Apparently, one would be wrong.
I'm heading back to school tomorrow, and while it was nice to have a break, I think I'm ready to get back to work. One of the things I'm hoping to focus on this year is emphasizing 21st century skills. Yeah, yeah - every educator on the blogosphere talks about those, so let me explain.
Our county has plenty of technology (which I've talked about before), but often our teachers fall into the pitfall of using it themselves. The worst offender is each classroom's interactive white board (as I've also talked about before); it can be challenging, however, to get more student-hands-on time on the board, especially in small, cramped classrooms. We have laptop carts for teachers to use (plus several general-use computer labs), and starting this year we have an additional twenty smaller-profile netbooks for teachers to check out for student use. We have document cameras and whiteboard tablets that teachers can use as well.
Unfortunately, behind all this technology still lies the tendency towards a teacher-centered classroom. In order to make some real progress with students - in order to really teach them 21st century skills - teachers have to get the goods more into the hands of the students.
This year, we might be able to make some progress with our county's new initiative, BYOT - Bring Your Own Technology. This opens the gates for students to bring in their own laptops, netbooks, internet-capable phones, etc. A variety of thoughts on this:
- A large number of our teachers are wary of this, because of the management aspect - how do you keep students on-task when they're now allowed to bring in items that were previously forbidden in the classroom. For example, last year, students would have to surreptitiously text message on their phones, hidden out of the teacher's sight - now, if they're allowed to have them in class, how do we make sure that they're staying on task and not texting?
The answer is all in the classroom management. Yes, teachers will need to be more vigilant of what students are doing with their technology. That means that they'll most likely need to be more specific and more targeted towards what the students are being asked to do.
- When using standard school laptops, teachers could be sure of what standard software was installed on them. Now, if students are using their own computers (older or newer machines, Windows or Mac machines, etc.) or even their phones (iPhones, Android phones, etc.), how can we be sure they have the same software?
The simple answer is that teachers will need to move away from software-specific assignments - everyone will create a PowerPoint - and towards more skill-specific assignments - everyone will create a presentation. By opening up their standards for the format of the finished product, they allow students to be more creative and can focus more on the content.
- So many more types of technology can be expected to create more technical problems - connecting to networks, students using their own wireless networks, students unable to print assignments from their computers/phones, etc.
The expectation that is to be communicated to the students is "use at your own success" - it is to be acknowledged that it's not a cure-all solution. This is the first year that we're piloting the initiative, anyway - perhaps we'll know more come June for next year.
As I type, I realize that I'll want to continue to get student perspectives on how BYOT is going (as I have done before).
Should be interesting...stay tuned for more.