Sunday, September 17, 2006

The conversation continues...

Students have created quite the discussion about the use of laptops in the classroom under a previous posting Becoming One with the Text. I am hoping we can continue the conversation here...


BenH said...

I agree with mariak that the ease of use of internet resources is encouraging. I also agree strongly with emilyh. As I have said all along, computers are a wonderful asset, but they must be used properly.

Mphair said...

I noticed that Joanneh said:

I have also noticed that the laptops have made it possible for us to do a lot of group projects.

Just a question to throw out there? Before we had laptops in class did we (in general) do group projects? I believe that although at times the laptops have increased our creativity through Power Point, and other programs, one does not always need an electronic program to create good presentations. I don't know if it is here, but in Idaho there is a thing called History Day (I hope it doesn't but too many people that I refer to Idaho a lot, but as I just moved, and I don't remember much from the first 10 years I lived here, that's what I do...I actually believe that it is here, but I haven't found it yet.) Any way, back to History Day. History Day is a competition much like Destination Imagination, only focused around history (fancy that!) A general theme is given out and one expands and creates a presentation, often a poster or a play, which is then judged. I have seen some of the most SPACTUCLAR presentations ever there. I think the point I am trying to make is that group projects don't have to be focused around computers and computer-based presentations.

- Would our writing skills (Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation etc.) suffer?

All too often I have noticed that after writing e-mails, my spelling, grammar, and punctuation are much worse than when I started. I try, even in e-mails, not to write too badly. Another thing I have noticed is that when taking notes wildly on the computer, I revert to e-mail abbreviations. It is then that those aspects of my writing are at there worst on the computer.

In general, I believe that in elementary schools, teachers should still require students to look up words in actual dictionaries because I believe that it helps one to learn their alphabet, that k comes before o, and things like that. I knew my alphabet in order, but when looking up words, I always had to run through that entire stupid song for every letter, before I started looking up words on a regular basis. I understand that computerized dictionaries can be a benefit, however I personally don't believe that they should be used until late middle school, or intermediate schools.


EmilyH said...

i think everyone needs to go back to the other blog and read the last few comments so we can continure on the same line we were on before.

Hikingout said...

Will Hea

One of the things that is lacking on this blog is teacher opinion. Even though many teachers feel that their participation would decrease the amount of student participation, it would probably be to the advantage of all of us to see what detriments and benefits are visible from laptop integration from a teaching perspective. We as students can view laptops individually but it is harder for us to find out how the laptops are working as a whole (not the student opinions of them but their effectiveness in the classroom). So far we have lacked effective teacher participation and it is very disappointing. If teachers care and think that laptops are good or bad (or in the middle), they should join the conversation as Mr. Fisch has already done. In the event that laptop integration is proposed to be expanded, your main opponents (you WILL have to get past me) or allies would be the students, so there is no benefit in hiding. I would also like to see a list of the classes that have laptops, whether through intention or opportunity, because the trend seems to be that laptops are geared towards honors students. If this research is to be truly accurate it must be done with regular and basic skills classes. Logically, it would seem that these classes should have first access to the laptops if there was any potential for improved learning.

Now going on to the question of whether or not we as students should decide what is best for other students. The world is run by those who show up. Do they have an opinion? Yes. However, the opinions of the most active students will dominate these isssues. This is life. Education should teach students that through a lack of participation they will lose their privileges. We will probably never know what all the students at Arapahoe think about computers or whether or not they want them in school. It really does not matter because we here are participating and they are not. Whoever wants something the most will get it, so yes, we as the participators do have the privilege of making decisions for those who do not participate. By blogging here all of you accepted that privilege and this blog will be influential over this issue. We are making decisions for our classmates, they decided not to, remember that (if this makes people angry enough to participate, it's supposed to).

This is OUR education, that of our friends, family, and eventually, sons and daughters (hermaphrodites?), we have a duty to change it if we can. Do not feel remorseful if people do not like what you say, if most people would benefit from laptops do it, if most people would benefit from the inverse, do it. Don't bind yourselves to guilt over making decisions for others.

Lastly, why does anyone care if we are called "guinea pigs" or not? This is another example of looking at HOW something is said instead of WHAT is said. This kind of political correcting does not benefit this discussion in any way.

BenH said...

I think that emilyh has an excellent point.

kjerstinl said...

Ok emilyh, you're confusing me. You want to change the subject and now would want to stay with the subject. Which one do you really think? I think that I'll just continue with this argument. Hopefully I'm not repeating in any way.

So i'll start with joanneh:
You say that online text doesn't have the interpreted version. But is that necessarily a good thing? Yes, it does help us, but wouldn't that be a crutch? When I read Macbeth, I like to interpret my own ideas and figure out on my own (or with other students' help) what things mean. That's just half the fun of reading a book in the first place! Also, with the movie "the Dish", they got the power back and saved everything from going awry. In the Elizabethan Era project, even though it was our first project, I didn't even use the computer for research, I used a book. I agree with benh when he says that we don't HAVE to use computers, and yes, I know you said that you didn't know that.

Michelle S said...

Wow...there are a ton of interesting comments, both from the laptop and non-laptop people. I'm a student of Kakos's 6th hour American Literature Honors class and I have opinions on both sides of the topic. The laptops are a wonderful and useful addition to the classroom, no doubt. Having interactive resources online opens up an entire new world. However, I think we need to emphasize the fact that laptops are a tool. Just like the addition of the calculator, if used for more than a tool, there will be no need for comprehension. When reading Shakespeare, we need to know how to interpret and understand language, or to interpret history and understand its application. My fear is that with things like published online essays, students will be doused in meaningless information. We need to keep these things in mind when we open up our computers.

AleeA said...

