As some folks in the community might have concerns about this, my principal asked me to write up something for our school newsletter about the rationale of why we were offering wireless at AHS. I started off just writing about the obvious reasons (access to teacher web pages, databases, other resources on the web, etc.), but then couldn’t help myself, and found myself launching into a mini Fischrant. Because I didn’t just want to talk about the obvious reasons, I wanted to talk about the philosophy and the vision. I wanted to be transparent about what we were doing, and try to get folks more involved in the discussions we are having about 21st century education.
When I was done it was about three pages, which is probably just a tad bit longer than he wanted for the newsletter (regular readers of this blog might have noticed that I can be a bit wordy) and probably a little bit “different” than what he had asked for. I figured he would edit out most of the ranting and make it much shorter. To my surprise, he ended up running almost all of it, only editing out three or four paragraphs to shorten it up a bit. It gets mailed out today (we also post it online as a pdf), so it will be interesting to see what – if any – reaction we get to it.
So, I figured if my principal was willing to run my rantings in our school newsletter, then I should probably put it on the blog as well. So here’s the full rant - before the editing - in case anyone can use any of it.
As Arapahoe High School begins to offer wireless Internet access for personally owned devices, one of the questions that some folks have is, “Why? Why would you give students one more way to be off task when they are at school?” The answer to that question is not simple, but we’d like to take a few minutes to talk about some of the reasons we view this as an extremely positive development for our students.
The most obvious reasons are rather straightforward. There is a wealth of information and resources available to our students via the Internet, and online resources are an integral part of many of our classes. This includes resources that Arapahoe and/or Littleton Public Schools creates and provides for students online such as:
- The Campus Portal, which gives students real-time access to their grades and assignments.
- Teacher Web Pages, which can include assignments, notes, worksheets, presentations and links to additional resources.
- Electronic Databases – online, subscription-based services such as Ebsco and ABC Clio that Arapahoe pays for to bring the best reference tools possible to our students.
Then there are the vast resources of the open web, which include not only sources of information and knowledge but communication tools and practically unlimited storage capabilities. AHS teachers utilize blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools to enhance and extend their students’ learning, to knock down the walls of our classrooms and the idea that learning only takes place in classrooms, with desks that are in straight rows, and only happens between 7:21 and 2:16 each day.
There are other reasons that may not be so obvious, but are perhaps more important in the long run. Our students will spend the rest of their lives in a multi-tasking, technology-driven world and will need information and communication technology literacy in order to be successful – in both their professional and personal lives. They will need to be continually learning throughout their lives. “Lifelong Learner” will not be an educational buzzword for them; it will be an economic and personal necessity.
The world our students are entering is a much different world than the one in which most of us (their teachers and parents) grew up in. In a flat world, in a constantly connected world, in a world where the answers one needs may be found from the teacher down the hall, from a server in Indiana, or from a blogger in India, students need access to the tools of the modern learner. We feel that to be successful in the 21st century, our students are going to need different skills, abilities, and habits of mind than we did in the last century. They will need to know how to create and maintain their own Personal Learning Networks. Our students must know what to do when they don’t know what to do. They will need to know how to learn how to learn.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
- Alvin Toffler
In times of rapid change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
- Eric Hoffer
Our students are the ultimate knowledge workers – their primary “job” is to learn – and we need to make sure they are able to take advantage of the resources available to them. By offering wireless access, we are allowing them to practice “just in time” learning, whether they are in the classroom, the library or the cafeteria.
We are moving from:
“do your own work” to “work with others”
“just in case” to “just in time” learning
“hand it in” to “publish it.”
- Will Richardson
We need to engage our students through relevant, timely and meaningful activities. We cannot limit them just to the knowledge available to them within AHS, they need to explore and interact with the global society of which they are a part. Technology is not the goal, but rather it is the enabler that allows us to achieve our goals.
These are just technologies. Using them does not make you modern, smart, moral, wise, fair, or decent. It just makes you able to communicate, compete, and collaborate farther and faster.
- Thomas Friedman
We are trying to foster a collaborative environment among students – sharing not only with other students in the classroom, but with other classrooms around the world. Students need not only to be able to present information to their classmates, but to share their work with the much wider – and often more authentic – audience that the Internet provides. We need to move from an isolated to a connected classroom.
The best companies are the best collaborators. In the flat world, more and more business will be done through collaborations within and between companies, for a very simple reason: The next layers of value creation – whether in technology, marketing, biomedicine, or manufacturing – are becoming so complex that no single firm or department is going to be able to master them alone.
- Thomas Friedman
None of this can happen if technology and access is an “add-on.” Students need ubiquitous access to these 21st century technology tools.
The computer is the primary instrument for intellectual and creative work in our society.
- Gary Stager
Wireless access to the Internet is a force multiplier; it allows students to leverage the knowledge of folks all over the world.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you ever going to be 18 again?
- Are your students ever going to be your age?
- Should we be preparing students for the world as it was when we were 18, or for the world as it will be when they are our age?
As far as students being “off-task,” our philosophy at Arapahoe is to have high expectations for our students, to educate them to behave ethically, responsibly and safely and then expect that they will do the right thing. When they don’t, they know we’ll have a conversation and try to learn from the mistake, but we don’t assume they are going to mess up. We give our students responsibility, and then help them live up to that.
We have created an environment where students are both respected and nurtured, where they are treated as professional learners, where they are seen as individuals that can contribute to the common good. An environment where they are viewed not just as passive consumers of information, but as active producers, who add meaning and value to the information. An environment where students are encouraged to interact, not only with others in their classroom, but with others in their community - and in communities around the world. Our students need to learn in a responsive information environment, where they are able to ask questions and seek answers, not just from their teachers but also from the vast information and human resources that the Internet enables.
Our students are facing an unpredictable future, much more so than any of us faced. Yes, we didn’t know exactly what our future would hold, but this generation is the first generation in history to really have no idea what the world is going to look like when they are adults. They need to be continual learners, to be able to teach themselves, to seek out and refine their own learning networks so that their learning doesn’t end when they walk across the stage at graduation.
In order to do this, they need practice. We are offering them that opportunity, as well as our guidance.
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
- Albert Einstein
Why wireless? Because their century demands it.