California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
Educational technology offers much promise for making learning more relevant to students. However, it is important to remember that learning goals drive the selection of technology tools. For example, an online game in history will help students only if the content of the questions reflects grade-level standards. In addition, technology purchases must be tied to the School’s Single Plan for Student Achievement and the district’s state-approved technology plan.
Three questions will help to guide educators in integrating technology:
For the most part, American adolescents are technology natives who were born into the world of computers, the Internet, cell phones, blogs, and e-mail. Millennials are children born between 1980 and 2000.1 For most of these students, technology tools and games are a way of life. School professionals can uncover a multitude of opportunities to engage these technology natives by using the learning tools that matter to them. (Also, refer to Acceptance of Young Adolescent Priorities Leads to Reciprocal Identification with Academic Values, Appendix 5-B from the original Taking Center Stage.)
According to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students should be technology literate by the time they complete eighth grade. A successful, technology-rich school must integrate technology into the curricula, and teachers need training to use the technology and maximize its potential.2
However, one aspect of the achievement gap is that students in low-income families often do not have equal access to technology, particularly at home, leading to a digital divide. Providing technology for use by teachers and students can be a challenge, but many schools—even those from the poorest neighborhoods—have been successful in acquiring technology through grants, community partnerships, Title I funding, and donations. For more information on funding for technology, go to the California Department of Education (CDE) Web page on education technology.
The State of California currently has no technology standards for students, although technology is embedded within the academic content standards. For example:
Breaking Ranks in the Middle (PDF; Outside Source) recommendation number 30 underscores the importance of making technology available for all students: “Schools will develop a strategic plan to make technology integral to curriculum, instruction, and assessment, accommodating different learning styles and helping teachers to individualize and improve the learning process.”4
Research on the use of school and home computers showed gains in student achievement. Penuel et. al. (2002) conducted a meta-analysis of 19 research articles about the effects of computers on improving home–school connections. “Technology integration programs designed to improve home–school connections typically result in:
Maywood Middle School, Corning Union Elementary School District
Students helped to install the school’s Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) lab. They also maintain it and trouble-shoot any problems. Students interact with EAST-specified hardware and software in animation, computer-aided designs, engineering design, visualization, database design, Web page design, programming, office automation, digital filmmaking, virtual reality, and global positioning and geographic information systems. Students are motivated to work on projects that matter to them. In addition, they face problems similar to those they will face when they enter the workforce, including planning, time management, the need to work well with others, taking personal responsibility and problem solving. In solving these problems, “they learn to become creative, intuitive, adaptable learners who can solve unpredictable, real world problems.”6
Carlsbad Unified School District
Technology is used to promote student engagement in learning. Middle grades classrooms are equipped with ceiling-mounted projection devices, a document camera, Smartboards or interactive tablets, a teacher computer station, and a minimum of three student desktop computers. Wireless connections and more portable devices are included in the district’s technology plan goals. Each middle school has a studio where student-created video bulletin broadcasts are streamed over the Internet.
The equipment and software for the studios was obtained through a combination of grants, corporate partnerships, and donations. As part of the elective program at the middle schools, students may choose the very popular semester course, Introduction to Broadcasting, then follow it with the yearlong, more in-depth courses, Broadcasting 1 and Broadcasting 2. Broadcasting provides an authentic way for students to practice and perfect their reading, writing and speaking skills.
Middle grades students in Carlsbad Unified also have the opportunity for another very popular technology-related activity—the Geocaching Club. Learning is combined with fun. Students use handheld Global Positioning Systems (GPS) units to search for hidden treasure. Besides the excitement of the hunt, students learn latitude and longitude coordinates, estimate and measure distance, graph, and work as part of a team.
Although the term Web 2.0 suggests a new version of the World Wide Web (Outside Source), it actually means changes in the ways the existing Web can be used. Software developers have created Web tools to allow a more personalized, interactive Web experience. Many of the Web tools and resources are free and require little more than a high-speed Internet connection and a receiver, such as a computer or a hand-held device.
The variety of Web 2.0 tools continues to expand with increasing numbers of options for social networking sites (Outside Source), blogs (Outside Source) (Web logs), photo sharing (Outside Source) and image sharing (Outside Source), RSS (Outside Source) (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary; several similar forms of Web syndication used by news Web sites and Weblogs), newsfeeds (Outside Source), wikis (Outside Source), real-time, online applications for group collaboration, podcasts, and more. Although students seem to have no trouble maneuvering their way through this smorgasbord of technology, others—including some classroom teachers—may find jumping into Web 2.0 to be a daunting experience.
The California School Library Association has created a professional development tutorial to assist teachers with the use of Web 2.0 tools. Classroom Learning 2.0 (Outside Source), is an on-line guide that will allow you to try out and experience Web 2.0 tools. The tutorial features 23 tasks to complete. Each task will showcase one more Web tool that you can use with students. In addition, the tutorial provides ideas on how to use these tools to motivate student learning.
Many teachers are experimenting with using new technology tools to enhance learning, including podcasts, blogs, and video games. The following resources provide a few ideas to help teachers use technology effectively:
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814