On Saturday I attended an ictQatar seminar on open-source software. Headlined by some impressive leaders from Mozilla, Creative Commons and Google, their insights into the volunteering, open-nature of their product development, within  supportive, professional structures, pointed to an open-source philosophy of IT development and progress.
I saw this philosophy in action as we worked with students to set-up their school eportfolios over the past two weeks. Students were openly assisting and working with each other to problem-solve, share ideas, and improvement class understanding. This included working with the teacher in a FlatClassroom approach.
The importance of student involvement if class knowledge and action is to be progressed effectively should not be underestimated. Engagement, responsibility and purposeful adaptability are all elements that have come together in these eportfolio sessions. So too in the teacher development sessions I have attended. A strong digital learning culture can only be built on the strength of student and teacher inter-operability and respect. Open-source is more
 
Larry Cuban, an eminent educationalist, blogs at http://larrycuban.wordpress.com. Well worth following. On 23 Oct his blog entitled High Performing Teachers with Low-Tech Classrooms concluded that "High performing teachers use high-tech and low-tech to engage and reach their students here and abroad. Not either-or. So I end by repeating what has become a cliche but needs to be said again and again: Good teaching is not about access to and use of high-tech machines, it is about teacher knowing their subjects, establishing rapport with students, and prodding and supporting them to learn." My response was as follows "If the objective of school is to pass along closed, test-measurable knowledge then the assessments made here isareokay. If we are in a new world where knowledge is fluid, where the new Bloom’s taxonomy includes creativity at highest point of learning, and where the digital world is an integral part of our futures, then perhaps there is more to education that accepting digital as an optional add-on tool. The problem is we have not solved how this will ultimately play out, and are caught in the unknown. We need to look forward and deeper, not just back to what has arisen from industrial thinking."
 
ePortfolios are a centrepiece of digital learning curriculum development at Qatar Academy. It is not the technology that is driving development, rather the connection between:
  • purpose: eportfolios will be central to student-parent conferencing later in the school year
  • leadership: Head of School is providing, focus, drive and support, thus giving school-wide credibility
  • teacher learning: with awareness and discussion sessions, skill development and teamwork from task development to assessment
  • curriculum credibility: with all subjects providing rich-tasks which in full or part will include publishing to the student eportfolio. The use of International Baccalaureate MYP and Areas of Interaction are being used in conjunction with eportfolio development
  • support: through the physical ThinkLab area and through Technology Integrators who provide in-classroom support
  • student support: through a student support team ('Fanar' or 'Lighthouse') whose skills have been developed to support in-class digital learning
  • assessment: through Digital Learning rubrics (based on IB MYP and 21st century learning criteria) melded with subject rubrics
  • resourcing: through the 1:1 program and technical support structures
  • communication: through Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle) and school email apps (Live@edu)
In order to be successful all these all need to work in unison.
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With the ThinkLab re-configuration completed we are ready for working with teachers and students on digital learning initiatives (including Interactive Whiteboards as shown)

 
With the school year back in full swing ThinkLab is involved in four diverse, yet connected projects. Firstly, the roll-out of the laptops to students across Grades 6 through 9. Our approach is based on maximizing student freedom and responsibility to manage, use and take charge of their digital learning. I was reminded of the famous photo from the early 1970s of Bill Gates working with Paul Allen on a school computer. Connected. Purposeful. Powerful learning. Today all students can have the opportunity Bill Gates had and took on to shape the future. Related to this is the second project: student eportfolios for students to digitally respond to rich learning tasks set by their subject teachers. Third, preparation for the Global Education Conference (
http://www.globaleducationconference.com/) is in full swing with teachers from around the world coming together to advance their involvement and understanding of connected learning. Finally, a school project investigating boys' education includes discussions on books by Michal Thompson (http://www.michaelthompson-phd.com/), Michael Gurian (http://www.michaelgurian.com/) and others.
What is common to all these is the importance of involvement and expertise from teachers as integral community participants. Digital learning requires teachers as the 'human element' to unite past, present and future in partnership with parents (and digital technologies where of use). To leave any one element out of the equation takes away from what can and should be achieved.