I have been asked to visit about "where [our district] is going with technology"* with the student advisory council in a couple weeks. Here is what I hope I have the courage to say:
Where is our district going with technology? Good question and one that is not as simple as it may seem.
Here is the quick and dirty answer: I would like to see that every student have an individual computing device - a laptop, netbook, tablet, or some yet to be invented thing-a-ma-jig that will link wirelessly to our school network and the Internet. These projects, commonly known as 1:1, have been around for a number of years. In our own backyard, Loyola High School and Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Schools have initiated such programs.
We've done the spade work for this by installing wireless networks throughout the district that have guest access, using GoogleApps for Education for productivity tools and file storage, and moving as many student resources to the "cloud" as possible. Our libraries are purchasing e-books and e-reference materials. As the cost of such devices fall, the district will find a way, I'm sure, of either providing such tools directly or helping parents purchase them.
That's easy part. Here are the challenging bits...
Such devices alone will not give you a better education. Period. Every student needs to have the skills to use these devices to do more than just check his/her Facebook page. By the time you leave school, these devices and the resources they give access to should be tools that:
- Help you find and evaluate information that you can use to solve real problems.
- Help you produce and publish your own ideas and products you have created.
- Help you be more creative and better communicators.
- Help you be more self-directed and self-assessing in your education.
- Help you learn at anytime, from any location as all classes are supplemented [or delivered] with powerful online tools that clarify and enrich the subject matter. I am excited about online tools as tutors, including games and simulations.
- Help replace your library books and textbooks with digitally enhanced resources like this one:
7. Help you become better collaborative learners/workers, practicing with both local and international
students and subject experts.
8. Help you understand and practice global citizenship and safe, responsible and ethical technology use.
Behind the scenes, technology needs to be productively used by teachers and administrators to:
- Design a custom, personalized school experience for every student.
- Use technology to gather, analyze and use data to create these experiences.
- Allow technology to deliver curriculum content so the teacher can guide, coach and design student learning.
- Facilitate timely and meaningful communications among the teacher, the school, the students, the parents and the community. (Eliminate as much paper as possible.)
- Use technology to streamline and economize all education support services so that more dollars can be directed to the classroom itself.
What do you think? Does such a future sound interesting? Does it sound like a real change in how we "do" school? A lot of adults - teachers, parents and politicians - would call it a revolution. And revolutions make us old people nervous.
If you want to see this kind of revolution that will use technology to help make your schools more effective and meaningful to you - not just the same old, same old with a few bells and whistles - you will need to be the ones who lead the revolution.
Not all revolutions require heads to be placed on pikes, leaders driven into exile, or the Bastille destroyed. Some revolutions are quiet, subtle and thoughtful. This needs to be one of them. You can foment a quiet revolution by:
- Teaching your teachers about how you use technology to learn.
- Taking classes from teachers who fit your learning style when possible.
- Exploring options to traditional schooling [online classes for example] when you feel underserved by regular classes.
- Serving on your school governering bodies (such as student council, the technology committee) and advocating for allowing the responsible use of student owned technologies and least-restrictive filtering of Internet resources.
- Communicating with educational leaders and politicians YOUR ideas of effective education.
Technology alone won't create change. I am less and less convinced that adults will be able to fundamentally change how school is done.
I think it will be up to you...
*I am also going to be asked why some of our teachers are not using the Smartboards in their classrooms - a much more difficult question!