A new blog in town – 1:1 Schools

There’s a new blog in town about 1:1 schools, aptly named the 1:1 Schools blog. Scott McLeod of Iowa State University is the organizer of a group of authors who blog about issues, resources, and the special needs of 1:1 schools. I’m happy to be on the team!

Many of our GenYES and TechYES schools are laptop schools. The philosophy of putting the power into student hands with a laptop fits nicely with empowering students to improve education school-wide!

So naturally, my first post for the 1:1 Schools Blog is about student support of laptop programs. Not just tech support, but support for planning, implementation, and teachers. How can students do this? Do students do this? Yes they can and do in schools around the world!

In most schools, students are over 92% of the people in the system, and they are certainly the ones most affected by any change. Yet we often overlook them when we plan and implement visionary efforts like going 1:1. This does not have to be – students, if allowed to participate, can be powerful allies and evangelists for your laptop revolution.

Read the rest of Students – your best allies and evangelists for your 1:1 program at the 1:1 Schools Blog.

Sylvia

Relevant research: Combining service-learning and technology fosters positive youth development

In an ongoing effort to promote youth empowerment in education, we’d like to offer this research synopsis. This one pulls together several of our favorite subjects: youth development, project-based learning, and technology.

Best Practices for Integrating Technology and Service-Learning in a Youth Development Program by JoAnn R. Coe-Regan, PhD and Julie O’Donnell, PhD, MSW.

Community-based programs that are meant to promote youth development have been around for quite awhile. Numerous studies indicate that youths benefit from these programs in many ways: a more positive self-image, a reduction in risk taking behavior, improved school behavior, etc. Because research illustrates the success of after-school programs, federal funding has increased from $40 million to $1 billion in recent years. A ubiquitous and recurring challenge these programs face is how to recruit and retain teens despite the potential barriers of boredom, family responsibilities, and spending social time with their friends.

In 2006 the YMCA Youth Institute of Long Beach, California developed a service-learning program to help overcome these barriers which “…uses technology as an integral mechanism for promoting positive youth development and enhancing the academic success and career readiness of low-income, culturally-diverse high school students.” (Coe-Regan & O’Donnell, 2006)

The YMCA Youth Institute research is unique in the fact that it focuses on the mutually supportive benefits of technology and service-learning. It also supports the idea that effective technology learning is more than skill acquisition, but is built into collaborative, authentic projects.

Overall, the study found that service-learning which emphasizes technology not only increases positive youth development, it also retains and sustains the service-learning program. Participants were particularly attracted to learning new technology skills and saw this as increasing the likelihood of being successful in life.

The participants spent the entire year working in teams to develop projects including digital storytelling, graphic design, 3D animation, and how to troubleshoot and use computer networks. Additionally, curriculum was developed to link the project content to school content standards.

Coe-Regan and O’Donnell identified five best practices to implementing a service-learning program that emphasizes technology to enhance positive youth development.

  1. Focus on under-served youth. The study found that ‘nesting’ such programs in low-income, diverse communities helped youth connect with a wide range of other cultures as well as helping reduce the ‘digital divide’ that many youths must overcome to be competitive in the 21st Century job market.
  2. Use collaborative, project-based techniques to teach technology. The study found that using projects to teach technology not only increased interest, but participants also gained better planning and problem-solving skills than traditional, specific skill acquisition. Youth also gained more confidence by learning from ‘trial and error’ and from working in teams to develop ‘real world’ solutions to problems as they arose.
  3. Emphasize the usefulness of technology skills in the workplace/higher education. It was found that many youths are well aware of the expectations teachers and employers have in regards to technology competency. Therefore, participants had an authentic desire to learn about new technology. It was found that the program retention increased due to the youth’s determination to succeed in college and the marketplace by developing their 21st century skills.
  4. Stress the importance of service to the community. The study found that 90% of participants found their service learning experience to be positive. Many of the youths continued their service learning beyond the program by participating in internships, volunteering, or helping teachers in their school with technology.
  5. Focus on personal growth and development. “The data suggested that this technology program appeared to have the ability to do more than simply influence technology outcomes. Many participants mentioned the technology skills when asked about the overall general knowledge and skills, but the majority of participants talked about other things they learned about themselves and life skills that went beyond technology skills and knowledge. These included: developing leadership skills, making friends, getting along with others, speaking in front of others and voicing their opinions, balancing life and gaining the motivation to continue with their career goals.” (Coe-Regan & O’Donnell, 2006).

