Monday, November 23, 2009

Technology in Schools

For several years I have been teaching art and stop motion animation workshops in public schools. As I draw from a past career that spanned animated cursor design for computer games to digital illustrations for educational curriculum, I am now getting an in depth look at how digital media is integrated into schools and in non-profits specializing in children's programming.

Closing The Innovation Gap
I am reading a great book "Closing the Innovation Gap" by Judy Estrin and it highlights the lack of long term thinking in culture, education and business in the U.S. She has a great quote stating to the effect that disruptive big leap innovation happens in groups no larger that a jazz band. We need to provide our children with projects and environments in which to work togehter in collaborative teams. The skill set developed in such interaction are essential for success in any career and in any life path.

In terms of technology integration into schools it is so important for schools to have a short and long term goal. I recently spoke with a school official who did not see a need for a five and ten year plan for their technology lab as we do not know where technology will be in five years. I was dumbfounded by this answer. Perhaps my question was misunderstood or I misunderstood the response. We cannot avoid planning a goal for a tech lab just because we do not know where technology will be in a few years. That is reactive and will result in tech labs used for bare minimal, unimaginative activities. There needs to be some vision of what kind of environment a lab should be and some idea of how to foster innovative and integrated technology projects.

Technology labs can compliment every academic discipline just as a library does. A technology lab should provide both enhancement of standard curriculum and provide the tools to connect with others both here in the U.S. and abroad. Below is a great resource for understanding what techonology usage should build.

National Technology Standards
The National Technology Standards, (funded by NASA and Apple) provides great top level structure for how to frame the goals of technology useage in schools:
Creativity and Innovation
Communication and Collaboration
Research and Information Fluency
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
Digital Citizenship
Technology Operations and Concepts

National Technology Standards for Teachers
National Technology Standards for Students

At struggling non-profits it is not uncommon to see computers still in their packing stored away in cabinets, broken down computer hardware hanging out in corners waiting for repairs that will never happen, or even worse, tech labs full of banks of computers not being used in effective programming. I have seen all of the above at non-profits that do not have internal tech support or the technical resources to even know what is possible.

Krause Center for Innovation
There is a great center KCI, Krasue Center for Innovation, that provides teachers with paid training to learn digital tools and integrate them in creative ways in their curicullum.
Their MERIT Program pays teachers for digital technology training and then further funds them to implient projects in the classroom.

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