This week saw our first week back with students. And already we are starting planning for next year. School is such an institutionalized institution that to embed real change ideas need to be sown 12 months before they can come to bloom. Teaching structures, timetable adjustments, leadership appointments, teachers onside, student involvement; these all need to be built carefully. Change needs to be evolutionary; revolutions are for those whose primary focus is power and control over learning and inclusiveness.
So after nearly 12 months ThinkLab is open for business. While the physical set-up still requires some work the intent and school support is there.
Connected structure is so important. With a focus on supporting subject and learning discipline the parts hopefully constitute a greater whole:
- Teacher and Student lunchtime sandboxes for problem solving, ideas, shared learning and catch-up
- A Digital Curriculum lesson across Grades 6 through 9 to develop student support expertise for curriculum projects. Includes a skills toolkit aimed at supporting student independence and diversity
- A Student Fanar (Support Group) that provides support and leadership within and beyond the classroom
- 1:1 laptop program built on student laptop diversity, an open and use network, and software freedom through focus on learning requirements over this or that dictated technology
- Student eportfolios to develop digital learning in support of subject and International Baccalaureate objectives.
- Using Moodle and other Oas a 24/7 Virtual Learning Environment
- Formal teacher learning program through the State University of New York Certificate of Educational Technologies and Information Literacies, connected to Wednesday afternoon teacher digital learning program.
These are built upon the elements of (1) student digital expertise (2) teachers as connected learners (3) Physical and Virtual teaching and learning spaces (4) Digital Learning curriculum (5) Ongoing feedback and connections large and small. In the weeks to come we will expand on each of these.
ThinkLab this week was for training and preparation prior to the Teacher and Student Sandbox opening next week.
This first ThinkLab blog for the new school year focuses of what constitutes the evolving use of digital technologies in our school. This is not presented in terms of ‘one model fits all’, rather as options that in combination can form part of whole school growth.
Educational technologies (edtech) requires
· One eye of the changing nature of students as digital learners
· One eye on opportunities of student engagement and responsibility provided
· One eye on level of support and development for teachers as included and important change agents
· One eye on learning beyond the four walls of the physical classroom
· One eye on working within education system dictates and constraints
· One eye on meeting curriculum demands and opportunities
· One eye on keeping up with, and contributing to, relevant research
· One eye on technological developments in a world still dominated by Moore’s Law
Anyone trying to keep up with this will not only be anatomically, but also cognitively, challenged. Perhaps this is one reason edtech often lacks focus or clarity. Limited in application, prone to self-interest or narrowness; perhaps a tendency towards ‘one-eyed solutions’. The underlying value in what we are trying to do is measuring value through connection; what we can support others to achieve.
ThinkLab’s tenets include a commitment to try to connect each requirement based on a practical application. The primary focus is student learning, both curriculum and digital. This draws on student expertise, mindful of diversity, and dedicated to teacher inclusion. Each eye should be educationally valid and of practical value.
To this end, ThinkLab is involved in supporting
· The 1:1 program which includes an active student support group within subject classrooms
· Student eportfolios to represent student learning development, including Areas of Interaction within the International Baccalaureate for student-parent conferencing
· Sandbox learning for teachers and students wanting to develop further as digital learners
· Formal Teacher Learning programs
· A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE: Moodle) to support leading digital teachers and help transition a whole-school approach
· The International Baccalaureate curriculum, including the IB Virtual Community (IB)
· A connected Digital Learning curriculum that joins ISTE and other 21st century learning intentions to support across-the-curriculum use of digital technologies
· Keeping abreast of relevant research, such as Larry Cuban’s blog (http:// larrycuban.wordpress.com), as well as seeking to contribute through inputs such as Twitter, Diigo and more (using #qathink).
How these are all brought into unison, the issues encountered, and ideas and opportunities arising, will form the basis for future ThinkLab reports as the year unfurls. We look forward to sharing with you ideas, stories and issues.
The rate of change is such that we are already looking at future possibilities. To improve, to truly support school as a crucial institution, can only truly be achieved through connecting learning, learners and teachers.
The graphic shows how we hope our culture will be seen.