Friday, January 7, 2011

Think Differently

"Think Different" was an Apple commercial/slogan from the 1990s.  As someone who has always been an Apple fan, I have loved buying the newest technology which has then become mainstream.  I remember the first Mac computer I ever had - a Mac Classic, I remember my first lab filled with multi-coloured iMacs, and I remember my excitement at buying my first iPhone and iPad.

As mentioned in previous posts, it's not always easy to be a different thinker.  People are comfortable with what they know and many are not comfortable giving this up.  Change involves risk taking.  As I've been thinking about this recently I've been thinking about the future of education and what needs to change.  Is the future something along the lines of the Khan academy, for example, where students will be able to choose what they learn and when they learn no matter where they happen to be - and that all these lessons will be delivered through the internet in a free virtual school?

Studies have shown that American students lag behind students in Europe and Asia in both maths and science - these STEM subjects appear to be where a lot of emphasis is now being put in schools in the USA.  For me what was really interesting to read this week, however, is that schools in Finland are far more focussed on the arts, and that schools in Singapore are having a big drive with PE to improve health and fitness (ie they are not focussing on the STEM subjects) and my experience of international students has shown me that students in Finland actually start formal schooling much later (several years later) than students in many other countries - despite this they are outperforming those countries where students are put into education at a very young age.  Quantity of education certainly is not the same as quality.

In the past year and a half I have been in my current position I've been encouraging our teachers to think differently about the way IT is taught too.  We have changed from a fixed period a week where IT was taught in isolation to a flexible schedule where IT has been refocused from information technology to information and communication for teaching and learning.  We have also adopted the SAMR model - where teachers are responsible for leading lessons where technology merely enhances the curriculum (the s = substitution and a = augmentation) and ITCL teachers lead the lessons where technology is used for transformation of the teaching and learning (the m = modification and r = redefinition).  For more information about how we are using the SAMR model please find other blog posts here and here.  We are working more closely with the librarians too now to deliver a more holistic information literacy programme.  This year we have also jumped with both feet into the Google Apps for Education and other Web 2.0 tools, and we have given up separate IT reports for most classes and integrated our comments into the reporting of the units of inquiry, maths and language arts.

IT is no longer seen as a separate stand-alone subject but has become embedded into the curriculum where it is concept driven and transdisciplinary, and both students and teachers have been given much more choice about what tools are used and how the tools are used to support learning, rather than a more traditional one-size-fits-all approach of teaching specific skills or programmes.  IT teachers and librarians are both involved in collaborative planning and reflection and are involved in providing continuous professional development for the teachers.  Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the past year or so is that our students have connected with other students beyond the classroom and school, and that they are using their time at home much more to engage more fully in their learning or the presentation of their understanding.  Who would have thought that we would come so far in such as short time - all as a result of thinking differently?

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