On May 9th, the State Board of Education had their meeting in Auburn (press coverage in the SunJournal and at WCSH6). The Board often has their regular meeting at a school, spending the morning in a workshop and the afternoon in their business meeting. They came to Auburn School Department because they wanted to learn more about teaching and learning with technology.
We used the morning workshop to have them visit technology-using classrooms at our middle school, high school, and one of our elementary schools, then return to Auburn Middle School for a debrief and lunch with some of our students.
What did we want the Board to learn about teaching and learning with technology? Here are our 8 messages to the Board:
1) Technology is About Learning
Technology isn’t “cool gadgets” or a content area. Technology is a teaching and learning tool, and decisions need to be based on questions such as, “How does this impact the quality of learning opportunities in the classroom?” and “How can we leverage technology to help students learn in ways that they couldn’t without?”
2) Technology For Learning Takes Deliberate Leadership
Good teaching and learning with technology doesn’t happen on its own. It doesn’t happen just by giving teachers laptops or tablets. It takes deliberate leadership, leadership that is a team focus on positive pressure and support, teacher practice, funding, partnerships, resource management, branding and buzz, and PD for paradigm shift.
3) Technology is No Luxury; It Is The Modern Learning Tool
Some view technology as a luxury schools can’t afford. And yet technology is prevalent in nearly every sector and part of life outside of school. If we want students to think school is relevant to their lives, then we need to use tools for learning that they see in use outside of school.
4) Effective Technology Use in Schools is All About Having Great Teachers
Technology is just a tool. It doesn’t replace teachers. In fact, using technology well takes a good teacher. We won’t ever improve learning by simply handing technology to students. But when a good teacher hands technology to students with a good activity, then learning can soar.
5) Teachers Need Support
Very few of our teachers grew up as students in classrooms where technology was a teaching and learning tool. It is unfair to expect teachers to implement technology well if they have not experienced it’s use as a learning tool themselves. We need to provide lots of support to teachers so they can get good at teaching and learning with technology. That support needs to include identifying models of effective use, classroom visits, trainings that model effective use, access to resources, a safe environment to try new things (and maybe fail), and a little professional hand holding.
6) Teachers Need to Focus on Student Engagement
Whether we have technology available in the classroom or not, teachers need to compete for student attention more than ever before. Students have access to much more information outside of school than when we were students. If teachers are to remain effective and schools are to remain relevant to students, then we need to focus on engaging students, keeping things interesting, and making learning meaningful.
7) Even Young Students Learn With Technology
Young children are adept at using technology, and there are many great technology-based apps and resources available for a quality early learning or primary grades program.
8) It’s About Blalance
Schools known for effective technology rich environments are good at identifying the right learning tool for the learning target. And even though they use technology widely, they would never use technology exclusively. Students still have teachers, read books, create art, play outside, write with pencil and paper, toss a ball, etc.