Carmel Henderson: Boot Up

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We’ve been talking to educators, non-profit administrators, young entrepreneurs trying to build companies that help students and teachers. Many of these conversations walk on either side of a divide. One side tends to say that technology is no solution for education — the problem is poverty, or children’s priorities, or family choices, or the fact that the standardized testing system stymies teachers and prevents their best efforts from succeeding with every child.
[ed. note: Bias alert: I’ve been told that I have “drunk the Kool-Aid” and that technology as a solution is a bunch of marketing talk that has nothing to do with reality. I was told that children are not “digital natives.” whatever you think about marketing terms or other people’s perceptions of how other people work and operate in the world, there is ample evidence that there is a whole generation of people — and that first generation starts with my peers — that spend most of their time online and look outward, rather than inward, for their participation in a community]
The other side seems to say that technology is part of an answer, and should be tried. They do not say that technology is the end all and be all of the new education reform.
Carmel Henderson, who authors the blog Educlarity, has been chatting with us on Twitter. We thought we would run her most recent blog post, as it gives a good cross-section of thinking about the pro-technology course for reforming education:

Technology skills should be a fundamental aspect of curriculum for all K-12 students in the United States. Teachers shouldn’t rely on outdated overhead projectors and transparencies as a teaching tool because “I don’t have to turn my back to the room.”  This means that a lack of  good classroom management deprives students of exposure to relevant instruction, relying instead on pre-Cold war educational techniques. There are many tools teachers can use in the classroom today. From Powerpoint to Smart boards, even the most technophobic educators are able to find something to enhance their teaching.

Many successful districts are not only using technology to improve teaching, but including students as well. Fairfax County Public Schools uses a program called Blackboard Academic Suite, a platform for “exchanging information, engaging learners, and measuring their performance.”  Universities have been using this program for years, but FCPS has taken it up a notch, encouraging all teachers to have a website updated with information for parents about the classroom, as well as using the blog and Wiki features to communicate with students via internet–and not only highschoolers, even the primary grades are encouraged to include students in the learning process via the practical application of technology.

Students need to be taught to use technology for academic purposes as well as social ones. It’s not going to be a skill that is instinctively or culturally acquired. If we want workers someday who are able to use computers for more than Facebook profiles, not to mention have the ability to spell words using all of the appropriate letters (Text-speak is the new Doublespeak), we have to directly instruct students on the proper and effective means to access the wealth of knowledge so readily at their fingertips.

How would this look? Imagine a world in which the parents were up to date on their students’ homework assignments via Twitter. The class had a blog where students participate from home in meaningful conversations, and long-distance, long-term learning projects with each other, and peers from around the world, thus increasing the students global awareness and educational relevance into the future. Imagine a classroom where fourth graders are typing reports, making spreadsheets, and creating and using podcasts and websites with ease.  We are not only teaching students math and writing, we are developing future global leaders.

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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