Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Technology Agenda for K12 Education

It’s amazing how time seems to speed up as we accumulate more personal history.  I find the seasons and yearly cycles to be coming up faster now then they did 25 years ago.  School start-up is just two weeks in the future.  September is a chaotic period in general for those in the school system and the parents of our students.  Specifically though I would like to ponder the technology agenda for the next year or so.

I just read an article in FastCompany “How TED Became the NEW HARVARD”.  It tells the store of TED.com which is quite fascinating.  I love their mission “Ideas worth spreading”.  It is described as an educational platform.  The best minds and ideas are shared for free with the world.  TED used to be an insular conference, a closed system.  But has, through effective use of technology, transformed itself into a platform for spreading creative ideas.  I wonder how K12 can learn from this approach…

In our District we have a number of initiatives looming.  I wrote a post Laptops for Teachers are Essential Tools for the 21st Century about us providing 1/3 of our teachers with a laptop this coming year.  We will be defining our “Print Agenda” with the aim of replacing core printer/copier/scanner devices in our buildings while improving our environmental and energy impact – I’d like the purpose statement to be “Printing is not meant to be convenient” or something like that.  We have to plan, research, and test a major upgrade of our my43 portal platform (based on Microsoft Sharepoint) that runs our District, school, teacher public websites and our District, school Intranets, and virtual classrooms.  We also want to expand the capabilities of my43 to more deeply support teaching, learning, and administration.  My post Digital Tools and Social Responsibility introduces some work begun last year to address the exponential growth in the use of our school networks, often in inappropriate ways – this coming year it will be critical for us to address this in meaningful ways with technology, process, policy, and education.  We are designing new elementary, middle, and secondary schools – the opportunity to design-in technology in transformative ways are huge.  From a pure IT perspective we have all sorts of systems to upgrade, Windows 7 roll-outs to do, servers to replace, etc.  I was just at a seminar put on by Citrix that has intriguing potential to improve our management of computer labs and possible personally owned device (POD) access.  I know some people are really focused on open source, cloud computing, the latest edtech tools, etc.  I could go on about this initiative and that initiative but one might be tempted to say “so what”.

I think it is important to ask ourselves what one technology innovation or change will make the greatest difference in the lives of our students.  Will it be the effective integration of interactive white boards or 1-1 laptop projects or 1-1 ipod/ipad devices or online learning tools or collaborative online writing or leveraging social networking or providing teachers laptops or…  I suspect there is no “killer app” or one innovation that makes a difference.  Each of these technologies have value but a variety of options for teachers to experiment with to support curriculum is essential.  But if I were to pick one, I think the best bang for our buck is increasing teacher access to personal technology.

Teachers are still central to connecting K12 students to learning and curriculum.  They should be personally engaged with technology, experimenting with the various options, and designing their teaching and students learning using the options they find beneficial.  For sure we want our students to leverage technology and use it in their learning – without it, they are disadvantaged today.  However, most students left to themselves will primarily use technology for social, entertainment, and in many cases harassment purposes.  But teachers need to be able to guide them to use appropriate technology effectively and responsibly.  To do that, teachers need personal access when they need it and where they need it.  They need to transform their planning, preparation, activities, and assessments.

Okay, I’ve put it out there.  The agenda, I think, needs to be about teacher access to technology this coming year.  I’m sure others have their own opinions on this.  What do you think should be the focus this year?