Wanted: Long-Term Thinking about Technology and Education

The rampant spread of technology-mediated learning has set off fits of hype and hand-wringing—yet the U.S.’s traditional centers of higher education have mostly failed to confront the pace of change and the implications for students. There is probably no way anyone can keep up with this transformation: the technology is simply evolving too rapidly. Nevertheless, we keep trying. Will these developments truly serve our goals for advanced education? We need to know urgently.

image via flickr:CC | karola riegler photography

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Important Questions About Technology and Learning

  1. What do we want technology to do in schools?
  2. Does more money equal increased learning?
  3. If we buy a lot of expensive technology and sometimes use it ineffectively, or dangerously, what does that get us?
  4. Are we asking the right questions about technology, learning, and schools?
  5. What world will our students exit school into?
  6. What skills will they need to be successful? Collaboration - Communication - Creativity - Divergent thinking
  7. We need technology to help foster these skills, and point our students in the right direction
  8. Is the way we are using technology now turning our students ‘off’ to the people and the world around them?

How Classcraft locks in my school’s tech-enriched curriculum

Want to write a guest post on Classcraft or education? Pitch to stephanie@classcraft.com.

Guest post contributed by Rebecca Osborne

Gamification is a rising trend in education, and for good reason. Technology is increasingly ubiquitous in the classroom, and students are surrounded by laptops, tablets, and smartphones outside school as well. More and more educators are harnessing the power of these digital tools to increase student engagement in the learning process.

At Fairmont Preparatory Academy, we have a robust technology program. We are always seeking new and innovative tools and apps to excite and motivate our students. Classcraft fits perfectly with our philosophy.

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Creating a successful program in 3 steps

In May 2012, Fairmont Preparatory Academy launched its technology program to implement a technology-enhanced curriculum in each classroom. At the time of its inception, this program, called the Fairmont Technology-Enhanced Curriculum (Fairmont TEC), was in the early stages of a three-year plan.

During our first year, we researched different technologies and had a pilot program to try four different tablet devices in the classroom. This step ensured that the technology was driven by the educators and fit their needs in the classroom. The iPad was ultimately selected following feedback from teachers, students, and parents.

In year two, we devoted a significant amount of time to professional development for our teachers. Our learning sessions centered on themes such as iPresent, where presentation tools for the iPad were explored, or iNotetake, where note-taking apps were examined. Each month, a new topic was presented, and teachers were given time to explore and collaborate to develop lessons that incorporated different tools depending on the material and learning objectives.

In our third year, all students in grades 9-12 were required to bring an iPad to school each day.

Our overarching goal through these three years was to focus on the process, not the product. By starting with the learning objectives and then asking what tool would help the student or teacher accomplish these goals, the student learning experience was made the priority, not the technology.

The basis for Fairmont TEC

We founded the Fairmont Technology-Enhanced Curriculum (Fairmont TEC) with the goal of providing research-based, personalized learning for teachers and students.

To make these experiences effective, we believed strongly in incorporating gamification into our 21st-century learning environments. Karl M. Kapp outlined the strategies employed for gamification in his book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. These include giving feedback and rewards when appropriate, using stories to motivate, and encouraging risk-taking through replay. Perhaps the most important of these is replay, where teachers and students are able to fail but try again until the material is mastered. Adhering to these strategies is crucial for engaging students.

How Classcraft fits into our philosophy

Classcraft is a platform that seamlessly integrates the visual, artistic aesthetics of a gaming system with the customization and data analysis needed for tracking student progress. It is geared to be the optimal program for teachers and students to become deeply involved in the material and to see higher and higher levels of success.

Classcraft fits perfectly with our student learning philosophy: It enables educators to employ their best practices within their own teaching style while simultaneously furthering student engagement and learning outcomes. Students engage in friendly competition, which provides enhanced motivation for learning the material and investing in their own progress. Risk-taking is encouraged, and students have ample opportunities for replay — “falling in battle” in the context of the game is not permanent. This engenders an open learning environment that encourages student participation and discussion.

The increase in prevalence of technology tools in the classroom lends itself to new innovations in teaching. Rather than teachers continuing to rule as the sage on the stage, they act as facilitators, serving as a guide on the side. Gamification fits seamlessly with this teaching philosophy. Classcraft empowers students to take control of their own learning, engage more deeply with the material, and share and collaborate to enhance understanding.

Dr. Rebecca Osborne has been teaching at Fairmont Preparatory Academy for four years as a biology and chemistry teacher and also served as the Director of the Advanced Science and Engineering Program during the 2013-2014 school year. Two years ago, she took on the role of leading the technology initiative at Fairmont Private Schools, wherein she created professional learning courses for teachers and now assists educators in integrating technology into their curriculum.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/cienpies

Our Education System Conflicts With the Science of Learning

  Our brains are not designed to learn in what we consider a typical setting.  Classrooms and lectures are recent constructs, and in fact the brain is a “forager” well equipped to collect information informally, on the go.  Benedict Carey shares his theory on Big Think, where he explains there no one-size-fits all tactic for […]

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That same year, B.F. Skinner came up with the idea for his teaching machine. Visiting his daughter’s fourth grade classroom, he was struck by the inefficiencies. Not only were all the students expected to move through their lessons at the same pace, but when it came to assignments and quizzes, they did not receive feedback until the teacher had graded the materials — sometimes a delay of days. Skinner believed that both of these flaws in school could be addressed through a machine, and built a prototype which he demonstrated at a conference the following year.

All these elements were part of Skinner’s teaching machines: the elimination of inefficiencies of the teacher, the delivery of immediate feedback, the ability for students to move through standardized content at their own pace.

Today’s ed-tech proponents call this “personalization.”

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Ed-Tech’s Monsters

via Audrey Watters

My students need a few tablet computers to aid in classroom activities and flipped learning. My students are lacking when it comes to technology in the classroom. They need a chance to be able to research and learn without fighting for a computer lab. My students are amazingly talented…

Help my new classroom get some technology!  We’re lacking pretty much anything and I’d like a few tablets to make a difference.  Enter the code INSPIRE to double your donation!  

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