Conquering the digital divide
Dr. Howell Wright

When we evaluate student learning, what are we really looking for? Many times we equate good standardized test scores (such as the TAKS) as the best tool for measuring student learning. Is that what we really consider a good education? Passing TAKS means that our students have achieved the minimum level of learning. Plus the assessment doesn’t measure a student’s ability to create, innovate, or work with others to solve problems.

I am not dow nplay ing the importance of passing our state exams, but to answer the posing question schools can not continue to look the way they have over the past several decades; they will have to transform to meet the requirements of a 21st Century learner?

One of the tools used by a 21st Century learner is technology. Education has addressed technology in many ways since the late 1970’s. In the past technology in schools included a desktop computer (for the teacher) and software to enable the teacher to be more administratively efficient and to assist students with learning challenges. The world is changing again and the description I provided above is an old model of using technology in the classroom.

Now we have mobile learning devices such as laptops, iPods, iPads, Smart cell phones, digital probes and free Web 2.0 products that can be used in the classroom as learning tools for students. Many of our classrooms make on-line learning come alive for students and teachers with interactive Whiteboards (that have taken the place of chalkboards).

When examining innovation in the classroom, it’s impossible to ignore technology. Whether it’s working with students to create digital portfolios or using sites such as Project Share, Animoto, U-tube, or Glogster to bring the class online, teachers are increasingly looking to technology to improve the learning experience and student achievement.

The key is to make sure the technology is getting results, said Michael Horn, co-author of “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” Horn said there is a danger in stockpiling the latest gadgets without focusing on the substantive change they can bring.

“The gadget becomes the victory rather than the actual change in learning process and outcomes,” Horn said. The language we use in RISD is that is not about the technology it is how the technology is used for learning.

Technology has helped schools redefine the role of teachers from a person just delivering information to playing the role more as a mentor and a motivator. It can also help cut costs, particularly through the use of online learning. Now more than ever the teacher is more important in the classroom as students come to school prepared to use tech tools, but unprepared to use them wisely. Teacher transformation includes promoting digital citizenship, facilitating classes as a collaborator with students, and becoming a life long learner through Professional Learning Networks.

In this article space I plan to examine the many aspects of a 21st Century education including the use of tech tools, Project Based Learning, and Innovation in the classroom and how Rockdale ISD plans to implement a learner centered education.

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2011-04-07 digital edition

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