We should not be using new tools to deliver old curriculum – the new tools need to have our learners doing things markedly different from when we were in school – not just replacing cursive with comic sans; not using a smart board in the same way you used to use an overhead projector; digital education is not a pdf’d worksheet; you can put perfume, makeup and a dress on a pig but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig.
I have used the past few years to explore some different ways of integrating technology into education and have been able to start predicting the results:
7 years ago we brought laptops and wifi into the K-7 school I was at –
6 years ago we modelled a 1:1 classroom and introduced a device called the iPod touch (my PAC encouraged me to try these)
5 years ago I changed districts and introduced iPod touches into the school as we also tried a short stint of laptops in the classroom
4 years ago we used iPod nanos as part of a plc initiative to explore video assessments
3 years ago I changed schools and introduced the eportfolios I had used for the previous 4 years
2 years ago in my first principalship we did a focus on linking classroom laptops up to projectors in every room in very different configurations depending on the teacher
Last year I changed districts and did a hard push on moving the school mindset from ‘computer lab’ to mobile devices (iPads) in the classrooms (as digital cameras, whiteboards, etc) and around the school.
In every instance, but more so when mobile devices (laptops iPod touches and iPads), a greater sense of community developed – with teachers and students helping each other have greater ownership of their learnings.
Students who would deflect work were taking leadership roles (especially when they learned a technique/shortcut that they could teach others) and everyone learned to focus on the content / everyone’s typing was as neat as the next; and students helped each other do the best work that they could.
I’m not saying that the results could not be duplicated without tech, but I know that the use of technology in the classrooms led to more student successes (written output improved by not having to start a writing piece over when a mistake was made and in some cases tools like dragon speak helped students who previously had no written output) than I had seen before.
My practice has evolved over the years with mistakes made, successes celebrated and a strong belief that the learner (of any age) needs access to a variety of tools that they can be successful with – and even my bias to a certain brand will come second to the needs of those I work with (even if it hurts).
It is becoming more and more apparent to me that it is important to provide the tools that will actually be used by my learning community and not just putting a ‘standard tech setup’ in every room and hoping it changes practice. I now have a ‘sample setup’ that my teachers and students are using and then tweaking to meet their individual needs. It is taking longer than I first thought/hoped but the culture of risk taking and innovative practice that I always hope to promote seems to be taking a life of its own as we use new tech to work with our learning communities in different ways than we have in years past and in ways that we could not if the technology was not available. Transformative learning and teaching.