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.


  1. I love this focus on students publishing. Yes, the devices students have access to are powerful and we need to figure out how to harness that power. I've been thinking a lot about the social media tools they are already using (snapchat, instagram, twitter) and how we can make use of those in the classroom in powerful ways. Critical to all of this though is actually making sure all students have the devices to connect them to these digital tools. And not all students do. (I survey my students every year to see about their access to technology and always have a few who don't have cell phones even--we assume they all have these things but they don't necessarily). Yes, we have lots of chromebooks across the district, but we need to make that move to devices in every student's hands. I can see how I could do so much more with my students every day if I knew that they would all have the tools on them every day. As it is now, I share three class sets of devices with my 17 language arts department colleagues. I can only count on two days a week when I can plan to have devices in students' hands. I would love to hear more about our specific plans to move past this so that we really do have that digital printing press in every student's backpack.

    1. This is Sarah Zerwin at Fairview, by the way. Thanks!

  2. A recent Edutopia article, "Empowering Student Relationships With Media," proposes a shift in taxonomy of media skills as follows:

    Consume --> Curate --> Create --> Critique --> Publish

    One particular line from the article captured my attention:

    "As new technologies have lowered the barriers to creation, so creation moves to a lower position than in Bloom's Taxonomy."

    In this profound shift, creation becomes an everyday expectation, rather than an exception. We teachers must be nimble enough to navigate the ever-changing landscape of digital literacy — and we must be courageous enough to wade into these new territories alongside our students. Our goal is to empower students, not hold them back. We must equip students with the skills, tools, and mindset to be creators and publishers, not merely mindless (and helpless) consumers.


    Reference: Edutopia, "Empowering Student Relationships with Media," 4/28/2015,

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  4. What we are doing at Monarch High with our Bring Your Own Device program--

    Great teachers lessons on the curation page under "more."

  5. Technology is great, but if not used well, it amounts to nothing more than digital poster making. I worry that the focus is on "shiny new coins" instead of thinking critically. Our students use technology all of the time, but their thinking is often no better than if they hadn't used it. Technology doesn't make kids smarter. In fact, I feel like it makes many kids lazier and more distracted. I realize that it's not going away and I am embracing it, but I wish we placed more focus on mindful use of the computer. I believe that in order to counteract the barage of social media and technology, we should be teaching kids more mindfulness, metacognition, and reflection. Our students need to learn how to exist "well" in this chaotic information age. Personally, I believe that the last thing our kids need is to consume more technology. Let's put critical thinking first. I do believe that the two can coexist, but we need to work at it. As far as I have seen, technology has not in any way closed the achievement gap or improved the thinking of any of my students. If you've had a different experience, and can back it up with research or anecdotal evidence, I'd like to hear about it.

  6. Sra V - you raise concerns that we wrestle with every day in education, that is to make learning relevant, rigorous, and accessible for all students. The issues exist regardless of the method of delivery; solutions generate from the collaborative work of classroom teachers, district support, our communities, and industries. Through our own critical thinking and problem solving we develop the mindset of innovating instructional strategies using every tool available - technology, pen & paper, and human interaction. You are spot on - just because I put a shiny new Chromebook in front of a student doesn't mean I can neglect best practices for facilitating learning.
    With regard to closing achievement gaps - I invite you to consider the research from iNACOL, ISTE, Clayton Christensen Institute, and Donnell-Kay foundation and I highly recommend the work of Michael Horn (Blended), Tony Wagner (Creating Innovators), and Travis Allen (iSchool).
    For anecdotal evidence I can offer my experiences in over 20 years of teaching - including Title 1, ELD, TAG, IB, and developing and running the Engineering Academy at Centaurus HS. Our phenomenal results were attained through collaboration, calculated risk-taking, tools that made teacher and student work more efficient, and at the center - people with passion and hunger to change lives. The proof is in graduates from colleges of engineering, law, business, military academies, medical school, & technical schools, and those who chose careers, entrepreneurship, or military service.
    Best wishes for your own journey!

  7. While we believe this is a great idea in the abstract, we agree with what Doc Z says in her post, “Critical to all of this though is actually making sure all students have the devices to connect them to these digital tools. And not all students do.” Those of us who are a part of the BVSD Tech Cohort have access to many tech tools, however a great concern is that this opportunity is not available for all teachers and students at our school. We haven’t received equity funds in 2 years, and now the equity program, which benefited schools like ours, has been dismantled. Our school can not look towards our PTA to help supplement these costs. We raise a fraction of what other schools in the district raise. We are hoping that the district comes up with a new plan to support all schools and students in this one to web initiative in a timely manner. Equal does not mean equitable. - Melissa Oviatt, Steve Ollanik and Jeanette Scotti (Columbine)


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