Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Technology is Cool, But Only Part of the Equation for Change in Learning.

The world is changing and technology is driving the change. Van Meter realized this, embraced it and set course to become a 21st century K-12 school district. In the last two years, every student grades 6-12 has been issued a laptop computer. Mobile labs and I-pad cart have been placed in the elementary. Rockwell-Collins facilitated providing Van Meter with two virtual reality systems. We stepped through the “looking glass”. Getting the technology was easy; figuring out how to use the tools to think differently, create and learn has been the challenge.

Van Meter is not alone
Van Meter is not the only school moving this direction. The number of Iowa 1 to 1 schools has increased exponentially over the last two years. From 15 school districts to 30 to a projected 100+ school districts in the fall of 2011, hundreds of learners (both teachers and students) are being equipped with 21st century technology: laptop computers, internet access and virtual reality systems. As a result, students, teachers, classrooms and schools via social networking and web 2.0 tools are connecting, creating and learning together, not only across Iowa, but nationally and globally! This growing number is disrupting the current system and creating a “tipping point”. Education is being turned “upside down".

Technology is cool, but the focus must be on learning

Technology in the classroom is cool, but only part of the equation. Knowing when and how to use the technology appropriately as a tool for learning is crucial. This is the piece that requires professional development and courage for teachers to grow and think differently.

Van Meter Secondary Principal Deron Durflinger’s blog post “It’s Not About the Technology” puts forth the fact that technology is NOT the “silver bullet” and that “providing students a laptop will not magically improve the quality of instruction provided to students”. Student academic achievement is dependent upon the efficacy of the teacher in the classroom and the student’s desire to learn, not that they have a laptop.

From another Iowa 1 to 1 school, Lisbon 6-12 Principal Ian Dye in his presentation at Ignite Education lifted up similar thinking: “Getting a MacBook into the hands of each student in 6th through 12th grades is only a small step toward inevitable educational reform - education MUST evaluate and update the methods we use to deliver instruction and assess learning for our students.”

So what is the next step?
Across Iowa there are pocket of innovation. These “dots” need to be connected! Putting technology into classrooms is not enough. Conversations must happen to evaluate and define how and when to use technology. Teachers as well as students must have a voice and be part of the dialogue. Nobody has it figured out!

Looking back at the last two years

Looking back it is amazing how much we at Van Meter have learned and experienced. As the District begins its third year as a 1 to 1 school, we know that technology is a powerful tool with great potential to enhance learning, but it is just a tool. Empowering learners (teachers and students) on how to optimize these tools is up next.

Technology may be powering education transformation; but the system redesign must be piloted by the learners.

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