I have been lucky enough to work on a really killer project with some of my colleagues from the PSU College of Education related to pre-service teachers. Dr. Carla Zembal Saul (ETS Faculty Fellow) worked like mad with her colleagues to create a one laptop per student project here at the University to make sure all of the students in the Elementary and Kindergarten Education (EKED) or Secondary English Education programs have the tools they need to be dialed into the 21st Century Skills that teachers require. From the EDUCATE website:
The requirement is part of a new program, titled Exploring Directions in Ubiquitous Computing and Teacher Education (EDUCATE). Juniors who will enter the Elementary and Kindergarten Education (EKED) or Secondary English Education (SECED ENGL) majors in Fall 2008 will be the first to participate in this program.
What I find particularly interesting about this (in addition to all the laptops being MacBooks) is that the College seems to be really doing this right. They have a director in Orrin Murray who really gets it, there is an intense focus on finding new ways to engage these students in the classroom, and there is support for faculty trying to make it happen. What all this means to me is that these machines are creating new affordances for both the students and the faculty. I see faculty getting what they need in the way of pedagogical support from within the College and from a team like we have in ETS and I see students learning not how to use a computer, but how to use a computer to open doors in their own classrooms. That is a very important distinction in my mind.
Two days ago my Flickr feed exposed me to some pictures from students getting their MacBooks … the photo set tells an amazing story. It is hard to believe that these are pictures from my own campus. So cool.
The last bit to all this that has me very excited is that Carla has a big hand in what is going on in this space and she spent the Summer with ETS as a Faculty Fellow investigating the Penn State Blogs as a powerful portfolio toolset. I know she’s integrating portfolio thinking into her pieces of this and that means we have a whole group of students with the right tools, the right mentorship, and the right affordances to make progress happen.