Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Connected Learning

As our school district has prepared for the launch of our 1:1 computer initiative, the focus has been on the device students would be using. Consider how we referenced the project: "The Hudson 1:1 Initiative". The name in and of itself implies that the device was the most important variable in this equation. During this last year, I believe that our focus on the device [was in fact] appropriate. There were numerous logistical hurdles that needed to be overcome and professional training that had to be provided for our staff. Since last January, we have been focused on the device and rightly so--it is a tremendous investment in resources. Our professional learning continues as teachers implement this technology into the classroom. But now our shift has focused. It is no longer about the device, but what our students and teachers are able to do with the device. For those of us who grew up learning in a more traditional model of education, we were probably used to going to school and having instruction delivered by a teacher at the front of the classroom with the desks in neat rows. The teacher was considered the sole provider and, expert (or master if you will) of the content.

That is no longer the case. Instead of a model that requires teachers to be at the front of the classroom imparting wisdom, they are now sitting side by side with their students. Our vision is this:

Faculty members constructing and guiding students in the creation and uncovering of knowledge. Students connecting their own learning to life experiences and real world problems. This is sometimes referred to as a 'Flipped Classroom' environment. One of the leading scholars on technology integration in schools, Dr. Scott McLeod, suggests that our students and teachers will go through several stages of technology integration as our implementation blossoms and unfolds in the coming months and years.

Stages of integration (from Dr. Scott McLeod):

  • Stage 1, Technology Literacy, teachers focus on the tool itself. They ask questions like, “What do I click on?” and “How do I do this with it?” In this stage, they’re not focused on learning and teaching with students. They’re just familiarizing themselves with the various options and functions available within the tool itself.
  • Stage 2, Replacement, teachers use digital tools to replicate what they did in analog learning environments. For instance, they use expensive interactive whiteboards in the same transmission-oriented ways that they used chalkboards and dry erase boards. They replace multiple-choice paper worksheets with student response systems (aka ‘clickers’). Instead of passively viewing teacher-selected DVDs or VHS tapes, students passively view teacher-selected YouTube videos. And so on.
  • Stage 3, Amplification, teachers use technology to make the learning work of themselves and their students more efficient and productive. They begin experimenting with new forms of learning and teaching. Significant changes in student learning tasks may not be seen yet, but teachers are on their way toward more transformative practices.
  • Stage 4, Transformation, teachers use digital learning tools to substantially change student learning processes, content and their own classroom instruction. New opportunities become not just possible but real. Learning and teaching environments look significantly different than what came before.
In just the few short weeks we have been implementing our Connected Learning Initiative, we have seen powerful examples of student learning in all four stages of integration. Indeed as our initiative gains momentum and we continue our journey, more and more of the learning experiences that we have in our classrooms will be in stage 4: Transformation!

Even though our students now have these powerful tools at their disposal and all the work it took to get to this point is now a fading memory, it is important to note that our journey is just in its infancy. Our professional development to this point has focused on preparation for the device. We have now shifted our focus to integration and moving our learning into a transformative stage. It will not happen overnight!

Finally, as I was preparing for this blog entry, Dr. McLeod suggested this blog post as a great resource. I would also encourage you to follow his blog Dangerously Irrelevant, it is a great source of information!

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