Personally, I think that laptops impact our learning in both positive and negative ways. I mean, we have the world wide web right at our finger tips with just the click of a few buttons and we can basically access anything that we want at anytime. This does come in handy in class when we are doing research and things like that, but if you think about it, people did research using books before there was the world wide web and computers and they got along just fine. I'm not saying that I'm against computers in class, I personally love being able to pull them out and use them for assignments and other things, but I do see where some people are coming from when they say that we don't need to use computers. I think a huge problem now is that we are all so used to having everything we want and need the second we want it. We are a generation of technology and use it, but this can lead to us forgetting how people before us didn't have the resources we do, but still did things to the best of their abilities. This is where the laptops do come in handy. With them in class, we increase our resources dramatically, and can unlock so many more topics, information, and ideas than if we didn't have them. Like others have said, we can do more group projects and critical thinking with the laptops, for we don't have to wait for the teacher to schedule a day at the computer lab so that we can have computers, and with so many peoples' ideas out there, we can build our own ideas off of them. There is always the risk of temptation to use other peoples' ideas and thoughts, but if we know what is good for us, we won't deprive ourselves of the learning experience by copying. We are only hurting ourselves by doing this. To add my overall opinion on the laptops in class, I can see where both sides are coming from when they say that laptops are and aren't necessary. Personally, I side more with laptops being a benefit for us to have in class, because there is so much more potential to be unlocked when we use them. Not only can we do things quicker with laptops, the speed of them allows us to move onto other subjects and learn more things. Laptops don't rush us, they just help us along so that we are more productive in and outside of class.

Karl Fisch said...

Classes weren't chosen for laptops, teachers were. It was a combination of the practical and the instructional. With a limited budget – and limited support from the district - we could only guarantee that we would have wireless coverage in limited areas (and "guarantee" is stretching it a bit). And, with our crowded halls, moving the carts on a regular basis during passing periods didn't seem like a great idea. So we limited them to three classrooms (although they can be moved for special occasions - as our wireless network allows, anyway). There are also space issues (those carts are huge) and electrical issues (UL regulations limit the number of laptops that can charge on a single circuit to 15 - so the carts have timers that charge half at a time, and each cart has to be on a separate electrical circuit). And, of course, there are security issues, furniture issues, class size issues . . . the list goes on and on.

The instructional issues are a little more complicated and I won't do them justice in the short time I have to comment, but here goes. The three main teachers (Hatak, Meyer and Smith) were chosen because of their subject areas, their commitment to and passion for their students, their technical ability, their willingness to grow and change when they saw an opportunity to improve student learning, their willingness to invest a considerable amount of time and energy into this project, and their abilities as teachers. (Personal note – these guys are good, you are lucky to have them as teachers.) We also were working within the grant restrictions and, frankly, didn’t think we’d get the laptop portion of the funds. We would’ve written for a fourth classroom (in Math), but the costs were ballooning and we were afraid of jeopardizing the chances of getting any of the grant money. Once those teachers were chosen, the classrooms were chosen, and therefore other teachers that share those classrooms (ahhh, variable scheduling, how I love and detest thee) were brought in (if they wanted to be). In order to do this right, we wanted to see what we could accomplish if classes had full-time access to the technology and the resources it provides access to. We have a fair amount of experience with the computer-lab model and it works reasonably well given its limitations, but it has a lot of limitations. It is very hard to use technology when it’s appropriate if you have to schedule it 6-8 weeks in advance (and within complicated rules dictating how often you can sign up for the labs). We want to use technology when it makes sense, to seize the teachable moments and run with them. We also needed the ability that if we wanted to do a lesson – or a unit – that required a whole lot of in-class technology use, that we could do it. You can’t do that with computer labs unless you make the students do most of it on their own (which has its own issues). We think that there are things we can do with technology to help students learn that we can’t do as well without the technology, and that we can prepare students to live and work successfully in the 21st century.

But you also need to realize that – even with all this talk of laptops – technology is not our primary focus. These teachers are among 50 at AHS going through 3 years of staff development to see if we can improve our teaching – or rather our students’ learning. We are focusing on the philosophy, research and practice of education – and are asking hard questions about what we do and why we do it – and if maybe we should change. We are trying to transform our school into a more student-centered, constructivist approach - a school where the students take a greater role in producing and managing their own learning. The technology piece is just an “enabler,” a tool that helps us realize that vision.

As to some of Will's points, I don’t think anyone is “hiding.” I would caution you about assuming what other people’s motives are. I would like to be wrong, but my guess is that there are only four or five AHS teachers that are reading this and – yes – we are (well, at least I am) trying to stay out of the discussion as much as possible because – as you said – it is your education, not ours. There is also a huge difference in the amount of time and energy students have to participate in something like this and the time and energy most adults have. I’m not using that as an excuse, but as an explanation.

I would also disagree with a couple of other word choices. For me, it’s not about being "opponents" – we’re all on the same "side." We all want what’s best for the students at Arapahoe – and this discussion will help us make that happen. But by using words like "opponent" you run the risk of lessening the impact of the discussion, because words like that tend to focus people on winning or losing a debate, not collaboratively coming up with a solution.

And I do feel like addressing "guinea pig" is important, and is not an example of political correctness. Words matter, and guinea pig goes to both how and what is being said. As I’m sure you know from debate or your Social Studies classes, how you define the issues has a large impact on what gets discussed and decided. If we view you as "guinea pigs" that are part of some great "experiment," then that changes the entire character of what we are trying to do. If we define the issue as "using the results from our best research on how people learn to teach our students in the most effective manner possible and prepare them to be successful in the 21st century," that looks very different.

Finally, I’d speak to Will's last comment "Looking at the way the blog descriptions are bolded and highlighted (and the way the teachers use parentheses) I find that many of the blogs are directed at attacking the non-laptopers" – but I’m not sure I understood it. Can you be a little more specific about which blog descriptions you’re referring to?

As always, thanks to all of you for continuing the conversation.

JoanneH said...

kjerstinl: "I like to interpret my own ideas and figure out on my own."

I do too. I was respnding to something kurt w said about the interpretations being only online. They are in fact in the texts we were provided with in class. I also like to have the interpretation next to me so I can make sure what I'm thinking is right. I would hate to misinterpret something and not realize it.

BenH said...

For a change, I agree with practically everything in Will's last post. Teacher participation is important, and the world is run by those who show up. That is the way life works, and it is the only way it will run smoothly.

BenH said...

This is sort of a break from the main point, but this is for karl fisch: thanks for the paragraph breaks in your posts. They are long and contain a lot of information, which is good. But the paragraph breaks you add make it easy to understand. Thanks.

