The Cranky Teenager Stage

If one year of a dog’s life is equal to seven human years, then one year of 1:1 implementation must be equal to about three human years. And seeing as we are entering in to our fifth year of implementation next year, we must be turning in to one of those cranky teenagers. Let’s break it down:

Year 1 – The Newborn: In our first year, only teachers of 1oth and 11th grade were given laptops. Everybody else, including students, were stuck with laptop carts and computers labs. While it allowed us to get familiar with the machines, we couldn’t really do anything.

Year 2 – Toddling Along: In year two, all teachers in the Middle/High School received laptops as did students in 10th and 11th grade. There was a lot of stumbling, falling down and crying.

Years 3 and 4 (this year) – Adolescence: All teachers and all students in grades 6 – 12 now have tablets. We’ve grown up, we’re getting more independent. For the most part, we are still trying to please but we are gradually testing the boundaries of what is ‘allowed.’

And this brings us to next year: Year 5 – The Cranky Teenager. Teachers and students are getting restless. Some want change and they want it overnight. They are no longer happy being told what is good for them or appropriate. They want to figure it out for themselves. They want to be subversive. Every wall is seen as a challenge to overcome rather than a boundary to be obeyed. And sometimes, just sometimes, people get cheeky just to see if they can get away with it.

Obviously, I’m not talking about every teacher or every student. But there is a critical mass forming. We’ve been given a rigid structure to help us understand one way of thinking. Now that we know the rules, some of us are ready to break or bend or ignore them. Now that we know some of the possibilities, some of us won’t settle for anything less than everything.

Idealistic? Maybe. Will we make mistakes? Definitely. But that’s part of growing up.

(For the record, I think this Cranky Teenager stage is an exciting stage to be in! We’re at the stage that Chris Lehmann talks about – except for our atrocious Vietnamese internet connection. The conversation is no longer centered around what technology we have in the school but rather what we are doing with that technology.)

How is your 1:1 implementation going? Are you going through similar stages, or are you a child prodigy?

Codename: Crossbone by Shavar Ross licensed under CC BY NC ND
Technology must be like oxygen by langwitches licensed under CC BY NC SA

Wolfram Alpha: Concept is King!

Friedman hints at it. Pink implies it (or he might flat out say it; I haven’t finished reading the book!). And now Wolfram|Alpha confirms it: Content is Dead, Concept is King!

There is no point in teaching my students how to become a CPA. There will always be somebody cheaper (and probably better at it) to do that work somewhere else in the world (Friedman). It will be your ability to think creatively that will allow you to flourish in this situation (Pink).

With the launch of W|A, my students now have a resource that will graph lines and find intercepts for them (among other things). My focus is no longer on the computational content; it now has to be on the creative concept. What does the graph mean?  Why is it relevant? It’s no longer enough to ask the students graph something just because: we now need a reason to want to interpret that graph. It needs context and connections, not abstraction and solitude.

I can understand Maria’s point when she says:

It does have the potential to seriously wreak havoc on the way we teach math today if students can simply copy all their work from an A.I. website.  Whether you think that it’s time that somebody forced a change, or whether you think it’s just hype and not really a threat, I think we should all be aware that after today, it exists.

But I think MsMichetti has right idea:

All those graphs, tables, new vocabulary, and more are useless without using Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) to sort them out and make sense of them. Why aren’t we teaching more visual literacy and data interpretation — in every subject area?

Let’s be clear: I am not advocating that students no longer need to learn how to graph functions or do symbolic algebraic manipulation. Of course these types of skills are important, but they should no longer be the main focus of our curriculum. If technology is like air (invisible, abundant and noticeable only when missing a la Chris Lehmann), then why wouldn’t I assume that at some point in the very near future – if not already – all of my students will have ubiquitous access to W|A and its inevitable improvements? What happens when W|A comes out with the killer mobile app that puts this knowledge in everybody’s hands at any time? Why would I fight/resist this change?

The jury is still out on the idea that Google has made us stupid. I’m adding more fuel to the similar W|A debate. But this much is clear: we can never put these genies back in their bottles. For better or for worse, we’re going to have to un-learn our old-school emphases on computation and recall and re-learnhow to harness their powers to focus on interpretation, analysis and synthesis of information.

Long live the King!

image: if i were king by Jason Nicholls
image: Genie’s Lamp by Davic