Often, when we hear the word innovation, our minds immediately journey to the realm of technology. However, innovation should not be limited to technology integration. Rather, innovation should be an innovative mechanism for advancing areas a school community deems important.
TECHNOLOGY AS ACCELERATOR
Technology integration can be an accelerator for innovation in any domain, whether it is academics, athletics, or visual and performing arts. In a classroom, technology allows schools to move beyond student engagement to student empowerment. Teachers and students are presented with new opportunities to dive deeper into the content to consume and, more importantly, create. Some say, "Technology is just a tool." While this statement is likely true to some degree, technology can be transformational in many ways, providing opportunities that did not previously exist.
At Mount Paran Christian School, the goal for educational technology is to move from literate, to adaptive, to transformative. When the 1:1 Connected Learning Initiative was in its planning phase, MPCS targeted technology literacy as a desired outcome. Regardless of which path graduates take, skills such as typing, word processing, data organization, digital presentation, email etiquette, and social media networking will help them throughout their lives. Whether they decide to go into ministry, seek a college degree, join the military, or enter the general workforce, being literate in technology puts them ahead of the curve. In the same way that a liberal arts education seeks to build foundational skills that will support mastering other subjects, technology literacy gives students the skills and confidence to master new technology and become creative with its use.
Adapting to technology
Advancements in technology have given today’s learners web-based artificial intelligence (AI) capable of delivering instant feedback and editing suggestions for written work. Adaptively using this technology means taking a low-tech task and adapting a new technology to enhance or improve the task. And, when appropriately used over time, this adaptive technology grants students the opportunity to significantly boost their writing skills.
When writing a research paper, many who attended school "back in the day" had to beg a friend to proofread it, give feedback, and possibly even make some minor edits. However, if a trustworthy proofreader were unavailable, where was a student to go to access support? Today, students can upload the content of their research papers or any writing assignment into a platform that will give them suggestions on grammar, structure, delivery, style, and clarity. Additionally, these writing feedback tools often include a plagiarism checker that scans millions of professional journals, novels, and textbooks to help students ensure academic honesty in their work. Stressing the importance of writing skills in an essay titled "Writing for Life," Sharon Coolidge writes,
"The very act of writing will help you clarify and develop your ability to think. Writing forces you to solve problems and find creative solutions."
Using technology as a transformative tool means leveraging technology in new ways. Last year, an MPCS student took the initiative to produce and distribute live-stream videos of himself playing a popular strategy video game on a platform called Twitch. Although it is used most often with video games, Twitch is a service that allows people to push out video content on any subject onto a social media platform where users can follow.
This student offered play-by-play commentary on every phase of his match and educated viewers on the importance of sound strategy. As Joseph Joubert said, "To teach is to learn twice." Now, more so than any time in human history, we have the ability to "learn twice" by connecting and sharing with an audience. Durable learning — deep and lasting knowledge — is an outcome of taking what we know and making something out of it.
staying ahead of the curve
In February of 2020, one month before the beginning of "At-Home Learning” and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., the MPCS Academic Technology team began a professional development initiative to foster innovative thinking skills in the school’s faculty and staff. The team focused on five skills described in the book The Innovator's DNA:
Association: Innovators develop the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas.
Questioning: Innovators regularly ask questions that challenge the prevailing norm.
Observing: Innovators constantly observe others, acting like anthropologists or social scientists.
Experimenting: Innovators vigorously try new ideas by prototyping and launching pilots.
Networking: Innovators dedicate time and effort to testing their ideas through a network of diverse individuals who give innovators alternative perspectives.
The timing could not have been better. Teachers worldwide were challenged to increase their technology literacy, improve their adaptability, and invent new ways to transform their content with technology. Mount Paran Christian School was prepared for this challenge.
Years spent training students how to leverage technology to support their learning experience paid dividends during virtual learning. Teachers developed confidence and competency with technology through various professional learning sessions, providing the freedom to create new experiences for their students.
We thank God, the ultimate innovator, for blessing MPCS with wisdom and discernment to identify the needs of students, parents, and teachers in time for one of the most significant challenges of this generation. God has truly blessed Mount Paran Christian School, and we can count innovative, creative, and technology competent teachers, leaders, and students as one of those blessings.
Chris Kahley is the High School Academic Technology Specialist at Mount Paran Christian School. He has been working at Mount Paran Christian school for six years and is a parent to two young children enrolled at the school.
For more information about how innovation plays a part in learning at MPCS, click here.