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Teachers Advocate for Innovative Uses of Technology in the Classroom
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Teachers’ voices are essential to any serious effort to reform American education, including the national discussion about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The College Board and its collaborators have long recognized teachers’ work and their insight into current challenges, and a series of reports highlights teachers’ roles in issues that span all disciplines and levels of education.
The second report in the Teachers Are the Center of Education series, Writing, Learning and Leading in the Digital Age, examines the revolutionary use of technology to teach writing skills. Nine teachers from across the United States are featured in the report, which was produced by the College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center in partnership with the National Writing Project and Phi Delta Kappa International. Three more reports are scheduled for release in the fall.
“Teachers are helping lead school reform, both in and out of the classroom,” said Alan Heaps, vice president of advocacy at the College Board. “Their voices are critical to make these efforts successful.”
Teachers featured in this report have found that the use of blogs, podcasts or comic-creating software has heightened students’ engagement and encouraged their creativity across the curriculum as they learn to communicate in a 21st-century setting. But too many times, their classrooms look like 20th-century models.
“School doesn’t look like the rest of the world. School looks like school. But if school is supposed to help us in the rest of the world, shouldn’t school look like what’s going on in the rest of the world?” asked Paige Cole, who teaches social studies at Apalachee High School in Winder, Ga.
Fiona Yung, a College Board advocacy coordinator, added: “We did see that the new technology being utilized often hinges on the ingenuity of one teacher in the school, who will train others and often takes on the work of fixing the computers as well. But getting technology into all classrooms is a struggle for schools.”
Appropriate training and vital technical support is critical to giving teachers and students opportunities to use in the classroom the same technology they use in their everyday lives.
The effective use of technology enables collaboration among students as well as between students and teachers. “It makes me put more in their court — do less ‘stand and deliver’ and more hands-on projects,” said Cole. “It kind of forces that, which is nice. And it opens the door for more creativity and innovations on their part, too. Students that aren’t engaged in any other mode of teaching, of normal classroom life, really come to life.”
Heaps agreed, saying “This kind of work fosters an environment of collaboration and allows students and teachers to work and learn together. It’s more of a 21st-century notion. And with technology, this is important, because we have reached a point where the young people often know more about using this technology than even the well-trained and experienced teacher in the classroom.”
But these efforts need coordinated support, as highlighted in the report. Its recommendations include giving every student one-on-one access to computers and mobile technology in classrooms, giving teachers appropriate professional development to utilize digital tools, and ensuring that schools and districts establish a comprehensive information technology policy to give necessary infrastructure, technical support and resources for teaching and learning.
Joel Malley, a high school English teacher in Cheektowaga, N.Y., who also was featured in the report, said, “We need more of a national push for technology in education. … A push or encouragement from the people who make decisions, saying that technology is valid and that we need to be doing these things in our classrooms, would force the decision-making bodies in districts nationwide to make the purchase of technology and training a priority.”