It's an exciting time for those of us who strive every day to prepare today's K–12 students for college and the workforce.
When I visit the classrooms of Katy (Texas) Independent School District's 53 schools, I'm struck by the powerful role technology is playing in our students' learning. Allowing our second- through 12th-grade students to bring their mobile devices to school and to access valuable cloud resources using the district's filtered Wi-Fi network has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for them.
Over the past three years, our technology leaders and members of the curriculum and instruction department have worked hard to change the way teachers teach and students learn. Embedding instructional technology into the curriculum has evolved to include digital resources in all content areas. Together, we are discovering how to best serve our students, who have grown up surrounded by technology and want to be able to use it whenever they please.
A Katy ISD teacher who began using mobile learning devices in her classroom during the 2011–2012 school year recently remarked that, thanks to technology, her students "were learning so much more than what the state objectives asked of them." She was gratified to know, as am I, that her students' learning is extending far beyond the print textbooks they read, her own knowledge of the subject matter and even what the state expects them to know.
Deciding whether a Web 2.0 resource aligns with the existing curriculum is a three-step process. Our instructional technology staff do an initial review to determine whether the tool has potential learning value and, if so, we refer it to our curriculum coordinators to evaluate. We discuss together where and how it could be incorporated into the curriculum and which subject areas and grade levels would benefit from its use. At the same time, our operations group looks at the tool in question to ensure that it will work well on our systems.
Sometimes, a resource already in use is serving our needs well and a change isn't needed; in other cases, we'll add more resources to the toolbox. We do this annually to ensure that teachers and students have what they need to get the most out of their classroom experience.
As with any transformational change, support for a technology-integrated curriculum must begin with our principals, who must model the tools themselves — and set the expectation for teachers that technology will be used in the classroom. They also must support teachers and classroom technology integration even when tools malfunction or students use them inappropriately.
Teachers can begin their transition to this model by seeking the advice of colleagues and peers in their personal learning networks. It's important that the depth and breadth of the content they present to students endure as they become increasingly comfortable using Web 2.0 tools.
I have found that educators can successfully integrate technology into their teaching if they make their classroom a supportive, digital-friendly learning environment; are passionate about the content; focus on helping students absorb enduring concepts rather than trying to teach it all; make learning a 24x7 pursuit; and communicate that they are ready to learn with — and from — their students.
Katy Independent School District's Web 2.0 toolbox for the 2011–2012 school year included the following resources:
- DoInk, for do-it-yourself art and animation creation;
- Kidblog.org, which enables teachers to create an individual blog for every student;
- Edmodo, PBworks, Posterous, Stixy and VoiceThread, for online content sharing and collaboration;
- Diigo and LiveBinders, to manage online resources;
- StoryJumper, a book-publishing tool;
- Tagxedo, for creating word clouds;
- TextTheMob, an audience engagement tool; and
- Timetoast, which allows students to create timelines for their blogs or websites.