This post is the third and last on a topic involving a change in the way most schools incorporate technology into the curriculum for the benefit of students and teachers alike. The overall idea was spelled out in Piece of the Pie, and suggested changes on the elementary and secondary levels in our approach to technology integration. A more detailed description of the Elementary piece was explored in An Elementary Idea. In this post I would like to offer a suggestion for an approach on the secondary level.
Many of the obstacles to integrating technology into the curriculum as tools for learning are the same on the secondary level as they are on the elementary level. Insofar as teachers needing to seek professional development the problem remains the same. Too often teachers don’t know what it is that they don’t know when it comes to technology in education. It goes beyond just learning tech. It requires a continual commitment to learning with the ability to provide the time to do so. Beyond that commitment, the idea of comfort is always worked into the discussion. Teachers seem to have a need to be comfortable with technology in order to learn or use it. Little of this helps get technology into the classroom. The time restraints and discomfort of some, deny the access of technology in the curriculum for many. Beyond the teachers however, the other obstacle is a lack of support on the part of the district. This is usually a result of lack of money, or understanding, or leadership. Too often it’s a combination of all of those elements.
The plan for the secondary level is as simple as scheduling a study hall. It will require a model very familiar to special education teachers. It is a resource room with access to technology. The teacher in charge of the room may become a jack of all trades and a master of none. It will require the teacher to be a mentor more than a content expert. The teacher’s expertise will be in knowing where to direct kids to go for an exploration of content. The room will require access to technology or at least the ability for students to use their own personal tools to access the internet.
In this scheduled class students may be directed to any number of tutorial sites like the Kahn Academy. This will enable students to explore subjects in ways that may be different from those presented in the regular class. The idea of open source exploration may also slip the bonds of the textbook of the classroom with the guidance of the tech resource teacher. This will be a place of exploration to teach students the ability to explore subjects independently in an effort to develop independent life-long Learners.
This learning environment will also allow students to understand and develop their own Personal Learning Networks. The idea of responsible digital citizenship will be reinforced on a daily basis. Emphasis can be placed on the positive aspects of social media and social learning. The skills of collaboration and communication will be the focus. Students needing to work on projects or presentations will also benefit in this learning environment. The ability to Skype with experts and authors can take place to benefit all in this collaborative environment.
The age of the students should not matter. Freshmen to seniors mixed in one place can all benefit from this mentoring process. The mission of this environment would be to create a mentoring environment with access to technology to supplement, and enhance that which is being taught in the various classes of the students in this environment. This will remove the classroom barriers as students gain independence in learning outside the classroom. The idea would be to make them participatory learners, directing their own learning. There would also be a need to teach and strengthen critical thinking skills in order to improve the ability to acquire accurate and relevant information. These students will be media literate. The benefits of this learning environment hopefully will spill over to the other classes.
That would be my proposal with some of the benefits spelled out. It will meet certain academic and media literacy needs. It will require a change in thinking on the part of some, but it would be fairly simple to implement. It addresses the 21st century skills that we hear and talk so much about. This proposal however, will also probably never go anywhere but this post for two reasons. One, It cannot be measured by a standardized test. Two, it requires people to think and do things differently from the way they are doing things now. Our need to talk, debate and argue endlessly about reform without change will continue. I will however probably feel compelled to continue making suggestions for reform.
Comments are welcomed.