Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Laptops 4 Learning Project

I have spent today at the Laptops For Learning Forum and will spend tomorrow there as well.  Apart from being slightly in awe of the people I am working with, I have found myself engaging productively and mostly intelligently (I hope!) with some fascinating discussions regarding technology in schools. It has become imperative to have these discussions now – the laptops are arriving in Term 3 and the average teacher out there is not prepared for that.

If you are a DET teacher and you have no idea what I am talking about, or want more information, log on to the DET staff portal, click on the tab entitled My Websites and then scroll down the list of DET intranet sites – you will find Laptops For Learning.  Click on that link and you will find the specifications (and photos!) of the new laptops including what software they will come with.  You will also find the bulletins and the latest information about the rollouts.

I will have much more to say on my time spent at this forum later but for now I just want to focus on two things.

1. We need to get ready NOW. Schools need to be thinking about how they will handle professional development, which teachers will lead the way, ideas for using the laptops in lessons at school, physical space and how the laptops are integrated into the spaces we have,  and classroom management with laptops. Whether it be the executive, the technology committee, the principal, a focus group or simply a group of enthusiastic teachers, there needs to be a group that is planning, preparing and learning, getting ready for what is coming.  It is too late to start after the laptops are in your school – they will sit in a storeroom and that will not work for anyone. My big message in this point: START NOW.

2. Don’t be afraid to try. Fear and doubt are natural when we are trying new things, but we should not let them stop us from trying – just take fear and doubt along for the ride with you.  The smallest steps we take in the beginning are enough. No-one is asking you to become an expert overnight. What we are asking is that you start somewhere, try something – whether it works or fails. No-one is asking you to get it right the first time (or even the next seven times!), we are asking you to try – sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will succeed – and if you share your experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) then others can learn and grow, and you can learn from others’ experiences also. It was mentioned today that we don’t want teachers to have to try and recreate teaching content that already exists – no reinventing the wheel necessary.  Rather, the focus is on: recycle, reuse, navigate, negotiate, manipulate, collaborate.

Yes, it will be scary when you walk into your Year 9 class and they all have laptops – they may be off task using them before you even give an instruction. Remember though – good pedagogy is what is needed, the technology is simply a great tool that allows us to reach our digital natives and to be more engaging, collaborative and creative in a classroom environment and beyond. The English Syllabus is full of outcomes that can be more easily met when the students have a laptop each. These tools that are coming: the laptops and the software on them, will enable us to really engage with what the syllabus is asking of us, in a way that students understand and can apply in their world at home – we will make their learning more relevant to their life, their world, their future.

Take heart, have courage, fire up. Great change is coming. It will be exciting, challenging, fun, inspiring, engaging, hard work, rewarding and ultimately easier than anyone expects. Time will pass and you will look back on the days when you worried about the laptops coming, and laugh about how ironic it is that now you are frustrated that not every class has them.

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May 6, 2009 - Posted by | Laptops 4 Learning

6 Comments »

  1. Melissa,
    looking forward to hearing more updates about the laptops. I agree, I think it will be really positive if teachers take advantage of the opportunity and begin preparing themselves now. Not being out of school that long myself I can see how much of a benefit it would have been for us to have our own laptops at school. I think it may create some enthusiasm and excitement for learning from the students and considering they probably know more about technology then us, even give them the opportunity to teach us something valuable too. Well done Melissa, I’m so proud of everything you’re doing!! xx

    Comment by Tara | May 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. From afar, the planning and bringing together of the Laptops 4 Learning is exciting. If you are on the pulse things seem well organised for success at classroom level. However, most teachers do not even check their DET portal. Most wouldn’t even know the interesting things at the touch of a mouse on the DET portal. They will be, no matter what, unprepared for what is coming. Up with the introduction to National Curriculum for English, Laptops 4 Learning will become just another whinging point for some teachers. More people not less should be involved in the Laptops For Learning Forum to strenghten the spread of the possibilities and the reality of having such a leap in technology.
    I like the idea of ‘START NOW. Don’t be afraid to try…’ I remember using MS Frontpage with students in my first years teaching, and teaching those around me. I remember setting up yahoo accounts (when those things were not blocked) for attaching assessment tasks and emailing me directly. There was little to no support for teachers to start and little guidance for those not afraid to try. I’ve been using video conferencing, interactive webquests, moviemaking options for all of my teaching years. The laptops will be final icing on the kind of edutopia I need…

    Comment by Troy | May 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hi Mel. This article and the comments so far really highlight the importance of teachers making the move into the 21st century. While the delivery of the L4L netbooks is a top-down project, making them actually work and be an effective educational tool HAS to be bottom-up. There is nothing that the Director-General or the Minister can do to make a difference to the student in the classroom. Only the teacher can do that. It is clear that individual teachers must change. We all have an important role to play, but I fear that solidarity will continue to stifle that essential change.

    Comment by paralleldivergence | May 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. It does have to be ‘bottom up’, that’s why there were some students and some teachers were involved in the forum. The majority of teachers must catch up or should we leave them behind? Most students will embrace the technology, they have and do, so that won’t change. I can see resistance occurring at the classroom level, that’s why the organising bodies needed to get more teachers involved at this planning stage…

    Comment by Troy | May 9, 2009 | Reply

  5. Hi Melissa,
    Your blog seems to have caused a stir. A terrific initiative! Great to see teachers are talking about these issues. Any interesting ideas that turn up please pass them my way – I may not always have time to keep checking the blog.
    Best wishes,
    Michael Murray
    Chief Education Officer, English

    Comment by Michael Murray | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  6. Yes, I think it’s an edutopia too but I really do appreciate how challenging it is going to be for some teachers. We’re trying to support them through the materials we are creating – ideas gratefully accepted.

    Comment by Prue Greene | May 13, 2009 | Reply


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