Monday, November 19, 2012

A New Direction

The Educational Technology Department recently underwent a year of strategic visioning and planning. Through this process, a group of teachers, students, administrators, and community members created a new mission and vision for the department. Our mission now reads:

The BVSD Educational Technology Department will support the development of standards-based, 21st Century Learning Environments that foster high levels of student achievement through exemplary instructional practice in the application of educational technology.

Today, students are living in an increasingly diverse, globalized, complex, and media-saturated world. This rapidly changing environment requires a new approach to learning. The next generation will be required to adapt and handle change better than any other generation. Students see this change coming; they’re living it now. As a result, “Today’s students want to learn differently that in the past. They want ways of learning that are meaningful to them...and ways that make good use of the technology that they know is their birthright.”1 While our “digital natives” excel at using this emerging technology for entertainment, it does not necessarily mean that they know how to use these tools for educational purposes. It is our job to teach them how to use technology to collaborate, research, problem solve, think critically and create new knowledge, while also empowering them to find relevance in their learning by providing real-world learning opportunities and audiences. This is the 21st Century Learning Environment.

Interestingly, this new environment has less to do with teaching technology tools and more to do with teaching the behaviors and approaches towards these ever-changing tools. A teacher must understand the balance between tools and learning. While the tool is important because it is the language of our students, the tool itself is less important than understanding how to use the tool to increase of the power of learning. It is this emphasis on learning rather than tools that will create an effective learning environment.

How does this new approach look in the classroom? The role of the teacher moves from being the center of all learning to being the architect of learning--creating and designing experiences for students that enable them to be 21st century learners. The role of the student moves from being a consumer of knowledge to being a producer and creator--experiencing learning that is personal and authentic.

In order to integrate technology in meaningful ways, we need to create multiple levels of expertise in the schools. As a result, we have empowered multiple groups and cohorts through the Google Ninja Program, iPad User Group, 21st Century Cohort, Tech Contacts and Teacher Librarians. The goals of these groups are to:

  • Foster 21st century learning environments for students
  • Promote the instructional use of technology
  • Build Ed Tech expertise at each school
  • Develop district-wide learning communities
  • Create a culture of online collaboration and professional expertise

The newest group, the 21st Century Cohort, will develop instructional expertise at each building in the integration of technology tools as part of the ideal learning environment. Then, this group will be responsible for sharing their learning and helping other teachers in their buildings and across the district understand how to utilize technology in the classroom.

In addition, the Ed Tech team provides many professional development opportunities every month that will help teachers find ways to engage their students in relevant and meaningful learning experiences. Some recent examples include:

  • Digital storytelling
  • Web 2.0
  • Creating a Personal Learning Network
  • Google Apps for Education
  • Edmodo
  • Google Learning Day (Nov. 3rd)
Please contact Kelly Sain if you are interested in more professional develop opportunities for you and your staff.

It’s an exciting time for educational technology and teachers in Boulder Valley School District as we look forward to creating a culture of learning, collaboration and community. Ultimately, we believe that we must teach our digital natives with the past in mind, but the future in focus, with a willingness to allow students to explore, to create and to dream!

Ed Tech Team

Kelly Sain, Educational Technology Manager

Nannette McMurtry, Educational Technology Specialist and Library Coordinator

Erika Morreale, Educational Technology Specialist

Amy Bland, Technical Services Librarian

Rae Ciciora, Assistant Cataloging Librarian

1Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.