Matt W said...

I too appreciate the manner in which you format your posts Mr. Fisch.

It's late, and I don't feel like tying very much tonight, but reading through the discussion has compelled me to post once again.

My stance in this discussion is as follows: I really think we've taken this too far. We're discussing and addressing what in my eyes are minor technicalities and details. It may be just me, but I see the entire situation as being pretty black and white. I don't usually like to muddle around in the grey. In my mind (that doesn't mean it has to be in yours as well, I'm just saying how I view this) the laptop integration is minor at best. We're worried about it causing problems in our learning and possibly resulting in a loss of basic skills (paper and pencil, note taking, spelling, grammar, etc.). Being in two classes using laptops, I get a front row seat in this integration. So far in the weeks we've been at school, we've picked up the laptops maybe twice. That to me doesn't sound like dependence on laptops. That sounds like a computer lab day, but saving us having to walk down the hall.

I understand where many of you are coming from, but some of the issues you bring up are nothing new. We've been using the internet at school for quite some time (research, information gathering, etc.), and we have been using computers (MS Word etc.) to type and format assignments, papers, and essays for even longer. I'm in two laptop classes, and I have yet to experience a situation in which we would take notes as a teacher is talking, so that aspect has yet to come into play.

As for internet access, what difference does the classroom make? Even if we remove internet access from the laptops, could we not just go to the library (or do you suggest removing internet access from there as well?)? In this era, most of us have internet access at home as well. So what would removing classroom internet access achieve?

I think many of you misunderstood my questions. I was posing the questions in the event of a power outage. Also in regards to the power outage, no I do not see this as a threat. I wanted to go a little deeper than we did with the questions I posed. I didn't want the technicalities of "how long the power would be out", or "the laptops run on batteries" etc. I was trying to pose a situation in which we couldn't use the laptops. Could we, as a school, go back to pre-computer (Classroom, Library, etc) days? That's more what I was trying to get at.

Hopefully ideas and decisions will arise from this long discussion, but I hope you all will keep things in perspective. I'm too tired to go back and quote the specific quote, but one of you brought up the situation in which a new type of teaching method for math was integrated at a school, and the students who tried it were forced into remedial courses following it, due to the lack of learning. I seriously doubt that the laptop implementation is going to steal a year of class from you guys. To me, besides basically having a comp lab day (Which other classes do anyway) still in the room, the classes have been relatively unchanged by the laptops.

Perspective is important and I understand that. Just in my enormous posts in the AP Gov blog, I found that a discussion can turn into a debate going down to the very words that comprised the posts being made. I personally dislike discussing at that detailed a level, but would rather keep the bigger picture in mind. So I encourage all of you who are in Laptop classes to be aware of the changes that have taken place due to the laptops. Be honest with yourself, and weigh the changes. I think you may find that they are not as big a change and implementation as they have been said to be. In no way is that a bad thing, and I believe that on many levels it's a sign that they are being implemented correctly. Eventually they may get to a very noticeable level of change, but for now let's look at the bigger picture.

Michelle S said...

Going back to joanneh's last comment: "I also like to have the interpretation next to me so I can make sure what I'm thinking is right."

There is no "one way" to interpret anything: literature, history, facial expressions, etc. You shouldn't ever feel that you are looking at things the "wrong" way. Some may be more accurate, but all interpretations of something have merit. The internet should not be used to validate one's opinions.

And matt w, you have a good point. Some of these minutia the commenters have been discussing aren't applicable right now, because the school is still looking for the best way to integrate the laptops. I know I haven't used the laptops every day, and they certainly aren't dominating class time. However, it is important to work out some future details now, so there's feedback on them for people to look at later. Also, about your question concerning the possibility of going back to a non-computer-based educations system: At this point, it could be a disaster. Online grades, teacher plans, copy machines, scantron readers--none of them would exist or be as efficient as they are now. Unless the change happened slowly, going back to a time with no electricity would set everyone back and severely limit the ways teachers could interact with students.

EmilyL said...

I have question for Matt W. What laptop clases are you in? In my English laptop class we use them pretty much everyday.
I do also agreee with you that now on this blog we debating topics the are the same things we have been doing for years, just now on a laptop. The blog has become not some much about laptops as about whether technology itself in good or bad.

JoanneH said...

matt w: "we've picked up the laptops maybe twice."

In Ms. Smith's class, we get them out almost every day. I realize your experience is different, and that's ok. If the laptops were, as you stress, a mere computer lab day in the classroom, that would be fine with me. I think they are being overused, at least in my English class.

matt w: "I have yet to experience a situation in which we would take notes as a teacher is talking"

We've also taken notes while Ms. Smith talks, and while we watched scenes in several movies.

matt w: "Could we, as a school, go back to pre-computer (Classroom, Library, etc) days?"

Now we could, but if this little experiment of the district's becomes more than several classes having laptops, I don't think we could. The amount of time we use something increases our dependency. Students in the 1800s and before learned to read in 'primers' that were far more complicated than the little Bob books we use today. These kids would also memorize and recite in class things like the presidents, in order, and the years of their presidencies. I certainly couldn't do that. If we had to go back to that now, we would have a very difficult time. The laptops will eventually have the same impact.

My point with the math system was that people have tried to deviate from the traditional teaching method, and while these new systems work for some people, they don't work for most others. The math was one example. The 1800s example given above is another, with the principles behind it being that children learn best by memorization of facts that probably won't concern them later in life. This system failed, and people went back to the original style of teaching, where the teacher lectures and the students take notes and ask questions, then sometimes have discussions based on the factual answers to their questions.

The new laptops system in at least my English class, along with the more discussion-based classroom (Ms. Smith's saying, "This is not education as usual"), could be detrimental to the actual learning that occurs in the classroom. Make no mistake, the discussions are a good thing, but when there is no fact to support them, beyond opinion, they deflate. Socratic seminars are a form of discussion that has been used since the time of their creator, Socrates (B.469 D. 399 BC). They are based on facts learned in class, as well as other outside sources, like articles. When we have the discussions we have in class, they are based solely on questions and opinionated classmates' answers.

