It’s the Connections, not the Technology

Jim Moulton icon

This is a sort of follow-up post from Thursday’s TEP Conference here in Western Massachusetts. I wrote the other day about Alan November, and the second keynote was by Jim Moulton, who was one of the planners behind Maine’s 1-1 Laptop Initiative, is a former teacher, and is now is an educational consultant for Apple.

Moulton focused his talk around Maine’s laptop program, and he argued that putting devices in the hands of all middle school students has changed the ecology of the educational system in his state. This doesn’t mean that every element of teaching and learning has been transformed, but Moulton said that putting the tools of creativity in the hands of students, and their teachers, have established collaboration, audience and creativity has key components to many classrooms and libraries in the Maine school system.

While some worried that technology might replace teachers (or the need for good teachers), Moulton argued that it is, in fact, quite the opposite. The technology has opened up even more doors of opportunity for teachers to work with engaged students.

“The (technology) device drives a profound need for human interaction with kids. It’s a return to a Socratic method of teaching,” Moulton explained, and although he did not refer to the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant dichotomy, he is right in debunking the perception that young people “get” technology and know how to use it wisely.

The heart of Moulton’s talk was not about the devices, although he is now an Apple consultant in a state that has bought all Apple products (through a bidding process), but about the networks of connections of people that spring up around the technology, and how powerful those connections can be for teachers and students.

He cited examples that were born from the 1-1 initiative, such as regional technology integrators’  meetings to share best practices, teacher groups coming together to explore and plan curriculum, connections from schools to many other organizations (around science and history), partnerships with universities to support the technology learning and the students themselves. An annual conference at the end of the year brings together more than 1,000 students to share their work around technology with each other.

“We have the technology, but that’s not enough,” Moulton said. “It is about the social networks that spring up and the way we choose to leverage the unbelievable resources in our schools” for student learning and achievement.

In other words, it is not about the device. It is about the learning. He cited a recent ad campaign by Apple that seems to drive this home. (Remember, he is an Apple consultant now). The advertisement’s focus is that when technology becomes invisible, incredible thing are possible. At the risk of sounding like I am endorsing Apple, I wanted to share the ad Moulton referred to. Sure, it is selling the iPad, but the message is interesting.

Peace (in the invisibility cloak),