can do a 5 minute video on their phone (mostly of stuff they stole off Youtube) and can add nice little LOLcat pictures. Audio commentary consists of a series of disconnected statements with unh’s, ah’s, oh’s and uh’s… But if you were to ask them to do anything substantial in the field of writing that does not include multimedia and they would die of a heart attack. (I would challenge any educator to try an experiment and see what happens. And of, yes, do not let some website do the review, assessment and grading. Try do it yourselves. See how that works. Just for once!)

    The Declaration of Independence written by a student or teacher today, would read: “um. like. George, we be … going. LOL” But it would have a nice, meaningless, and probably very in-accurate infographic attached. Dante’s Inferno, today, would read: “Been to Hella, Purgatory land, and Oh, Heaven baby! LOL!” I will not scare you with what “The Prince” would look like!

    They all hate, and are all failing, standardized testing. Well, then again, standardized testing is failing them – badly. But that is no reasion to give up assessment, tests, and grading entirely. Let us be clear: If I teach you how to bake, the real test is… “Can you bake a cake?” (The proof, as they say, is in the pudding – or the cake.) We seem to have forgotten that today.

    Yet, despite all their tech savvy: They cannot make change for a $20… They can do a 500 screen Prezi with colored swirling letters on the screen…. (Albeit, they are very beautiful, artistic, creative, interesting, impressive… It is just that… there is very little content.) But ask them to do a good budget spreadsheet, at anything less than a college accounting level, and well…. Go into a store where they work, and try get customer service! They are too busy texting on their phone! They can Google anything, but seem to know little. Why? I often wonder: What can they actually do.

    Note that this sad trend is not all students, or all teachers, just a disturbingly large number of them.

    Well, it remains to be seen what kind of world they inherit or try to make. Me, I think the Mayans were right. They were only off by about 20 or 25 years.

    Yes, the world is changing, rapidly. But it may well not be going in the direction certain pundits with a broad-ax of self-interest think it is going…

    I am sorry if I seem negative…. But I have seen this stuff before. Several times in history. But, lo, I cry in the darkness! And, think again: I am not alone! There is some controversy in this matter, and experts, and opinions, and data on both sides of the coin. The truth, as usual… is somewhere in between the extremes. And it likely resembles only slightly what either side thinks it is. So do not take my words as absolute. But do take them as an observation, in which I am not alone. And where is the division? Oh, about 30% on each side (“pro” vs “con”), with another 30% undecided, and some 10% with a totally different viewpoint…

  13. January 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hey Pete,

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your feelings on this topic. I think that modern tools can be utilized for positive or negative and that we need to make sure that our students are having opportunities to think critically and be prepared for the changing world outside of our classrooms. As you point out, a quality learning environment is not one that begins and ends with technology. The research has been clear that the biggest game-changer is the quality of the teacher. Our premise is that we need both for our children, a quality teacher and modern resources.

    I am sorry that you seem pessimistic about our future as a society, but as someone who interacts with students daily I have a great optimism.

    • Pete Laberge
      January 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you for your kind reply. I must note: My background is economics, “the dismal science”. But it does worry me what I read….

      I do seem to recall that some years ago, students were more upbeat and happy. I think today, one of the problems in schools is too much tech that changes too fast. The young students, often who have “home problems”, no longer have that “island of stability” they used to have. And everybody needs BOTH change, and stability, and a balance between the two. It still worries me that I see so much unhappiness in schools. You should do an essay on why, and some possible solutions!

      Today, it seems they spend more time playing with video cameras and learning how to do presentations, than they do actually “doing anything”. (Some students have implied this to me. They have fun with the toys, but question what the end result will be!)

      I look, and think…. Whether they actually learn anything, is a toss up: Some do, some don’t. So all the new methods have done is change which kids learn. The old methods had a situation where some kids learned and others did not… The same with the new methods… You have just changed which kids actually learn. And this is not an improvement necessarily in numbers, or value. In fact, we will not know if there has been any actually improvement for a number of years! Another topic you may want to investigate!

      Note that I define learning (coming from the world of business) differently than you do. To me, learning is this: At the start of the day, you know Y things (whether Y is a times table, or the geography of your Province) about the world, and can do X things (whether Y is the ability to play a piece of music, or perform an inventory audit), At the end of the day, you have added Y+? facts to your “mental attic”. At the end of the day you have added X+? things to the roster of tasks you can perform. And, you remember these things, for some time. And you can “access” and “use” them, effectively.

      When no longer needed, you replace these facts or processes/skills/abilities… with something else. That is learning. And the next day, or maybe the next month, you do it again, when needed. The timing depends on events in your life. (And that timing varies for all of us!)

      And why do we learn? Because in the end, you use this “learning stuff” to make progress: Eventually you create new value in the world, value that was not there before. Whether it be a new business idea, or a client whose taxes are done, or a new book, or something. But eventually something results.

      Now the thing is: Are these facts, these processes we are teaching, going to be useful? There is my worry. I think as a society, we have not asked “what is needed”.

      I read an essay the other day on that. The writer purposely went to an extreme, saying that chemistry, biology, algebra, history, etc… were wastes of time. One of his queries: How much of chem-101 have you used in the 10, 20, 30, 40 etc years since grade 10 or so? I did not agree 100% with him. But he did make some good points.

      My pessimism, comes from reading books and articles about changing demographics. Now, I am not too worried about myself. Nor am I worried about the 46 year old or older teacher. I am worried about the younger set, the under 20′s. And the in betweens? It is hard to predict what will happen to them…

      I worry that schools around the world worry more about crazy tests that someone years and miles away set up… than they worry about seeing whether any of the agenda or curriculum made an improvement in the student!

