Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remember When

I remember when I was first given an e-mail address for school. That was in 1994, my second year of teaching. I was the “computer teacher” at that time and was able to take advantage of all the “new” technology toys for our district including a Web Cam, Zip Drive, Palm Pilot, and the amazing Laser Printer. Today, every student is assigned an e-mail address, a majority of kids have their own cell phone, the Internet is the very first place kids go for answers, and kids find new friends through FaceBook. Times have certainly changed.

The children we teach will be living with new world norms that were not in place when I was a child. Tony Wagner, in his book The Global Achievement Gap writes, “our world has changed in three significant ways, and methods of teaching and learning must adapt to these changes” (Wagner 2008). Wagner explains that students need to develop new skills to survive in our global economy. This includes the ability to think critically, work in teams, adapt, communicate, analyze information, and to be curious and imaginative. Wagner also writes that “using new information to solve new problems matters more than recalling old information” (Wagner 2008). Students need to be able to apply what they have learned to new situations, rather than recite knowledge from memory. The third significant adaption that Wagner explains is that children are motivated in new ways as compared to previous generations. “Young people today are curious multi-taskers who hunger for immediate gratification and connectedness” (Wagner 2008).

With our 1-1 iPad initiative we have jumped into the Instructional Technology ocean head first. What I have clearly seen in just the few short weeks is that our initiative is much more about Instruction than it is about Technology. Each student will have a highly effective device that can serve as a tool for many applications, but the real learning that will take place will happen due to the changes that happen in instruction. As noted above, the three adaptations that educators need to implement to meet the needs of today’s student all involve new instructional methods. These new methods will surely utilize the iPad as well as other technological devices, but meeting the needs of today’s youth will be more about methodology than gadgets.

The wave of change is happening in Zeeland. Risk taking is now a rampant activity. The excitement is directly related to our teacher’s risk with new instructional methods that are utilizing technology. Some teachers are “flipping” their classes, where the lecture and note taking happen at home and the classroom becomes a collaborative learning workshop. Inquiry based learning is taking shape, where it’s more important to ask the correct question than to know the correct answer. Project Based Learning is being utilized by several teachers, where many learning objectives are accomplished through a student developed project. iPads are seen throughout all of these instructional methods as a tool for both the teacher and the student, but the learning is directly tied to the new methods of instruction. As you can see, it is truly an exciting time in Zeeland Schools.

Wagner, R. (2008). The Global Achievement Gap. Basic Books, New York, NY.