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Why Technology in the Classroom is About More Than Just the Tools

- April 11, 2017 - 3 Comments

Contributors: Carmen A Rahm

When it comes to thoughtfully placing technology into the classroom and the curriculum, it’s about more than just providing the tools.

Kent School District in Kent, Washington knows firsthand about the shift from giving students and educators technology access, to providing them with the right technology access and skills to empower learning. They recently underwent a multi-step visioning process to drive this shift. To do so, they hosted a Tech Summit for students, educators, administrators and community members.

“How are we using technology?” said Kent Superintendent Calvin Watts at the summit. “How are we ensuring that this infrastructure that we have – this wonderful tool that we have – is not simply used as a toy? Is it actually used as a tool to help enhance and advance teaching and learning? That becomes the question, how and to what degree are we connecting teaching and learning with our technology.”

So, how do you connect teaching and learning with technology?

Integrating technology into your school doesn’t start with giving each student a laptop and expecting it to instantly change the way they learn. It starts with crafting a vision for the future of your school district, then determining how technology can help achieve that vision.

Here are four steps to shifting the way technology is and will be used in your school district.

1. Involve those who will be using the technology. More often than not, decisions about new tools are made by those who will never use the technology in its intended state. To ensure positive adoption of technology in the classroom, you must involve those who will actually be using it – the students and the educators.

For Kent School District, hosting a Tech Summit was the ideal way to bring together all stakeholders to discuss the future use of technology in their district.

Superintendent Calvin Watts said of the summit, “The goal in the next five years is to enhance our core business. Our core business is teaching and learning with an emphasis on learning, and that means we need to ask ourselves – our neighbors, community members, work family, home family – how are we doing? Are we doing what we said we would do in terms of using our technology to support teaching and learning?”

The one-day summit brought together 135 people to discuss.

2. Look towards the future. If there were no limitations, what would learning look like on your campus? What would it look like at home? What tools do the students want to use? What tools do the educators need to drive meaningful knowledge gains?

When you ask the right questions to the right people, you get amazing results.

During the Kent Tech Summit, small groups created sketches and scripts of what the day in the life of the future student in the Kent School District would look like.

Once the students, educators and community members had an open forum to discuss their thoughts, the ideas for how to improve the district got flowing.

One student suggested a global learning program, where students could connect with native speakers to better comprehend foreign languages. Another suggested personalized learning tools, both in the classroom and at home, to enhance learning for all individuals, regardless of pace.

“Our students are sharing with us exactly what they need and how they need to learn,” said Superintendent Watts.

It is with this knowledge of the students’ desired future state that a school district can begin to plan for the future.

3. Determine what technology can support. Once your school has determined what the future state should look like, it’s time to find the tools you’ll need to achieve that state.

What technology tools are highest priority? Will your network be able to support the heightened use of technology on campus, and the added need for access to educational resources? How can you plan to roll out technology over time to yield the same results, yet fit into your districts’ budget?

4. Listen to feedback – good or bad. Achieving meaningful digital transformation by successfully implementing technology into your school is an ever-evolving process. Once technology is placed into the classrooms, you can’t just sit back and hope that it will be impactful, you must constantly adapt, and enhance.

Listen to what the students, educators and parents are saying about the technology. Use their feedback to improve and adjust. The more involved they are in the process, the more successful your technology implementation will be in the long run.

Interested in creating more impactful and thoughtful uses of technology at your school? Check out how other schools, like Mesa Public Schools and Rochester City Schools are using the visioning process to plan the future state of their districts.

Cisco’s education experts can help you turn your future state into a reality by helping navigate the technology journey. To learn more, please email ctemesi@cisco.com.

For more information on the Kent Tech Summit, visit their website, watch their recap video, or check out this article about the event.

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3 Comments

    Empowering teachers with the knowledge of "How" they can use technology in the classroom is extremely vital to the success of delivering curriculum in the years to come. Good blog post!

    One of my friends is a teacher and she uses a chat program for students to talk to other students in the Asian region. For them the Northern hemisphere is to out of kilter timewise to connect.

    • Peter - Sounds like an awesome and effective program for students connections.

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