Overall, the study found that service-learning which emphasizes technology not only increases positive youth development, it also retains and sustains the service-learning program. Participants were particularly attracted to learning new technology skills and saw this as increasing the likelihood of being successful in life.

Reference: Coe-Regan, JoAnn R, & O’Donnell, Julie. (2006). Best Practices for Integrating Technology and Service Learning in a Youth Development Program. Journal of Evidenced-Based Social Work, 3, 210-220. Retrieved from EBSCO Host Database.

(This synopsis was written by Steven Hicks, Generation YES grants and special projects coordinator.)

Accept the Challenge to Learn and Serve

The National Service-Learning Partnership has announced a challenge to those interested in service learning. October 5-11, 2009 will be a week of special events and community outreach that will raise awareness and build support for service-learning across the United States.

Students involved in GenYES and TechYES programs across the country and around the world are providing service to their schools and communities, and this is a great way to show students that they are part of a growing movement of citizens stepping up and working for change.

Accept the 2009 Challenge here!

See what others did during the 2008 Challenge


Through the Challenge, you can:

  • Spotlight the value of service-learning to young people, schools, and communities.
  • Encourage others to launch service-learning activities
  • Build support for service-learning among decision-makers
  • Increase recognition of Learn and Serve America, the only federal program dedicated to service-learning

Happy challenging!

Sylvia

Students Reap Academic Gains from Community Service

Rural Students Reap Academic Gains from Community Service | Edutopia.

Yes, I know the title of the Edutopia article says RURAL students reap academic gains from community service, but really, there’s nothing here in this article that wouldn’t apply to any student service, rural, urban, or suburban.

The service learning examples in this article are terrific, and there is a nice video accompanying it. In this district, academic scores are up, attendance up, and all kinds of other good schooly information is connected to the service learning.

But really, it all comes home for me when the students articulate what service and learning mean to them.

James (not his real name), a student who received many Fs his freshman year and who was a chronic truant until he moved to the Fowler district, surveys his shed with pride. “We accomplished something for the little kids,” he says. James, who is graduating from Casa Blanca, attributes much of his success to service learning. “Every day, this is what I love coming to school for — doing projects and building stuff for the community,” he explains.

James also points out that it’s more critical to do work right the first time on a construction project than on a math worksheet, where he can easily rework mistakes. “If you mess up on the real project, you can’t just erase it. You’ve got to buy more wood. It’s not cool.”

James is pointing out something that should be such a obvious principle of education, but often gets lost in the achievement/assessment/accountability shell game: Learning only matters if it matters to the learner. Achievement can be measured in pride, not wasting wood, and helping little kids–not filling out worksheets. The only reason anyone would be surprised that a “chronic truant” cares about his work or about little kids is that we rarely ask students to demonstrate their human capacity for caring for others while in school.

Hope everyone reads this terrific article and congratulations to the profiled school district in Fowler, California!

Sylvia

Free ebook – Engaging the Whole Child

Update – this offer is now expired. You can still get the e-book for $9.95 (or $7.95 if you are an ASCD member) using the link below. Still a pretty good deal if you ask me!

Last November, our Working with Tech-Savvy Kids article appeared in the ASCD magazine Educational Leadership. The good news is that Ed Leadership is one of the best magazines around for thoughtful articles about education. The bad news is that these articles are not freely available on the website.

But now, ASCD is offering ebooks with article collections with a short period of free access.

Better yet, I was very pleased to find out that Working with Tech Savvy Kids was selected for inclusion in a new ASCD ebook entitled Engaging the Whole Child, the first in a series of Whole Child ebooks. Educating the Whole Child ebook – free download link (valid April 15 – May 6, 2009)

As part of ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, ASCD wanted to share with a larger audience—including preK–12 educators, policymakers, and parents—some of the fine articles on the topic of engagement that were originally published in Educational Leadership in 2006–2008. From April 15 through May 6, 2009, readers will be able to access these articles through a free ebook download. After May 6, sample chapters will be posted on the ASCD Web site and the complete book will be available through the online store for a small fee.

