CO-WRITTEN BY DR. TIM WIENS
"The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts." — C.S. Lewis
Technology is playing a more significant role in the education of today’s student. More specifically, the teaching and learning taking place within our classrooms, in many regards, is becoming more dependent upon technological innovations that historically have not been necessary to produce well-rounded, holistic students. While technology does not answer education’s great questions, we know that our students’ abilities to thrive in the 21st century are dependent upon their aptitude to think deeply and logically and to apply modern methods of problem solving that are accessible due in part to greater technological innovation.
Many refer to our current generation of K-12 students as “digital natives” that are accustomed to rapidly changing technology. From the time our children enter school to the day they walk onto their college campus, technology has and will play a role in their lives, their learning, and their ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world. However, devices and algorithms alone do not improve student learning — they are simply tools to help educators provide students with the skills they need to succeed; skills such as critical thinking ability, communication prowess, collaborative mindsets and abilities, and creativity. As Steve Jobs stated when Apple was preparing to roll out the iPad 2, “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.”
Connecting to Learn
Mount Paran Christian School teaches students to think critically, both locally and globally. American journalist Sydney J. Harris stated, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” This is where the MPCS Connected Learning Program comes into play. Connected Learning is the enhancement of student learning by integrating collaborative technology with both current pedagogical approaches as well as historically tried and true methods of teaching and learning. Reflecting an unwavering commitment to instructional excellence at MPCS, our 1:1 initiative enriches depth of teaching and learning through the use of digital technology and traditional methods that will widely develop our students’ library of resources, expanding their abilities in the areas known as 21st-century skills. These skills include:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
- Collaboration across networks
- Leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurism
- Effective oral and writing communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
Ahead of the Curve
While the implementation of technology and computers are not the answer to good teaching and learning, the addition of computers as tools for student growth does allow teachers to create engaging lessons that can be enriched in ways not previously available. Likewise, developing digital classroom skills enables students to begin preparing for higher education technology trends and the futures at large. To that end, some incredible strides have been made using the 1:1 Microsoft Surface Pro devices:
- Online assessment tools enable immediate reinforcement or redirection of instruction
- Teachers and students can work in documents simultaneously, providing instant feedback to students
- Rotation through learning stations can deepen student understanding through interactive and collaborative experiences
- Utilization of digital content connects students to global educational resources
- Greater organizational tools for assignments can increase students' sense of responsibility and time-management skills
- Student academic learning may be greatly expanded in ways never-before imagined
In the past two school years, the seventh-grade team at MPCS, and subsequently the entire middle school staff, have passionately embraced 1:1 devices as part of the Connected Learning Program initiative. Seventh-grade math teacher Kim Wilder has said, “I could not go back to teaching without student devices.” In many cases, the technology has created better student engagement — not just listening to a teacher share lessons, but applying what they are learning in real time. Carter Kraetsch, a seventh-grade student, has said, “The use of the Surface tablet has helped me be much more organized with my school work.”
There are, however, times when it is not necessary to integrate technology into a lesson or course in order to enhance learning. Understanding such nuance is important to ensure the best possible teaching and learning is taking place. As such, our faculty receive ongoing training to enable them to fully understand what excellent integration of technology and learning looks like.
High School Expansion of 1:1
MPCS has expanded the Connected Learning Program to include all high school students this year. To this end, the entire high school faculty have participated in professional development in preparation for this implementation. Their training has helped them plan activities that will enrich their lessons and integrate with tried-and-true curriculum. Paige Lochridge, a high school math teacher, said, “Our training sessions with the middle school math teachers have been extremely helpful. We have learned from their experiences what works best in the transmission of information and practice of concepts. I know that as the year progresses, we will utilize the devices more often and in more diverse ways to assist our students in their learning."
We are excited about what the implementation of the 1:1 initiative will do in preparing our students to be integrated, whole people who understand the importance of 21st century skills; but more so, in understanding the importance of human interaction and the ultimate goal of impacting the world for Christ.
Karen Leonard serves as the Academic Technology Specialist for high school at MPCS.
To learn more about the Connected Learning Program at Mount Paran Christian School, click here to watch a video introduction.