The TechCHAT series invites teachers, media specialists and other educators from across the country and around the world to share how they’re using technology to enhance instruction and student learning.
Dianna Lindsay, based at the Williamsburg Christian Academy in Williamsburg, VA, teaches Honors Government, Honors World History, Honors Civics and Pre-AP English, all while integrating a healthy dose of tech in the classroom.
1. What should a cutting-edge school computer lab look like? (Or, should there not even be a computer lab?)
Our new model is underway at this time. We are leaving the “computer lab” idea and moving into the “sandbox” idea. There will be a combination of peninsula-style tables for groups of five to six kids, where they can edit on a large screen from tablets, laptops or cell phones. We hope to have about three such stations. The direction in which we’re going emphasizes group process.
In addition, we will have four small spaces for two or three learners, a stand-up high table for solo work, and a six comfortable leather-style chairs in front of a fireplace for personal writing, reading or tweeting! We are saying goodbye to computer labs, except for testing. Those computers will be associated as extensions to the elementary school library within our building.
2. Think about today compared to 2005. What has changed over this period of time regarding schools’ acceptance of social media platforms as learning tools?
Everything! We have moved from powering-off to enter into school, to powering up, linking up, joining up and learning up! Our flipped classrooms have changed the types of problems we expect our kids to solve and the way we have kids work. Editing, authentic conversations, electronic consultants and student-generated problems aid our exploration. I love it!
I am in my 40th year in education and have never been so excited about what we can do, where our questions link us, and with whom we can have expert conversations. And, to do all this, I teach Socratic questioning, peer editing, close reading and other classical skills identified by the MacArthur Foundation as needed in the 21st century.
3. For schools, what’s the most challenging aspect of tablet management?
I think we can’t get all caught up in managing tablets. The kids are given the specs and seem to follow them. There are the day-to-day silly things that kids test us on, but I think there is less nonsense because we have invited technical devices in our schools. I think tablets will be less of an issue, as I see cell phones as more vital than tablets in the classroom for high school kids. Tablets seem awesome for journalism, newscasts and interviews, but our cell phones and smartphones are taking us more places.
4. Which tech skills and literacies are most important for students to have in the 21st century?
Please see the list from the MacArthur Foundation. I am hooked on them and try to incorporate as many as possible into my planning. As a matter of fact, I am planning a “hug” program for next year. We have started it this year: virtual docents for monuments, museums and memorials in Washington, D.C.
Kids love this so much that we have (1) written a $25,000 grant with ING, (2) asked the headmaster if we can stay together next year as a class (she said yes), (3) begun our own blog and Web page, (4) set up a special Twitter account for the project, (4) researched marketing this with a specialist in NYC, (5) made 25 specialized QR codes and (6) planned numerous other items for next year.
All of this is a spin-off from one question, “How could we improve our D.C. experience for kids?” Amazing! We were in D.C. last night until 11:30 p.m. and filmed all day Wednesday and Thursday (a parent paid for us to stay overnight from Williamsburg, VA).