There’s a scene in the movie “The Matrix” where Neo is connected to a computer that downloads knowledge into his brain. In a nanosecond, the technology transforms the eccentric coder into a bona-fide martial arts master. When the download is complete and Neo comes to, he utters (in a way only Keanu Reeves could), “I know Kung Fu.”
When the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released its 2016 National Education Technology Plan recently, there was no talk of instant brain downloads (thankfully), but officials did shine a light on a handful of “future-ready” concepts poised to change how we think about the relationship between technology and teaching.
Called, “Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education,” the massive report highlights a handful of technology-based learning ideas. While the plan focuses on how technology can improve education in the classroom—and that is hugely important—experience has taught us it’s only half the battle. When used effectively, technology can also improve the connection between schools and communities.
Here, we look at the impact of technology in both roles.
Technology redefines relationships
In the classroom: As the report points out, technology is a great resource for project-based learning, where students and teachers can collaborate to solve problems. At the Workshop School in Philadelphia, students and teachers collaborate on real-world projects, such as how to build sustainable cars. Using the peer model of instruction, students learn-by-doing in collaboration with teachers, rather than through traditional instruction.
In the community: Technology makes it easier to communicate. Removing communication barriers between parents, teachers, and school administrators allows all voices to be heard on important educational matters. Rather than a top-down approach, communities now have the ability to work together on important issues facing their students, giving parents and community members a louder say in school and district decisions.
Technology increases educational accessibility
In the classroom: For schools with high populations of rural, urban, and low-income students, technology can be a bridge that reduces the achievement gap. School-based technology can enrich the lives of students who don’t have access to technology at home. It can also stem the phenomenon known as “summer slide” by giving students access to academic resources online from home, even when school is not in session.
In the community: Technology levels the playing field for parents and community members who otherwise might not be as active in school-based decision-making. For instance, parents with multiple jobs or childcare challenges might be precluded from attending district meetings. Technology allows them to engage in conversations without being physically present.
Technology makes it personal
In the classroom: No two students learn the same way. Technology enables teachers to adapt learning styles and lesson plans to specific student needs or interests. It also allows students to more easily connect with peers and collaborators who have similar interests.
In the community: Like students, parents and other community members communicate and learn in different ways. Given the vast array of communication tools available, schools and districts have a responsibility to meet community members where they are. Whether through text, social media, e-mail, or some other form of communication, emerging technologies connect educators and community members as never before.
ED bills its latest ed tech plan as a roadmap to help districts navigate their way to a technology-focused future. Many of these concepts are intentionally positioned to give students more control and ownership over the work they do in school and how they learn. But it’s also become increasingly clear that those advantages extend beyond the four walls of the classroom.
How has technology changed the way your students and parents access information? How are you adapting your district’s use of technology to help your community participate in the conversation?
Tell us in the comments.