Monday, May 31, 2010

Why is Technology Important in Schools?

I was at the IT Summit the other day and the keynote speaker gave a very convincing presentation on how the world has changed, how the way we learn has changed and schools must change as well. I'm a sucker for such preaching to the choir. So much so that it would do me good to write my next blog post on how the textbook is the future of education, why blogging is a waste of time, that social networking is a fad and why technology is a waste or money. It would be good for balance in my brain to just try to think the other way for a change. Some other blog maybe.

Back to the conference. Will Richardson, like David Warlick before him and Alan November before him, pretty much had me standing and shouting "halelelulea!" by the end. I really felt like I knew what he was going to say next. I enjoyed it immensely, my thoughts validated thoroughly. When he was done a colleague of mine who was attending for the first time turned to me and said, "So technology is just a tool to teach the same things as we have always been teaching." I was amazed that such an inspiring message could be lost on my friend. But she is a great teacher with amazing ideas and high expectations for kids.

Because I have been pursuing the idea of being a 21st century teacher for some time now it is easy for me to judge others. My colleague actually makes me think even harder on what being a 21st century learner and teacher means. This is partially due to the fact that I know she is a great teacher and partly because she demands me to give a convincing answer to the following questions:

  1. why it is important to change how we teach and learn?
  2. what data supports our claims about 21st century learning?

  3. what exactly are the new skills?

It is not enough to know that there is a very large community of learners out there whose blogs and testimonials are hard to ignore (see Will Richardson's list of educational bloggers or twitter4teachers.) We need to further define what 21st century skills are and how technology assists us in teaching and acquiring those. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has come up with the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) and Performance Indicators for Students which we use to define 21st century skills in our school division. Briefly, they are:

  1. creativity and innovation
  2. communication and collaboration

  3. research and information fluency

  4. critical thinking, problem solving and decision making

  5. digital citizenship

  6. technology operations and concepts

The Ed Tech Action Network and the ISTE has outlined Why is tech important?. Their reasons are supported by five years of research and is described on their site. They claim that technology in schools is important because it:

  1. improves student achievement in reading writing and math

  2. improves school efficiency, productivity and decision making

  3. helps teachers meet professional requirements

  4. improves learning skills

  5. can help schools meet the needs of all students

  6. promotes equity and access in education

  7. improves workforce skills
For me, the world has changed, my class needs to change. I will continue on in this choir and convince others to join it. I will also continue to look for data supporting the evolution of 21st century classrooms.

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