Thinking about what it means to be future-ready…

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready...

Recently I was asked to answer questions for a colleague regarding technology and curriculum. At the same time I was participating in a chat where a participant Tweeted, “I don’t know what the future is so I only prepare my students for today.”
While I know it is true that we cannot know the future, that comment troubled me. We cannot predict the future, but we must plan for it. We plan our finances for a rainy day. We organize our lives to complete tasks, prepare for future events, even plan for dinner guests with the future in mind.

We do face in the moment and deal with today, but we are constantly cognizant of the future. As educators, parents and individual learners we know that the knowledge and experiences we gain today provide the building blocks for tomorrow. We once learned how to program our phones for speed dial which the basics of that helped us to now know how to add contacts in our smart phones. If we don’t offer experiences with technology today we are keeping the experiences from students that will provide the foundation for the technology of the future.

The following questions and answers are a more in-depth answer to the importance, role and vision for why we, as educators, parents and learners, must prepare our students to be future-ready.

What is the school vision for technology?

The vision for technology is embedded in our districts vision statement.
Our vision statement says: To be the the best and most sought after school-district where every student is future ready:
-Ready for college.
-Ready for the global work place.
-Ready for personal success.

While it is not directly stated concerning technology the initiatives including our superintendent’s 1 of only four initiatives for every student to have and continuously build a digital portfolio of exemplary work and the school board’s decision to use a large amount of funds to purchase devices for a 1:1 ration in secondary as well as laptops, tablets/iPads in every teacher’s possession to ensure integrated instruction of content and technology supports that our overall vision is deeply rooted in technology.

If technology were removed, what learning would be impossible/impaired?

Technology is deeply rooted in everything in the classroom. From teacher documentation, strategic planning and parent communication to creating engaging lessons that reach all learners. Technology is in everyone’s lives. Students need to use it as it presently exists as it provides the building blocks for the technology that has yet to be invented. Technology also allows for differentiation for each learner in the classroom in a way traditional methods, without the assistance of technology, would be virtually impossible. The diverse needs of learners these days along with the amount of content and expectation for teachers to uniquely meet each student’s needs in personal and definable ways would not be possible without the assistance of technology. Furthermore students are able to use several levels of blooms when they create with technology as they not only have to evaluate the best method to deliver the evidence of their understanding, but they have to evaluate the audience it is being delivered to, as well as, create an original product that a paper/pencil activity sheet does not provide the structure for this deeper level of design. Lack of technology would stunt the ability to adequately prepare students to be future-ready as well as impair them as problem-solvers and creative designers as traditional methods are more limiting compared to the possibilities offered with technology.

How do you support professional development?

Professional development from my perspective is self-directed with the development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), MOOCs and online courses. The Instructional Technology department within our district is moving to Professional Development courses that are accessible from our Moodle structured online course framework called Netschool. Many of our face to face courses are built in Netschool so that teachers can continually refer back to the content. Additionally, we are utilizing the online courses to create “cohort” like courses where it is moderated by facilitators, requires quality product submissions applicable to classroom needs/instructional design and fosters collaboration through forums. Furthermore, our district provides two district led chats. One is led by mid-administration for current discussions regarding community, curriculum and initiatives that move us closer to the goals within our district vision. The other chat is promoted and facilitated by our Instructional Technology department but is led each week by guest moderators that are most often teachers. The discussions in this chat revolve around instruction and how technology is or can be integrated. Discussions range from student blogging to parent communication.

What is the best “advice” you would give for moving technology/learning forward in a way that will make more impact for all students?

The best advice is to commit to doing one thing at a time every few weeks and learn to implement it with purpose. Be sure that your use of technology or the product students are creating is with purpose and meaningful to the content. It shouldn’t be a “bells and whistles” piece but a seamless part of the entire process of learning.

The other piece of advice is be willing to “fail” or struggle with your students when it comes to using technology. Allow them to see you problem solve challenges and involve them in the process of finding solutions when, at first the technology does not work as intended. We as instructional engineers design learning with the intent that there is no bumps in the road, but the beauty of bumps in the road is that they are seeing “real world” happen before them. If we are going to push our kids to be problem solvers and find solutions to everyday challenges we must be willing to be transparent and show our “struggle” to solve everyday challenges with technology. It is one of the most authentic lessons you can provide a child. It teaches the lessons of grit and perseverance that lessons without the opportunity to create with technology do not provide.

In the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzer it talks about decision making with today’s generation. While it was talking about a move to action with decision making it did say,”Today’s generation of employees (and children, for that matter) expects to be involved in more decisions than their grandparents ever faced. That’s where the empowerment movement came from. Younger people don’t see themselves as a pair of hands seeking direction. They want to think. They want to decide. They’re willing to take on more responsibility.” That reminded me of how critical it is that we have devices in our students’ hands allowing them to think, decide, create and take on more responsibility. When we neglect to do that we neglect to speak to their inner driving force… we remove the ability to allow them to be empowered.

Kirsten Wilson, MEd
Instructional Technology Specialist
Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi

“To love a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce

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