This is a guest post from Tracy Dabbs, Coordinator of Technology and Innovation for the Burlington-Edison School District.
I have been supporting Ed-Tech in classrooms for nearly 15 years and during this time we have all experienced some big changes in tools and ideas. There is always some new learning design that promises to transform education and be THE solution to reach all students. One trend that seems to keep surfacing is the idea of one to one computing. What do we see in these learning spaces? We see individual students with faces in screens for extended periods of time. Okay, I love educational technology and this is literally my life’s work, but I cannot explain how disappointing it is for me to see these type of experiences going on in our classrooms.
Engaging learning is not about faces in screens. I know we talk about making sure that everyone has access, but that doesn’t need to mean constant access or one to one access. If it is not that...then what is it?
It is all about focusing on the learning we want students to experience. We must think about what we want our students to engage in with us. There are some wonderful supports out there, ISTE has their new student standards and others like NPDL have explored the Six C’s to focus on necessary 21st Century skills. These standards and progressions ask us to think about developing skills beyond the devices. Skills that will continue to move us forward no matter how the devices change in the future. We should be constantly finding ways for students to collaborate in our classrooms; instead of working in isolation behind their own screen. Collaboration is more than adding comments or feedback electronically to a peer. Students need to be working in groups to discuss, engage, question, and work to select devices when needed...together. If you challenge your students to work on devices together, think of the higher levels of communication, collaboration, character, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship that your students will experience.
Imagine each task you ask your students to engage in: post to Google Classroom, watch a YouTube video, engage in work on a website...what if you asked them to work with another student? How could that transform what they do and how they learn? I know...having students share devices all the time is not ideal either, but can we find a better balance? Can we honestly think about our one-to-one activities and ask ourselves if that is really the learning we want? I have worked with many districts that focus all of their technology dollars on one-to-one and not one cent on supporting and training their teachers...think about that balance.
Please check out some supports that I have put in place for our teachers and some grounding documents that we use in our district to guide our decisions. We need to constantly ask ourselves: What learning experiences do we really want for our students and ourselves?
Tracy Dabbs, Coordinator of Technology and Innovation for the Burlington-Edison School District:
I hold a degree in Elementary Ed K-8, a SPED degree for K-12, a Masters in Educational Technology, and a Principal Certification. After a wonderful ten years teaching 1st and 2nd grade, I moved into a full time technology coach position. Now I am the district coordinator of Technology and Innovation were I develop staff development and support, lead the selection and roll-out of devices and infrastructure upgrades district-wide.