Sunday, August 7, 2016

How Technology is Transforming Teaching and Learning

Technology is everywhere, and at times, it can become overwhelming. Recently, we amended our district policies to allow for a BYOD type of learning environment. After years of archaic bans of mobile and laptop devices, we now welcome it. In fact, we believe that it may have the power to transform the educational environment. The ubiquitous effect technology has on the world around us is finally present in our classrooms.

To jump start this implementation process we did three things, we upgraded our infrastructure, provided the teachers with a  vision of educational technology, and offered professional development of various instructional technologies. In our vision, we drew a picture of technology as an instructional aid, not the main speaker. We offered an instructional design method that centered standards, not a technology tool. Afterward, we provided the teachers with nine tools taught in mini-session by our staff. This was a huge success. Teachers were giving practical applications to solve the technology integration process.

So, with all that being said, how exactly do we believe technology will transform the classroom? What do expect to see, and how does this create authentic high levels of learning? To answer that question, I believe technology has five main effects on the classroom. Bellow I have chronicled each with a description of the uses and effects.

The extension of classroom walls. Today, learning does not have to be contained within the walls of the classroom. Students in today’s classrooms are performing Mystery Skypes with students in other states or countries. Students call each other asking only questions to identify the others location. Google maps and VR (virtual reality) is now transforming how learners visualize content. Using Google Maps, students can perform geographical scavenger hunts while VR classroom experiences allow the student to walk in the shoes of the class content.

Teachers now have the ability to connect with other educators across the country. Teachers of today can find lessons, materials, and assessments from all over the country. Schools enrolled in Google Apps for Education have PLN (professional learning networks) that allow subject or grade level teachers to connect from all over.

Learning is more, not less, collaborative. One key component of effective technology integration is the efficient use of technology to facilitate interaction between students and teacher. Have you ever assigned a group project in which one student did all the work? Or added a rubric that resulted in one grade for the whole group no matter the contributors? Now, in Google Docs students can contribute simultaneously in a single live document. What is best is that the teacher can track student contributions with just the click of a button.
Student-teacher interaction has been transformed as well. Students and educators can collaborate over homework with Google Hangout or Skype. Using Hangout, teachers can have question and answer times either face to face or through written questions.

The role of teacher-student has shifted. I vividly remember the sit and get education I received. Today’s classrooms present a much different picture. Teachers in today’s classrooms have become the facilitator, not the disseminator of knowledge. Years ago when teachers were the barriers of information, this teacher-centered show was the best approach. However, now the internet and other mediums have any bit of information student could ever imagine. The teacher's new job is to facilitate the student exploration through this information by organizing and assessing learning progress.

Personalized learning. Can you remember a day when educators presented the class with the same worksheet for everyone? Then, took that worksheet up at the end of class, only to return it graded for completion two days later. I can, and I was guilty as a teacher. First, we know that students learn differently (auditory, visual, or other). Secondly, we are aware that student learns at different rates (fast, slow, or just not getting it yet). What educational technology allows us to do is provide the learner with multiple ways to uncover the material, and some cases give the student choice and ownership of this learning. As to the second point, learners can now perform a reviewing exercise either individually or collaboratively, and receive instant feedback. In either case, the material can easily be tailored to mold to the learner more efficiently.

The extinction of the textbook. Each year we spend thousands of dollars on used textbooks, some as old as ten years. This dated material is often yesterdays news. Further, if you look at the mission statement of the district, you will notice that we are trying to make tomorrow's citizens with yesterday’s information. Something just does not match. Now, with resources like Ditch that Textbook, by Matt Miller, federally sponsored open resource textbooks, or the use of hyperlinked documents in Google, teachers can now explore content using up-to-date, relevant material. Is the textbooks a thing of the past? You bet they are.

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