Observations and Reflections from the New England 1:1 Summit

Andy Marcinek is a thoughtful educator who served
on the panel at the New England 1:1 conference,
April 10, 2015. He is currently the Director of
Technology at the Grafton Public Schools.
Previously he served as instructional
technology specialist in the Burlington
Public Schools where he played a major
role in launching a 1:1 environment.
Here's what becomes readily apparent when you visit a school that is 'high tech' (ie-1:1): It's NOT about the tech. It's about Learning. Schools are places of learning, first and foremost.  This too: The device doesn't matter.  Tablets and laptops and Chromebooks facilitate learning and access to the greater world. They are in service of existing learning objectives. 

Here's what I observed at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington on Friday April 8 at the New England 1:1 Summit (in no particular order):
  • A high level of awareness and social responsibility
  • A high level of community engagement
  • Students as problem solvers
  • Students as leaders
  • Students as teachers
  • Students as fund raisers
  • Students as engineers
  • Students as innovators
  • Students 'tuned into' the Big Picture of responsibility to the local and global community
  • A respect and appreciation for the responsibility that comes with having tools to connect with the world at large.
  • Technology Directors and Integrators that put access and learning front and center.
  • An EdTech Team that solicits feedback from ALL stakeholders- students, teachers, parents, the community at large.
  • Integrated, professional development (student-led)
  • Teachers teaching subjects not 'technology'
  • A cheery, respectful, upbeat school culture
  • Password-free Guest WIFI with social media sites whitelisted
  • A learning environment connected to the REAL world 
Some of the above touches on intangibles- those difficult to quantify aspects that can only be felt and observed. Every student-every single one!- that I and our group came in contact with was respectful, helpful and generous in sharing information. They were also enthusiastic when explaining their involvement with various activities that were connected to the community and real world outside of school (ie: fundraising for mental health awareness or developing a prosthetic hand for the son of a teacher born without a hand).

Ever since researching and writing 'Schooling and Student Perceptions' I've been interested in the ways students experience school and where and how they find relevance to their real lives within school contexts.  In the last few years as technology has allowed for more and better access to resources, people and places, the lines are effectively blurring between the real world vs. school(ing). Tablets, laptops, chromebooks, apps and ubiquitous WIFI are game changers.  More than that, they are culture changers when thoughtful educators use them as utilities to connect students to the real world, to real problems, especially when they challenge and empower students to find solutions to those problems.

That's what I saw in Burlington.  It was powerful.  And it should happen everywhere. It's not a stretch to say that our future depends on this kind of cultural transformation in our schools.  Thank you Dennis Villano and the BPS EdTech Team, Patrick Larkin, Andy Marcinek, etc for bravely leading the way and being the change we need to see in our schools. You offer a solid and successful example of how to integrate technology to accelerate and enhance Learning.
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1 comment :

Mr. McComish said...

Well said Andrew, I couldn't agree more!
What a great visit. I found the summit very motivating to help me continue the work of learning and teaching.