I guess the big thing for me isn't so much the laptops as the fact that they are a part, in my English class' case a big part, of this whole new system of discussion-based teaching. That's where this ties into the math I mentioned earlier, because that math system is entirely discussion. This "not education as usual" system enables our use of the laptops, which is why I argue passionately against them.

Karl Fisch said...

"Facts" are a tricky thing. For example, the math program you guys are talking about has a large body of research behind it showing that - when implemented correctly - students learn better than with a traditional approach to teaching math.

In general, we are proceeding slowly with integrating the laptops into instruction. We want to do this right in order to benefit all students at AHS. We will undoubtedly make mistakes along the way, but we will do our best to learn from those mistakes. Ms. Smith is certainly using the laptops more in some of her classes than the other teachers, but most of the activities she is doing she did pre-laptop as well. She's trying to use the laptops to enhance and extend what she did before. Well, at least that's my take on it, those of you who have her in class should probably talk to her directly - not everything can be accomplished through a blog :-)

saram said...

Hey guys. I've deceided to join the conversation.

personally, I feel that all of your arguments from the previous blog are ridiculous. Sure, students from our class that blogged here said that answers are 'one click away.' So, you said that you think people will stop thinking for themsleves and just go to the internet for the answers and that classroom discussions will never be the same. Well, you're right! Our classroom discussions have gotten so much more intersting and fun to participate in since we have been blessed to recieve the laptops. Everyone brings up great points that add so much to the discussion and no, they didn't get them from the interent. They thought it up all by themselves. Discussions in class move much to quickly for anyone to look up, read, and find the answer on the internet. Anyways, discussions are opinion. There is no righ tor wrong answer to look up. And, if that's what you're worried about, well, what about books? Anyone can go to a book and steal their ideas or copy from it and call it their own. It's true that you can copy from the internet, but if you can copy from books as well than I don't understand your argument. If we shouldn't have laptops in class because we could look things up and steal ideas from others, than should books and other sources not be allowed in the classroom either? Think about that one.

JoanneH said...

I still don't like the idea of being the 'mistake,' especially because I didn't consent to this experiment. Sure, you can learn from me, but what happens to me? Please note that my examples are worst case scenario. We probably will not lose a year of our education, but that has happened to others when people go screwing around with the way the students are taught.

Matt W said...


They're not simply "screwing around" with our education. I'm sure that anyone who has put immeasurable amounts of time into implementing these laptops (Mr. Fisch) would take offense to that. This isn't just something they threw together and started trying. Months to years of planning preceded this implementation. Countless hours of meetings and training for the teachers took place, and countless hours have been spent tweaking the implementation process. There was only one thing in the minds of these people as they did all these things: Us. Students. Do not simply view this amazing opportunity as "screwing around" with education.

As for "not consenting" for this, I beg to differ. The fact that you are still in the class tells me you've consented. Whether you know or not, dropping a class for another is commonplace in today's schools. It could be the same class, same hour etc, just a different teacher without laptops. If you really felt so strongly about losing valuable learning quality, then please do yourself a favor and give this opportunistic spot to someone who is excited about it. No offense intended, I'm just saying that class changing isn't unheard of. It may be a wee-bit late in the semester to do so, but I'm sure your strong beliefs on the topic of laptops haven't changed that much in a few weeks. Thus upon your learning of the laptops in your class, you could have gone immediately to your counselor and requested a class-change.

I for one am grateful for all the hard work that has gone into this very difficult process of implementation and I thank all those involved. I thank the teachers who are willing to try something new in hopes that it will benefit the students. I also am grateful for this opportunity and feel privileged to be in not one, but two laptop classes.

As for anyone who still thinks that the faculty have conspired to shaft us through use of these laptops, and that they go home thinking of ways to ruin your precious education, I urge you all to go read Mrs. Smith's post on the main page of the Learning and Laptops Blog. Honestly people, the faculty and staff's hearts have been poured into this opportunity. Let's show some respect shall we?

BenH said...

I don't have much time but here is a quick comment: I agree with Matt w. I highly doubt Mr. Fisch woke up on morning, went downstairs to eat breakfast, and in the middle of biting into breakfast burrito (sorry if this is a total mischaracterization) and said "I wonder what would happen if we made the kids use laptops?"

I think what is closer to the truth is Mr Fisch thought "wow. computers are really a great asset to learning. What if we put small, compact ones in the classroom?" And then, he probably spent the better half of forever writing a grant and other things to get them.

The laptops were not a random experiment. People saw an opportunity to improve our education, and worked very hard to acheive it.

And to all of those who did, thanks very much.

Karl Fisch said...

Actually, I usually eat cereal for breakfast as I contemplate how to mess up kids’ lives.

I’ll admit that it rankled a little bit when I read Joanne’s comment about “screwing around with the way students are taught.” To me, that’s a very negative way of looking at this and focuses too much on what can go wrong instead of what can go right. But the key words in that sentence are “To me.” Obviously, to Joanne this is a very real concern and something we need to address. I would ask that Joanne maybe choose different words than “screwing around” next time, but I think we need to acknowledge her feelings and concerns about this and do our best to make sure she doesn’t end up being right. The more we can talk about this in a civil and respectful way (on blogs, in class, one-on-one), the more likely we will be able to make this the best possible learning experience for all of us.

While I do think we will sometimes make mistakes along the way, I don’t think the entire process will be a “mistake” as Joanne - and others - are worried about. And I don’t see this as an “experiment.” Yes, it is trying something new, but teachers do that all the time to try to do a better job of helping their students learn. And, as I’ve said before, it’s not really about the laptops – it’s about our approach to teaching and learning. I very much believe that this will make for a better education, a better learning experience for all of you. What we are asking you to do is not easier in any way – far from it. In fact, we are asking for much more from you. We are asking you to take responsibility for your own learning, to commit to not only consuming the existing information that is out there, but to produce your own information and contribute to the world. This is much, much harder. But, in the end, I think it will be much more valuable, meaningful, relevant and useful to you – and to the world.

