Vision for the Classroom

Sep 06 2010

On a recent visit to an elementary school and with a library/media specialist she asked questions about their document cameras and new mounted projectors. After showing her how to hook up the document camera so that the accompanying software can be used to capture lessons and create presentations by students and teachers, she informed me that many of the teachers did not want to attach their computers. They just wanted to use the document camera to project their paper content in a similar way that they used the old overhead projector and transparency. My heart sank. These are good teachers who have gone through extra training on ways to use technology for creativity. It reminds me of the kids I used to teach who would say, “My teacher didn’t teach that last year,” when I knew the teacher had, but is there teaching going on if the students are not learning? So even if we did teach the teachers, did we really teach, if they didn’t start changing their use of technology?

Last week, I was leading a group of educators, community members and school district stakeholders to develop a 3-year technology plan. Working in small groups, they looked at requirements for the plan. After reading a description of technology integration, one participant who just graduated from one of the district high schools commented that in her 13 years in the district, she had one teacher who integrated technology like the description. Again, my heart sank.

I’m reading Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. In chapter 7, Tim Tyson writes, “If digital technology is used in low-level ways – to do the same things we have always been doing in schools, just doing them now with computers—then we have failed to grasp the metamorphosis this technological ecosystem offers. In so doing, we perpetuate an emphasis on student passivity, on students’ “receiving” school as if learning were given to them by teachers and as if computers served only for such low-level tasks as grading, reporting, and word processing.” Tyson was principal of Mabry Middle School known as one of the first schools to embrace student blogging and students as creators of content.

I can envision a school where students provide learning content for their peers. I can hope to be part of a school learning process reversal, where the homework is watching a video lesson on a topic (created by another student) and the class work is where the student applies the learning under the supervision of the teacher. In this environment, students are content creators and contributors to the learning process, taking ownership of their learning while providing learning tools for others and participating in a collaborative process. This would be a place where teachers do not have the only access to computers and technology and where teachers are not the dispensers of knowledge, rather they are lead learners. Technology is in the students’ hands with access to Web 2.0 tools and they have the background training to use it wisely and safely.

Some tools that make this type of environment possible are laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, webcams, iPods, and microphones. Students and teachers need blogs, wikis, mindmapping resources and online storage. Web 2.0 tools would include many of the following:

Jing at http://www.techsmith.com/jing/ for screencasts and screencapture

Animoto http://animoto.com/ for making great video presentations from images.

History pin http://www.historypin.com/ for looking back in time from any location.

Twitter http://twitter.com for summarizing and research and much, much more

Evernote http://evernote.com for taking and organizing notes in a variety of formats

This is just a small sampling of resources to be used in my vision of the perfect learning environment. What would you add to this list? Please post your suggestions. What would a district do to make this vision a reality?

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Sandra Hines
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