I read an article in the New York Times yesterday about the Mooresville School District and the success it has experienced with the addition of technology– specifically laptops.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/education/mooresville-school-district-a-laptop-success-story.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=us

What struck me about the article was the focus was not on technology, but rather how teachers were using the technology to inspire, motivate and engage students in collaborative activities.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Edwards– Mooresville superintendent– when he said that it was not about the computers, but rather “It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.” Education must evolve  to teach students skills they need to be successful in a rapidly changing world that requires adaptability and a diverse skill set. That said, I have worried about the role technology would play in the classroom.

Too often technology is introduced that mimics the traditional role of the teacher. Students stare at computer screens that disseminate information. This is not the radical shift in the education paradigm that will prepare students for success beyond school.

Companies want students who:

  • Possess creativity
  • Communicate effectively
  • Think critically
  • Solve problems and find creative solutions
  • Work collaboratively
  • Leverage technology successfully
  • Demonstrate the ability to be innovative

To learn, practice and master these skills, students must be put at the center of learning. This is why I emphasize the importance of a “student-centered classroom” throughout my book, Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging Technology to Create Student-Centered Classrooms (to be published by Corwin June 2012).

Mooresville demonstrates an understanding of the importance of both the teachers and the students. “They value computers not for the newest content they can deliver, but for how they tap into the oldest of student emotions — curiosity, boredom, embarrassment, angst — and help educators deliver what only people can.” Humanity in education is key and requires a teacher’s skill and compassion. When teachers can leverage the power of technology to differentiate instruction, meet the needs of individual students and place students in the center of the learning process, great things are bound to happen.

As I strolled the isles of the exhibition room at TCEA this last week, I was struck by how many of the “learning management systems” were really “teaching management systems.” They are focused on helping teachers manage classes rather than engaging students. To be comparable to or more successful than a traditional classroom, a blended class or a class that includes technology must engage students in a meaningful way and foster both conversation and collaboration.

It is through discussion, group work, and project based learning that students will hone the skills they need for success beyond secondary school. Technology provides an opportunity to give every student a voice and the opportunity to work at his/her own pace, which can result in the most rewarding learning opportunities.

I love the analogy of the lattice to symbolize the combination of parts to create a strong whole. Instead of the lecture that values the individual providing the information, the lattice recognizes the value of individual students working together to construct knowledge. It is my hope that more educational institutes will embrace technology as a vehicle for actively engaging all students in the learning process.

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