Thursday, November 20, 2008

Constructing Environments for Success

We have a guiding principle in our family that "each person will contribute to the best of their abilities" to accomplish what needs to get done. It is a small nod to communism in a home that, according to the kids, is run as a dictatorship with mere glimpses of democracy. As head dictators, err I mean parents, we try to give away as many of our responsibilities as we can, as soon as we can. Some may call it lazy parenting but we prefer to think of it as smart resource management.

What does smart resource management look like? Well if you know your colours -- you can sort laundry. If you can walk and have use of your hands -- pick up a few toys. If you can do up your zipper you can probably do up your sisters as well. If you are big enough to have "stuff" then you keep track of it(ok that ones a bit of a stretch but we try). I think you get the picture.

When we decided to design and build our house a few years back this expectation of "each to their own abilities" took on new significance. We figured if we embedded the expectation into the design we would be much more successful in turning those expectations into reality. Some of the ideas that worked are featured below and the ones that didn't ... well I left those out.

Alright I admit, the 3year old vacuuming is a bit of a stretch but it illustrates a point. Designing spaces that support your guiding principle helps to achieve goals.

The opposite can be true as well. When I was at my child's school the other day helping with a VoiceThread project we spent a lot of time trucking back and forth to the computer lab. When I was in school, almost 20 years ago, we had a computer lab so it didn't strike me as out of the ordinary. However later that night on Twitter there was some talk about ICT curriculum that got me curious enough to check out what the ICT curriculum looks like here. I found this statement --

"The ICT curriculum is not intended to be taught as a stand-alone course but rather to be infused within the teaching of other programs of study."

I thought that sounded like a pretty impressive guiding principle. Infusing ICT into all portions of the curriculum -- computers becoming as ubiquitous as paper and pen, textbooks and bulletin boards -- seems like a great idea to me. But wait, we don't have a textbook room or a pen and paper room, why do we still have a computer room? If we expect teachers to seamlessly integrate technology into the other programs of study shouldn't the technology come to the students instead of the other way around?

If we really want to change the way technology is used in our schools we need to change the physical environment. Having a separate computer room while expecting seamless tech integration seems as silly to me as placing all my dishes in upper cupboards when I expect my kids to help set the table. Sure they could get a stool and climb up to the dishes but would it be worth the effort (for me and for them)?

Designing our house in such a way that our kids can easily meet our expectations has not always ensured sucess but it certainly has made it more attainable. As I trudged down to the computer room for the fourth time that morning I realized that the school is not set up to meet the ICT expectations as outlined in the curriculum. As long as there is a stand-alone computer room, it will be difficut not to teach ICT as a stand-alone course. For me it feels like someone put the dishes on the top shelf, and I, for one, don't enjoy climbing up and down the stool.


MrsE said...

Someone suggested to me recently that the school of the future would have kids bringing their own technology with them. No labs, no costly maintenance for schools, each child/family responsible for the upkeep of their own devices. What's your take on this idea?

Tech Mom said...

Parents may be resistant (as many in our school were to the 1to1 laptop project) as they still view computers as time wasters and taking away from a traditional education. It is reminiscent of when graphing calculators were first required in high school. The issues were price and replacing old skills with the technology available. There was huge resistance then but now parents don't even question the need for those devices.
I believe we will get to that same point of acceptance with child/family owned computers coming to school but only when the price drops even further and better network security solutions come to the forefront.
I planned for it to come sometime in my children's k-12 career -- their lockers that you saw in the slideshow have electrical outlets waiting for devices that need to be charged for school the next day! :-)

MrsE said...

Clever Mom! Your kids will be well prepared to meet the future.