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Good news – The kids picked a project topic. “Smart Desk” – picked in a “secret” vote, near unanimous (1 descent-er easily identified by her ballot) , everyone understands the concept and what they are agreeing to for the topic.

Bad news – They didn’t actually base this on a specific answer to the guiding question – How could we improve the way that [someone] learns …? Usual problem – they agreed to work on a solution without actually figuring out the problem they are solving – Go for the “how” before you know the “what”. This is ok if they work on identifying the What and it matches up with their How.

It is somewhat surprising that they are using the “desk” / furniture / industrial age model of “learning” although to their credit, they are thinking of jazzing it up with units that can reposition into groups with complex magnetic systems. That addresses mobility and collaboration but limits their solution to the confines of a special physical “classroom” space.

Some of the capabilities they mentioned include some AI and user interface specifics – notifying the teacher when the student gets stuck and needs help = hand-raising or call-light like in the technology lab.

They really haven’t formulate a question. But they do have cool ideas that they are very excited about. At this moment, the question they are answering with their Smart Desk – Different way of learning how to ace standardized tests? This is sadly ironic coming from these kids.

At the same time, the school is pushing ahead with the BYOD program with administration encouragement to ramp up inclusion of BYO-based lessons for all grade levels and subjects. The Media Center is acquiring iPad minis to have in kiosks with books and educational games – these are basically chained to the desk so they really can’t be considered “mobile” imho. But this will allow for controlled access and a good pilot environment to determine interest, usage, administration processes, support requirements and, hopefully, some pleasant surprises that will inform longer term initiatives to make school-owned tablets available to compliment the existing fleet of PCs available in labs and carts.

So it will be interesting to follow the project.

  • Do any of the kids have smart phones?
  • Do they have access to either their own or family iPads or tablets?
  • What to they see as uses for these devices?
  • Are any of them in classes where the teachers are on the BYOT committee and/or are specifically including mobile devices in lessons or classroom projects?

When the kids were describing some of their ideas for how the smartdesk would work, there was a lot of interest in having the desk telling you you needed to take a break or eat an apple.

  • Did you do the “what did you learn, where and how” activity suggested in the FLL stuff?

One of the suggested FLL activities has kids think about learning in other settings and formats – learner-directed, informal, outside school, project-based, hands-on, apprentice, … Making the distinction between teaching and learning would be helpful. The fact that they are doing a “desk” rather than a mobile device is a bit surprising – stuck in a traditional model of school, dating from the dawning of the industrial age to train factory workers.

Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization – Bit heavy for the kids, but some of their ideas do fit this model. This is useful just to check that they covered a full range of possibilities.

Nell’s Primer in The Diamond Age shares some of the characteristics that the kids are thinking about. The Diamond Age – like other Ages before it, represents a big shift in thinking and doing (and learning) when technology advances to the point where diamonds can be manufactured. Other mentors were not familiar with the novel by Neal Stephenson that talks about some of these same things – different format, still has other people involved in teaching and learning. Written in 1995 – pre-iPad and smartphones.

It is going to be an interesting journey – they have to have something ready to present by Nov 15.

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