Monday, November 30, 2009

Ensuring Students Learn

As time goes by we become further and further surrounded by technology, schools will reflect wider society and be impacted in a similar way. There will be a continuum on where schools sit; some will push the boundaries, and others will lag behind due to other externally enforced limitations, for example budget constraints. However, I believe that over time, almost all schools will see some kind of move to integrate technology into the daily lives of their kids.

Whether this move to integration will actually result in improved student learning is another story. This will depend on the manner in which technology is implemented.

For us to be sure that kids are learning what they need to, we must ensure that teachers are teaching/using/implementing technology in the best way possible. This requires teachers to be able to engage in well-informed dialogue. This cannot happen until teachers actually know what they are talking about, and have had experiences with integrating technology first hand. This will require schools to take a long term and dedicated approach to teacher education.

Without a genuine desire by staff to go through the process of learning a number of new skills, then I believe that schools will be forever hoping that teachers just “pick it up” as they go along. With multiple, demanding commitments on any one day, the barrier for teachers to take on a new personal education piece will be too high.

Schools need to reduce the barriers that exist, so that teachers are more likely to “come onboard” and learn about the benefits of technology. I feel one of the biggest barriers is teacher’s lack of skills or knowledge (whether real or perceived). The “Fear Factor” can be a huge obstacle for teachers when they see technology as a demon they do not understand.

My own learning curve with technology has been greatly assisted by being part of a professional development course such as this COETAIL course. The assignments have been one way for me to push myself to learn new things; but often, it is the informal discussions that rise up out of a topic and then take on a life of their own that I find the most rewarding and enlightening. Hearing fellow teachers discuss and come up with solutions to problems that I am also grappling with has been of tremendous benefit.

The existence of the COETAIL course has been an example of a “reduced barrier” for me. It is at my school; I can go 2 minutes from my classroom; I can get instant support and feedback form both colleagues and tutors. I am able to spend time and effort in the class learning skills that I will ultimately (and often almost immediately) bring to my science and math classes.

Once teachers become more comfortable and knowledgeable about the use of technology in education, worthwhile dialogue can take place. This will allow such discussions such as “who teaches NETS and AASL standards to kids?” to take place.

1 comment:

  1. Your description of your own transformation in this area is a perfect example of what we need to do for all. How to prioritize this is of course tricky and there is so much improvement that is always needed.

    Glad you have found the course useful.