Encouraging students to become more globally aware is an important aspect of 21st century education. Technology can play an important role in this and assessing how teachers take advantage of or make opportunities for students to connect, communicate and collaborate with others around the world could be one way of evaluating the impact of technology on 21st century learning.
One part of the ITEM rubric addresses the extent to which technology is used for teaching and learning. It asks whether technology provision is teacher and/or curriculum area dependent with little use of collaborative tools to promote student reflection or to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding, or whether instead technology is a frequent and natural part of learning and teaching for all students across all curriculum areas and grades. It also asks whether teachers are modeling reflection using online or virtual environments.
For me, over the past 2 years I’ve tried to think about the use of technology in terms of the SAMR model. If technology is just used to replace traditional teaching approaches, it’s really just being used to enhance the learning. If, on the other hand, technology is being used to transform the learning it will provide opportunities for students to be creative or to extend their learning independently and beyond the school. Being able to ask teachers, as part of the collaborative planning process, where they are on the SAMR model when they plan for their students to use technology gives me a good indication of the impact technology is having on learning.
The SAMR model can be used as a basis for discussions of technology integration across the whole curriculum. If all teachers are aware of the technology skills that students have, then can plan to use these skills in other areas and develop the curriculum appropriately. Students can also make informed decisions about when to use technology to support their learning and can transfer their skills to new situations.
One important factor to consider is whether teachers are critically evaluating the impact of technology during their collaborative planning sessions. If teachers rarely consider the impact of technology on their teaching and on student learning then I would conclude that the impact is probably very low. When technology is having a real impact on student learning, teachers will be able to identify these benefits and may themselves be sharing this knowledge with colleagues both within and beyond the school. In the schools where I’ve seen technology making a real impact, teachers are sharing what they are doing with the colleagues, regularly updating class or personal blogs, and connecting with other educators through a variety of digital tools.