And I think that when the freshmen graduate four years from now, and Joanne is giving a speech at graduation, she will turn to me and say . . . well, you’re just going to have to wait and see what she’s going to say. But I guarantee you it’s going to be good. This I believe.

JoanneH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JoanneH said...

I am still in this class because I have no other choice anymore. The three day drop period wasn't enough time for me to see what the impact the laptops were going to have in the classroom. Now, if I try to change classes, wouldn't my grade here become an F? Correct me if don't understand this, but I don't think I can drop the class anymore.

My word choice was a bit strong and very careless. For this I apologize. However, when people change the way of teaching, whether they do it in five minutes or five years, they still are experimenting with the students' education.

To the point of using 'experimenting', I will continue to use it. Whenever a change is made, it is an experimentation. Perhaps an experiment depicts strongly a negative picture, but it is the truth. When change doesn't work, when the experiment fails, then the facilitators of the change go back and re-devise their change.

While the entire process may not be a mistake, you are sure that mistakes will be made. What if this sect of the change fails? I will be a mistake. You will change your process and use it on my successors. And I will still be a failure. You will help me get back on track, but that may set me behind.

Perhaps I'm exploring the extreme cases here, but they are not an impossibility.

I love your sense of humor, Mr. Fisch.

Michelle S said...

In my English class on Thursday, my class watched The Crucible, and we were asked to take notes on our laptops. I was slightly upset by this request for a few reasons. First, I write much faster than I type. Also, it's easier for me to modify my notes when I'm writing, not typing. I understand other students would much rather type and it's easier for them, but I would like a choice of either turning in written notes or submitting them electronically. However, in this case, I didn't need to turn them in. Why am I required to use the laptops to take notes when, personally, it is much more efficient for me to use a pencil and paper?

EmilyL said...

I looked it up in the pathfinder and the rules for adding/dropping are very fuzzy. While it says clearly that you cannot drop a class after 3 days, it does not say anything about switching classes. Additionally, it says that you cannot add a new class or section after 3 days. However, the pathfinder is not clear on if a section constitutes a specific class or a general section, like honors.

For everyone,
As for what would happen should the laptops not work out, I personally feel that will we may not have happy memories, that our learning will not be seriously reversed. At this point in a student's learning, we know how take basic notes, listen, and ask questions. If a student in a laptop class does not understand a concept, he or she can ask someone in a non-laptop class.

Lastly, we have gotten into a discussion of teaching styles and which singular style is the best for Arapahoe students. May I remind everyone that one way isn’t for everyone. Some students learn by lecture and others by discussion. Some take better notes by laptop and others prefer pen and paper. When we talk about preferred teaching methods that what we learn best by is not he way that everyone learns. (I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, I do this too.)

Karl Fisch said...

Michelle - my question would be whether you were asked to take notes on your laptops or required to take notes on your laptop. If it was required, was a reason stated for that requirement? I think if it was a requirement and there wasn't a good reason (or a stated reason), then you should certainly ask (politely, of course) if you could take them without the laptop.

Joanne - I guess I'm not doing a good job of saying what I mean, but I'll give it one more shot. When I say that I'm sure mistakes will be made, it's because mistakes are made by teachers every day in every classroom (shh, don't tell anybody). Most of those mistakes are small, some are somewhat larger, but they will always happen because every teacher is different, every student is different, every class is different, and every day is different. Even if we didn't ever purposely try to change a thing, things would change anyway - and sometimes they won't go as well as we would like.

I agree with Emily that at least some of this is more of a discussion of teaching style and not the laptops per se. Teaching style is certainly another important issue to think about but, similar to the laptops, rest assured that your teachers do not do these things lightly. They think and plan and sometimes agonize over what they do in the classroom, all the while knowing that no matter what they do, it won't work for all their students. We spent all of today talking about teaching and learning - and, as always, we have more questions than answers. But we continue to try, and continue to do our best to provide the best possible education - mistakes and all - that we can.

Thanks for thinking so hard about this - and helping us think about it as well.

BenH said...

Wow. I have been really busy lately, and have some catching up to do.

I will try not to repeat anything since I have been gone so long, but I think one important point is this:

People learn very differently. I have always been able to concentrate on what the teacher was saying and retain it. Some other people might sit there and take painstaking notes, or wish continously that they could some how touch it and feel it.

I think that despite how beneficial laptops seem to be to the majority of us (or, as Will might correctly say, the majority that participates), they are not the best for everyone in evere situation. Personally, they are great for me. But for people like michelle s, they are not the best way to take notes. And because of that I think that she should be able to take notes with pencil and paper, pen and paper, or lipstick and paper if that is what helps her learn best.

Also, to joanneh: In Ms. Smith's class, it seems to me like the laptops enable us to do things we never could before, but a great deal of what we do is just laptop enhanced. And anyone please correct me if I am mistaken.

Also, joanneh, what specifically makes you think that the laptops are failing you? I don't really see the reasons why you feel you do. I am not saying this is your fault; it may well be mine. But please help me understand what problems you have with the system.

And karl fisch, I agree that teachers make mistakes every day, from small to large. Anyone in every job does. An ice cream truck driver could accidentally leave a couple bars out of the cooler and have them melt, or run over a group of four yaer olds crossing the streets. However, such major mistakes are rare. The laptops may turn out to be a mistake, but I don't think they will be a big one. And it seems so far that they are just the opposite.

But if we never try something new, we never know what we can acheive. I hate to say that because it sounds straight of a motivational poster, but it is true. If we did not try new things in education, we would be stuck in the same doldrums forever, never learning anything new, and being steadily left behind by the rest of the world. If we want to be competitive both intranationally and internationally, we have to be innovators.

JoanneH said...

My problem with the new method is that, in short, it is an attempt to improve on an old system that has worked for at least several thousand years.

Matt W said...

That's why it has to be changed Joanneh. That's the whole reasoning behind this implementation, and the 21C group as a whole. For thousands of years we've not needed a new method of learning/education due to the fact that the types of jobs and job environments didn't change that much over time. At this point in time, we're being prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet. This is a new day and age, and things have to be done differently if we hope to keep up. So your worry of "being left a year behind due to laptops" is actually backwards. In the face of our exponentially growing information base, you should be more worried about being left behind a year due to the lack of laptops. As times change, we must also be willing to change with it. Otherwise we'll simply be left behind. Everything the AHS faculty does has the intent of making sure we aren't left behind and that we've got adequate preparation for the new jobs that await us.

