Outside of the classroom, today’s children live technology enhanced lives. They communicate through messaging apps, learn skills through YouTube, and coordinate much of their social existence through mobile devices. But elementary, and high schools have not kept pace. They are not in a race for the future, but a race just to catch up to the present. While this presents a challenge, there are ways to bridge the gap.
Effective, technology-enhanced learning allows for self-paced learning, improves student engagement, and prepares students for ever-changing career paths. Manufacturers such as Cisco and Promethean have developed interactive whiteboards that let teachers record, design, and deliver lessons that students respond to at their own pace, through their own devices – spending more time on material, or moving on to the next lesson. Through devices such as the HP Sprout, students are able to scan objects into a virtual environment, manipulate and view them in 3D, then recreate them as physical objects through 3D printers.
Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply introduce new tools. Without training for students and teachers and ongoing maintenance of the technology, the impact will be limited. Professional development (PD) programs and on-site technology specialists offering co-teaching support can make the difference in successfully engaging both educators and students. Once the new technology is in place, it’s a good idea to have devices tested and maintained on a regular basis. On-site specialists can also be a great boon for teachers – working alongside them as they coach and guide their students to effectively use the tools and instill confidence as everyone’s capabilities improve. Professional development means that students don’t get ahead of teachers, allowing educators the opportunity to truly leverage the power of the improved environment.
In Alberta, Compugen partnered with Cisco and the Parkland School Division, to create a student-focused innovative learning centre along with a network among schools. Under the direction of Superintendent Tim Monds, the idea for Prescott Learning Centre was put into action. As Compugen’s Educational Team Leader Ray Kebbi states “This school goes beyond the standard to make it a showcase school not just for the district, but for the province, and the country.”
Prescott Learning Centre (PLC) was fitted with a wired and wireless network, capable of evolving and expanding over time. PLC students have participated in video field trips to India, Europe, the United States, and across Canada. Today, video conferencing allows for classroom to classroom connections – bringing creative and collaborative learning and teaching to ten Parkland School Division schools. Individual learning is also enhanced – visually impaired students can be equipped with deskside technology that mirrors and enlarges whiteboards at the front of the classroom. Professional development opportunities are also limitless!
As Catherine Bradley, Compugen’s Educational Team Lead for British Columbia says, “We are building classrooms and schools to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist today, and for career paths that haven’t yet been imagined.”