Happy New (School) Year!

Educators get to make new year’s resolutions twice a year, and today saw the beginning of the 2012-13 school year at ACS Cobham with some significant investments in mobile learning.  Apart from the new one-to-one iPad deployments in four grade levels that hitherto have had to watch enviously from the sidelines, we have also equipped every teacher and administrator with new MacBook Pros.  The hope is that this will address several issues at the same time.  Teachers will now take responsibility for their own storage space.  Teachers’ documents will be stored not on the school servers but on their Macs’ hard drives (we have also given all teachers a portable hard drive for back up purposes).  Backing up will, naturally, also be the teachers’ responsibility.  This on its own will help relieve the congestion on the school servers (which spikes in the late afternoon when the boarders hit the dorm and enjoy their chill time by downloading and uploading improbably large amounts of data to and from YouTube and other popular websites). And for the staff members who will still be relying on the servers, the easing constituted by the removal of large numbers of users from the same bandwidth restrictions should make for a far more satisfactory experience.

The move to MacBook Pros (as opposed to the iMacs that once stood in every classroom and pod) might also achieve a subtler shift in perceptions of mobile technology.  Some teachers are leaving their MacBook Pros on their desks and using them in the same way they used their iMacs.  But a few (and I’m going to assume this number will grow – although it’s a little early to tell) are starting to take advantage of the fact that for the first time they have a truly portable workspace – to take home or to transport to another part of the school if someone else needs to use their classroom.  Sure they’re working on the Macs but they’re also playing on them.  Since the MacBook Pro is far more than simply a machine to store grades on some teachers are asking questions about video editing, music composition and stop animation creation.  These are not really the sort of questions that come with ready made answers.  We’re creating a learning community here – with its own informal genius bars cropping up in staff room discussions and troubleshooting sessions.  Today I heard a debate about whether Apple TV will kill the IWB.  There were cogent arguments on both sides (for the record, I happen to think the IWB’s days are probably numbered).

The intention of the move to laptops at ACS was to save the servers from imploding with the weight of traffic, but on today’s evidence there may well be unlooked for benefits to this move too.  My resolution is to explore this new dominance of mobile computing – and to encourage teachers to log their reflections and thoughts as we move forward.

Happy new year, everyone!