Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education.
BSD works with core subject teachers around the world who are tasked with weaving technology into their classroom experience. In many cases, there are no guidelines for where to begin or metrics provided for measuring impact. To help navigate the challenges of tech integration, we’ve outlined 4 tips for creating meaningful technology experiences that will engage students and enhance learning.
1. Ditch the Gadgets
All too often, we see schools attempt to meet technology requirements by purchasing the latest smart board or 3D printer. There is a notion that learning naturally follows after the acquisition of these devices. However, even when a motivated English teacher elects for her students to use a 3D printer during her poetry unit, how can she be sure that learning is happening? Are students gaining real world technology skills? Is the presence of 3D printing enhancing the existing poetry curriculum? How can we be sure?
Inevitably, without regular professional development, tech support and integrated lesson plans, we find that these devices go under-utilized.
2. Embrace Computational Thinking
Counter intuitively, the key to successful technology integration is not technology! Rather, students must learn to think in a way that empowers them to use technology to create real world solutions. Computational Thinking is a method of problem–solving used by computer scientists that breaks down into Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, and Algorithm.
Let’s expand on the example above of an English teacher who aims to bring technology skills into her poetry lessons. The goal of this project is to analyze a poem and extract insights.
Decomposition – Students choose a collection of poems and identify specific properties within each work, such as author details, number of lines, rhyming schemes, syllables, tone, etc.
Pattern Recognition – The class determines various connections that can be made by noticing patterns across works. Do certain authors reuse specific metaphors? Do distinct vocabulary words appear only within the work of a defined time period?
Abstraction – Challenge students to decide which properties are important to solving the problem and which are not? If your goal is to determine whether or not a poem is a haiku, then syllables are quite important. Whereas, if you’re hoping to surmise the poet’s gender, then syllables may be irrelevant.
Algorithms – Using what they’ve learned, each student will now design a reliable method for extracting specific insights from a poem. Notice, that students have not necessarily used technology up to this point! The final product can take the form of a flow chart or survey that asks relevant questions about any given poem in order to determine something about it. Examples could be “Was this poem written by Emily Dickinson?” or “Is this poem a sonnet?” or “Was this poem written before 1900?”
By following the Computational Thinking process, students are thinking deeply about the core subject matter while gaining 21st century problem solving skills.
3. Leverage Real-World Data
Teachers know that students learn best when they feel that the learning applies directly to their real lives. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to illustrate real-world connections using real time data!
A classic word problem in math asks students to calculate the exact time and place that two trains traveling in opposite directions will pass each other. Perhaps the updated version requires students to plot the route using Google Maps and incorporate factors like train delays, weather, and holiday scheduling.
Consider a US history assignment that prompts students to write an essay about their favorite president. By leveraging 70 years of free detailed presidential approval ratings online, teachers can challenge students to map their chosen president’s approval rating to significant historical events and use those insights to make predictions about the future.
4. Share Student Work Online
Finally, one of the simplest ways to bring technology concepts into non-tech classrooms is by publishing student work online. Regardless of their future endeavours, curating an online presence is an unavoidable part of being a member of the innovation economy.
In addition to popular tools such as Github, Behance, and Linkedin, the BSD Online platform provides all students with a place for showcasing real-world technology projects that can be shared with college admissions and even directly to employers.
If you are a teacher or school administrator and have questions about integrating technology into your classroom, please feel free to reach out to BSD Education. We can help you prepare your students for the ever–changing challenges of tomorrow and engage them with projects that combine core subjects with 21st century technology skills.