Every day, students use computers, phones, video cameras, social networking and more to share, create and learn. Yet some schools lag behind in offering these technologies in their classrooms. Bridging that gap is crucial to students' 21st century learning experience.
The recently released CDW•G 2010 21st Century Classroom Report confirms that high schools could be doing more to help students develop modern skills and to prepare for college and beyond. Yet plenty of schools are transforming student learning using interactive whiteboards, collaborative learning tools (such as student response systems) and video technology.
At Eagle Pass Independent School District in Texas, standardization is key to classroom success. The assurance that teachers can walk into any classroom and access the same tools "allows them to concentrate on teaching and increasing student achievement," says Instructional Technology Coordinator Patrick Salinas.
In addition, the district employs vendors, the regional educational center and its own in-house training team of tech-savvy faculty and administrators, who show teachers how to embed technology into their lessons and how to integrate the tools into curriculum requirements.
"Teachers sometimes hesitate to embrace new technologies, but if the message comes from a colleague, it makes technology that much more realistic [and convinces them] that they, too, can do this," Salinas says.
Classroom design also is important to technology optimization. To ensure easy access for students in every part of the classroom, Eagle Pass installed an interactive whiteboard on one of the long walls of each room; that way, every student is an active participant. "We want to motivate students to show up and stay in school, and [we want to] make sure they are productive and successful," Salinas says. "One approach to keeping them interested and focused is providing these tools in all classrooms."
Kathy Korty, a technology integration specialist in Ohio's Edgewood City Schools district, asks her pre-K–5 students to complete a number of hands-on activities using modern technologies. Students researching Native Americans, for example, can share their findings digitally rather than write a research report. They shoot images using digital and video cameras and then organize the content using video-editing software. "They create their own movie with their own voice and tell a story," Korty explains. "We let their creative minds do what they want to do. It engages and motivates them."
For more stories of schools integrating technology into their classrooms, see Bridge to the Future.
Ready, Set, Action!
At Parkway School District in Missouri, technology is an important part of the curricula both inside and outside the classroom. The district emphasizes the importance of technology and learning by hosting an annual digital film festival that showcases videos students have created about topics typically covered in their classes.
The festival not only gives students the opportunity to share their work on the big screen, it also deepens their appreciation of the subject matter. "They have a clearer picture of the concept" they studied, explains Bill Bass, the festival coordinator and one of the district's technology integration specialists. "In the case of a book, they took time to delve into the text further. In the case of a science concept, they explored it more fully than they would have if they'd taken a test and moved on."
To learn more about schools using film festivals and other video projects to support academic growth, see Seeing Is Believing.
EDITOR IN CHIEF