Monday, May 18, 2015

Moving Toward a Printing Press in Every Backpack

Giving students access to technology is an essential part of my job. When I began in BVSD in 2010, we were a district of mostly Windows desktops, and not enough of them to go around. I’ve worked diligently to bring more devices into the district, starting with opening the door to Apple devices and continuing with Chromebooks (8,500 and counting), and now Android tablets. Through the 1:Web pilot, BVSD IT has provided take home digital devices to hundreds more.

But as I’ve spent time with teachers and students, principals and parents, I’ve come to understand the greater impact that these devices are having on society as a whole and on education in particular. We are living through a time when how people connect with ideas and with each other is fundamentally changing. 

And it all started with the printing press.

That’s right, fans of inventor Johannes Gutenberg, it all began in 1450, the year of the first printing press. The thing that made it so special—so revolutionary in the truest sense of the word—was that it was a tool for publishing new ideas quickly and in quantity. (We may not think of it as fast now, but consider the time it takes to painstakingly copy a book by hand.) New ideas were shared and new voices heard that were once silent. Publishing flooded the world with new knowledge.

And now it’s happening again. Except this time the printing press is the device you carry in your pocket, your purse, or your backpack. These mobile devices aren’t just the new pencil: they aren’t just tools for capturing ideas, they’re tools for releasing those ideas into the world. Now there is nothing between the ideas you have and the audience you want to reach. 

Everyone is a publisher.

So what does that have to do with education? What does it change when you realize that a student can publish a blog about the writing process instead of writing yet another report? What if a class can publish the results of their microclimate study, and somewhere across the country a climate scientist reads it? I think it changes everything. When a student can create something with words or music or video and then shares their creation in an authentic way, it makes their learning more meaningful. Some of those creations will change the world.

This fundamental shift in education is not some abstract concept in the distant future; it is happening right now in our district. I see it when I visit classrooms and talk with students, teachers, and principals. Here are some BVSD student products across all grade levels and content areas that demonstrate the power of publishing. Our Ed Tech team also supports student publishing--check out their blog post, Don't Turn It In, Publish It.

You’ve probably heard it said, “It’s not about the tools, it’s about the learning.” Now, looking at these examples and reflecting on what I’ve seen in BVSD classrooms, I truly understand what that means. When every device is a printing press, every student is a publisher with the power to share their ideas with the world.

Chime in below with your thoughts about student publishing.