Educating the Whole Child ebook – free download link (valid April 15 – May 6, 2009)

Don’t miss the window to download the ebook for free! Please share this link with friends and colleagues.

Sylvia

Update: Thanks to all the commentors who helped debug the link errors. They seem to be working now. The basic problem was pilot error, compounded by the fact that this is a LARGE download (366 page PDF) and the ASCD site seems to be very busy. Enjoy!

Successful, sustainable strategies for technology integration and tech support in a tough economy

This weekend I’ll be in San Diego as an invited speaker at the National School Board Association (NSBA) conference. I’m not sure I realized how relevant it would be when I proposed Successful, Sustainable Strategies for Technology Integration and Tech Support in a Tough Economy as my topic last year.

I’ll be focusing on 5 strategies that create strong local communities of practice around the use of technology. All of these strategies include students as part of the solution. They are:

  • Technology literacy for all – Creating an expectation that modern technology will be used for academics, schoolwork, communication, community outreach, and teaching. A key success factor is teaching students how to support their peers as mentors and leaders.
  • Student tech teams – The 21st century version of the old A/V club, this strategy expands the definition of tech support from fixing broken things to also include just-in-time support of teachers as they use new technology. This digital generation is ready, willing and able to help improve education, we just need to show them how.
  • Professional development 24/7 – The old idea that teachers would go off to one workshop or a conference and immediately start using technology has been proven wrong. Truly integrated technology use requires a bigger change than that, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Teachers require more support in their classrooms that they can count on when they need it. Students can help provide teachers with this constancy and supportive community.
  • Students as stakeholders – Whenever schools initiate new technology programs, there is typically a call for all stakeholders to be included. Parents, teachers, staff, board members, and members of the community are invited to participate — but rarely students. Even though students are 92% of the population at the school, and are 100% of the reason for wanting to improve education, their voice goes unheard. Students can bring passion and point-of-view to the planning and implementation of major technology initiatives. They can be allies and agents of change, rather than passive objects to be changed.
  • Students as resource developers – Students can help develop the resources every teacher and student needs to use technology successfully. These resources can be help guides, posters, instructional videos, school websites, or teacher home pages. Students of all types can use their talents to build customized resources for their own school. Artists, actors, and techies can contribute to this process.

Building a self-sufficient community of technology users means that whenever possible, you build home-grown expertise and local problem-solving capability. This is the high-tech equivalent of a victory garden, only with teachers and students all growing their own capabilities with each other’s help.

In this tough economy, no one can afford to ignore the potential students have to help adults solve the problems of technology integration and support. Students are there, they just need adults to teach them how to help, and then allow them to help.

And after all, aren’t these the 21st century skills everyone talks about? Like solving real problems, learning how to learn, collaboration, and communication? How real is the problem of technology integration, and how foolish of us to overlook students as part of the solution, especially when the reciprocal benefits to the students are so great.

Sylvia

PS – For a look at how these strategies can be applied in laptop schools, download my new whitepaper – Student Support of Laptop Programs. (16 page PDF)

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Student Support of Laptop Programs

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I’m happy to announce a new resource for laptop schools – or schools planning a laptop implementation. Student Support of Laptop Programs (PDF) covers all aspects of creating a highly effective student support team for your laptop program. Research, planning tips, case studies, and practical suggestions are packed into 16 pages.

  • Student tech support teams in a laptop school
  • Student support for teachers and students using laptops in classrooms
  • How (and why) to include students on planning committees
  • Students as trainers and mentors for new users
  • How students can make a laptop rollout go smoother
  • How to train and sustain a student technology team in support of laptops

This is a great resource to share with your laptop implementation team. I hope you enjoy it and share it widely!

A special thank you to the fabulous teachers who shared stories about their wonderful students:

  • Ann Powers at Tongue River Middle School – Ranchester, WY
  • Debbie Kosvedy at Shadow Mountain HS – Paradise Valley, AZ
  • Steve Spaeth at Mt. Ararat Middle School – Topsham, ME
  • Don Kinslow at Parkview Elementary – Chico, CA
  • Cherilyn Ziemer at Northland Christian School – Houston, TX

Sylvia

Games that encourage student teamwork and collaboration

Freechild Article | “Why Play Games…” By Adam Fletcher.

