On Friday, the article which follows went out in the AIS Newsletter. I also cross-posted a version of it this morning on the AIS ICT and Learning blog. I wrote it in response to several who expressed concerns about our new Laptop Boot camp program. (FWIW, I’ll also state here that I’m not a fan of calling it “Boot camp,” but this decision was made prior to my arrival at AIS and it would be rather confusing to change it at this point in the journey, so I’ve let that battle go.)
Soon I hope to have the actual checklist of “Essentials” in some kind of real digital form to share. At the moment it is simply a Word Document. We already have a Laptop Essentials wiki, but it’s already out of date. I’m hoping to merge it with our new checklist and make it more relevant. It’s been on my list of “projects” for some time now and hopefully I’ll get to it after our Semester Break!
I’ll add here that all of the changes we’ve made have been a direct result from conversations and thinking that happened at ASB Unplugged and #beyondlaptops, which we think is pretty cool. Never before have we been to a PD experience that has resulted in change so quickly!
ICT and Learning
As AIS grows, so does our 1:1 laptop initiative in the Secondary School. Last August, at the beginning of this journey, I wrote that I was learning every day not only about my role as ICT and Learning Coach but also about best strategies to foster students’ growth as 21st century global citizens.
The learning continues.
At the start of our 2012 academic year, Mark Holland (Director of ICT) and I wanted to address one of the growing concerns we had at the end of 2011: that of supporting students new to AIS. From an ICT and Learning perspective, this meant ensuring students who had newly arrived to our school were digitally prepared and organised for learning. Within the MYP, providing such support comes under the Approaches to Learning skill areas of Self-Management, Time Management, and Accessing Information. If students do not learn to function in these skill areas, they struggle to be successful. Our goal was to ensure that new students acclimatise to our analogue and digital environments and emerge well-adjusted and ready to learn.
Our first 2012 addition was to implement a rolling ‘laptop boot camp’ on a fortnightly basis. Every Monday Week A, when their classmates were in PGD [Personal Growth and Development] class, AIS’s newest arrivals would come to us where we would ensure they could do the ‘basics’ with their laptop: access wi-fi, log on to school email, set up OneNote, and so on. While this new system helped us identify new students and get the technical aspects of their new laptop to work, we soon discovered some flaws. Firstly, the amount of time in one lesson was not nearly enough needed to learn the basic organisational and productivity tools for success. Secondly, we discovered that by offering the ‘boot camp’ only once every two weeks, we were at times unable to connect with students soon enough. If they arrived on a Tuesday Week A, by the time we saw them nearly two weeks later, they may have had folders set up incorrectly, with no backup strategy, and had already lost several assignments. Lastly, we felt our sessions were too teacher-directed and we struggled to give the learning an authentic context. New students were arriving alone, often with others from different year levels they did not know, and disconnect was apparent. Learning is social, and our sessions were not. It became clear very quickly that if we truly wanted success for our students, we needed to increase the frequency of our sessions, lengthen the time spent in them, and make them student-driven.
With approval from our Heads of Welfare, we made significant changes to ‘laptop boot camp’ in May:
- Laptop boot camp is now student-directed; new students and their assigned buddies must attend. During the session, buddies lead new students through a check-list of learning points. They are free to ‘teach’ their buddies in whatever way works. Mark Holland and I act as facilitators and guide all students to ensure they are accessing, connecting, and organising digital information appropriately. By putting the learning in the hands of the students, we hope that it ‘sticks’ better and that it is more applicable to each student, as different year levels have different needs, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
- Laptop boot camp is now on every Monday and occurs during both periods 5 and 6. This means that new students and their buddies miss one academic lesson and one PGD or Assembly lesson. While we are cognizant that students need to be in class to learn, we feel that the collective welfare and organisational benefits of a student missing one class per year to help support a buddy far outweigh the loss of academic learning for that particular missed lesson. We also understand that there may be exceptions for scheduled in-class assessments.
- Laptop boot camp is now a required part of a new student’s buddy sheet and is listed as another part of the checklist they receive from the school secretaries and/or their Home Group teacher when they arrive. We hope this means that our sessions will be an appropriate part of our already successful system of supporting new students and their families at AIS.
Of course, we will continue to look at our initiatives critically to see what other aspects can be adjusted to best meet the diverse needs of our students.
We look forward to developing even further as our 1:1 laptop initiative approaches its one year anniversary in July.
And the learning continues!
ICT and Learning Coach, Middle Years (6-10)