Many of us have now lived through the adoption of student laptops, Google Docs, cellphones and other technologies in schools. Many people involved may have had mixed feelings about all of the technology. However, a lot of discussion and research has already taken place about the true value of technology integration in the classroom. The old idea of “tech for tech’s sake’ should be dead by now. A strong movement towards placing learning at the forefront of technology integration has been very “loud” for many years. Surprisingly though, many people have been outside of this discussion and still see expectations about technology integration in the old way of EITHER all has to be technology OR all should be paper and pencil / concrete experience. But the truth is, we should have learned to MIX technology and concrete experiences by now to provide the best learning opportunities for kids in a world that is changing so fast.
Dr. Milliron summarizes this idea about a learning MIX very well. As a researcher, award-winning speaker, with vast experience working with schools, Universities, government and different institutions, this is how he sees the learning mix so students and schools can learn best and also be “future ready”:
Next-Gen Build Out
Face-to-Face Infrastructure: Classrooms, Lecture Halls, Training Labs, Locations, Simulators, Office Hours, Library, Open Space.
Online Infrastructure: Website, Learning Management Systems, Content Repositories, MOOCs, Social networks, Mobile Apps.
Activities: Lecture, Dialogic, Small Groups, Contextual Learning, Simulations, Learning Communities, i-BEST, Project-Based Learning, Self-Directed Learning, Blended learning, Accelerated Learning, Competency-Based learning.
Source: Dr. Mark David Milliron. Moving into the Next Generation of Learning.
It is not about banning cellphones completely or embracing them all the time. It is not about using laptops all the time in the classroom or not using them at all. It is knowing when and how to use each one appropriately for the best impact on student learning. Learners like to mix and we should learn to balance the mix as well.
As I walk around classrooms I already see a healthy mix. Laptops with paper and pencil, manipulatives, book, notebooks. One complementing the other. Students focused on hands-on and using technology to their advantage, not distracted by it, in well-designed activities. So it is possible, it is happening and it is growing. According to Dr. Milliron and also Dr. David Conley (Four Keys to College and Career Readiness), Universities are also changing and expecting a different type of student.
So it is not about typing all the time or only handwriting. Handwriting and technology can also coexist when appropriate. We should not be shy to mix.
There are many opportunities nowadays to learn more about technology integration with a strong focus on effective learning, also giving ideas on how to create this learning MIX. One of amplifiEDUcation.com online courses teaches Five Steps for Creating Powerful Screencasts for Learning. The Grade 10 Social Studies project above is a perfect example of a MIX, as it plays just like a screencast, though it is a simple video recording of a student providing an explanation on a whiteboard. The screencasting technique is the same as using a computer screen, so the power of learning is “amplified” by recording and sharing with others.
It is not about what is digital and what is on a whiteboard, post-it, or paper. Any activity that is concrete can be digitalized so it can be amplified through sharing, getting feedback, asking what others are doing.
One great activity that you can do with your students to focus their learning is to develop a mission statement for the class. This experience can be amplified by sharing online, researching, asking others over Twitter, in this way having the technology expand and benefit your classrooms’ thinking. In the online course Mission Possible: How (and Why) to Create Class Mission Statements you have the opportunity to learn about powerful conversations in the classroom and how they can be amplified by technology.
Much has been said and researched about metacognition: the ability to think about your own thinking. This is a powerful process that can be done on a personal paper diary, on a computer file, or on a blog post like the Science 6 student below. If his writing was standing alone like we see on the first image, it would be just for himself, for his teacher and perhaps for a few peers. But when his reflection is posted on a blog, it becomes visible to many others, it becomes documented in a way that is easy to retrieve.
The MIX of technology, in the form of blogging, with any piece of reflection or activity (either digital or digitalized), is a truly powerful way to see progress over time. It is also a powerful documentation FOR learning and AS learning (The 3 Stages of Documentation OF/FOR/AS Learning). The Step-by-Step Guide: Learning about Blogging for your Students shows how to use blogging as a platform for learning, reflection, and documentation for this MIX of learning activities.