Here’s another fabulous article and set of resources from Adam Fletcher of The Freechild Project. The article is about playing games with students and youth groups to encourage teamwork, model constructive, collaborative behavior, and develop a shared sense of mission.

Games can be a catalyst that brings both cohesion and energy to any group, and a welcome addition to a teacher’s “bag of tricks”. Two categories of games are especially helpful in setting a tone of collaboration and teamwork for students.

Cooperative games emphasize participation, challenge, and fun, rather than sorting out winners and losers. These kinds of games teach teamwork, empathy, and trust.

Initiative games have players attack a problem and solve it. They teach leadership, problem solving, and collaboration.

“Why Play Games…” is more than just a list of games. It includes practical information about how to choose them, how to introduce them, how to create reflective activities that further magnify the impact of the game itself, and tons of additional resources.

Teachers who lead student tech clubs know that the success of the group depends on much more than tech skills. Teamwork and a sense of mission result in the “we” being more than the “me” and can take a student tech team to the next level.

This isn’t just for student clubs either. If you want students to unlearn the competitive habits that have been drilled into them and work cooperatively, these games will work in classroom situations too. Collaboration and communication may be “21st century skills” but having students play them out in game situations is a timeless idea.

Give this short article a read and I guarantee you will learn one new thing today! “Why Play Games…” By Adam Fletcher

Selected additional resources (there’s a lot more if you click on the article link):

  • Brand-new (and free) guide, The Freechild Project Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change by A. Fletcher with K. Kunst. “This insightful new guide will help community workers, teachers, activists, and all kinds of people find fun, engaging, and powerful activities that promote teamwork, communication, and social justice.Click here for a free download.

Research supporting service-learning

Yesterday I blogged about a crisis (or opportunity) for service-learning in schools.

This is based on a new report Community Service and Service-Learning in America’s Schools by the Corporation for National & Community Service.

In a nutshell, the report confirms a decade long decline in more formal, curriculum based service-learning. However, it also shows a recent slight upward trend in school support for youth doing community service work.

But here’s why the decline in service-learning is worrisome. From the report’s summary:

Research confirms that service-learning is a strong vehicle for enhancing and deepening the learning experience to improve both civic and academic behaviors. Service-learning can also diminish “risky behavior” and behavioral problems at school and help students develop social confidence and skills. While community service also has positive impacts on students, service-learning offers a much more substantial service experience through structured activities that give youth leadership roles and connect the activities to reflection and learning.

“Schools across America have rallied around community service and they are to be applauded,” said Dr. Robert Grimm, the Corporation’s Director of Research and Policy. “But research shows that service-learning offers more meaningful service opportunities for students and has numerous impacts on both students’ civic and academic success. Service helps learning come alive. It is time to put learning back into service.”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • The majority of school districts do not provide service-learning policies, according to school principals. Only 19 percent of school principals report that their districts have a policy that promotes service-learning, and 28 percent of principals do not know whether their district has such a policy.
  • Elementary schools are the least likely to offer service-learning activities. 20 percent of elementary schools have service-learning programs, compared to a quarter of middle schools and over a third (35%) of high schools. Furthermore, over half (51%) of elementary school principals believe their students are too young to engage in service-learning.
  • The class gap in service learning is decreasing but still exists. Schools in low-income areas are significantly less likely to have service-learning activities than other schools. In 1999, schools in low-income areas were 36 percent less likely to have service-learning activities; in 2008 they were only 26 percent less likely to offer service-learning. Still, only 20 percent of schools in low-income areas currently offer service-learning activities compared to 27 percent of schools that are not in low-income areas.

More research from Learn & Serve America on the Impact of Service-Learning:
Research studies of service-learning, an educational method that intentionally connects community service to classroom learning, demonstrate that service-learning programs can have positive impacts on youth in three general areas: academic engagement and achievement; civic attitudes and behaviors; and social and personal skills. The studies also demonstrate that students gain the maximum benefit when their service-learning experience includes a direct tie to the curriculum, planning and design of service projects by students, structured reflection on the service experience in the classroom, and continuity of service for at least one semester. This issue brief offers some of the most compelling evidence to date on how service-learning positively affects youth. Issue Brief on “The Impact of Service-Learning: A Review of Current Research” (PDF)

Sylvia

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