A meeting with our technology department on Friday moved us a little closer to our goal in our district’s one-to-one laptop initiative. Problems have been varied and inconsistent, which make them hard to troubleshoot, but after nearly a month, many of the basic problems have been resolved and progress is being made on others.
It’s important to get the bugs worked out so students can view certain required media and access educational sites before we move further down the road toward true digital learning. Until now, we’ve kind of been walking in circles. After Friday, the road’s beginning to look a little straighter.
I saw an interesting article online recently that suggested there are four steps to fully “evolved” 21st century digital learning. I’ve lost track of the source now (don’t you just hate when that happens?), so I’m paraphrasing pretty liberally. The first step is one in which the technology tools are accessories to learning. In the second step, technology is integrated into lessons in ways that allow the same types of activities that occurred pre-technology, but with a digital slant. The third step makes it possible to utilize new strategies for learning, which are driven by the technology. In the fourth, and most highly evolved step, the technology itself suggests novel learning goals that couldn’t be attempted without it—it’s the thinking outside the classroom box step.
I don’t expect to reach step four a month into our pilot program, but I want to keep my eye on that goal. I think I’m safely straddling steps two and three right now, after having dipped my toes in the digital waters last fall by launching my biology class website. I’ve now expanded to using the same learning management system for a couple of other classes, and several classes are making use of other web 2.0 tools for flash cards and presentations.
These are baby steps, but they’re steps forward nonetheless. The way technology changes, I don’t expect we’ll ever arrive at a final destination—digital nirvana, if you will—but I hope to keep moving in that direction. For this year at least, I’ll settle for arriving at a point of thinking digital first when creating lesson objectives. At the same time, I want to avoid letting the technology become a distraction to learning. There’s a narrow divide between the useful and distracting sides of technology, but with luck we’ll pick our way forward without getting too far off track–one, maybe two steps at a time.