Saturday, March 28, 2015

Leverage Tech Resources to Optimize Student Learning

When was the last time you and your colleagues sat down and discussed the ways you use technology to maximize student learning?

Who makes the technology decisions for your students?

How are those decisions made, and what patterns of curation inform those decisions?

Do all students have equal access to the best tech tools and projects?

These are important questions with regard to student learning today.

With the questions above in mind, I have the following thoughts:

Curation Patterns and Routines
Regular, inclusive patterns of curation support optimal tech use. These patterns profit from the following actions:
  • Steady trials of new tech venues with small groups of students well-matched for the trial. For example, I get invitations daily to try out new tech. I have lots of students who would be great curators of the tech. I'd like to match them with the tech, let them try it out, assess, and review with me and other educators. That would give us a steady inside look at new venues, and help us determine if the tech is useful, engaging, and promising. In addition, students involved in the trial, could later teach others the venue.
  • Open platforms and routines for tech trials. Too many rules and cumbersome process hinder growth with regard to the use of new tools and venues. 
  • Easy-to-access funding for trials, tests, and innovation.
  • Long term assessment of venues with broad parameters for learning/teaching value. 
Due to the way tech changes, it's important to keep up on the latest and greatest tools. If you let too much time lapse, the job becomes too big to tackle for apt use and learning.

Good Process for Tech Share and Curation
It's important that teachers share what they learn about tech use regularly. There are many terrific platforms out there for student learning. In this regard, I suggest starting with a simple, open google document that educators can add to when they find a tech tool useful. A tech integration specialist or tech committee could re-look at the document to make it user-friendly on a regular basis. That might mean updating columns, organizing content, editing for user-ease, and posting on a faculty website. 

This is a draft of the kind of collaborative chart your school could create for open share. 

Looking at Tech Use with the Lens of Cultural Relevancy and Equity
What tools do your students regularly use in school and out of school? I have noticed both gender gaps and economic gaps with regard to tech use, and I have found that these gaps translate into academic gaps as well. For example my students who use Minecraft and Scratch are generally stronger at math than those that don't use this tool. We've integrated SCRATCH somewhat, but we've yet to integrate Minecraft which builds students' ability to visualize math well. By surveying students and making the academic connections, you can see where inequity with regard to gender, economics, and perhaps other factors exist. Then you can mitigate those gaps by incorporating the tools that lead to academic growth into the curriculum in thoughtful ways.

Blended Learning Design that Embeds the Best Technology
There needs to be time for worthy, inclusive, collaborative blended learning design to deepen and develop student learning. This is the BEST way to identify and embed good tools for student learning. Too often those that choose the tools are removed from the daily learning. It's best to have a complete team of educators, assistants, family members, students, and administrators work together with good process to design learning units that are deep and meaningful. This is when we will reach the best design for vigorous, engaging, and empowering deep learning. Too often, in education, we are satisfied with quick fixes with regard to learning design, and these quick fixes don't help us to achieve the broad-based learning we aim for.

As we look ahead with regard to teaching and learning, it's clear to me that we have to re-look at roles, structure, and routines in all areas including technology. The way we work together to curate technology and design learning experiences with and for students impacts the work we do greatly. If we re-look at the way we spend our time and the roles we play, we will find that we can make change to better serve students.

I don't have all the answers in this regard, but these are a few points to consider as you leverage technology to maximize student learning. 

Note: I changed "maximize" to "optimize" because maximize suggests quantity while optimize suggests depth.