Not counting chalk, blackboards, pens, etc. we’ve been sneaking learning technologies into the classroom for well over 25 years. Discouragingly, we have yet to reach the transformational point, where learning becomes a totally different beast, unrecognizable from the classrooms of yore. I wonder if we will reach such a tipping point in my lifetime and what technologies, teaching strategies, brain research or training techniques will bring us to such change? For a world that is changing so quickly, changes in the education system seem so painfully slow.
Rather than just griping, I’ve decided to pursue an idea that’s been brewing in my head… Why do some technologies take so long to go mainstream in schools? My idea might be considered backward but what I want to do is gather a group to investigate and react to “Connecting within the Unconnected Classroom” (CUC2).
The premise of the project is this – There are many classrooms around the world and particularly in developing countries, where immersive technology-enhanced learning is still quite a few years away. Yet, for these students, gaining 21st Century Skills is as important to their future as those in 1:1 laptop situations. As we know, the technology does not necessarily build the skills, there are many other factors involved such as assessment philosophies, teacher advancement policies, curriculum, teacher/learning support mechanisms, Ministry policies, etc. Therefore, the main question being addressed in the project is, what can be done at the classroom level to prepare students from schools with limited technology and connectivity to be effective 21st Century workers? I believe much can be learned about technology integration, in general, by such a streamline approach.
The project can have many different angles:
1) What are the soft-skills a 21st Century worker needs and how do you develop these in limited technology/connectivity classrooms?
2) What soft skills are required by students and teachers for effective adoption of classroom ICT’s?
3) How should students in classrooms with limited technology/connectivity focus on such things as digital, media and information literacies?
4) What classroom situations or teacher skills are good prerequisites for successful adoption of future classroom technologies and internet access for educational purposes?
5) Realizing that both technology and connectivity will reach most classrooms in the future, how should the learning culture change in the classroom, school, district, and ministry levels in advance of the technology to make the impending changes viral?
6) What types of professional learning would be best suited to preparing teachers for the inclusion of technologies and greater connectivity in their teaching strategies?
7) What powerful approaches can we suggest for technology limited and connection-poor school boards to leverage what is known about teacher training, 21st Century Skill Development, and Effective Technology Integration?
8) How do we ensure there continues to be a drive towards technology acquisition and connectivity at the district level while we focus on 21st Century Soft Skills in the classroom and schools?
The people I’m hoping to join me in this project will come from a variety of backgrounds and have the following characteristics:
- K-12 Educators teaching in classrooms like our sample classroom
- Educators who are training teachers for environments similar to our sample classroom
- Education Technologists who are interested in the challenge of assisting teachers who are operating in technology-limited and poorly connected classrooms, schools, districts. (Or those currently operating in such)
- Technology-Savvy teachers who teach from connected and high-tech classrooms and want the challenge of helping teachers not in your situation.
- Teachers who are in unconnected and low-tech classroom who apply 21st Century learning literacies
From a commitment standpoint, I am projecting that CUC2 will end after 5-6 months of investigations and ventures. Admittedly, it has the potential to expand into something more permanent but only if we build it with sustainability and self-sufficiency in mind. We will explore the issues using synchronous and asynchronous means and for the first while, there will be regular weekly ‘meetings’. I am hopeful the group will agree to submit a proposal to the K-12 Open Conference which commences in October.
I have started to build a ‘Connecting within the Unconnected Classroom’ breadcrumb trail across the web. Here is where you can learn more or add to the action:
- Connecting Within the Unconnected Classroom Wiki
- Classroom 2.0 Ning – Connecting Within the UnConnected Classroom Group
- Add bookmarks and comments in the Diigo Group
- The UnConnected Classroom Project Information Page
Basically throughout the project, as Dave Cormier recently told Alec Couros in a tweet about deciphering a Ricky Jay, Magician-Video : “to take some of the magic out, mute it and put another screen over everything but the hands” - What I’m asking of Educational Technologists who join in the project, is to take some of the ‘magic’ out of the technologies in the classroom and get down to the important stuff – in magic, it’s the hands… in the classroom, it’s the learning!
I hope you will consider joining me or helping me out by sending this posting to people who fit our team-member target groups!