Over the past few years technology has played an increasingly important role in education. But educators have to harness the potential technology offers, ensuring the benefits gained to increase productivity and efficiency aren’t detrimental to student learning.
Balancing technology to enhance teaching
Technology is ubiquitous and touches all parts of our lives. With it we are constantly connected, more efficient and have instant access to all manner of information and convenience. Technology is especially pervasive in our schools where it can make the teaching and learning process more meaningful for both teachers and students.
As a digital literacy coach, I am a proponent of the replacement, amplification and transformation (RAT) model of technology integration. RAT helps educators identify what is the best use of technology in the classroom.
Replacement is the lowest level of technology integration. Examples can be seen in classrooms where “smart” boards have replaced blackboards, and where students use computers with word processing software instead of paper and pen.
Daniel Mendez is a digital literacy coach at Concordia International School Shanghai.
Amplification is increasing the speed or amount of content produced by adding technology to an assignment. For example, rather than using a basic word processor, a student might present their research via a digital presentation. Instead of printing out their work, the student might submit it through a learning management system, where their teacher can view it and provide instant feedback.
Transformation is the ultimate objective when integrating technology in the classroom. In this scenario, the student works on projects that would not be possible without the use of technology. Perhaps as part of their research they are using the Internet to access university databases or Skype to interview a subject matter expert on the other side of the globe. Maybe the teacher has students using virtual reality to tour a hydroelectric dam, or coding robots for an engineering assignment. In these cases, students are learning more about a particular topic as well as getting practical exposure to technology and how it is used outside of the classroom.
The most important aspect of technology in the classroom, however, is knowing how and when to use it to enhance teaching and learning. As educators, we make it our aim to harness the potential that technology offers through thoughtful utilization. Yet, we should also remember that even with all the benefits to productivity and efficiency technology is merely a tool and that student learning should always be the focus.
(The article is contributed by Daniel Mendez, a digital literacy coach at Concordia International School Shanghai.)
Maker Spaces: the present and future of schools
The concept of a Maker Space as a place in schools to promote creativity with a creation approach has never been so much in evidence.
International schools around the world have adopted this concept and introduced students to several different creative processes, using a variety of tools and approaches to arouse pupils’ imaginations to look for the next “what if” question?
With a broad spectrum of materials and elements to explore, from cardboard boxes and Lego blocks, wood work and foam, all the way to 3D printers and programmable robots, the pedagogical potential of these spaces is literally limitless. Students of all ages can explore creativity and execute cross-subject projects using and developing design and critical thinking and problem-solving skills, collaborating and sharing knowledge about meaningful topics, while using cutting-edge technology.
Luiz Zicarelli is head of ICT Department at SSIS Senior School.
Some institutions might state that it comes with a high cost to embrace this culture and embracing the Maker adventure takes a gigantic effort to adapt curriculum, train teachers and bring parents onboard, but all transformative approaches and concepts do so.
The culture of creativity spaces in schools goes along the UNESCO 21st century skills report, incentivizing better practices for education around the world. Many institutions have tried to follow and foster this as educational best practices, placing the student in the center of its learning experience. Maker Spaces are a perfect vehicle in this sense and at the same time students have another way to find their natural skills and abilities.
I believe Maker Spaces are the present and future of schools, everywhere just because there is a model for every budget. Creative and design thinking can be developed with very basic materials, from recyclable paper and plastic to expensive laser-cutters. It might take several hours of work, planning and convincing. But as educators we know that when the students are happy, all the effort was valid.
(The article is contributed by Luiz Zicarelli, head of ICT Department at SSIS Senior School.)
VR matrix ensures nothing out of reach for kids
When is a classroom not a classroom? The answer is when it exists in a computer-generated environment.
Last year, our then Year 12 students were investigating the development of virtual reality. We purchased an Oculus Rift headset and went about configuring a Mac through which to operate it. However, it became apparent that the Mac just wasn’t up to the job, so the students developed a specification for a computer that would allow the Oculus to function at optimum conditions. They then put several computers together and handed the continuation of the project to our current Year 12 computer science students. This class of students set about configuring the computers to run the various programs that would enable infinite virtual worlds to be visited by our students of all ages.
David Crosby is academic scheduling coordinator and Secondary head of ICT at YCIS Puxi Secondary.
As well as building the machines and configuring the settings, our students are now ready to embark on the next and most innovative phase of the project: Building our own computer-generated worlds.
Using an industry standard program, Unity, our students have been learning how to generate virtual worlds, environments and characters that can be experienced by virtually anyone.
The goal here is to have our subject teachers work directly with the students in developing worlds and experiences that will benefit the learning experience.
Let’s imagine, a geography lesson taking place at the base of a volcano as it erupts, a trip through the cardiovascular system in a biology lesson, or Chinese lessons taking place on the Great Wall. All of these and more have been tested by our talented computer science students.
At YCIS Puxi, our students are being given the opportunity to be immersed in environments that they would never otherwise experience. In the worlds of virtual reality, nothing and nowhere is out of our students reach.
(The article is contributed by David Crosby, academic scheduling coordinator and Secondary head of ICT at YCIS Puxi Secondary.)