Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lessons Learned in 1:1 : We're Going to Need a Bigger Library

What's that you say?  A bigger library?  We thought all those electronic books and database thingys didn't take up as much room?  BTW, isn't print dead with the students and their electronic wizbangs?

A library is more than a collection of books... consider the Library of Alexandria circa 145 BCE...

 "...the library comprised a Peripatos walk, gardens, a room for shared dining, a reading room, meeting rooms and lecture halls." (from Wikipedia entry

Guess, what... scholars, whether they be 13 or 31 or 85, still need spaces to read, meet, discuss, collaborate and sit in quiet reflection.  The modern view of the library as Information Commons, or even better Learning Commons, requires space and investment.

Over at Confessions of a Jesuit School CIO, +JD Ferries-Rowe has been discussing the redesign of classroom space in a 1:1 BYOT learning environment.  Consider this the sister post - Redesign the Library.  Taking ideas from Susan McMullen (US Academic Libraries: Today's Learning Commons Model) and Dr. Paul Mihailidis (Media Literacy and the Learning Commons in the Digital Age) among others, design discussions revolve around the need for spaces to promote:

  • Collaboration
  • Reflection
  • Research
  • and yes, Reading

In our current space (picture to the right) we've tried some band-aid approaches.  But as you can see... we are nowhere near providing the spaces our students need.  In recent surveys, students responded they wanted both quiet and collaborative spaces.  Students reported enjoying the quieter atmosphere of the library as compared to the louder social spaces of the cafeteria or student commons.  Surprisingly to me, the highest ranked "favorite thing about the library" was the good ole study carrel.  The highest ranked "suggested changes or additions" was group tables.  Followed by "more space"...  

Hmmm... I can take a hint.  We need a bigger library!  And by bigger, I mean more space and more flexible use of said space.

So what does the vision look like?  The new library should be about more than simple information transfer. We need to look at creation, communication and consumption of all information - electronic, print, image, auditory, touch and kinesthetic. A space like Alexandria where scholars come together to engage knowledge in all formats - especially the human interaction kind.  

Items on my list (still in idea phase so no pictures) include:
  • Reclaimed space in existing footprint (we have a rabbit warren of offices, storage and even a hallway to nowhere in the existing space that can be reclaimed for student learning).
  • A welcome desk/reference desk at the main point of entry
  • Flexible furniture including tables, ottomans, chairs, benches to promote collaboration
  • Small conference style rooms for presentation design and practice, tutoring or collaboration requiring a little more noise (and therefore soundproofing) 
  • Study carrels and single, soft seating 
  • Computer lab - with sliding glass wall to create teaching space when needed.
  • IT and Library staff located together in the space for full information services.
  • Taking a page from retail space design - louder, brighter attractive space at the front of the library.  As the learner moves through the space the more reflective and quiet the space becomes (think Macy's... the flashy seasonal sale items up front and the soft, quiet bedding in the back).
So if you think 1:1 will end the need for your library... stop.  Chances are you're going to need more space.  The library will become the hub of collaboration and integration.  It will become a key to your ed tech initiative's success.  Be ready...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lessons Learned in 1:1: Stay on Mission

So students now have devices in their hands... now what?  

The temptation to begin random acts of technology looms.  Students and their families have spent time and money discerning the best device - we want them to use them.   But is a classroom full of students staring at computer screens really what we want?  No...24/7 constant computing was never part of the learning objective and we must push against the temptation to let the machine be teacher.  

In the day to day living, I must admit our learners (those over and under 18) do drift off into Temple Run, Facebook and yes, the occasional Shark versus Octopus video.  I have conversations about potential cost savings of open source and online content.  I still have conversations about "integrating technology" based on an online activity someone saw at a conference and thought it looked cool.  And in all cases (yes, even after the shark vs octopus video) I asked...

"What is your learning objective?"  

It's become a bit trite in my world.  So much so, my husband posted this blog post, "Who Needs Learning Objectives?" by Charles Jennings for The Training Zone, on my Facebook page.  

Jennings, who is not a fan of learning objectives, writes: 
"Remember, learning objectives may be useful to help you create a logical design, but that’s all they’re useful for."

Luckily for us, the learning objectives of access, evaluate and use were used to create logical design.   But we also had another framework to give our 1:1 initiative purpose: the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm.  

Insert short interlude on the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm... you know... because you all are curious now that #Jesuit is like a major news story....

