At my school, we purchased five Tablet PCs this fall and have been exploring how they work as an educational tool. We have passed them around to faculty and students to get their thoughts and ideas on how to use them. After we had a few faculty test them out, they asked, “How do I get one!” and stated “The Tablet can really make my life easier!”. Our student testers didn’t want to give them back. Next year, we will distribute between 25 and 30 tablets to faculty. The year after that, we plan to experiment with a student 1:1 program. All faculty who are part of next year’s program will have 1-3 days of summer training and a mentor in the Technology Department who will meet with them on a regular basis to discuss how to best use the technology in their classes.
What’s really exciting about the Tablet PCs and the convergence of the Read/Write web is that I feel like we have a whole new toolbox to use in the classroom. I met with a group of English teachers today to discuss how they could use technology in their classes, and we discussed blogging and wikis, but what excited them most was the ability to record their voice while assessing a paper in Microsoft OneNote. Will Richardson has a sample of this on his wiki. The teachers also like the idea of using Wikis to observe the student editing process. I love these conversations, because as a student, having recorded comments or being forced to edit would have helped my writing enormously — and held me much more accountable than I was held. These teachers are also interested in using Imagery and multi-media to set the mood around the literature that they are reading. Having inspirational conversations like this is what it is all about (for me at least).
All of these ideas come back to good teaching techniques that are research based and documented in Instructional Strategies that Work from ASCD and were confirmed for me by a professional development seminar I attended last week by Bob Greenleaf on Brain Based Teaching: Making Connections for Long Term Retention. They provide multi-sensory stimuli, create associations between new content and current understanding, create emotional connections with the content, and provide students a place to set goals and follow their progress. Using these techniques along with technology is not experimetation. It’s using a new tool to create more effective learning environments using research based practices on learning and teaching.
It to be such an amazing time to be in education — as research and new technologies converge to create better learning environments for our students. We have the opportunity to use these tools and tested research to change the world for the better. We need to start now.