We’ve started a discussion at our school with the intent to “to revisit our current classroom model for instructional technology, and to begin to develop some recommendations for a new model that will use technology in more effective ways.” (Here’s the weblog, of course.) It’s a pretty big undertaking considering the extent to which we are already infused with technology (I think it might be easier if we were starting from scratch) and the diverse abilities and philosophies of our staff concerning integrating it into our curriculum.
A survey that we took a couple of years ago showed a pretty proficient level of understanding and use of technology by staff for personal use, but a less than satisfactory ability to use those skills with students. One thing that may be preventing that is the current configuration of our standard classrooms, each of which have six computers. When the Blue Ribbon School assessor was here last year, he noted that in 55 observations in standard classrooms, only once did he see the computers being used for classroom instruction. (Despite that, we did receive the award.) Obviously, that is a problem. With class sizes averaging over 20, six computers become more of a logistical headache than tools for instruction.
The debate yesterday centered around how best to gather information that will drive our decisions about the model. At first, we talked about analyzing the data from the old survey more in depth, or resurveying the staff to get new data on their skill level. But we soon realized that the only way to truly do a needs assessment for teachers was not to ask them what they know so much as ask them HOW they do use or would use what they know. What would they need to effectively put their knowledge to use in their teaching?
I think this is the crucial albeit extremely complex question that many schools fail to answer. Sure, we can provide the hardware, we can even provide the training. But there remains a large disconnect between the potential and the reality when it comes to actually using technology to improve teaching and learning. (And by the way, we had that debate too, with one person saying that he has yet to see a study that proves using technology improves learning. Bring back chalk!)
It’s going to be interesting to see what the data shows. We already see it as being discipline specific, that there really is no such thing as a standard classroom for all subjects. (Obviously, there probably is no such thing as a standard English or Science classroom either, but we can probably get closer to that ideal at least.) And to be honest, I am awed by this challenge. There are so many determiners in the equation. Should be a eye-opening process.