Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Ready or Not…Here the laptops come…

I have been so busy doing the Digital Education Revolution lately that there has been precious little time to communicate about it! I have not blogged in more than a month, nor have I even had time to participate in Twitter. On the bright side, the holidays are coming and with them two whole weeks of thinking, planning and communicating time.

As it has been a while since my last blog post, this post is intended as a catch-up as to what I have been up to and hopefully those experiences may help others in the NSWDER.

The reality for most teachers is that the NSWDER has had the effect of a bulldozer, sweeping through existing plans, programs and time. There has been some excitement amongst the teachers at my school but also some resentment, anger and frustration at the sudden expectations with little time to prepare and not all teachers having access to the software the students will have on their laptops. A lot of teachers felt that without having one of the laptops themselves they were very hampered in their ability to prepare for teaching classes with laptops.

We started the process with a whole staff meeting where we asked four questions in faculty groupings: What are your concerns with laptops in classrooms? What are your ideas for overcoming these issues? What do you see as the benefits of laptops in classrooms? How can we prepare for the arrival of the laptops?  After collating the results of the discussions, a few things became apparent so we moved quickly to implement strategies to address these needs.  Firstly, there was a lack of information and understanding amongst the staff about the policies and procedures concerning the laptops, both at DET and school level. Secondly, there were lots of questions about the laptops themselves.

Accordingly, we planned an extended staff meeting where we ran two sessions: the first was an information session where we outlined the policies and procedures and the second was a session about the laptops: what software was on them, what they could and couldn’t do and ideas for using OneNote as the student workbook in all subjects.  Following these sessions we offered a HOT (Hands On Training) Afternoon which I ran from 4pm – 6pm.

The HOT afternoon spent the first hour teaching the basics of OneNote and then an hour introducing some ideas for what students can do with some of the other software.  In the second hour we looked at how to give feedback on work electronically in Word 2007 using the Review tools, creating digital portfolios in Adobe Acrobat Pro and creating quizzes in Adobe Captivate. The focus of the afternoon was clearly on what students could do with their software rather than on teachers creating resources for students, as that can be problematic in terms of the distribution of that resource for us at the moment.

Informal feedback from the afternoon has been positive, with teachers now understanding more about the roll out, the policies, the laptops and more importantly, now having some further ideas for teaching with laptops in the classroom. The results from the evaluation sheet will be interesting to receive a bigger picture as to the success of the afternoon. On a personal note, it was so exciting to see over 50 teachers enthusiastic and positive while learning new skills and brimming with new ideas and knowledge. I am proud to be associated with such incredible people who can put aside their feelings and embrace learning in such a positive manner. It was awesome and amazing.

What next? Our student laptop delivery is scheduled in Week 2 of next term. We have planned information sessions each day for the Year 9 students in the first week of term. The sessions will cover: school policies and procedures, cyberbullying, orientation to the laptop, introduction to OneNote and file naming protocols, folders, storage, etc. I am thinking about offering more HOT afternoons for staff but on a smaller scale – the sessions will run after school for an hour once a week during Term 4. They will be practical sessions allowing teachers to learn software and then have time to play with it and come up with ideas for teaching with it. The third ‘next step’ is looking at ensuring that quality teaching/good pedagogy is going on in classrooms with laptops.

Right now, as a Head Teacher, I am continuing to ask the questions:  what can I do to support and encourage my staff in their preparations? How do I make sure my faculty are ready for the first ten days of laptops in the classroom?  From there, I am thinking about reviewing our programs to more explicitly incorporate the laptop use in Years 9 and 10 in 2010 so that there are ideas and guidelines built into the programs. Our faculty will spend some time exploring that in those last two Staff Development Days this year.

I would love to hear about what other schools are doing (have done) in their preparations for the imminent arrival of student laptops in Year 9 classrooms.


September 29, 2009 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning | , , | 10 Comments