What happens on a daily basis in the classrooms of a school committed to 21st century learning? What would you expect to see? Students in most every room busy with computers or handheld electronics?
All too often I think that many people equate the equipment like interactive white boards, and new state of the art computers with a good technology program. Don’t get me wrong having good equipment is always nice but it is just the window dressing. Likewise visiting classrooms and seeing students busy on computers can be equally deceptive.
The heart of a quality program is much deeper than either of these outward signs. A recent experience with some visitors on campus made me realize that it is difficult to clearly give voice to the deepest levels of transformation that are foundational and formative for a school curriculum that is focused on 21st century skills like researching, validating information, using information to construct new meaning and becoming effective communicators in a digital world. On the surface a lot of this kind of learning can look much more traditional than many might expect. It is the underlying assumptions, the goals and the applications of learning that is radically different but not always the delivery. For example, an eighth grade class embarked on a two and a half week project with a partner class in another country. Each student was going to make a photostory about why their country was important to them. The project started with a skype video call- an easily observable application of technology. For the next 2 weeks however an outside observer would see little classroom use of technology because the students were engaged in a whole host of critical thinking activities, learning about storyboards, making drafts and discussing ideas for concepts and pictures, writing scripts, discussing copyrights, imagery, writing styles and a host of other things. Finally, time would be spent producing the photostory another easily observable application of technology. These students were actively engaged in 21st century learning even though they were only using technology tools a very small percentage of the time.
So here is the challenge. What is a meaningful measure of a schools integration of technology and/or of a schools commitment to the kind of learning I defined above as 21st century skills.? And the corollary question How do we create an understanding among the stakeholders in the educational community that effective technology integration is not measured by the amount of time students are using computers but rather by the framework and context of learning?
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