When it comes to preparing your schools' graduates for the technology-suffused, globally-interconnected world in which we now live, with what are your leaders struggling? In other words, what kind of supports and resources and training might your heads of school and other administrators need to help you and your schools do a better job with this?
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Educational Administration, & Director, CASTLE
Iowa State University, 707-722-7853 (7077-CASTLE)
I follow you on Twitter and appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic with you. Our school leaders, like others, are dedicated and passionate about student success. I believe, however, that they do not struggle with educational technology issues--or at least do not articulate it--as they trust that the ed tech faculty is guiding the use of available technology effectively for teaching and learning. In a way it is benign neglect—this is not a criticism, just observation. Our school leaders do not know what they do not know and it is up to the ed tech faculty to inform them and try to garner their support for transforming learning through technology. You and I know that ultimately it is not about the technology. It is about preparing our students for academic and work environments that may not exist today and giving our graduates the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to succeed because they are self-directed, self-organized, independent and collaborative learners. That kind of learner must know how to draw information from a wide range of reliable sources, collaborate with others, communicate effectively, create and innovate, and think critically to solve problems. The ability to use a variety of resources, technological tools, and processes in higher education and the workplace will certainly serve our graduates well. Yet, I am not convinced that independent school leaders quite understand the way young people learn and what they will need long after they graduate from our schools.
It seems as if much of the pedagogy and curriculum in some (or many) independent schools cling to traditional college prep content delivery and critical essay and report writing. Higher education can serve grade school leaders by educating them on the pedagogy that their faculties employ and their expectations for the entering college freshman. Admissions offices could integrate this information when working with high school’s college advisors.
While independent schools are not bound by high-stakes testing and NCLB, we still offer Advanced Placement courses and exams which continue to focus on content with an outcome dependent on individual learning. So, the College Board should (and maybe is) reform the assessment for today’s learner. I don’t know how the reformed assessment would look—maybe an individual content section and one that supports a broader set of social learning skills and behaviors. That kind of learning and engagement is messy and difficult to assess in a standard manner.
The National Association of Independent Schools may choose to revise the Principles of Good Practice in several areas and develop one for student-centered pedagogy that includes 21st century skills and behaviors. The existing technology PCP is strong, but stops short of advocating for a participatory learning environment. This association does bring in nationally known educational technology speakers to its conferences, but could also provide online support and training for administrators. It can also encourage more schools to participate in programs such as their Challenge 20/20 project and develop on-going programs that would support sustained efforts for pedagogy reform in the classroom. Additionally, accreditation agencies may choose to revisit their standards to better reflect student-centered pedagogy and learning environments that will produce graduates who can easily enter into a “technology-suffused, globally-interconnected world.”
I am lucky that our school leaders are open-minded and willing to learn. Though it would make my job easier if they also heard it from the influential sources that inform their work and the school’s curriculum.
Hi Barbara, I think you've summed it up well when you say "they don't know what they don't know." Who's going to help them? How can CASTLE and I be of assistance?
Also, you've seen this? http://bit.ly/fvPUWT Thoughts?
Hi Scott and Barbara,
Like Barbara, I feel fortunate to work in a school that I think largely "gets it." We moved to Google Apps full bore two years ago under the charge from the school head that "control is dead." We've used Skype for a good while to cultivate our relationships with international schools and we are ready to accept mobile phones as educational technology in the upper school next year.
The main question for us is about time and timing. When do you let a thousand flowers bloom and when does a technology become so important to a school's practice that its use is required? How do we balance innovation with standardization? To use the language of disruptive innovation, when and how do we achieve "mass customization?"
As we look at the push of consumer electronics, how and when do we decide what devices support learning and which ones distract from it? What do we require students to have? I once heard Will Richardson say, "The internet measures time with a stop watch and schools measure it with a calendar." With such fast moving technology and market places, choosing any device these days seems like a losing bet.
Interesting question: standardization v. a thousand flowers blooming. Of course your financial and technical people would like you to say standardization. But we're going to see more diversity in computing devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.), not less, and we're surely going to see more technology-facilitated individualization of learning. So while 'a thousand flowers' may be more difficult to manage, it's definitely closer to reality. The focus should be on skill sets and mindsets, not on technology tools.
Good luck (and don't forget to have fun with this stuff regardless of the path y'all choose)!
Thanks for the reply Scott, Can you help me flesh this out a bit?
So glad you're having fun!
The situation you describe mirrors the technological diversity (i.e., chaos) that we have in our personal lives. How do we handle the variety and diversity of tools at home? We pick the right tool for the job (and, sometimes, we borrow one from a neighbor if we don't have what we need). Can't we do the same in the classroom? "Okay, here's the learning need / task. Who's got something (skill, knowledge, tech tool, etc.) that can help us solve that? How else might we address that? Awesome. Let's rock 'n' roll..."
FYI, I'm a former middle school teacher, so I'm not oblivious to the uniqueness of that life stage. But I also think we often underestimate (and thus under-respect) middle schoolers. Put 'em to work with the tools that they have. Don't feel that we as educators have to be the experts all the time. Learn together and tap into everyone's strengths and interests. Have fun. Deal with the inevitable glitches that arise. And ask for more bandwidth.
Think I'm too optimistic? :)