In brief, the IPP guides the learner much as the retreatant is guided through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.  

By meeting the learner in their contextual environment, creating experiences with knowledge and offering time for reflection... Jesuit educators guide students through the learning process...  With the end goal of developing young people who are intellectually competent, open to growth, spiritual, loving and committed to social justice (affectionately known as The Graduate at Graduation).  

End Interlude and cue...

What are the implications for other 1:1 programs?  

Don't forget your objectives!  Why was 1:1 computing considered and implemented in your learning environment?   

Part of the lesson we've learned is staying in conversation with parents and students.  Distractions will happen.  Yes, access the Angry Birds was fun for the 10 minutes... but under closer evaluation/reflection... was that the best course of action?  Engaging the conversation can be one of the most powerful reflective practices our students will carry forward into their lives.  Learning how to balance the productive power with distraction capabilities is a crucial skill for academic and life success down the road.  Stay on mission... for us, that's developing the whole person.  Even the part going for the high score.

Part of the lesson learned we've learned is staying in conversation with faculty.  The temptations will be strong... online tutorials, virtual field trips, blogging... all which can be valid learning experiences if they are a part of the larger objective.  Otherwise, they can be distractions under the guise of learning.  Engaging online tutorials outside of context may keep students quiet for 20 minutes, but retention of content will be minimum. Virtual field trip experiences without clear (and actually articulated) outcomes are just as much a distraction as a round of Angry Birds... just ask any middle schooler who has recently been on such a journey.  Blogging can mirror the worksheet unless framed in creation and reflection.  Stay on mission...for us, that's ongoing dialogue/PD with faculty (most often in our Teacher Resource Center... over coffee...).

The shiny pretty is by its very nature a distraction. Fight the temptation of random acts of technology.  Stay on mission.  And enjoy those National Geographic videos...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lessons Learned in 1:1: Supporting Freshmen Transitions

In conversation with public and private school educators, after questions of how did you build your network (see @jdferries' series HERE)  and professional development for teachers... the next question inevitably is "What would you do differently?"  There are a couple of answers... which I'll cover in the next series of posts.  First and foremost, I have to say, we've learned a lot about freshman study skills and transitions.

No matter what variety of 1:1 (or other educational initiative for that matter) that will change the learning environment of your school, focusing all energies on the existing community (teachers, parents, upper classmen) fails to recognize the incoming members of the community.  For us, ground level conversations in the TRC about October began to illustrate our freshmen were struggling more than usual.  Concerns of low organizational skills and poor time management, a perennial issue, seemed more consistent and cause for concern.  Enough so that for our November Delayed Opening PD session, our principal had the faculty read the University of Chicago's report "Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance" prior to meeting.  It's a long report - I'm not going to lie - but critical in analyzing those "soft skills" beyond intelligence that successful students use to navigate school and life.  The five categories include:
  • Academic Behaviors
  • Academic Perseverance
  • Academic Mindsets
  • Learning Strategies
  • Social Skills

Brebeuf's 5 Day Rotation Schedule
Consider what an average transitioning freshman experiences...a new bell schedule; renegotiation and development of social groups and adult support networks; increased rigor in academic expectations and requirements.  And don't forget the basics... location of the bathroom, cafeteria and bus stop!   For our learning environment add in a Jesuit charism dramatically different from many of our sending schools.

And then we gave them the ultimate distraction... A personal computing device.

Our continuing students had already experienced a year or two of life at Brebeuf and had established themselves in the social and academic learning environment.  Their transaction to 1:1 was less of an upheaval as they only had to contend with one element.

So what will we do differently for the Class of 2017?
  • Our Academic Counselors are creating an intentional Study Skills curriculum for our existing freshmen seminar program. Topics include relationship building with teachers, calendaring/note taking/organizational tools and tricks (virtual and physical), time management and stress.
  • Revamp of our Freshmen and Parent Orientations to include more concrete elements of expectations and tools for success.
  • Freshmen teachers are creating standards of expectations to hit especially hard the first 4 weeks of school to help students establish a routine 
  • A summer skills Boot Camp for students interested in getting a jump start on their Brebeuf transition
  • A possible peer mentoring program teaming freshmen with an upper class buddy
Notice technology is just a piece of this conversation.  Like many transitions, individuals face different challenges at different stages.  And dealing with adolescents... the range of challenges is tremendous.  By intentionally building in opportunities for relationship and support, we hope to make the experience a little smoother for the Class of 2017.