Educators are often overwhelmed or saturated with educational tools that are presented as learning systems that will positively impact the learning the students in the classroom. Solutions focusing on differentiation, scaffolding, and increasing test scores are used to gain entrance into the classroom by the companies and organizations that provide educational technology systems. In EDTC 6102 within the graduate cohort of Digital Education Leadership, we are evaluating these systems.
Our young scholars are capable of building on the advanced technical understandings that their day to day life creates through experiences outside of the classroom. In reference to ISTE Standard 1.d, educators are now teaching a different literacy skills set. As teachers prepare our learners for careers and life in the 21st century, educators should facilitate content learning for the changing world by preparing students with regular opportunities to transfer knowledge to new technologies.
How do we as educators provide opportunity and freedom for our learners to take what they know about current technologies used in and outside of the classroom to support the transfer the prior knowledge into learning about emerging technologies if the teachers are uncomfortable or feel lack of support to facilitate learning?
The Edspark Learning consulting organization offers a free download of a IPad Initiative Learning Toolkit to support integrating iPads into classrooms that creatively addresses many of the concerns teachers share about utilizing educational technology systems in the classroom. This tool is robust and flexible enough to use with different technology devices and systems to support the 21st century learning in our classrooms.
“Literacy,” the prime mission associated with schools, is changing as well. Literacy no longer is just book learning. People learn and communicate through all the electronic media. Adding a “patina of computer literacy” is not enough(Emerging Technologies for Education. Peabody Journal of Education, Mechlenburger, pp 185). If we are going to facilitate learning with intent in mind we must have a clear understanding of how we will use each system while anticipating the issues that will arise in our classrooms. The Edspark 5-step system presents solutions for whole school integration as presented in the free download.
As we facilitate students in the utilization of new technologies, teachers can use steps 1-3 to plan for classroom instruction, while building leadership can focus on steps 4-5. For purposes of connecting to the instructional needs of ITSE Standard 1.D, I will focus on Steps 1-3.
Step 1: As educators use Step 1, they are able to evaluate the current technology system tool they are interested in using with the SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis tool. This provides freedom for facilitators to think about how students will use the technology to grow in skill sets like critical thinking and course specific content through the technology.
Step 2: Instructional planning is the foundation for the outcome we expect from each learning opportunity. Teachers can focus on the instructional focus and intentionally identify the teaching practice(s) they will use to support school, classroom, and student learning goals. Educators should intentionally plan for the learning with the intended student outcomes in mind. An example of this is linking the instructional purpose in the image below to the teaching practice highlighted in the desired content standard or learning goal for the student. This supports purposeful facilitation of rigorous learning opportunities for all learners to engage with content in ways that will support their growth outside of my classroom. Using robust technology systems can provide learners with flexible content learning that is standard focused. At Step 2 of the project planning, teachers can intentionally check their own planning to ensure the technology is being used to support scholars in application of big ideas instead of everyday task completion and compliance. Using the SMART Goal System is a effective way to plan for the learning and anticipate any possible areas of trouble.
Step 3: While working with students in the classroom I found classroom setup to be an important factor to plan for. This allowed me the intentionally give the freedom of discovery to my students while ensuring that my facilitation is working with the instructional end goal in mind.
Experience has taught me that when I do not plan for the physical space my students will learn in, the majority of the learning stops because my students do not feel set-up for success. It is human nature to first feel concerned about the How and What of learning instead of evaluating the Why behind the application. Do I need my students to sit in groups or will they be using devices in a 1:1 setting? Will they be collaborating face-to- face, or strictly in the online area? When I utilize my space with the instructional goals in mind, my students are able to understand the expectations and get to the heart of the lesson with personal ownership.
Bill Gates stated “Technology is just a tool in terms of getting the kids working together, and motivating the teacher is the most important”. The ESpark Ipad Initiative Planning Toolkit is flexible enough to support technology integration of different technology systems by planning for instructional needs and logistics. When teachers are empowered and set up for success they will enter the classroom with excitement that is contagious. Our students are hungry for learning that will support them as 21st century global digital citizens. It is our duty to create opportunities that will support our scholars for their world that is rapidly changing.