Comment: Developing new skills to thrive in the digital worldJanuary 14, 2018, 4:30 pm GMT
Whether you are returning to school from holiday or starting a new school year, January is a time to reflect on the past and to consider adjusting course or starting something new. As you begin 2018, take some time to reflect on the technology integration program used to support teaching and learning within your school. Here are some reflection points to assist in getting started:
- Does your school provide or do your students bring devices to support teaching and learning? What is the student to device ratio?
- Is the Internet ubiquitously available within your school, inside, outside, on the playground? What does Internet access look like in your students' homes?
- Is technology skill development an informal, organic process or a formal process with stated technology standards, expectations and required skill sets?
- Are technology skills evaluated only on secondary requirements embedded within lessons or core curriculum standards?
- If your students have a required computer class, is the focus on keyboard and basic user skills needed to complete classroom assignments?
Technology use habits
- Outside the classroom, are students using their devices primarily for playing games, watching videos or television shows? How much time are they spending learning, not only school based learning, but also independent learning of their own interest?
- What social media platforms are your students using to share photo/status updates? Are they using these same platforms to connect with others to network and learn? Are they involved in a learning network or sharing how-to content with others?
If you are like many schools, from elementary to high school, your reflection might be described as follows. Technology devices: our technology integration program has provided students with an abundance of access at the device level. We have desktop computers, laptops, and tablets available either through a bring your own device (BYOD) or a school provided cart and computer lab model. Students use these multiple devices inside and outside of school, and these devices are connected to the Internet, nearly 100% of time. Skill development: our students' technology skills are predominantly developed informally or organically based on teacher comforts with assigning technology dependent activities and the level of technology support provided directly in the classroom. If a computer class is required, the focus is generally on keyboarding and/or the development of specific skills necessary for the student to be successful in the classroom or on standardized tests. Technology use habits: in class, students are productive given a specific activity that is defined by the teacher and usually includes using a single application with some Internet research or online interaction. Outside of class, students spend a majority of their time as consumers, watching YouTube videos and playing games, the latter of which is not so bad if the game has constructive learning elements.
Once you have described your technology integration program and student usage, evaluate the description against models of technology integration and learning. Evaluating a school that fits the description in the above paragraph against the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) model of technology integration will most likely place the school in the substitution or augmentation layers of the SAMR model [Ruben R. Puentedura, As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice. (2009)].
According to Dr. Ruben Puentedura's and others such as Kathy Schrock, when the SAMR model translates to Bloom's Taxonomy, student technology use for learning enhancement will align with the cognitive abilities to remember, understand and apply. We would translate these skills as being associated with an individual's ability to use technology devices to consume content.
After completing your evaluation you may discover that students may be developing an imbalanced set of technology skills weighted more heavily on passive consumption and learning than on interactive learning and skill development as a 21st century producer or innovator.
On the positive side, your students are learning the skills to be technology use experts. Inside schools, we can turn to them to support their classroom learning by researching an assigned topic, writing papers, creating slideshows or movies, submitting completed assignments through an online learning portal and using online learning programs in which we have enrolled them.
Outside formal classroom activities, we can turn to them for help to resolve personal technology use dilemmas: "Where do these cables go?", "How do I connect these devices together and to the Internet?", and "How and where should I post and share this photo?" or we can ask them for help with consumption: "Where can I buy or rent a song or video?", "Where can I purchase an outfit for an event?", and "Where is the nearest gas station or Starbucks?"
On the negative side, we might worry about the amount of passive screen time our students experience and the social behaviors we find ourselves reprimanding them for, such as inappropriate or ill-timed classroom use, or counseling them for more serious, hurtful acts of cyberbullying.
As a result of your reflection and analysis, you might decide to adjust course or start something new, expanding your school's technology integration program to increase the engagement level of your students with their devices. Now might be the time to set a goal to increase the skill sets of your students and change their usage patterns from those associated with learning enhancement to those associated with transformation in the SAMR model, while simultaneously reducing the number of minor and serious behavior issues.
To rise to the transformation layer of the SAMR Model, which includes the modification and redefinition, start asking questions that lead to making our students self-inspired technology creators, learners and design developers. Do our students have the skills and can they use technology to:
- Independently learn or develop a new skill
- Create digital artwork or an original score of music
- Programme robots to complete a series of tasks
- Become creators and design/model/print digitally using Autocad, TinkerCAD or other 3D modeling tools
- Be a 'maker' and apply basic electrical, mechanical or computer science engineering skills to create a robot or other physical world artifact
- Broaden their perspectives by working, sharing or learning from others around the globe
- Construct and share their own knowledge responsibly and creatively
- Think about world problems and consider ways that technology can provide a solution
- Use animation to illustrate your thinking on a process or solution
- Be positive and supportive members of a community, and not destructive, hurtful members.
Our students deserve the opportunity to reach beyond consumptive use and the learning enhancement level and develop the skills necessary to transform their learning to answer these callings as well. To do this, our students need a more balanced set of technology skills to grow and become what the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) refers to as digital age learners.
Schools where students are allowed to use technology devices for learning should adopt the ISTE ICT standards for digital age learners. Including the ISTE standards alongside the school's core curricular standards will see our students move to the transformative layer of the SAMR model, engaging them in modifying and redefining how they learn and complete their schoolwork.
ISTE's ICT standards for students emphasize the exploration and development of a broader set of skills not only required to be a user, but also a learner and design developer. The student standards span all grade levels. The ISTE has also developed standards for teachers and administrators. A short description of each of the student standards is provided below:
- Empowered learners: I use technology to set goals, work toward achieving them and demonstrate my learning.
- Digital citizens: I understand the rights, responsibilities and opportunities, of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world.
- Knowledge constructors: I critically select, evaluate and synthesize digital resources into a collection that reflects my learning and builds my knowledge.
- Innovative designers: I solve problems by creating new and imaginative solutions using a variety of digital tools
- Computational thinkers: I identify authentic problems, work with data and use a step-by-step process to automate solutions.
- Creative communicators: I communicate effectively and express myself creatively using different tools, styles, formats and digital media.
- Global collaborators: I strive to broaden my perspective, understand others and work effectively in teams using digital tools.
Formalizing our student's technology skill development by including ISTE ICT standards in daily lesson plans and school curriculum maps will positively influence students' responsible technology use and provide them with the opportunity to develop a more balanced set of technology skills.
By wielding a more balanced set of skills, our students may respond confidently to questions not only of consumers, but of those attributed to technology learners and design developers. Our students' future success will depend on them possessing a balanced set of skills to draw upon when acting in 21st century job roles.
In this New Year, consider starting something new in your technology integration program, and help develop your students' skills beyond the learning enhancement layer to the transformation layer of the SAMR model by including the ISTE standards and providing them with the opportunity to be ISTE digital age learners.
Jack Kriss, Director of Innovation & ICT Teacher, Rising School Dubai
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