Reflections on Learning
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March 2011
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Envisioning An Innovative Learning Specialist

March 26, 2011   

In our district, we are fortunate to have both certified technology teachers and teacher-librarians in many of our schools. Our department is currently brainstorming ways to maximize these positions to better assure that all students obtain 21st century skills. My task was to write a vision of what the certified technology teacher position might evolve in to – beyond teaching isolated technology skills on a fixed schedule. This could be applied in all school levels. What do you think? What would you add or change?

The Innovative Learning Specialist or Coach is responsible for helping teachers to seamlessly integrate technology and other strategies into their daily teaching practice in order to boost students’ 21st century skills. The goal is to transfer responsibility for technology tool instruction to the classroom teacher (and in many cases, to the students)  so that the ILS time can be spent collaborating to plan, co-teach, and co-assess students’ 21st century skills through standards-based inquiry-driven units of learning.

Through systemic collaboration with all classroom teachers, using a backwards design model, the ILS brainstorms and plans with teachers how to build learning experiences that are standards driven, yet also give students opportunities to regularly use technology, when appropriate, and practice 21st century skills. The ILS works in concert with the certified teacher-librarian and often they collaborate as a team with teachers. Together, they may collaborate with teachers to co-plan units that are driven by overarching essential questions and enduring understandings that cross multiple content areas, including “specials” such as art, music, PE and world languages. The units are inquiry-driven, project-based and are relevant to students. The ILS, with the teacher-librarian, track student progress on mastering 21st century skills through formative assessments, which are given equal weight to content standards.

The ILS has a flexible schedule, allowing him/her to plan and co-teach longer units as needed, when needed. With administrator support, the ILS will assure that every student has an opportunity to participate in these rich standards-based units. The expectation will be that every teacher will collaborate with the ILS on a regular basis throughout the school year. The teaching and learning occurs in the classroom or library “learning commons.” Wireless laptops, netbooks, iPads,tablets, iPod Touches, and/or other personal digital devices are used by students.

A large part of the ILS responsibility will be to deliver professional development to staff in a differentiated manner to assure every teacher has the technology skills needed to successfully facilitate learning through technology when the ILS is not available. The ILS will stay current with the latest technologies – hardware, software, and web tools- through participation in a professional learning network, and will routinely share new technologies and strategies with the staff through modeling and direct instruction. As the teacher’s skills with technology grow, the ILS will be able to shift more and more to the role of a collaborative coach and instructional design partner. The ILS, with the teacher-librarian, will co-chair the school’s 21st Century Learning Committee. (formerly known as the technology committee and Educational Technology-Information Literacy – ET-IL committee) Together, they will assure that all technology purchases support the school’s learning goals, and the committee is guided by student learning needs rather than focused on the tools.

Technology for a “21st Century Classroom”

March 4, 2011   

I was recently asked by the chair of the education department at a local university to create a list of technology tools that should be included in a “21st Century Classroom.” Our IT-Ed Services team brainstormed and came up with the following list. What would you add? -Nancy

Technology for a 21st Century Classroom

The room itself should be a flexible learning space, with the ability to re-configure furniture and equipment based on student need. Projectors are widely used in learning process, so it is always possible to check out options to choose the most suitable. Further, the entire school should be a flexible learning space, with the ability to re-purpose any room, combine classes, or create small collaborative work space for students.

Classroom Environment Needs:

  • Wireless connection
  • Sufficient bandwidth
  • Sufficient electrical outlets
  • Sufficient storage for multimedia projects (may be handled at the district level)

Basic Classroom Technology

  • Projector
  • Document Camera
  • Classroom response system (“Clickers”)  – unless all students have their own digital device (see below)
  • Classroom management System – such as Moodle – moving toward “Flipped Classroom”, blended learning and personalized learning
  • Electronic Portfolio software/storage system – helping students prepare for changes to college application processes and building a “positive digital footprint”
  • Access to digital resources (through the library)
    • Ebooks/etextbooks
    • Databases
      • Organized databases of primary sources
      • Journal/newspaper and scholarly works
      • Educational Digital Videos/Simulations to include 3D Technology
      • Access to Web 2.0 Tools for collaboration and communication
        • Skype
        • Wikis
        • Google Docs/Apps
        • Blogs

Teacher Technology Needs

  • Laptop – preferably a tablet

Student technology Needs:

  • Personal Digital Device – this could be a netbook, iPad, iPodtouch, tablet, or their own cell phone. This eliminates the need for some kind of classroom response system
  • Digital cameras and digital video cameras for student use in projects
  • Headsets/microphones for podcasting, Skyping