Image from the IDEO “Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators“.
Sometimes we look all over the world for innovation, only to find it in our own backyard. A learning project in Maple Ridge takes students into a new world where mobile technology is invited into the classroom, and even provided by the district, and where the answers are not known ahead of time. On January 16th Surrey educators got to hear Dave Vandergugten (Deputy Superintendent of School District 42) describe their inquiry based learning project in which students were provided with iPods and laptops on a one to one basis as learning devices. It’s one approach to developing 21st century learning projects when we are drawing on 20th century experience.
To see mobile technology as a benefit instead of a distraction requires a shift in pedagogy. When Google is at our students fingertips, the need for learning that is “ungooglable” is heightened. In Vandergugten’s project, teachers developed an inquiry model that uses technology as a natural tool in the students’ work. Sometimes the mobile technology was used to focus attention, at other times to provide individualized feedback faster than the teacher alone, and at still others technology supported research, student led collaboration and the presentation of results. In all of this work the technology was not a source for “the answers”, but instead it was an extension that helped students learn – an extension of their teacher, their knowledge or their collaboration.
If you have the time to read through the anchor rubric, you may notice that the skills students learn are similar to those involved in planning a business startup, managing a project, or engaging in scientific research. They require higher order thinking skills. They integrate student learning rather than fragment it. It seems that sometimes in traditional education students learn information they can repeat on tests and assignments, and which is forgotten not long after it is learned. In the Maple Ridge project students understood their work in depth, and could use the knowledge and skill long after that particular assignment was complete.
What we are ultimately describing here is good teaching, good teaching that makes full use of current learning tools, engages with the world students will be living in, and tries to provide them with skills to be effective and successful in a changing society.