Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Technology Story

"Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time."
~ Chinese Proverb
Recently, while browsing through the happenings at ISTE, I came across a link to tell My Technology Story. Being interested in the ways in which technology are driving change in education I obviously clicked and was taken to a form with two questions:
  • How has technology made you a more effective teacher or administrator?
  • Based on your response to the above question, how has student learning improved as a result?
As I began to type my responses into the form I realized what great questions these were. With all the talk these days about 21st century learning, being digital natives or digital immigrants, using web 2.0 or 3.0 tools I feel we are skirting around what needs to be at the heart of the discussion – how we use technology to improve student learning.

Below are my brief responses to the questions as I shared them on the ISTE form.

How has technology made you a more effective teacher or administrator?
Working in a 1:1 laptop environment with my Grade 6 class has enabled me to do so much more with differentiation. I am able to have students work on very different tasks - informed by need, learning style and interest - yet develop the same concepts, working toward a more in-depth understanding of our central ideas or enduring understandings.

Technology has also enabled me to become a more consistent and effective communicator with parents and the wider school community. Updates on our class blog keep parents informed about our events and activities. My professional blog (this one!) helps me better understand my own practice; reflecting and 'thinking out loud' help me to clarify my own understandings about teaching and learning.

Finally, building a PLN with access to blogs, wikis, organizations and social networks such as Twitter, keeps me connected to other educators. This is a vital part of my learning and I am now trying to share some of these ideas with my students. We are learning to use Twitter as a class, creating a list that allows all of the students and I to share thoughts, questions and ideas with each other.

How has student learning improved as a result?
I believe my students feel ownership over their learning. They have choices about what they will do and how they will show or share their learning with others. This became most evident during our recent student-ledlearning reviews when my students created their own agendas, planning how they would share their learning with their parents.

My students feel connected. They have multiple opportunities to learn with others in various ways: Skype conversations, presenting and participating in a student-led conference series via Blackboard Collaborate, blogging, tweeting – they have an authentic and global audience.

My students are skillful. They know how to locate relevant information and are learning how to evaluate the reliability of the source. They are writers. They not only maintain their own blogs, they read and comment on others’ blogs. They create amazing videos and tutorials to share, applying the processes once reserved for writing. They participate – joining and contributing in areas of personal interest. Many of my students have their own YouTubechannels and SoundCloud accounts where they share their compositions and ask others for feedback ~ which they receive!

Most importantly, I believe my students' learning has improved because they are aware of their learning; they are the directors of their learning. This has been made possible because of the technologies available to them and the access they now have to their own learning communities. As their guide and facilitator, they can contact me when they need help - this might be on a weekend or in the evening, but through Twitter, email, blog comments and Skype, we are no longer confined to the school day or the actual building.

What strikes me when I review My Technology Story responses is that it has little to do with technology. It is about empowering students to be actively involved in their learning. The conversation needs to be about how we develop spaces for learning, where students collaborate, question, challenge, create, participate.

These two questions are a great place to start this conversation.

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