Michelle S said...

To Mr. Fisch: thank you for your advice. I understand most teachers are fairly flexible in terms of note-taking (although, benh, I've never heard of anyone using lipstick as a writing utensil on paper).

To joanneh: imagine that fifty years from now, the next level after laptops becomes available (don't ask me what it would be, because I can't even imagine). Should we keep it out because it is changing a system that has worked for fifty years? The learning curve of humans continues to rise exponentially. Technology is changing so fast that not adapting to it could set a system behind very quickly. Like matt w said, right now we're being prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet, and these jobs will require us to understand and operate this kind of technology.

Hikingout said...

Mr. Fisch,
You may question my methods, but they do yield my intended results, I got YOU to respond did I not? There is also a new blog called A TEACHER'S RESPONSE, there may not be many teachers reading this blog, but two have responded in the way I intended (I never assumed there were a lot of teachers, I was thinking around 5).

I will eventually respond to all of the criticism against my arguments on this blog. Eventually, eventually, eventually, eventually.

BenH said...

Joanneh: I think the methods of teaching even one thousand years ago were quite different. For example, the students got hit a lot more often. And that is not how I learn best. So some people got together and decided "let's not beat the living poop out of students." And everyone else said "what a nutcase." But it seems that that new system succeeded and is working today.

Michelles: I have never heard of lipstick either, but now I think about it maybe it shouldn't be an option. I examined some of my moms and I think it could get on other peoples papers. That infringes on their choice of whether or not to have lipstick on the back of their paper.

Will: You said "eventually, eventually..." I know just what you mean.

Karl Fisch said...

“My problem with the new method is that, in short, it is an attempt to improve on an old system that has worked for at least several thousand years.”

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. It’s been a long time since my History of Education class, so forgive me if my dates are off a little bit - I’m sure somebody will be happy to correct them :-). Sometime around the 1860’s - 1880’s was when the present concept of “school” as we know it came about. And I think it was in the late 1920’s that high school as we’ve come to know and love it originated. This was smack dab in the middle of the industrial age, so schools naturally took their cue from industry. And the foremost innovation in industry at the time? The assembly line.

Unfortunately, school today sometimes still resembles an assembly line a little bit too much. Forgive me the following oversimplified and extended analogy, but I think it’s worth thinking about.

The raw product (students) enters the factory (elementary school). They all come in “the same” – they start at the same age and are grouped together that way no matter what (AHS being a rare exception to that rule – in some classes). Each day sticks to a rigid schedule (periods) and is regulated by the clock (bells), and everything (class) must run at a uniform speed. No matter what, the line must be kept moving (cover the curriculum). 180 (school) days later they move to the next stage (grade) of production together. After a certain pre-determined number of years, they all move together to the next portion of the assembly line (middle school). There the same thing happens – they are expected to move lock-step through the assembly line (curriculum) and then move on to the final portion of the assembly line (high school).

In order to maximize efficiency and guarantee the final product, the process (curriculum, teaching) must be the same for each piece of raw material (student). All processes must be standardized and regulated by the foreman (teacher) so that we can count on the final product being to specification. All parts must be interchangeable. If any of the materials don’t fit the mold, they are labeled defective (learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, “bad kid”) and are removed from the assembly line (special classes, alternative school, drop out). Throughout the manufacturing process, the materials must be subjected to rigorous testing procedures (CSAP, MAP, SAT, ACT, tests in your classes) to make sure they meet specifications. Each assembly line will be judged on efficiency (as measured by both time and cost) and quality of product (as measured by aforementioned tests). Success is measured by creating products (students) that are identical for the lowest possible cost. Factories (schools) that fail to meet expectations will be shut down.

Yes, very oversimplified. Yes, things are not this bad. But the analogy is useful. And a major problem is that we are no longer in the Industrial Age – we are at least two ages past it. The age following the Industrial Age is typically called the Information Age, and many people think we have now entered a new, post-Information age, although we haven’t really given it an agreed upon name yet. Yet our schools – in many ways – are still preparing students to live and work in an industrial age. And we have learned so much more about the human brain and how people learn since the 1920’s, yet often our schools and our teaching don’t reflect that new knowledge.

As far as “an old system that has worked,” many people would disagree. I started teaching in 1986. I don’t think a day has gone by since then that you haven’t been able to open a newspaper, or turn on the radio or television, or now bring up on the web – some article or program telling us how horrible American schools are (and my guess is that you could go back much earlier than 1986). Day after day after day we are told what a bad job we are doing, how if we were a business we would’ve been sold or bankrupted years ago. How if we only did [fill in the blank] we would definitely start improving, although maybe not enough to justify the cost. So while I appreciate your belief that the system is working, I would ask that you convince several hundred million other folks of the same.

Now, I don’t agree with many of the criticisms. In fact, I would argue that schools today are doing the best job they ever have of educating students (really, I’m not making this up). But even if the old system is working, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement – sometimes a lot of improvement. We can get better, we must get better, if we are going to help our students reach their full potential and be successful in whatever we end up calling the current “age.” We must use the latest knowledge about how people learn, and the latest knowledge about the skills and abilities that are going to be necessary to be successful in the 21st century, to make the changes necessary to make school as good as it can possibly be. If we ignore all this knowledge, if we continue to bury our heads in the sand and say “nothing has changed, nothing will change, nothing needs to change,” then it’s akin to educational malpractice.

BenH said...

Wow. That was very well said karl fisch. Very well said. I thought the analogy was great.

JoanneH said...

All right, I was wrong on that aspect. And perhaps I'm afraid of change. I'm saying that generalizations shouldn't be made. Most kids in my generation love this "Technological Age," and it does have its benefits. I love playing games on the computer and being able to watch T.V. It's entertaining. Is that our kid society is really focusing on? Having fun? Of course (not to generalize) there are kids who are hard workers, who enjoy working. But, as I see it, there are more who rather play all day. Personally, I need something productive to do. At about the beginning of August, unless my summer has been really abnormal, I start to get bored. I'm ready to go back to school.

