I like it that both online and off, I’ve been challenged lately to answer questions about tech curriculum. I’ve been so busy with the new student information system, that it appears that I may be entirely out of the academic side of things entirely.
Until I can get things to be more routine, I won’t be back in the classroom this year. My last teaching was at my previous school, were I had a great time teaching a film and video production course each year. I really miss that– the videos and scripts created by students were remarkably honest and creative.
Given my role now, at a larger school, empowerment is my main tool of change. I try to empower my tech coordinators to work with faculty on curricular change, but even they get swamped with simple tech requests when we go through major infrastructure changes (like new email systems, new wireless systems, and new student information systems). I don’t like this, but then again it’s always been part of the game, and I’m not sure it’s better in schools where the academic is fully separated from the tech side of things.
In terms of curriculum, the most important changes I’ve tried to help along the last three years have been in the areas of logical problem solving and hands-on learning (with technology as an integrated part). I’ve worked with some amazingly dedicated and creative teachers who can think beyond just teaching “programming” or “page layout” or “robotics,” and instead create learning experiences in design where students are truly challenged to go deep and to “create” solutions with thoughtful designs or logical sequences.
As an example, we created a “Design Center” this year that is a large 1,000 square foot room with high ceilings and good light. Around the perimeter are 18 24 inch iMacs, and in the center are eight height adjustable work tables. Eight of the iMacs are on standing high tables on the wall, with high chairs. Also installed in the room is as much project and tool storage as possible, and a 2D Laser Cutter.
The Design Center is a place where Student Publications meets Robotics meets Middle School Science meets Architecture meets Digital Electornics. It’s an interesting mix– the schedule is packed, but the students shift from hands on learning on the center tables (building robots, laying out a yearbook, creatiing architectural models, meeting face to face) and the perimeter is used for page layout, graphic design, CAD work, using the laser cutter, programming robots, and more.
From a curricular point of view, we hae a melding of STEM and STEAM premises, with students doing hands-on problem solving in response to real questions and leading to real products (robots, yearbooks, electronics, a new bike shelter). Behind all of this is the challenge of logical thinking–to solve the problems in design to achieve these goals.
In some ways, I’m excited about this beyond what we have traditionally invested our time in (new laptops, new software, new network services, new student information systems), because we’re putting students back in the driver’s seats with technology. It’s about being creative, and not just a consumer.
Anyway, that’s my take on tech and curriculum for today. Personal, 1:1 tech is cool, but collaborative challenges and hands-on learning with a mix of challenges and tools is beyond that.