by Jared Mader
Imagine it: You’re dining out with friends, and the question comes up, “Who played the leading role in....” or “Who scored the winning goal when...” We’ve all been there. It’s like a mad dash to the finish line as dining parties rush to their devices and gadgets, just to see who can be first to the answer.
Now, fade to a new setting. Imagine yourself entering a typical American classroom. This time, it is the teacher that asks, “What is the most interesting current event in today’s news?” What do we see this time? Is it a mad dash, like in the scenario above, as students grab their cell phones to pull the top news stories from CNN mobile, Reuters, The Daily, and more? Doubtful, as in most of our educational environments, these types of devices are contraband, at best. Now, just to air our own dirty laundry, we are in the same boat here at Red Lion. Our policies and rules have not caught up with the culture to which we are trying to prepare our students. We need to make this change, however, as student’s mobile devices offer budgetary opportunities for schools to stay current with technology at less cost.
We are not unlike many other schools in that we are aware that we need to make change -- change that will allow students to use the powerful tools that they own. We need to devise our strategy for implementation that wouldn’t simply offer students carte blanche unsupervised access at any time. This is where educators can help to teach students that there is more to be done with those mobile devices than text and update Facebook.
Before we begin to allow the power of mobile and personal devices into our classrooms we must identify the goals for their use. First, they should include teaching students to be effective digital farmers, cultivating the information that is already on the web and growing products that demonstrate their higher order thinking. Second, they should be held to a high expectation with regards to the digital citizenship they model and follow.
So, where do we start? We, first, need to redesign our policies to allow teachers to permit effective and monitored instructional use of these devices in their classrooms. There, that was easy.
Next, we need to begin training our teachers to recognize and identify the tools that are available for these devices and how they can change their classrooms. Such tools may include apps for recording audio, measuring scientific variables, responding to class prompts and researching information. Training staff to recognize and address the conversations about digital citizenship is a necessary component of this professional development.
Finally, implementation, take our most eager and comfortable teachers and set them loose with their students' devices. By allowing teachers the professional freedom to make the decision regarding the appropriate application of these tools, our students will now be able see the responsible and ethical expectations under which these devices should be used and districts may be able to save in their technology budgets.
Jared Mader is the Director of Technology for the Red Lion Area School District. He has served in this position for four years, after teaching Chemistry for nine years. In that time, he has led technology integration professional development initiatives. He is a member of the Discovery Educator Network and has been identified as a PDE State Keystone Technology Integrator. He also serves as a partner in an educational technology consultancy, EdTechInnovators, providing professional development to districts across the United States and abroad. Jared lives in York with his wife Janell and 7-year-old daughter Emma. You can contact him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.