It's a Digital Revolution
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, laptops, tablets and other digital gadgets — like interactive whiteboards or “smart” boards, which rapidly replaced blackboards and dry-erase white boards — are increasingly present in classrooms. Great news for those who take to new technology naturally; a potentially daunting challenge for those who don’t.
“A new digital revolution is literally exploding in K–12 schools,” says Siri Anderson, associate professor of education and program director for online learning at St. Catherine University, “and we intend to ride the leading edge of this new wave.”
Today, teachers must do more than help students become curious and determined learners. They also need to integrate digital education into their classrooms and adopt new web-based technologies and social media platforms to support instruction. State standards require it and research supports its positive impact on student learning.
“Gone are the days of pull-down maps,” explains Abigail Morales, a student in St. Kate’s Master of Arts in Education (MAED) Curriculum and Instruction Program, and a 6th-grade teacher at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Monticello, Iowa. “For example, imagine I’m teaching a lesson on global deforestation. The interactive board, together with a computer, lets me use Google Earth to zoom to any part of the planet. In this instance, I could track the die-off of pine trees in the Colorado Rockies or the jungle losses in the Amazon basin in real time — and in living color!”
Morales was one of two teachers to pilot a program that brought the interactive boards to their school two years ago. “My goal,” she says, “is to help my students learn the 21st century skills they’ll soon need, as well as incorporate the common core standards necessary for college and career readiness.”
These modern-day skills, she adds, include facility with software programs — such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint and web-based collaboration programs like Google Docs — and the ability to communicate on various social media platforms.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan 2010 encourages educators to create learning experiences that mirror the ways professionals use technology (e.g. to organize information, communicate or collaborate and conduct experiments). While many teachers may use technology in their personal lives, they often lack some of the other knowledge and skills required to support teaching and learning. That’s where St. Kate’s comes in.
The University is introducing a new Master of Arts in Education: Technology Integration (TI) program this summer. Technology integration in classrooms means using Internet-connected devices to teach and problemsolve. St. Kate’s new graduate-level program — which plans to offer the choice of a Master of Arts (M.A.) or a certificate — equips teachers with digital skills and an understanding of how to hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets. Class topics include computational thinking and computer coding, best practices in 1:1 (one-to- one, a setting in which each student has her or his own digital device) and ethics in the digital age.
“There’s new research coming out showing that teachers using digital media — and who know what they’re doing with them — can in fact outperform other teachers,” says Anderson. “The reason for this is that technology affords us the ability to differentiate, or teach based on a student’s aptitude and ability, in profound ways.”
Take the Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP), which tracks student progress and is linked to software that can assist teachers and administrators in planning personalized instruction. “In the past, educators often talked about differentiation, but they simply didn’t have the time, resources or focus to effectively implement it,” says Nick Sunderman MAED’13, a teacher in Melrose, Minnesota. “MAP has given us a way to actually do that.”
Sunderman, and other K–12 teachers like him, can now effectively and efficiently help the student who needs extra attention and the student who would benefit from accelerated instruction. “I could, for example, have one student working on 3rd grade materials,” he says, “while another would be doing 9th grade work in the same class.”
BEYOND THE UNITED STATES
This digital revolution is not unique to U.S. schools. For some time now, European countries have been sorting through many of the same technology issues that are playing out in the United States. Not surprisingly, they include trying to determine how social media, data analytics and Internet resources should be used to improve education.
In a recently released report examining education technology trends, New Media Consortium found many transatlantic similarities. These include the evolving European and American views regarding how teachers should present and deliver content in the digital age. Late last year, the European Union (E.U.) unveiled plans to make “every classroom digital” by 2020.
“Open technology-based education will soon be a ‘musthave,’ not just a ‘good-to-have,’ for students of all ages,” the report states. “It’s important to do more to ensure that young people in particular are equipped with the digital skills they need for their future. It’s not enough to understand how to use an app or program. Instead, we need youngsters who can imagine, design and create their own programs.”
In fact, the E.U.’s plan is similar to the ConnectED initiative unveiled by President Obama in 2013. This digital push aims to transform the very nature of the classroom in the United States, turning the teacher into a guide that wanders among students who learn at their own pace on digital devices.
“St. Kate’s new ground-breaking TI program will enable teachers to teach what is expected of them, while also helping their students learn how to ethically use and navigate today’s technology as well as that of the future,” says Anderson. Both the M.A. and graduate certificate in technology integration, she adds, will benefit teachers of all ages and experience.
“We believe we are pioneers,” she says. “No other institution we know of is offering a similar set of courses in terms of computational thinking and K–8 coding. Our program of study will clearly aid teachers in helping their students become creators of digital media rather than simply consumers of it.”
“No other institution we know of is offering a similar set of courses...”
Tablets for All
Nearly 40,000 > Students in Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) who will receive iPads over the next two years.
$1.38 > Electricity cost a year per iPad, when charged overnight.
$38,640 > Electric bill for 28,000 iPads distributed in 2014–15.
$8 million > SPPS electrical budget.
Will my child still need school supplies if they have an iPad? Yes. Contact your school for a list.
LEARN MORE about St. Catherine University's MAED: Technology Integration Program.