As a high school principal I do a great deal of reading in my field in order to keep up with the best practices taking place in educational programming, instruction, tools, curriculum, technology and so on. Each area in and of itself has a tremendous amount written about the best practices to be implemented. None more than “technology.”
I love technology. I believe it will continue to play a major role in our educational practices. However, we have seen technology burst on to the educational map in the recent past with the addition of desktop computers and then laptops. Both were to revolutionize how we teach and learn. Both were going to have a major impact on students’ academic achievement/growth. And yet, even though gains have been made they have not nearly been as large as predicted or hoped for by all concerned. Now we are entering into the mobile device era with the use of smartphones, and tablets in the classroom. What will be different? Will we have learned from our past mistakes?
The growth of technology tools, devices, software, apps, etc. is nothing short of amazing! One could sit for hours and explore the various app offerings trying to figure out which ones would be most useful to use in their instructional strategies. Then again, they would have to understand the app well enough to be able to use it with all students. Thus the need for the educational world to develop professional development around the best apps/devices. Then, curriculum must follow the training as these tools are embedded into student engagement consistently enough to really impact student learning.
Digital tools that are used to just engage students in their learning every now and then (when teachers can figure out how to best use them in their lessons) is to hit and miss; this type of implementation will not result in student achievement growth. It will manage to engage more students in the content which is a key piece that will help lead to improvement but it is not enough to use digital devices / programs / apps in this manner.
The education world needs to focus on a strategic plan when implementing the tools of the 21st century into their teaching and learning. One of the first steps is to not fear it but embrace it. If we are to truly prepare our students for the real world then we must change our pedagogy to reflect the ways today’s students learn best.
I look forward to being a part of this historic change in the way we plan and instruct our students. It is exciting to be involved with the changing of “how” we instruct. Moving from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side will indeed help our students to be more engaged as they learn to take ownership of their learning through the implementation of inquiry teaching with project based learning.