Saturday, September 10, 2011

Planning for the Future

Designing highly engaging digital lessons can be the catalyst for enhancing a school’s vision for the future,  strengthening its learning goals, and helping it to realize its mission. To be deemed successful, digital lesson design itself must weigh the relationship between technology investments and student growth. Technology integration  requires that teachers be willing to make substantial investments in time, resources, and support. Incorporating technology into the classroom effectively, teachers must use those strategies that are directly aligned to practices that engage students in higher levels of direct learning and the development of critical thinking skills. Technology tools by themselves will not reform the learning environment. It is with the blending of effective instructional practices that fit within a lesson design where technology integration merges with 21st Century teaching.

Viewing technology lesson design as a process instead of an event requires two paradigm shifts in thinking and development. The first paradigm shift occurs when the stakeholders of the district realize the design process will result in more than simply purchasing technology. Ten years ago, technology investment focused primarily on acquiring computers and was simply a process of deciding what type of computers to purchase, how many, and where to place them. Today, new technology opportunities require technology designers to rethink the plausibility of technology in the classroom. The design process must address how technology will be used by students and staff, not just what equipment it will involve.

The second paradigm shift occurs when the technology design process integrates the technology into the curriculum. This paradigm shift allows the designing process to have an impact on student learning. For the technology planning efforts to have maximum effect on student learning, the process must be coupled with curriculum development and instructional lesson design. Since the goal of technology design should be improved student learning, this process begets questions that only classroom teachers can answer. Therefore, a collaborative effort between technology professionals and teachers will produce the most comprehensive and successful technology integration plan. Without this investment of time and effort, designing for technology will have little or no impact on school improvement.

Finally, the key to increasing student performance begins by providing formal teacher training. Through professional development, teachers will better understand the design for technology integration and realize ways to apply the essential strategies to instruction. When teachers understand the criteria by which technology integration will occur, the approach to the school improvement process in regards to web 2.0 literacy learning will become more effective.

The shape of the school of the future is amorphous, but most educators and observers agree that the future school will go interactive. The emphasis will be on becoming adept at the learning tools, on mastering concepts quickly, on thinking critically, on expressing oneself effectively and preparing the student for lifelong independent learning. This century will produce schools that will transform electronic information into inquiry-based methods that will change traditional approaches of educating the individual. Integrated technology linking the highways of knowledge will become essential for effective schools of the future.

In closing, whether or not we are ready for the paradigm shift that adopts technology into the curriculum of the future will most assuredly precipitate, the societal forces for integrating technology learning into the schools and global marketplace are upon us. It is up to the educators of the future to bring together the interaction of the traditional classrooms of today. These are the classrooms that lay so far apart but so close together so that when bridged with technology the effect will be greater than the sum of their individual effects. Between the present and the near future, technology resources stand to foster students’ development of both traditional and digital learning; however, schools of the future have many questions to answer and many cautions to consider as educators formulate a vision for best practices. To accomplish true synergy of the emergence of technology into the traditional classroom settings educators must understand the elements of adopting technology resources within the dynamics of the educational setting and become pivotal forces in affecting the learning outcomes of the school.

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