To digress from the subject of laptops, is technology really our problem? Many people aren't satisfied with the lives they lead. My 12-year-old brother would watch TV all day if my parents would let him, and he's got an attitude all the time. Studies have shown that, for every hour you spend not watching TV, you're 5%(?) happier. But TV works like addiction. You watch part of a series; you really want to watch the rest of the series. Humans become dissatisfied with their lives because they see other lives that are 'so much better.' All the technology makes us have 'less' time. Instead of having chores, homework, and free time (during which people used to do things like hang out with friends or read), we now have divide our free time between friends, listening to music on iPods, playing the computer, (hypocritically) blogging on things that aren't assigned, messing around on the internet, text messaging our friends, watching movies at home, watching TV... the list goes on and on. And while there are people like me who read more than they spend doing things with technology, they are atypical.

Is it just a big circle? We have it, we need it, we want more of it, we get more of it, we need more of it...There isn't as much contact with human voices because of things like text messaging and, once again, blogging. Most people aren't comfortable talking with strangers, people they just see in a waiting room or something. (I am no exception to this.)

Don't get me wrong, technology is a good thing. It is a useful tool and I like that part of it, but are we using it as a toy too much?

Not that long ago, there was a story in the newspaper about a school that gave their students laptops to carry around all day, and the parents asked the school to take them back because the kids weren't doing schoolwork on them, they were playing. This isn't happening at Arapahoe (that I know of), but is technology becoming a toy? Is that much of what our technology-based society sees in technology?

Maybe I'm one of those lucky (not-so-lucky) people that can see the bad in changes and is therefore afraid of changing. Thanks for letting me rant about technology and please, for the good of my pessimistic mind, correct me wherever you see fit. Also, I don't mean to generalize anywhere here if I did. I know there are always exceptions. It's one of those"Never say never" things.

Michelle S said...

Wow, joanneh, I agree with a lot of what you said. I know many people who plan their schedules around watching television. What's to gain from watching other people live their lives when you have your own to live? It seems that everyone likes to compare themselves to what we see in the media, in entertainment. In fact, media celebrities could pass as royalty, from the way they're portrayed sometimes.

Sometimes I worry that humans will eventually fall out of touch with each other, that one day we'll all just be transmitting messages through machines. I hope that never happens, because being able to interact face-to-face is an extremely important and valuable skill. Without this interaction, how could we have emotions? How could we learn to communicate if there are nothing but keyboards?

However, technology is not necessarily bad either. Perhaps a person in class who never talks gets a chance to let his opinion known here. Or maybe a computer whiz is suddenly an artist because he can use technology to manipulate color and design. There are so many opportunities created, and yet it is imperative that we continue to value human interaction and keep alive the senses. As much as we try, true art cannot be manufactured on a machine.

BenH said...

I view technology as a great opportunity. You can use it how you may. I think it is a great toy and just as good if not better a tool. And I am very glad it is used for both. Personally, I always like to use it as a tool because it is so powerful, and love it as a toy because it is so fun. I personally think that video games are so much more fun than 'traditional' games, like 'bored' games.

I also think the wanting what the other person has and wanting more is very human. There is always room for improvement, and in my opinion it is critical to strive for self betterment.

I do see what you mean about lack of human contact, however. I don't think technology has driven us in that direction, but it has certainly enabled us. In allowing for remote communication it is a great tool, but the value of the face to face experience is being lost.

AleeA said...

Like I said earlier, I can understand both sides when people say that laptops are good and bad for our education. My question is, can what we gain from using laptops help make up for what we aren't gaining? I mean if you think about it, the two would cancel each other out. By using laptops, we are up to date with today's technology and are prepared for new things that we will come up with tomorrow. What I mean by this is, we have to keep up with technology to be able to use it as it is modified more and more.
Another opinion of mine towards laptops is that we should take advantage of this opportunity to test how technology in the classroom works. I guess you could call us the "guinea pigs" of this experiment, but think about it, we are helping to make history! Someone has to test to see if technology benefits us in school, so why shouldn't we be the ones?! I think that we are really lucky to be able to have this opportunity, and should take advantage of it, for there are lots of other students who will never have the opportunities that we have. We are participating in determining future generations and the forms/ways they will learn in school.

BenH said...

aleea: What do you think that we are not gaining from using laptops?

BenH said...

It seems like this is finally starting to slow down. I am not sure if it is due to a lack of new material or a lack of time.

JoanneH said...

I think that technology is the gray zone. It's good and bad, both at the same time. We bring a girl on my soccer team to practice every day, and once she figured out that I'm one more to stare out the window and enjoy the silence during a car ride, she started bringing her MP3 Player along for the ride. While this is okay, my mom and I started turning on the radio so we wouldn't have to listen to all the scratchy noises her machine makes.

I think that some technology is taking away the part of us that likes silence. I watch people walking down the road, holding a conversation with their friend while they share headphones for an iPod. In Fahrenheit 451, which we read last year in my English class, the main character's wife has learned how to read lips, and she never her takes her 'seashells' (headphones) out, even to sleep, because she has to be surrounded by noise always. She also watches TV all day, and the shows are all the length of commercials. It's amazing how much of Bradbury's predictions have come true, when they didn't have that kind of thing back when he wrote his book.

Orwell's 1984 is the same. In it, everyone is watched through their TV screens, kind of like WebCam. They have no privacy anywhere in their home or outside. Now, we find things fun and entertaining, but what could they evolve to become. I don't think we have anything to worry about yet, but if the predictions made fifty years before the advent of this kind of thing are starting to become possible, when will they become true? It's scary to think of someone watching me all the time in the future, especially since my personality is alone and reclusive.

Perhaps now laptops have a place in the classroom as long as they are used as tools, not toys, but as we come to make predictions like those made in the books possible, when will they become reality?

