First off, a sincere thank you to Tony Baldasaro (@baldy7) for helping to explain so eloquently the important educational contrast of "tools and gadgets". As a school Technology Coordinator, the assumption is that I should be swimming neck-deep in instructional gadgets. But allow me a few minutes to expose my inner technology minimalist to you. I have learned through my PLN, when speaking in terms of learning, the size and health of your digital footprint is significantly more important than the size and health of your carbon footprint. Although I contend that both should be measured and monitored. Here comes the elaboration.
- The Minimalist Office - In my office at school, I have an office phone and a district issued HP 3115 Netbook. There are no printers, scanners, or additional peripherals of any sort, and frankly, my life would improve without the office phone! I also have my personal iPhone and iPad with me at all times. Oh yea, I have to point out this tiny bit of detail, I have rock-solid, fast as lightning, wireless Internet connectivity in my office. I also have the ability to access the Internet in, wait for it... an unrestricted & unfiltered mode. (oohs and aahs, please) If you saw Adam Bellow's closing keynote at ISTE 2013, then you have already heard a very compelling message about the importance of "access" and "connections". Why are connections so critical to learning and creating positive change in our world? If you haven't seen this message, it is certainly worth 40 minutes of your time. You can keep your expensive, outdated textbooks, and keep your computer RAIDs too, just give me a fat pipe and a redundancy ring (street talk for lots of bandwidth and ubiquitous Internet access). With the ability to connect, I feel our drive and ability to learn practically anything will be completely supported.
- The Minimalist Summer - Our district is going 1:1 with iPads. The merits of this device as the "ultimate learning tool" can be discussed and debated until the cows come home (usually late afternoon). Putting that aside for now, all of our teachers and administrators recently received iPads, and all 14,000 of our students will be getting iPads within the next thirteen months. My inner tech minimalist wants to know - Is this the only device we will need for our learning? My action research project is based along the BYOD premise that my iPad, along with my iPhone, are the only pieces of connected technology that I will need and use this entire summer break. Impossible, you say?!? When you consider that 90% of my iDevice usage consists of GoogleApps (Search, Gmail, Drive, G+, Blogger, YouTube, Sites, etc.), Twitter, iBooks, and Schoology, and the remaining 10% is gaming, digital photography / video, it's plain to see that we are not talking about a dramatic shift in practice. Is the iPad a computer? Heck no, but it is a slick, sexy, connecting tool that creates seemingly endless opportunities for anytime / anywhere learning. The magic is in the ability for learners to connect. Minimize the tech, maximize the connecting. Also, a bit more truth here, I am using a bluetooth keyboard and a bluetooth headset to add functionality to my tablet. My battered, old fingers on a touch screen - seriously?!?
- Half way through summer, and I am pleased to report that the experiment is going fairly well. My iPad is the only device that I took to the ISTE-2013 conference, and it will be the only device that I will bring on our family vacations. It is the only device I am using at home. Other than district specific programs, it is the only device I am using at work. Sure, there are occasional challenges, like when Google stuff does not play well in iOS, or when I need to save or move an unrecognized media file, but I find "work-arounds", and I find apps to help plug the gaps (Notability, Explain Everything, Prezi, Ever Note). On the rare occasions that I don't have a wi-fi signal, I turn things over to my provider's 4G network. Yes, I am connected 24-7-365, and it feels great! And a bonus, I have also been able to eliminate my use of paper almost entirely.