June 26, 2008

The Global One Room Schoolhouse

David_jakes David Jakes starts with the story of Huron County's nine one-room schoolhouses (three of them have wifi), schools which serve four families over two-and-a-half square miles which locals are fighting to keep open. Five years ago the children in these schools would have been amongst the most isolated in the world. Now, though, they're as connected as anyone in the Big Smoke.

Matanuska-Sustina Borough School District, a local authority in Alaska, covers an area the size of Virginia: 24, 500 square miles. Its one-room schoolhouses are essential, keeping children living in their own homes, educated in small but highly internet-connected communities of learning.

In Peru, children use the One-Laptop-Per-Child to connect to students in other one-room schoolhouses, back in Alaska, maybe in India, where similar projects are run.

And in your school, though there may be thousands of students in the same building, most still operate in a form of one-room schoolhouse, working in isolation behind the four walls of their classroom. Most working in the same way David's students would have had to work back in 1986 when he started teaching, and the Ditto machine (what's that? ;-) was about technologically advanced as it got.

Now we are having to assess whether the alternative reality of the connected student, who can break through the classroom walls with connective social media, is actually a reality. David - and I - fear this is not the case. Students are using their own tools for their own (informal) learning already: Childnet's recent report on social networking says as much. Yet, we still have huge resistance at a systemic level to opening up access to social media tools from within the one-room schoolhouses on our planet, with fear getting in the way of education.

Jakes' four key strands for effective technology use to begin connecting students to the world outside their one-room schoolhouses, metaphorical or physical, have nothing to do with interior politics or fiefdoms:

  • The technology must support the fundamental literacies the school believes in.
  • The technology must add value to the learning experience, adding something worthwhile that cannot be done without the technology.
  • The technology must be framed within an appropriate pedagogical process (note: I think AifL is made possible by social technologies).
  • The learning, and the application of the technology to the learning process, must be assessed (note: is it always assessable?)

Part of this, though, is down to everyday actions that teachers take. Is it really adequate to have classrooms where students are sat in rows, with a pile of paper as their worldy resources to learn, separated from those with whom they enjoy discussing ideas, forced to sit and work in near-isolation? Is it really adequate to have teachers who themselves don't connect out to other teachers or those working in another sectors, whose only view out on the world is the mainstream media, with its huge distortions?

Jakes has prepared a list of 15-minute tasks that any teacher can undertake to get themselves more connected, which bit-by-bit will help them become more connected citizens.


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It's looking like the smaller schools, the ones that need to be really practical with their resources, will be doing a lot of the innovating with these technologies and tools. Larger schools, who maybe have more resources, will wind up following these innovations just to keep up.

So sorry I missed this one!

I agree with all that you say and I love when my pupils are connecting. Feedback from aross the world for a pupil who could do with the motivation (http://p6loirston.edublogs.org/2008/06/19/deans-ghost-story/) is very worthwhile. But I fear that convincing many teachers is still a long way off. Many of my colleagues are suspicious of pupils' use of social networking sites and see such activities as completely separate from what goes on in school. I'm not sure what will change these attitudes.

Fantastic! You are right on the mark - getting teachers connected as part of an overall strategy for connecting the entire community. That's the key. I've recently had some interactions with a few leaders from the M-SBSD and I was so impressed with their vision for connecting their communities. I think they will be a good model to observe in the near future.

Excellent! I love the way you are helping all of us to get connected for entirre community. I did get chance to talk to some of the leaders in the education world and i was so impressed with thier vision of connecting schools all over the world.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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