Forming our future
By Joni House
Deciding on the best educational environment for a child is one of the most important choices a parent has to make. In our quick-paced, technology-centered culture, finding the right technological tool for one’s child can seem like the most challenging part of the process. In truth, this is only half of the challenge.
It is not until one begins to use available technology that one discovers its value as a resource in education and appreciates that having the right tool is only the first step in the success of student learning. For teachers to be truly successful at using technology in education they must have more than just the availability of technology, they must also be educated in how to use it effectively.
Imagine you have just purchased a beautiful new car. It is sleek, shiny, and includes all of the latest upgrades. You are thrilled at the possibilities available to you now that you own it. You open the door, place yourself inside, and close the door in preparation for your very first drive to the most amazing place you can imagine. Can you feel the excitement?
Now imagine that excitement dissipating as you realize that you have no idea how to start it or which pedal to push to make it go. This is the frustration teachers struggle with when faced with using modern technology in the classroom. It is a gift, but without the knowledge of how to “drive” it, the value is lost.
One of the determining factors for parents when choosing a school for their child is knowing and understanding the technology resources that a school can provide. The catch for true integration is that the technology must not only be present, but utilized to its fullest capability. For technology to be successfully integrated in school, it must be used in the classroom, but also done in such a manner that facilitates hands-on learning for students. What does this mean? Let’s take a look at the use of interactive white boards.
If not properly trained on the capabilities of an interactive white board, teachers can fall into the trap of using them as a glorified overhead projector. Although still an important use, there are countless additional interactive possibilities in interactive white board software that can assist teachers in facilitating hands-on learning for students.
Students should be out of their seats, at the board with the mouse device in hand, applying what they are learning to the lesson. They should be at the plate swinging, not sitting on the bench watching the play. Kinesthetic learning is technology’s biggest asset, but it is not as simple as handing the technology to the teacher and patting him/her on the back with a silent “good luck.”
The proper use of technology in the classroom necessitates continual professional development. Teachers must be provided ample opportunities to master the use of technology in building classroom curriculum and facilitating modern day hands-on learning.
Having the resources and utilizing them to enhance the teaching/learning process is crucial. An educational environment can have all the latest resources, but if those resources are not utilized, how is the material being taught enhanced?
In order for resources such as interactive white boards, tablets, digital cameras, document cameras, wikis, blogs, student response systems, Skype, laptops and notebooks to impact student learning, educators must be provided professional development opportunities which demonstrate how teachers can integrate technologies into classrooms.
Educators must then be given the opportunity to utilize the newly learned strategies that integrate technology into the curriculum. If technology is truly integrated into the curriculum the school community will have to learn from their challenges, celebrate their successes, and share their resources.
In many instances educators learn best from their and colleagues’ trials and errors. We are all learning, and what a great lesson to teach our students – learning never stops.
(Joni House has been the principal of Columbus Annunication School for three years.)