Monday, October 27, 2014

Preparing For The Rest of the 21st Century

By: Rabbi Avi Bloom, Director of Technology Integration

For the last few months media has been rife with stories about the surge in one-to-one device programs in schools, and technology integration in general.  One-to-one, or 1:1, refers to a model in which each student is equipped with a computer, tablet, or other personal electronic device to use as part of his/her educational toolbox.  Often, the public conversation on these issues has focused on devices when it ought to be about effective education and pedagogy.

Technology can have a transformative impact on the way students learn, think, create, apply and concretize the knowledge and skills that we are trying to impart.  While the hardware is essential, it is not the most crucial element in ensuring educational success. Just purchasing iPads does not change education. The most important conversation is about educational impact, not technological change.  In order to use technology successfully, we must be committed to discussing how we teach, what we teach, why we teach it, and how technology can help.  We must grapple with the question of why is it important to bring technology into the classroom? 

At SAR HS, our technology strategy directly reflects our educational mission, which values the unique needs of each learner, and the importance of student creativity and collaboration in the learning process.  We are engaged in ongoing conversations about how technology can be used to help support our mission.  Our student 1:1 device initiative, currently in place in the ninth grade, is one example of the link between our strategy and mission. The program offers students and teachers opportunities for real-time collaboration, enhanced options for creative expression, and opportunities to individualize and personalize the learning to meet the needs of each individual student.  Each teacher decides how technology is best suited to his/her educational goals.  Our ninth grade Gemara classes are already using the iPads to record and practice Gemara reading, and digitally annotate Gemara text.  Similar technology innovation is happening across all                                                               subjects and departments. 

Ultimately, successful technology integration means having conversations in which technology and pedagogy cannot be separated.  We need to continue to talk about devices, and how to use them, in light of our goals and expectations for our students.  We also need to continue to develop new goals, based on emerging technologies that did not exist even as recently as a year ago.  We must continue to refine our goals and strategies in light of what technology affords us and the world in which our students live.  

Mr. Goodman's AP Biology class uses 3D modeling software
to explore 
secondary structures of proteins.
Putting devices in students hands is a critical step in creating a more individualized, creative, collaborative, learning environment.  However, it is only a piece of the process.  Ultimately, it comes back to the question of ‘how’.  How innovative, willing and flexible are educators and institutions to think in new ways about educational goals and practices?  How can we use technology to help us achieve our current goals?  How do our goals need to evolve in light of technology?  How can we continue to ensure that our students are best prepared for a world that is changing rapidly and difficult to predict?  How can we adapt our curriculum to reflect our changing world?  

These are some of the questions we have been asking and answering in our classrooms, meetings, and hallways and we invite you to join the conversation.