What is our vision for learning? What are the barriers to getting there? How can we overcome those barriers to meet the needs of all students? Through a two-day Think Tank at ISTE, we had an incredible opportunity to bring together thought leaders to explore these questions and focus on reinventing teaching and learning. As I listened to the discussions focused on vision, barriers, and solutions, there were two ideas that really stood out to me, “It’s not about the technology, until it is” and the concept of “blurring the lines between living and learning”.
As a former teacher, administrator and district leader, this panel re-energized me as we collaborate with educators to navigate our new workflows. I will share my thoughts. Additionally, please look at the graphic art, included below, that captured the conversation and consider what most resonates with you as well.
It’s Not About the Technology, Until It Is
We often focus on ensuring that the vision for teaching and learning drives technology integration, which is essential. Donna Murray, Digital Teaching and Learning Regional Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction also reminded us, “it needs to start with universal design. It’s not about the technology, until it is.” Technology provides students with differing abilities access to more opportunities that have historically been inaccessible. The new vision for education can’t exclude those with disabilities, particularly because we can now provide access to learning in ways never before possible.
Our vision for education needs to include engaging and inclusive opportunities for all students. To that end, it is imperative that we ensure all students have equal access to learning experiences. In our digital world, equal access means we also must provide digitally inclusive environments where all learners have access to devices, broadband, digital literacy skills, high quality resources, and technical support; all of which are the foundation for equipping students with the technology and skills needed for success.
Blurring the Lines Between Living and Learning
It is also about the technology when we consider the ways in which it has blurred the lines between living and learning. Students now have access to content anytime and from anywhere, which means we have to change the ways in which schools engage students. Stephen Whiffin, Director of Instruction, School District No. 43 (Coquitlam), shared that the factory model of preparing kids for the workforce isn’t what we are doing anymore, “we have to blur the lines between living and learning. When the lines are blurred, that is where the magic happens, students taking agency and ownership of their learning, because it’s meaningful.” Students are already exploring their passions outside of their learning at school – how can learner-driven environments coupled with technology help them do the same within our school environments?
Taking it one step further, Dr. Tara Nattrass, Senior Education Strategist at Dell Technologies added that we need to focus on the joy in learning, consider students’ “jagged learner profiles” as described by Todd Rose, and help them grow from where they are. This may mean employing models focused on personalized, competency-based learning. Mike Flanagan, Chief Executive Officer at the Mastery Transcript Consortium, shared that our current timebound system where we teach kids the same content, at the same pace is in direct conflict with our understanding of how kids learn; especially because kids master content at different rates. We need to develop ways for students to show their understanding, share their learning authentically, and include skills and attributes as well as content as defined outcomes.
Focusing on personalized, competency-based learning may lead to new ways of learning. For example, Christopher Turner, Coordinator of Southern University Law Center’s Mixed Reality Virtual Innovation Gaming and Esports Institute wants education to capitalize on gaming. Dr. Olga Romero, Founding Principal of Dallas Hybrid Preparatory, validated this message as she shared that bringing gaming into their school was transformational.
Finally, schools can’t do this work alone. Over the last couple of years, the importance of family and community engagement was highlighted as classrooms shifted into homes. Knowing that strong partnerships strengthen student learning, the panelists discussed the need to continue to focus on strengthening home and school connections. T.J. McCray, Associate Superintendent of Technology for Madison Metropolitan School District reminded us of the importance of partnering with parents so they can support their learners at home.
Educators and school leaders are doing a lot of great things that are working. We have to continue what’s going well and stop what isn’t. This can come through thoughtful listening, staying flexible, creating space for risk taking, and making student-centered decisions. The future of education is evolving daily, and we have to shift and adjust accordingly. These discussions provide a vision and path for moving forward.
Nekia Tharps Becerra
Nekia has spent the last decade working in public education, most recently serving as the Director for Academics for Austin ISD. Nekia has served as an Elementary Teacher, a Technology Design Coach, and a campus administrator. Nekia has supported and coached teachers in a variety of capacities to support the designing of blended and personalized learning experiences to include differentiation and culturally responsive teaching
About Dell Technologies
Dell Technologies is committed to helping students develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to learn and succeed in an increasingly digital world and a globally competitive workforce. As a top provider of technology and services to schools, Dell listens to and works with students, educators, administrators, parents and community members around the world to deliver innovative technology and services that give them the power to do more in and out of the classroom. Learn more about Dell in Education at www.Dell.com/K12.