Lausanne Laptop Institute – Part 2 – The Keynote – Jeff Utecht

I went to the Lausanne Laptop Institute with expectations.

Those expectations were met.

The keynote address on Monday morning was given by Jeff Utecht, a dynamic presenter and teacher who immediately piqued my interest when he said,

“We live in an always-on world…It’s not just the kids…Societal pressures expect us all (emphasis mine), not just kids, to be connected.”

Yeah. Great. Not that I mind being connected. I’m on Twitter. I’ve had a blog for a number of years. (I’m not on Facebook; I refuse.) But to be EXPECTED to be connected? I was a bit uncomfortable with that at first, because I value my privacy. But interestingly, Jeff Whipple, another dynamic presenter from the conference (and I’ll talk about what I learned from him in a subsequent post), stated (this is a paraphrase, but a good one, ‘cuz I was typing fast in Evernote),

“In this day and age we’re expected to have a web presence… Employers (for example) are looking for information for you on the web. So if that’s the case, why not manage your own brand?”

So, that was eye-opening for me. Again, I’ll talk about this in another post, but the fact that there is stuff about me on the internet (have you Googled your own name yet to see what’s out there about you? You might be surprised if you’ve never done it before.), and that I can manage what’s out there, instead of Google create a brand for me, is very powerful. So many implications for our students!

But I’m getting off track.

Here’s a question Jeff Utecht posed to the audience:

“What are we doing at school to ensure that our school expectations are in line with societal expectations?”

And that’s where 1:1 comes in. We are expected to teach 21st century skills. Yet how do we manage that in our classrooms? Jeff admitted:

“The biggest problem with laptops in the classroom…there used to be a clear line between work life and personal/social life. With the connection, the line has been blurred. We’re constantly working and being social – at the same time.”

And (once again, a good paraphrase)…

“In our schools, we’re trying to cut kids off from the society we see everyday. If we’re trying to break the connection, we’re not preparing them for the world that awaits them… They should be allowed to check Facebook on school time. Learning to monitor your time is a needed skill.”

Personally, I didn’t appreciate the sentiment that they should be allowed to check Facebook on school time. I think he should’ve said that they should be allowed to check Facebook outside of class. “On school time” is just too broad. But what he did say that made sense was,

“You can’t compete with the connection.”

So what do we do with these laptops in our classrooms? If we can’t compete with the connection, how do we keep our students engaged? How do we keep them from goofing off and playing games and doing everything else but being with us in the classroom?

One of the very interesting things that we’ve heard as educators recently is that with the internet, we don’t have to teach all the content anymore. So one alternative Jeff provided was for teachers to “Close the Circle.” The steps:

  1. Students generate content. Provide the subject matter, and have the students find information on that topic (once we teach students how to do good searches). He gave, “What do we know about existentialism” as an example. Half the students wrote blog posts about the topic from their internet research, and half the students commented on the blog posts. This provided the opportunity for all students to learn about the topic and do reflect on the topic – BEFORE THEY CAME TO CLASS.
  2. At the next class period, the students who commented on the blog posts sat in an inner circle, while the students who generated the blog posts sat on the outside of the circle (a circle in a circle).
  3. The teacher, then, facilitated the discussion about existentialism based upon the blog posts and the comments the students generated.

I just found a link to this technique on Jeff’s site here:

I like this idea, and will be implementing it in my classes this year.

So given the challenges and possibilities as a result of our increasingly connected world, and the challenges and possibilities of going 1:1, what are we going to do in our classrooms to ensure that our students learn skills related to internet use, personal web branding, and just learning in general? How will we intentionally help our students learn the content while ensuring that they remain engaged in our classrooms?

Look for more of my reflections from Lausanne soon!

(This post cross-posted at A Teacher Seeking Understanding…Every Day)

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About Kay F. Solomon

Kay is a teacher of Biblical studies who is interesting in learning how to keep her students engaged in innovative and productive ways. She sometimes gets it wrong. But she keeps on learning.
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