Yesterday, I attended the unveiling" of two new curriculum textbook resources. Sixth grade teachers and curriculum leaders crammed into a meeting room and flipped through copies of hot off the press" textbooks that soon would grace their classroom shelves for the next decade (or longer). Presenters introduced the texts through fresh and colorful page layouts and content features that were written to reflect both a new curriculum and the unique needs and interests of 21st century learners.
Although there appeared to be no end to the positive additions made to those textbooks (curricular, visual, graphic thinking tools, test banks), I found myself doing something that Miss Clavel (the loyal caregiver from Ludwig Bemelmans well know storybook series, Madeline) did on a regular basis. Sensing impending trouble, Miss Clavel would wake up in middle of the night, turn on her light and whisper under her breathe Something is not right!"
For me, the reoccurring thought that something is not right" had to do with the obvious absence of the integration of technology throughout the textbooks and publisher presentation. Aside from a few computer pictures and a DVD addition that provided ideas for teachers interested in using the Smart Board, there was a glaring omission of the T" word (technology). Assuming I had missed it, I asked the presenters how ICT would be integrated into the content and activities within this textbook. They explained that since students are very tech savvy by Grade 6, there wasnt a need to include the infusion of technology, that students would be able to make those connections and applications on their own. They added that the inclusion of a DVD for Smart Board users and some Web link suggestions in the resource guide would help teachers provide a 21st century program for their students.
For the past ten years, my work with teachers has involved introducing and modeling the fine art of using technology as a mindtool within an education context. Along the way, Ive learned that using technology to support and enhance teaching and learning does not come naturally to a generation of teachers schooled and trained in a pre-technology era. Not only do teachers need substantial instruction on how to integrate technology into their teaching, they need opportunities to see exemplars of how emerging technology applications can engage learners, help to hone students critical thinking skills, and prepare them to succeed in a digital world.
Automatically assuming that todays youth will come to school equipped with the ability to use technology in meaningful ways is a risky notion. Our students enthusiastic embrace of cell phones, texting, mp3 players, social networking Web sites, and digital media does not necessarily mean they are able to transfer those skills into a learning context. To do that, they need the support of knowledgeable teachers and a curriculum that encourages them to use their skills to connect, communicate and create.
Everybody is talking about technology integration, but few practicing teachers profess to know exactly how to proceed. The fact is that real integration requires change. . . . However, what seems to be lacking is a model that teachers can use to guide them through the necessary changes they will need to make to be successful in integrating new technology into their classroom." (Johnson & Liu, 2000, p. 4).
If we take for granted that teachers know how to connect their curriculum with emerging digital tools, we are treading on shaky ground. Although many teachers have learned to navigate the unfamiliar waters of basic technology tools and applications, few have an adequate idea of how to use those tools and applications beyond basic information retrieval and keyboarding, or are aware of emerging Web 2.0 tools and the possibilities they hold for teaching and learning. Failing to provide technology integration models and support for teachers will lead to the establishment of curricular programs in which technology is overlooked or misused.
For over a decade, important conversations have been going on in education and government circles across North America. Few would deny that the loudest conversation centers on core academic scores, testing schemes, and closing the achievement gap between social classes, or that the intensity of that conversation frequently drowns out other viable educational discussions.
One of the most forward-thinking and persistent of those conversations involves readying students for a 21st century economy, a world that needs strong academic skills, thinking reasoning, teamwork and proficiency in using technology." (21st Century Workforce Commission National Alliance of Business).
At times, the two conversations seem to be at odds with one another; often because the mode of instruction needed to facilitate a technology-rich learning environment demands both a significant financial commitment and a need to revisit what educators believe about teaching and learning. Until we get serious about that, technology integration will be relegated to a few token pages within curricular resources instead of providing the schoolhouse with a powerful platform from which to launch the new skills and ways of thinking and learning that are needed to thrive and be successful in a 21st century world.
Reference: Johnson, D. L., & Liu, L. (2000). First steps toward a statistically generated information technology integration model. Computers in the Schools, 16(2), 3-12.
Author: Brenda Dyck
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