Posts Tagged Digital Age Learning
Sustainability is defined as the “capacity to endure” (“Sustainability,” 2013). Most people agree that the natural environment has to be sustained so that we can long-lasting and renewable benefits from its resources. Similarly, we must develop sustainable practices that continue to support digital age learning within the learning environments of today’s schools. When the initial enthusiasm for shiny new technology devices begins to pale, what will help to keep the spark alive?
Digital Age Learning describes the shift from traditional teacher-directed instruction to student-centered learning with the use of technology tools. Those resources may be provided by the school or through a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative. I have observed the transformation of many typical classrooms in my district through the implementation of BYOT supplemented by the school’s technology devices and infrastructure. However, that transformation has to be sustained so that teachers and students don’t revert into the old habits of standardized, rote instruction – mainly characterized by the activities of lecturing, memorizing, and recalling information.
Based on my collaboration with teachers and students throughout my district, here are some practices for sustaining digital age learning.
Build the Learning Community
I’ve written before about the importance of developing learning communities in schools and classrooms, and one hallmark of an effective community is trust. When students and teachers are working with technology devices and applications, there is always the possibility that someone could make a mistake or a poor choice. Yet, I’ve seen classrooms with clear, consistent expectations and an atmosphere of safety and respect that rarely experience issues related to the inappropriate use of technology. When teachers expect the responsible use of technology, they convey that they believe in each student’s ability to accomplish great things.
Utilize Student Expertise
Because students are accustomed to using their own technology tools for consuming content and communicating with their friends, they have already learned how to troubleshoot many technology issues. Of course, not every student has the same level of interest, ability, or expertise with technology, but they can learn to rely on each other for support. The teacher can also begin to depend on the students for technology assistance. This strategy builds empowers students to discover new skills for life-long learning.
Focus on Digital Age Skills
Teachers often become frustrated when they focus their instruction on a particular application or device. In fact, as we implemented BYOT, we quickly realized that we needed to talk more about digital age skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), rather than on technology. As teachers begin to incorporate those skills into their content standards, technology becomes purposeful, meaningful, and relevant.
Encourage the Regular Use of Technology
Having special technology times or days means that technology use occurs outside of the norms of learning. However, when it becomes a normal part of teaching and learning, teachers and students are able to discover new uses for the available technology tools. Then technology serves a legitimate function in the process of learning, and its use becomes an enjoyable, necessary process, rather than a big production or event.
Provide Continuous Professional Learning
Teachers and students need time to “play” with the technology tools, but the real paradigm shift for many teachers is learning how to share control and direction of the learning with the students. It is also helpful if teachers can see digital age learning in action by observing each other trying new strategies, using technology, and facilitating learning experiences for students. This support should be on-going and include opportunities for feedback and reflection.
In addition to the above strategies, the buy in and support of the parents and other stakeholders also ensure the sustainability of digital age learning. Technology hardware, applications, and processes will continue to change over time, whether students are using school-owned or student-owned devices, but the supportive practices that truly leverage change are everlasting.
Sustainability. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainability
As an Instructional Technology Specialist at a Title 1 elementary school, one of my roles is to coach teachers on how to integrate technology into the curriculum. In our current digital age, this is not optional. Classrooms must reform to prepare students to become successful for careers of the future. We are already 13 years into the 21st Century!
So how do we get all teachers on board? The first step is to build community within the school and within each classroom. This is the foundation to getting any program to work – especially something as new as Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). Everyone should be comfortable learning as they go, and knowing that mistakes are okay, as long as knowledge is gained from them!
The next step is to focus on instruction – technology should always come later! Providing professional development on higher order thinking, project and inquiry based learning, differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, driving questions, different levels of technology use, the 4 C’s of digital age learning, etc… is the most important step to ensuring that technology integration is being utilized to enhance instruction and take kids to places they’ve never been before! After educators have solid instructional skills, technology integration will truly be effective.
Providing professional development opportunities for teachers such as using the latest tech tools, doing walk throughs into other classrooms to see BYOT in action, and having people walk through their rooms and provide feedback are essential! Having administration, other teachers, and instructional technology specialists walk through classrooms and give honest feedback and suggestions has been a huge catalyst for change! Let teachers know it is okay to learn from the students. Encourage the students to show what their devices can do, while the teacher focuses on the curriculum. Teachers who focus on the devices and feel like they must know how to use it before allowing it into the classroom will always be swimming upstream. Devices and software change constantly. Teachers must accept that and let that fear go. Educators will be amazed to see how much easier t eaching becomes when control shifts and students are allowed to have choice to be the experts of their own devices.
Technology in the classroom is one of the fastest growing movements that have ever occurred in education. When it is utilized appropriately, children are truly becoming prepared for the real world, and isn’t that the purpose of school? The BYOT train is only going to go faster, so it’s time to jump on, or risk being stuck behind while everyone else has reached new places!