Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tech Grant Application

With the coming of funds and the coming of changes, there is a new grant on the horizon for our school district.   The premise is the involvement of IPads and technology in the school to improve the value of education.  But the hidden ramifications are better.  The district is willing to put in new wiring, and unlimited wireless access.  This means all students can now bring in their iphones, their computers, any computerized tool and use the network.  We don't have to worry about user names, passwords, etc. anymore, it will be automatically.  Now students can use their own computer to explore, to think critically, to develop their theories, their understanding, their knowledge.  They are no longer limited to budgets, and updates of technology or the limits of how many computers in a COW (computer on wheels).  They have their own at home, why not use that since it is more modern then some of the computers in school.

So what else is important in this grant?  The chance to change the paradigm of teaching.  For teachers to develop themselves, for them to explore themselves, to update their own technological knowledge, to be able to develop critical thinking and not just reciting of facts.  Students have shifted in their way of thinking according the Minister of Education of BC, and I agree.  "In 21st Century Learning, students use educational technologies to apply knowledge to new situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions. Utilizing emerging technologies to provide expanded learning opportunities is critical to the success of future generations.  Improved options and choice for students will help improve student completion and achievement."  What does this statement imply for teachers?  That we too must emerge with the technology and we too must develop new learning opportunities for students involving analyzing information and doing problem solving using technology.  That means that teachers must make sure they teach critical thinking skills, problem solving skills (Most of these have been listed by the Developing Readers).  One of the key Guiding Principles for Developing Readers in Surrey is that teachers - not programs - are central to a student's success. In the opinion of Surrey School District of BC no commercial product or resource, regardless of its quality, can be as effective as a knowledgeable teacher whose instructional decisions are based on students' needs and interests.
Proficient readers construct meaning. They don't wait for comprehension to happen; they make it happen. They interact with the text and use specific cognitive functions, or thinking processes, to facilitate and extend their comprehension. As identified and outlined by many researchers (Pichert and Anderson, 1977; Pearson, Duffy, and Roehler 1992; Anderson and Pearson 1984; Pressley 1976; Hansen 1982; Raphael 1984; Palinscar and Brown 1984; Brown, Day and Jones 1083), these processes include:
  • setting a purpose for reading
  • activating background knowledge
  • monitoring comprehension
  • determining what's important
  • making inferences
  • visualizing
  • synthesizing and evaluating

To make meaning from text, students need to be taught a range of strategies that trigger the cognitive functions employed by proficient readers. Providing students with a set of strategies, however, is not enough. They must know when, why and how to use them. There is no longer just the reading of books, magazines, etc.  We now have information on the World Wide Web, be it primary, secondary or tertiary data, students must learn to recognize this for what it is, be it fact, opinion, or just bogus.  It is the teachers NEW job to not only teach to the students facts from textbooks, or skills for learning, but the critical thinking skills to determine the validity of the information they read, to question what they read, to research more then one area of opinion and learning.  To critical think is to use the application of logical principles, rigorous standards of evidence, and careful reasoning to the analysis and discussion of claims, beliefs, and issues.   Student apply their own background knowledge to help do this, and teachers give some of this knowledge to them, but because of technology knowledge is gained so quickly, that it is the teacher who needs to demonstrate that information must now always be questioned for validity.  Does this action not then teach students to be Lifelong Learners?

Critical thinking, in its broadest sense has been described as "purposeful reflective judgment concerning what to believe or what to do."[1]   

Teachers now need to be able to instruct how to do this in regards to technology.  Because of the Internet and all the technology around us the world of education is changing.  The BC Ministry as come up with a list of 21st century skills that we need to teach to our students:  reading, writing, numeracy, and 7 Cs:  critical thinking and problem solving; creativity and innovation; collaboration, teamwork and leadership; cross-caring for personal health and planet earth.  Their focus is on personalized learning (even differentiation learning), use of technology and online learning.  Teachers are to be facilitators of learning, giving more choice for parents and students.  Most of these skills are already being taught by a group of teachers but now we need all to be involved.  With a mentorship program, with training of technology both of students and teachers, we could go farther, be better when what we are. 

Lets open up the schools, the classrooms, let the students take control of their learning, let them share and teach the technology, with the teachers pushing for the learning, integrating the PLOs in this learning, while at the same time demonstrating a love of learning, critical thinking, and modelling the practises for students.

1.  Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. ERI Document No. ED 315-423

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