Some time ago I was required to use a tool in my high school chemistry class that would allow me to quickly find the answer to different math operations. All of a sudden I spent time on solving the chemistry formula and not worrying about all of the requirements of a math operation. While it is important for students to understand “ how and why” math operations work; this tool became very helpful on my chemistry tests and when determining the percentage of a molecule in our lab experiments.
Over the past couple of years we have been discussing tools that will be helpful to students and allow them to learn 21st Century skills. As we surveyed our student body we discovered that many of our students already are using electronic tools on a daily basis. They use these tools everyday and all hours of the day except for learning when they are in the classroom.
If you have watched a teenager or, for that matter, any age child they have a knack for using and figuring out electronic devices. Operating electronic devices such as laptops, iPads, iPods, cell phones, or smart phones seem to come natural to our youth. It seems a shame that many of these electronic tools have become an untapped resource in our learning environment.
If we are going to expect students to learn and compete in our fast changing and global environment our district needs to seriously address the issue of using electronic devices for learning, so RISD has put some actions to these words.
Next year when Rockdale ISD opens its doors to begin school students will be encouraged (not required) to bring their own electronic devices to use as learning tools. These devices are technology tools that students already know how to use. They will be expected to use them to create and submit projects, papers, and assignments electronically to their teacher. This is a new environment for students and staff, but it is one the state of Texas, the rest of the nation and world has been moving to over the past decade. Even though we may be one of the first districts in this area and one of the smallest districts in the state to allow students to bring their own technology to school we are not alone in this endeavor. Within the next three to five years many, and possibly most, districts will have made this move.
Why the need for allowing students to bring their own technology? Over the next decade most textbooks will be available electronically, testing will be online, much of our secondary school course work will be online, and most importantly when students use technology for learning they seem to “get it”.
Within the next two years the state will offer courses for credit in game production, electronic forensics, and App development. Students learn when they are allowed to be creative and when they are comfortable with the tools that they use. When these tools are used in the classroom correctly students will be required to collaborate on class projects, be responsible for their learning, and be innovative in their work; all of which are important for future employment and education.
By the way, the tool that I learned to use in my high school chemistry class was a slide rule; by the time I got to college chemistry I was required to use a calculator to be successful in the class... maybe times haven’t changed that much, just the tools.