A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Danube International School where they are doing great work. In particular I appreciated how they are thinking about the impact of school environment on learning. This video gives a sense of what they are up to.
As part of the Klingenstein Heads Programme I visited four schools here in New York and conducted a review of relevant literature. As a result there are three broad areas of recommendations when considering how 21st century schools best prepare students to be successful in our digital age. These will be considered as areas of thought and be described below.
Many schools in developed countries have been swamped with new technologies. One to One laptop programs are increasingly common in schools, interactive whiteboards are present in many classrooms and in recent years students have increased access to mobile digital devices. However it would be shortsighted to reach the conclusion that filling schools with digital and information technologies will automatically prepare young people for the digital age. In the same sense, giving teachers increased access to digital technologies without providing training and without clarifying what schools are trying to accomplish is a recipe for disappointment and unmet expectations. In the early stages of digital technologies in schools it was expected that in most cases a specialist teacher would meet student needs through explicit computer classes. However, there has been a shift away from a standalone approach to one of integration.
As educators consider how best to prepare students for the 21st century we must reflect upon what we want and why this is important for education. The first broad area of recommendations is to know the what and the why. What digital competencies are important for students to develop and why are these important? Digital competencies are a set of skills, knowledge and attitudes applicable to the use of digital technologies and media that are critical for learning, work and wider life. There are different ways that those with responsibility for curriculum design might wish to approach the development of a scope and sequence of key digital competencies. For example they may wish to involve representatives from external organisations, review literature and research, and dialogue with students. It is recommended that the outcome should be a clear articulation of digital competencies.
The second recommendation is figuring out how students can develop these competencies. What are the best and most enriching learning experiences available and what resources might be needed and available within a particular context? A key point to highlight here is that digital technologies become the vehicle that gives students the opportunity to develop one or more competencies. For example where the aim might be for students to develop collaborative skills then online applications such as Skype, Google hangout or FaceTime might be utilised to learn with students from different parts of the world.
The third recommendation relates to how teachers can best be prepared to facilitate the learning of different digital competencies. First, schools must commit to continuously developing teachers so that they are able to role model and teach the different competencies using digital technologies. Teachers must be committed to learning since the growth and influence of technology and digital media is exponential. To know the success of any technology integration program schools should consider how best to assess and track student progress. Additionally schools might wish to apply the SAMR model to evaluate how technologies are being used by teachers, share practices and identify development needs.
As part of the Klingenstein Heads Programme I had the privilege to visit the Harlem Children’s Zone today. This is one of the most impressive schools that I have visited and they really are developing the whole child by providing quality education, health services, food and an extensive service programme. As one of my colleagues shared this is probably the nearest that we have seen to what John Dewey envisioned when he described desirable schools. The children we met were confident, respectful, cared for and have ambition. Congratulations to everyone involved. The video clip is one of the students introducing President Obama.
One of the pre-readings for the programme this week is ‘Creating Confidence’ by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. This short video is a good introduction to some of these ideas. At a time where standardised assessments (largely focussed upon testing narrowness in reading, writing and mathematics) I wonder how we can create a school culture where students and teachers show growth in creative confidence?
For the next two weeks I will have the privilege to participate in the Klingenstein Heads programme here at Columbia University NYC. Although it is widely acknowledged that a major part of being a successful head is staying on top of educational research and educational innovations; it is very rare in a normal working week that we are afforded the time to do so. Over the course of the next two weeks I will aim to use this blog as a way of sharing my reflections from this particular learning journey. In preparation for the next weeks participants have been asked to undertake pre-reading. I wonder how many participants have been doing this reading during their journey to NYC? I wonder how how many school heads manage to read and reflect on a weekly basis in comparison with those who squeeze this work into holidays, evenings and time spent travelling? Anyway, after a fantastic American breakfast I am ready to learn.
This is a really interesting video where Howard Gardner explains some of the ideas and research behind his new book ‘The App Generation’.