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Are You Asking the Right Questions About School Technology?

Newsflash: Digital technology is changing the way we teach.

Oh, so you already knew that?

Then you also know that as education technology evolves, so too do the roles that teachers and administrators must play.

Gone are the days where teachers stand up in front of classrooms and drop knowledge for students to write and regurgitate later.

In a world where the answer to almost every question is literally at our fingertips (thank you, smartphones), educators spend an increasing amount of time looking for ways to personalize and enrich the learning experience.

It’s a heavy lift at times, but vital.

“The big change is not adding technology to the current design of the classroom,” writes education technology speaker and consultant Alan November in a recent article for eSchool News, “but changing the culture of teaching and learning and fundamentally changing the job descriptions of teachers and learners.”

November composed a list of questions teachers and administrators should ask to better gauge their success in this new environment. Here’s a few:

How do you teach students to learn what you don’t know?
In years past, schools attempted to measure teacher effectiveness and success by how well students retained and were able to recite new knowledge or concepts.

In the era of Google and Bing, the number of facts you can rattle off the top of your head hardly matters.

In fact, November predicts a time will come when students have access to more knowledge and subject matter expertise online than any one teacher could ever hope to provide.

When students have questions that a teacher can’t answer, for example, how will educators handle that situation? Will teachers reflexively discourage that curiosity out of fear or embarrassment, or will they encourage collaboration and discovery?

How do you teach students to ask the right questions?
For better or worse, memorization is no longer a skill students need or often practice.

While theoretically technology equips students to answer any question, that thinking only works provided students know what questions to ask.

And that, says November, is where the best teachers know exactly when to step in.

“If I were interviewing a new teacher I would love to hear their answer to ‘What do you believe are the most important skills to teach your students,’” writes November. “I would hope that a successful candidate would answer, ‘Teaching students how to ask the most interesting questions.’”

What are your expectations for students to self-assess their own work?
Good grades. Two words most teachers and students associate with future success—and for good reason.

Teachers absolutely need ways to measure their students’ progress.

But teacher-given grades aren’t the only means by which students should measure their work.

November says today’s students also need tools and resources to objectively assess their own progress. “We need graduates who are independent,” he writes. “Yet in our schools, too often we’re fostering a culture of dependency, where kids are waiting for teachers to tell them how well they are doing.”

It comes down to instilling a sense of ownership. Oftentimes, November says, that ownership starts with students being able to understand, on their own, the definition of quality thinking and work.

How do you teach students to manage their own learning?
In a world of personal computing, personal communication, personal design and production, it’s imperative for students to engage in personal learning.

Writes November: “Our society needs people who can figure out ideas from all over the world and manage their own work. This is a really important skill.”

In what ways do your teachers empower students to think differently through personalized learning? Tell us in the comments.

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