Written by Jim McCall, Principal
Earlier this school year, Flint Lake Elementary School introduced its kindergarten students to the laptop computer lab. In the past, our greatest concern had been teaching students to log in since their letter identification skills would still be developing; however, this year introduced a new wrinkle: dirty computer screens. Yes, the ubiquity of tablet devices in our daily lives resulted in our kindergartners instinctually reaching out to swipe their computer screens to advance to the next page or to unlock the device! This humorous anecdote illustrates the sheer explosion of technology exposure our children now enjoy.
The role of technology in education has evolved as well. What began as an instructor’s tool for instructional delivery and data-driven decision-making has become the premier catalyst for transformational outcomes by the student. Standards, Assessments, and Instruction in all disciplines can be augmented through the introduction and use of technology in the hands of the students. Schools are no longer required to be the bastions of intellectual property where one goes to learn the answers; instead, schools are shifting to using that content information in conjunction with technology to teach students how to think, communicate, debate, and create—skills needed to forge ahead in an ever-changing society.
Valparaiso Community Schools is currently revamping its technology standards to be integrated within its K-12 curricula. Basing its work on The International Society for Technology in Education’s standards, common expectations for students at each level can be intentionally delivered by all. Furthermore, inherent in the delivery of an integrated curriculum is the ongoing professional development for staff as well as the technology support and infrastructure. An ongoing system of improvement supports the cultural shift to a digital age. Moreover, decreasing the ratio of students to devices creates more opportunities for students to master those 21st-century learner skills. Students can explore, learn, think, and synthesize more effectively when their use of technology is on demand instead of when available.
Thus, VCS has truly appreciated the efforts of the Valparaiso Economic Redevelopment Commission to grant funds that have supported the schools in this quest. Already we are testifying to the results that the technology can have on teaching and learning. Whether it is the use of iPads in the elementary schools to create iMovie presentation for Literary Analysis, Google Docs and Chromebooks at the Middle Schools that take the students’ level of engagement and communication to a higher level, or even the high school’s core curricula becoming more interactive through specialized software and laptops/interactive whiteboards, students are engaging with their curricula in new and exciting ways. As the data is reviewed and input is sought, the feasibility of a 1:1 initiative will be explored.
We are living in an age of constant flux, so the most important item to teach our students is not what to think, but how to think. To truly prepare our children for college and career readiness through a 21st-century education, Valparaiso Community Schools is challenging them to think critically, collaborate genuinely (with each other and real-world experts), and create innovatively via technology.