Friday, March 12, 2010

Technology Tools for 21st Century Learning

An argument could be made that today's "digital natives" are the most connected generation of all time. These students need to be prepared to deal with the unique challenges and opportunities that accompany our digitally-connected world. Similar to previous generations, students today encounter new cultural experiences that impact their behaviors in the classroom. The proliferation of technology tools has fundamentally changed the way students interact with their environment. Today's students rely on social networking tools and Internet sources for basic information, connecting to friends, entertainment, and personal reflection. The lack of these familiar tools in today's classrooms often leaves students feeling disconnected and disenfranchised. The fourth area in the H.E.A.T./H.E.A.R.T. process is the use of Technology Tools.

Teachers have a unique responsibility to balance the students’ desire to use technology tools with the need to keep students safe online while consistently moving ahead with their curriculum objectives. When observing teachers and providing feedback, there are ways one can suggest the use of Technology Tools in the classroom. Outlined below are commendations and recommendations focusing on the fourth target area of H.E.A.T./H.E.A.R.T.: Technology Tools.

Technology Tools: Commendations
As always, start with a positive and cite specific examples of instructional technology that the teacher used during the lesson. Then suggest the possibility of introducing additional technology resources that might enhance the learning or address multiple learning styles. Have the teachers review their own lessons to pinpoint where they can include technology resources in the future. Additionally try to encourage small steps towards instructional technology activities by guiding teachers to examples found on such sites as Thinkfinity or Discovery Education.

Technology Tools: Recommendations
1. Encourage individual staff members to discuss strategies for technology integration within their professional learning communities.
2. Challenge individual staff members to explore ways of using their existing technology resources to "bump up" the H.E.A.T./H.E.A.R.T. in their respective classrooms.
3. Encourage individual staff members to take small steps by directing them to resources (see list below) that are standards-based and integrate technology tools effectively.
4. Empower staff to utilize the available technology in the classroom for learning centers/stations tied to the current benchmark/content standard.
5. Recommend that individual staff members seek assistance from their campus technology specialist or facilitator to locate specific resources (e.g., websites, simulations, applets) that align with the current content benchmark or content standard being addressed in class

Integrating technology with Standards-based Lesson Ideas
Discovery Education
Go to Web 2.0
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

For additional technology tools and resources, see the H.E.A.T. Resources List