      Note that all of this causes problems with the students: They no longer want any testing or assessment, or ranking. They lose faith in the “idea” or “process” (of both education and testing) and soon conclude that “it is all bad” … hence a large part of the ennui of today! (I hope they soon find something they like in the world, before they become jaded, at the ripe old age of 18!)

      But when one grows up, this “testing” happens all the time. When you go work as, say, a mechanic, each brake job you to, is a test of your knowledge, skills, abilities, training! (And someone’s ability to stop their car, will depend on your work!) It is the same if you become a tax preparer. Your client’s taxes due or refund or likelihood of audit will result from your work. (At least though, be you mechanic or tax preparer, something concrete results from your work. Too many students today seem to be saying that nothing concrete results from their work. Why?)

      Nota Bene: Even if you become a “creative person”, say an author… Your earnings, and your reader’s benefit will depend on your valued productivity. Now the assessment of your productivity might not be fair! After all, who was the best Bond Actor? Are we fair in how we judge Lazenby? But, none-the-less the assessment is still there. (This is why Daniel Craig initially did not want the role!)

      You are correct: We have to find a way to put some more VALUE, and emphasis and effectiveness where it counts:
      1. The material/curriculum – it must be useful it must achieve something.
      2. The students (and their relationships with each other)…
      3. The teachers (who I see an increasing number that are sadly unhappy with their jobs). Oddly, I have had some educators in the outskirts of my family, who are now retired, and actually once liked their work. But none would want to work in that area today!
      4. The outcome of the “school process” which is people who have some useful skills, and training (that have been developed after some 18 years in the “system”), and can go on to live in the world, without “self-destructing”. (As we have seen several sad and shocking examples lately)

      We must recall, that all the tools, be it a stick in the sand, or 10,000 tablet computers, are merely tools. The people and the process count.

      Some will say I am too hard on students and teachers. They will say I ignore the politicians, the administrators, and the corporate shills. No, I do not. But this particular forum, is for the public, the teachers, the students, and those members of society, like myself, who believe it or not, do care. On those forums where it is the time and place to tell politicians to look around, I do. But I wonder how many of them come here? Perhaps, more should! (How could you attract them?)

      Hang in there. People have been trying to get the new generation “from A to B”, for thousands of years. We have definitely not got it down pat. But, all in all, I think we are making slow progress. And we will continue to do so. But we must be careful what we see as progress. What we see as results.

      I hope we do not get sidetracked by high powered sales talk (almost a religion!), glittering lights, and cute toys, and fancy software. The end is not the means.

      Well, that is my 50 cents. And I have probably given you ideas for 2 or 3 new topics. There is great value to discussing these things: The discussion may in the end help us to make better choices, and see each other’s viewpoints more clearly. If I take an idea from you, and you take one from me, we now each have 2 ideas. Before we each had only one. Take care.

  14. Ray Marshall
    March 5, 2013 at 4:35 am

    The greatest minds of each generation of have used the most modern tools of their time to write, invent and create: Prehistoric man survived utilizing sharpened bones and flint; The Egyptians built pyramids with copper saws, drills, hammers, sleds and ramps; The USA put a man on the moon with technology that would nearly fill an entire gymnasium, but had less processing capability than a simple hand held calculator. Yesterday’s greatest technologies still have a place in our modern society but it is likely that tomorrow’s greatest problems will be solved with the most current tools available.

    It is said that 70% of the jobs for current high school graduates have not yet been invented. Thus, the educational system is preparing students for a working world that does not currently exist. The workforce of the future will be increasingly dependent on technology and students who do not have technology skills will likely find themselves unprepared to compete. Whether we like it or not, technology skills have become part of basic education and to deny students current technology is to fail to property educate them.

  15. Rick L
    March 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Whenever you hear comments that are so skewed towards the negative, one has to realize that there is probably a frustration that runs deeper than the issue of students getting/using iPADs. I think that one thing has been overlooked is that many using technology today use this technology having already learned on paper and pencil. Now we are asking this up and coming generation to bypass that step. Do we really know what we are asking and do we understand what the ramifications are? Now, don’t get me wrong, I am just posing the questions. I just know in my experiences that a balanced approach seems the best. When the word processor first came into use, I was thrilled. Whenever I had a report or paper to write with the old school method, I had to write and rewrite until I got it polished. Now, with the advent of word processors, I could cut, paste, delete , and move words and ideas around with the flick of a finger.(Actually, hot keys got me really fast) However, I had to start asking myself is there anything good that came out of my learning how to start, working through, and finish a paper using paper and pencil? One realization that came to me was that when I used paper and pencil, I had to slow down and think about what I was going to say. I had to learn to plan and implement that plan. I constantly hear that students shouldn’t be concerned formatting and appearance, but the ideas that the express is the most important thing. Boy is a word process good for this. I can make my report look a million different ways with just a few menu selections. However, what I realized is that the pains taking effort it took me to produce a quality (readable) report also taught me patience. If I really blew the final draft using paper and pencil, I had to start over. There was no reset switch, and/or I was not just given new life to start just over. There was actually pain involved. The pain of restarting. I learned by trial and error that I had to slowdown, think, plan and process if I wanted to get a quality project completed correctly. I think that there is valid uses for technology as long as we take a balanced approach. When we teach health, we always tout a well-balanced diet. Well, I think that the same approach needs to be advocated when we talk about introducing technology into the classroom. I don’t think that implementing and using technology in the classroom should be viewed as replacing the current way we do things but rather coming along side of what we already do and enhancing that process of learning.

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