Had a great session today with the IT decision makers at school. Suffice it to say, the powers that be were overwhelmed. The question to be addressed was “What does it mean to be a 21st century school? The concept is embedded in our mission and vision statements for the school but was it really a part of the school culture? What role did social media play? What indicators were there for us to legitimately claim our status as a 21st century school?
Some may think it is enough to give every kid a laptop and pretend that a school is on the cutting edge of educational technology but I would argue that it is how we make use of the technology to promote learning and enhance understanding. Students have an inherent understanding of technology – in fact most don’t know a world without it. The other day, I was introducing exponential functions to a group of students by dropping a basketball from a certain height and recording the heights of successive bounces. Anticipating a lesson fraught with confusion and mismanagement as I only managed to obtain two video cameras to record heights, I was somewhat taken aback as I watched students pull out their mobile phones and capture video of their partner dropping the basketball. As if that wasn’t enough, they proceeded to blue-tooth their videos to iMovie, edit their clip, slow it down and were able to accurately determine the height of each bounce. Students then put the data into Geogebra and fit a near perfect exponential decay function to their points all within the space of an hour. What a fabulous introduction to the unit!
It’s a perfect example of not only what turned out to be a good lesson but also of the inherent knowledge that students possess of the devices that they use every day. This should be a reminder for us – we are not going to be successful in the classroom if we don’t connect with students. We can’t connect with students if we don’t get into their domains and teach from within.
It was a stark reminder for some of us of just how far we have come in such a short time. We began the discussion today with a stroll down memory lane to our first Commodore 64. We ended with underpinning the importance of establishing an online presence and collaborative environment. This can only be achieved with a change in mindset whereby technology permeates all aspects of school life and community endeavours.