Without further ado – a little of what we’d really like to see in schools for 2012. And kudos to the teachers who’ve experimented and grown in their savviness this year!
1. Getting connected – networked schools need wireless access so that teachers can effectively use the technologies available to them, engage in professional development “on the fly”, and access digital content beyond the confines of the library lab. Then they can test all the work-arounds that beat the firewalls still in place in many schools and use HDMI to share the world within the classroom environment.
2. Classroom management applications in a one to one environment. Several companies (SMART Sync, LanSchool) have launched products enabling a teacher to control student devices from an application, push content, and enable collaborative groups. They can block certain sites, and reduce distraction by steering students toward content and applications relevant to coursework and learning objectives.
3. Bring Your Own Device. Although concerns about equity and access persist, BYOD can allow teachers to work with the tools kids are already bringing to school. Typically seen in High Schools (who’ve realized that if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em), expect this trend to trickle down to the middle and intermediate level as cash-strapped schools and boards offset the cost of major hardware purchases to parents.
4. VoiceThread type collaborative applications that incorporate multimedia and encourage participation. Students can respond to any type of content, like a photo, a video, or a text using their mobile devices. Apps like this encourage critical thinking, sharing, and let kids practice using a number of formats to build their digital profiles.
5. Use of cameras on devices for capturing student work, thought processes etc, particularly as Full Day Kindergarten takes hold in provinces like Ontario. Teachers looking for enhanced assessment can video students in action as they engage in early learning activities, providing a visual running record of progress. (more…)
In the tiny mountain town where the SpaceRacers temporarily reside, it’s easy to get things done. It’s easy to get from one end of town to another. It’s easy to buy groceries without waiting in line for 45 minutes. It’s easy to get an appointment at the bank. It’s easy to find a decent, honest mechanic. And it’s easy to make a difference.
We were concerned that our wee SpaceRacer wasn’t getting enough access to technology in school. In fact, she’s getting none. The transition to 21st Century Learning is happening v-e-r-y slooooooowwwwly in most places in Canadian schools, and she’s been unlucky thus far to have teachers who’ve been mostly uninterested, unmotivated, and unaware of the potential for digital tools in the classroom. But before I rant on (because this really riles me up), I’d like to share a sliver of silver lining.
Upon expressing my frustrations to the school principal, we devised a plan to incorporate a little technology into the lives of the digitally deprived students. A weekly one hour session with a new educational technology tool. Project focused, and related to something happening within the school community. And it was as easy as being able to give up an hour of my time (with a few to prep, of course). Within a day or 2 of proposing the idea, the principal had forwarded me a list of 41 keen kiddies. 41! She’d made arrangements for us to meet in the library, in order to use the school’s smartboards and laptops for the activity. No red tape. No cumbersome permission forms: if you’re interested, just come and learn.
Today is the first day of SpaceRace Technology Club, and I am so very excited to facilitate a Bitstrips project with 41 Grade 3 and 4 students. If you haven’t heard of it, Bitstrips is an online comic strip creator. The educational arm of the service, Bitstrips for Schools, is a teaching tool that “engages students using a medium they love – Comics!” It’s 100% web-based, and includes tons of curriculum-connected activities designed by a huge network of educators. It’s fun and social – a great way to get students working collaboratively to share stories using technology. Our topic is “Kindness”, and I can hardly wait to see the madness that ensues.
I’m very excited about today. It’s the start of something really cool – I can just feel it!