Arrival: Personal Learning Device in School

Now more than ever I am convinced that schools can keep up with the pressures to provide adequate technology infrastructure, and possess some control over balancing the rising costs in the name of progress (ie. replacement costs, technician time, vandalism, replacement, upgrades, etc.). The key, is appears, lies in the relationship between providing opportunity for unfettered Internet access and support to utilize personali devices to access it. Better yet, just ask the students…crazy, eh?

This past fall hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, and parents from across the United States and Canada participated in Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up for Education survey. After a brief cursory scan of the results, two main trends regarding technology in education, from the perspective of the students, became apparent: (1) efficient wireless network that is dependable is essential; and (2) a learning environment where students are encouraged to bring and utilize their own personal devices to work in a blended fashion with online and in-person course interactivity is paramount.

These two factors are what students believe to be a fundamental requirement for the shift towards the personalized learning agenda of the 21st century. Students view these facets as levelers of the technology playing field. In fact, this high-road approach takes technology (or lack thereof) out of the equation. Technology (its inadequacy) itself is no longer the issue; rather it is the quality of education for the society of tomorrow that regains its priority, and rightly so, holds sway.

And two recent articles pulled from my personal learning network have convinced me that education leaders are on the right track as we blister ahead into the second decade of this century. Listen to the students and take technology inadequacy off the table as an issue.

Far too frequently, school administrators, superintendents, and boards of trustees fail to include a key stakeholder in any discussions about learning, educational technology, and even pedagogy: the student. A solution? Just ask them. According to a recent Mindshift blog post, student do know what they need at their schools–a level playing field for technology.
The financial pressures exerted on school districts (and schools) to supply functioning computer labs (which in and of themselves are ‘static’ in nature; and are quite possibly the worst type of teaching and learning environment that exists) no longer need be a continually failed legacy. Alternatives do exist. We just refuse to exercise them.
Why aren’t we leveraging what our students already possess and utilize on a daily basis for numerous tasks–including learning? Why do we insisted on supplying a one-dimensional utilitariam technology when clearly it is not what is needed? Why are folks in power making informed and poor orchestrated decisions that impact our students? Why do we continue to ignore (or deny) what has become commonplace in our society?
The number of students attending school with personal wireless-enabled devices doesn’t appear on the wane. In fact, this is only the tip of what is surely to become a key component to one monstrous paradiagm shift in education.
We need to continue to lobby at both the school and school district levels on the importance of seizing the opportunity to help more families leverage the power of bulk purchasing (there is an enormous difference between $450 notebook and $240 version, no?). Why couldn’t the school district broker deals with device vendors on behalf of its families? What could be better than helping families help their children?

At any rate, schools are finding ways to reduce the fiscal crunch that declining enrollment and budgetary cutbacks. And our students are leading the way.

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