Gary Stager & the Close of ILC 08

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Well, I am home and my bags are unpacked.  Before I hit the sheets and rest up for a Friday with the kiddies I thought I would take a moment to write about my final ILC08 session.

To conclude my three days of San Jose-based professional development I attended Gary Stager’s Ten Things to Do with a Laptop: Learning and Powerful Ideas.  Since we’re a 1:1 school and I am still looking for the perfect mix of laptop and traditional instruction I looked forward to this presentation.  Stager’s list has me thinking of a few new projects and undergoing a bit of a mental refocus.  Take a look at his list below.  Its great for gleaning a few ideas.

1. Write a Novel
Laptops can be used to write more than just a 5 paragraph essay.  Students can use these tools to write something more authentic – like a novel.  They will write more and write better.  A perfect example of students writing novels on their own is FanFiction. Last year I actually had a student who this was all she wanted to do when ever used the laptops in class!  Students can also “write” for different media, such as podcasting and video production.  Finally, with a computer and internet access research can consist of much more than just finding the name of the person who discovered an element on the periodic table.

2. Share Your Knowledge
Students can use laptops to share their knowledge through blogs, podcasts, movies, and a multitude of other media.  As Stager pointed out the Internet is changing nature of memory.  What is the value in memorizing something when you can Google it?   Wikipedia is bad only because we allow kids to access and present information quickly without asking for multiple sources.

3. Answer Tough Questions
Laptops can be used to answer tough questions.  What’s causing the economy to crash? As a society what mode of alternative transportation should we choose? Should I eat locally or eat organic?  Stager talked about an interesting project, Who Should I Vote For, based around Iraqi elections.  No matter the question, laptops allow students to access to primary resources and develop their own answers.

4. Make Sense of Data
Whether students are using Google Earth, GIS Software, Inspire Data, Tinkerplots, Fathom, or Mathematica laptops can easily help them interpret data and draw their own conclusions.  Along this theme, I saw an interesting lexical analysis of the Obama/McCain debates via Dan’s blog.

5. Design a Video Game
This one I loved!  For the past few weeks I have been “battling” video games.  The moment kid at our school even thinks he has a spare second he’ll try to play some online game.  I don’t like battling this issue and I have mixed emotions about even having a battle with my digital have-nots.  Where else will they get to experience 21st century teen society?  Stager had an interesting idea.  Let students play games if they design them first.  This way they are not just consuming them.  Software like Microworlds and Scratch (and I am sure others – I am no expert in this area) allows students to do just this.

6. Design a Killer Robot
The schools in my neighborhood are big on this one.  Elementary and middle school students have regular robot competitions using Lego Mindstorms.  At the high school level kids construct them from scratch.  All of these programs are being used to stimulate critical thinking and connect students to a collegiate future at UC Davis.

7. Lose Weight
As soon as number 7 left Stager’s mouth I thought of Burt.  I know he loves his Nike+iPod.  Every time I see his exercise stats update on his blog I feel a little guilty for skipping a bike ride.  At our next site leadership meeting I’m going to see whether or not our student Nike+iPods have arrived.

8. Direct a Blockbuster
Earlier this year I judged the science and health submissions for the California Student Media Festival.  Whether submitted by a kindergarten class or a couple of seniors all of the projects were highly creative and demonstrated students fully engaged in the content.  Stager did mention two rules he felt should be posted in every classroom – Your video should be shorter and your video should be edited at least on more time.  I would agree!  Kids should be taught to respect the audience and explore different genres (plays, scripts, and historical events just to name a few)

9. Compose a Symphony
Using Garageband or Final Note Pad (a new one for me) students can compose a symphony using their laptop.  This doesn’t have to be done just in music class.  It can and should be done in ever subject area.  For example in 8th grade science students could create scores representing the molecular motion in solids, liquids, and gases.

10. Change the World
Just look at the list above.  With every single one of these projects students can change the world and their future with something as simple as a laptop and an Internet connection.

Its growing a bit late, my eyes are glossing over, and Kelly is tempting me with Frontline’s The Choice 2008, so my brain is getting a bit foggy.  However, take a moment to read over Stager’s list of resources from today’s presentation. If you have a set of computers be inspired to something more with your student laptops tomorrow.  I am.

Joe

Photo: Macbook by Swansea Photographer

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