What, more laptops?

Stephen Downes recently attended the RIMA conference in Quebec where, among other things, he covered Seymour Papert’s presentation on learning environmentalism. It was wide ranging presentation, and here is an interesting statement on laptops in schools:

"Putting laptops in schools, he [Papert] noted, is not tantemount to educational change, but it’s the seed of educational change. It is the act of putting the change in motion. But it couldn’t have come from within. Ask educators what the proper ratio of computers to students is, and you may hear, %:1, 6:1 – but the proper answer is 1:1 – but that is something that can be said only outside the system."

So it’s not about the technology. It’s about planting seeds of change, and as any internal consultant can tell you, change from within is difficult. The kids want change, the parents want change, Governors and Premiers want change, but those in charge of the education system don’t think that radical change is necessary. Neither did the politburo.

4 Responses to “What, more laptops?”

  1. Anonymous

    The link is http://www.downesThe link is http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/website/view.cgi?dbs=Article&key=1079472387&format=full

    Some people within the education system do think change is necessary – indeed I’ve met with a few of those people from the New Brunswick dept. of education while I was over there. I think the issue is that it doesn’t take many risk-averse bureaucrats in an org to stall things (unless the change stays under the radar until it’s too late, which is exactly what the low cost of open source and personal software enables).

    Papert’s advice to clueful teachers was: “Realize that nobody knows exactly what you do with the kids once the classroom’s door is closed. Be subversive.”

    — Seb

  2. Anonymous

    Subversive teachingYou’re right Seb, there are a lot of dedicated and motivated educators in the system, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of them. As my own children go through the school system, I see more and more that one size does not fit all, and that technology is one way to increase the opportunities for learning.

    The success of the online courses offered by the Department in Spanish and other specialty subjects are evidence that there is a demand for enrichment, and that some people are doing something about it. The interesting thing about the Spanish course is that the Premier announced the program without consulting his senior bureaucrats, and then the Department had to make it happen. The course development was a success due to a small group of exceptional people. In this case, change originated from the outside.

    Even if there are guerilla tactics in the trenches, how long can the system continue like this? When the actual teaching culture and official system are not aligned, we get a neurotic environment. Kind of like the unoffical but real economy that existed in parallel with the official Soviet system.

    We live in interesting times.


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