Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Calibrating and Focusing Our LPG's for 2016

While deliberating the possibility of providing computers to our high school students a few years ago it was important for everyone to understand and provide input into this decision. Not only our parents; but teachers, students, and the greater community. The fact is, administrators even discussed this at great length. We hashed out our reasons and understood that what we believed may not be the same as other schools. Further, the point was emphasized that we were not at all interested in deploying devices just so we could keep up with one (or more) of our neighbors down the road. Over and over again, we focused on the idea that our infusion of technology was never about the device. It was about what we could do with the device. 

At the onset of our roll out, teachers began to use computers as a substitution for many of the things that we have done in the past. For example, instead of having students fill out a worksheet and turn it in to the teacher, they began to fill out a PDF file and submit homework via email. But then, very quickly our faculty became adept at utilizing a Learner Management System (LMS) that helped both them and students organize their work and create substantive changes in the way schooling is conducted. Student engagement in classes increased, which of course correlates to higher student achievement.

Soon thereafter teachers began to augment and modify lessons in ways that, prior to the implementation of a #ConnectedLearning environment would have been cumbersome, time consuming, and in many ways just simply not possible. For example, a classroom discussion that may have lasted a mere 43 minutes and included only those 'in that moment' could now be extended well beyond the scope of that class period with a range of participants that include authors, illustrators, eye-witnesses, and even experts in the content area or subject. Students in industrial arts classes now design parts for projects and print them on 3D printers. Teachers and students that engage in complex mathematics are able to work with high tech modeling software to test theories, manipulate data, and engage with one another in ways that once were only imagined. Just this last week, our 7th and 8th grade students had the unique opportunity to learn about drone technology, see a drone in action, and create and edit a video file of the footage. Who would have thought we would be able to do that even 3 years ago?

From time to time, I have heard the claim made that Google is perhaps the most significant change to education that....well I don't know what. While you can literally look anything up using Google, and the catch phrase "Let Me Google That For You" (lmgtfy) has become almost comical, that is not where the real power of Google lies in classroom application. With the use of the Google platform, students, teachers, and even administrators are able to collaborate on projects simultaneously while geographically being anywhere. There should be no mistake: the implementation of #ConnectedLearning has not only magnified the importance of our Leaner Performance Goals, but focused and fine tuned them for the 21st Century!

This  year we finish our scale up of #ConnectedLearning. Now we are in a position where we provide devices not only for students in grades 9-12, but for students in grades 3-12. Sure, the device may be different, and the device is not used all day every day--but it is a tool that enhances and expands the learning environment. Certainly our younger students aren't going to be operating drones anytime soon or using Calculus software to solve complex equations; but under the tutelage of their classroom teachers, they are able to have instruction delivered that is uniquely personalized to meet their needs. As we continue to focus our efforts on improving the early literacy skills of our struggling readers, teachers now have an arsenal of research based high tech tools at their disposal to meet these challenging needs. We have also created an Inquiry Space for our students, where they can work side by side with teachers to solve problems in a collaborative manner through trial and error and experimentation. Indeed, it takes a lot of courage for a teacher to work with students on a complex problem where they may not know where the answer lies or in which direction the students will go in the quest for knowledge!
We are quite proud of the progress we have made in our #ConnectedLearning environment while acknowledging that much work remains to be done. Our goal this year is to help our teachers find more ways to completely redefine learning. To do things with technology that are beyond a modification or augmentation of a lesson. Things that two years from now we couldn't have even imagined right now. And...its still not about the device.

No comments:

Post a Comment