As an educator, I do not have time to beat around the bush. We must change the way we do business to meet the needs of our students and teachers. Spending 20 days or more each year testing (not to mention the time spent preparing the students for testing) is not preparing our students for the future.
Here are five simple steps on the road to technology integration that could help our students and teachers become more effective learners:
- Please do not assume that just because a student is using the internet or an electronic device that they are up to no good. If we TEACH students appropriate use and teachers MODEL appropriate use, more than likely they will do the right thing.
- Remember that the only classrooms that have dictionaries (if they are lucky) are the English classrooms. Sometimes, in other subjects, we have to look up words when context clues don't work or the glossary doesn't provide the definition. We CAN get around this problem if only students were allowed to use their cellphones in class. Many students have texting plans, so allow them to call Google at 466453. Students can get everything from definitions (by texting "d word") to currency conversion to weather and more.
- Give teachers the ability to show relevant videos from YouTube. Seriously. The Library of Congress has a YouTube Channel. So does National Geographic. The Khan Academy which has math and science videos, has more than 19 million views. Even though the Khan Academy has an official website, the 800+ videos are housed on YouTube. Keep in mind that these resources are FREE. Most teachers really don't have the time to hunt for random videos that have nothing to do with the curriculum. Assume they will do the right thing.
- Encourage all students to blog about their passions. Sure, you might get kids writing about frivolous topics, but they are WRITING for an AUDIENCE beyond their teacher. There are moderated blogging services for classrooms (teachers would have to approve posts and comments) such as ClassBlogmeister and Kidblog. Other platforms include Blogger, Tumblr and Wordpress. Heavens, you could even go with a multi-user Wordpress platform so your entire school (or district) is on the same service. EVERYONE, including teachers and administrators, could be writing.
- Please get over your fear of NETWORKING. Students can gain new insights about the lives of others if they are allowed to network online. Teachers could improve their professional practice by connecting with other educators around the world. Students could HELP each other with assignments and provide real, thoughtful feedback to their peers. Teachers could CONNECT their students with other classrooms around the world for collaborative projects. A few of the tools and services that could be really useful are ePals, Edmodo, GlogsterEDU, and Twitter.