In 2002, Maine became the first state in the nation to provide laptop computers to all students in grades 7 and 8. Cathedral High School in San Diego is putting iPads in the hands of all students and teachers in fall 2012. The “laptop” program or “laptop for learners” and variations of the theme began in the mid-1990s and continue today. Various researchers have documented their progress. In these programs – whether laptop or netbook or iPad – teachers are using these devices to deliver instruction to students. These are all examples of “Web Enhanced Teaching and Learning.” (In previous posts, I have shared about the continuum from textbook enhanced to online teaching and learning and technology enhanced teaching and learning in an effort to better define “blended teaching and learning“).
I was the Teacher-Librarian at Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis, California in 1996 when the school district established the laptop program first in grade 7 and then, in grade 8. Here is a little history of the program. During that time, the Internet was new (the school had two Internet drops – one in the library and one in the one laptop teacher’s classrooms). Eventually, every classroom was wired and more than 50% of the 1300 students were carrying a laptop computer to school and using it in most of their classes. Teachers developed web pages to post their assignments and weekly calendar so students and parents from home could get their homework in case they missed getting it at school. Inside the classroom, teachers began integrating in websites to deliver the instruction – they would use the Nasa website to teach about space or the Library of Congress website to view U.S. history primary source documents or use resources from the Online Writing Lab out of Purdue University to supplement their English instruction.
The main curriculum used by teachers were the state standards and the textbook – there was a textbook for the core subjects – English, history, science and math. Some teachers would eventually link together many websites to deliver their instruction and utilize these websites as part of their daily in class lessons. Still today (2012), most teachers use the textbook as their base curriculum supplemented with the use of websites and other online tools such as blogs, podcasts and websites. Students in these classrooms, rather than completing assignments on paper, now completed assignments by typing on a word document and sometimes emailed the assignment to the teacher or they would create a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate their learning of the latest math concept. Often, teachers would have students present their PowerPoint presentations on the projector which was now also utilized by the teacher for many of the class lessons. Gone was the overhead projector and the chalkboard, now replaced with digital projectors and white boards.
The teachers in these classrooms utilized technology and the web to enhance their curriculum. Some curriculum was delivered on paper (textbooks) and some curriculum was delivered via websites. Students would some times turn in their work on paper and sometimes in digital form (PowerPoint, blog post, etc.). The majority of this learning was done at school in a face-to-face classroom where students moved from class to class on a fixed schedule in six-period day or sometimes alternated classes every other day on a block schedule (which would allow teachers more concentrated time to teach). I believe that teachers who effectively utilize these tools – the textbook, other print materials, technology and the web – should be called “Web enhanced” teachers. In order to move into the world of “blended learning and teaching” other tools and strategies need to be activated.
Tomorrow: what is it like to be an online teacher?