Technology is not all bad, but it isn't all good, either. I just hope the good overrules the bad when the time comes. Greed is a powerful thing. People want perfection, but that tends to mean everybody has to think exactly alike. In the name of good, great evils can be done, and have been done, like when Hitler decided he needed a perfect race and decided to eliminate all the Jews. The idea was that a perfect race would think alike, and that was the 'good' Hitler was pursuing, but killing a lot of people to achieve this is definitely bad. Not that I'm comparing this instance to the Nazis, because I'm not. That's just an example of when people have done evil for the sake of good, making the 'good' actually evil.

What if somebody decided to create a utopia where everyone is perfect and we all think alike? Through our culture centered on technology, that might be possible now.

BenH said...

joanneh: What do you mean by the "scratchy noises"?

I think since we have been clever enough to make all those apocalyptic predictions about technolgy, we should be well warned and hopefully try and avoid them. But I don't think progress should be held back because of a vague threat coming sometime (we dont know when) later. We should consider it, of course, but not halt in our tracks.

You also said:

"Is it just a big circle? We have it, we need it, we want more of it, we get more of it, we need more of it...There isn't as much contact with human voices because of things like text messaging and, once again, blogging."

Then you say:

"I'm one more to stare out the window and enjoy the silence during a car ride."
"I think that some technology is taking away the part of us that likes silence."
"My personality is alone and reclusive."

So what do you support? Do you think technology make society too social? Too anti-social?

BenH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BenH said...



JoanneH said...

Ben: the 'scratchy noises' are when you can hear the music, but without hearing the part that makes it music. It's the sound that filters out through the headphones, I assume so people don't destroy their ears while listening to their music.

I agree that progress should not be stopped, but I think that inevitably somebody will see the hold technology has on humans and whoever that is will use that to his or her advantage. It's one of those traps, where the majority won't see it until it's too late.

On the social/not social matter, I think that technology is destroying the contact part of sociality, without destroying the sociality itself. People don't like to hear human voices when they're talking face to face unless they are familiar with the other people. Humans, especially girls, fill up the empty hours of their lives with chat, either on the phone or with their friends at Starbucks or wherever. But they instant message as much as they talk. The freedoms we are given have made us more talkative, but the technology makes that possible wherever we are, whether it's past curfew and we're on the computer IMing, or halfway across the country on myspace.

I think technology has made us a little too trusting, too. Over the summer, my 12-year-old cousin 'broke up' with her 'boyfriend.' She wasn't even crying, but she got on her myspace and started telling some kid in Pennsylvania about what was going on. It's almost like it hasn't sunk in too her that she's talking to a real person out there, not just some imaginary friend.

Also, listening to a news conference about the shootings in Bailey yesterday on the way to soccer practice, police are linking the death of that girl, Emily, to a man in his fifties who dressed like a high schooler as a way to gain access to the school. A few students recalled this guy showing them a list of female students and trying to find them. Police are saying that the fact he had a list indicates he got it from somewhere, possibly a site like MySpace.

Technology is taking the contact out of interaction with other people. It also makes it easier for things like the shootings to happen.

I think that the tool part of technology is okay, but the toy part has risks. That depends on which toy you use, too. Free games like the ones on miniclip or other sites don't require you to give any personal information, and you don't usually have to play with people on these sites. Unfortunately, the fun part constitutes the most risks.

BenH said...

I have to agree with a lot of what joanneh said in her last post. I think that people are in general much too trusting of people they meet over the internet. The fact that they cannot see them face to face makes it seems less important, I think. And people get sucked into the trap of divulging too much information because they want to have friends or even an online relationship.

I am extremely pessimistic, cynical, and paranoid, but I think most people are much too brazen in what they post to the internet. They don't realize the far reaching consequences of what they say and do.

If I had a name, a phone number, or an address, I could find out the other two in less than a minute and get a satellite picture of their house. For a small fee of seven dollars, I could find out if they have a criminal record.

A little information is a dangerous thing.

I still think technology is great, but like anything so powerful, it must be used responsibly.

Michelle S said...

Both joanneh and benh make good points. One must be careful of personal information given over the Internet. I think sometimes people don't realize that anyone has access to the Internet. I also know that now colleges and employers will look at online accounts. It wouldn't look all that great to college recruiters if you use obscenities every third word on your myspace. How do they know you don't do it in real life? Or if you say you've been drunk or used drugs--anyone can see that. Be careful of what you put out there.

Hikingout said...

Will H


Hope I got your attention, this is very IMPORTANT.

I have recently taken a sabaticle from the world of blogging. I return with an URGENT message. Today in AP Gov, Meyer brought up a very interesting bill called the DELETING ONLINE PREDATORS BILL, despite the nice title, the bill will destroy what we and the Arapahoe High School staff have attempted to create. Please research this bill. The gist of the bill is that all access to chat rooms, BLOGS, myspace,and perhaps even simpler pages that might allow students to display any kind of personal information will be denied to students.

This bill will be extremely detrimental to the education, will destroy everything we have worked hard to establish, and eliminate the benefits to internet in the classroom that many of you enjoy. THIS BILL PASSED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BY A VOTE OF 410-15. Our time window is incredibly short to take any kind of action against this bill before it is passed by the Senate and it WILL be passed. We must take action now, IF THERE IS A WAY TO ORGANIZE A MEETING FOR CONCERNED STUDENTS I WOULD BE GRACIOUS FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO GET A ROOM AND ANNOUNCEMENTS. PLEASE PUT THIS DEBATE ON HOLD, IF THIS BILL PASSES WE WON'T EVEN BE ABLE TO HAVE THIS DEBATE EVER AGAIN, PLEASE HELP.

Any strategies on how not to get this bill passed would be greatly appreciated, I have a few, but I would prefer one in which I don't have to be suspended or expelled :).

JoanneH said...

Will, I think the discussion ran out of subject matter and it's kind of been put on hold already.

I don't want to sound pessimistic, but is it really so bad if this bill passes? After all, safety comes first. The government would rather keep us safe than give us opportunities and have a rash of killings like what happened at that high school last week (you know they were speculating that the killer got his list of names off an internet site like myspace). I think the view of the House is that they got on fine without these sorts of things, and if they are potentially hazardous, then why should they be allowed to continue?