Transformation and Technology:A New Way of Learning – Classroom ScenariosSecond Edition



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Introduction

In the recently published “Opportunity to Learn: Defining Vermont Education for a New Generation of Learners,” which is the Final Report of Policy Recommendations Education Transformation Policy Commission” submitted to the Vermont Board of Education in December 2009, the introduction states:

New and multiple ways of deep learning – Our children need interdisciplinary and collaborative educational environments that support them as they explore and inquire, draw critical interpretations from multiple information sources, and interact with local, national, and global experts as they build and apply knowledge and skill.”

We believe that Vermont educators would benefit from seeing “pictures” of these new learning environments. Additionally, we feel that technology must play a strong role in supporting these environments. The National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) “refreshed” in 2007 provide us with guidance on how technology, when combined with effective pedagogy and strong content standards can get us to that desired end.... the transformed classroom.

This document is intended to paint “verbal pictures” or scenarios of transformed classrooms supported through technology. Our goal in creating these scenarios is to provide Vermont educators with examples of “new and multiple ways of deep learning” throughout the K-12 continuum, while emphasizing how information and communication technologies, based on the refreshed NETS-S, could facilitate these learning environments.

It is not the intention of this document to provide units or lessons for teachers to use, since these scenarios lack the level of specificity required for immediate implementation. We would suggest, however, that there are many ideas contained in them that may be ripe for “plucking.” Through the presentation of these scenarios, we offer a picture of sound pedagogical practices supported with effective technology integration. It is our hope that these “pictures” will assist interested educators in furthering discussion to transform their own lessons and units, by incorporating technology to better meet the needs of 21st Century learners.

We recognize the problematic nature of identifying specific software tools and Internet sites in the scenarios... here today, gone tomorrow. Yet, we felt that in order to make them as relevant as we possibly could, it was necessary to include them in the scenarios. As the technology evolves, as it surely will, these scenarios can be adapted to meet new opportunities.

School leaders will play a critical role in transforming education. We hope that they find these scenarios a useful tool in engaging educators in an extended conversation regarding the important links between content, pedagogy, technology and transformation.

These scenarios represent both the imagination and creativity of the writers as well as ideas they received from fellow teachers throughout the state who have actually implemented, at least to some extent, the main ideas in these scenarios. We wish to acknowledge and thank all who contributed.


The Layout

This document is arranged into sections, first by the NETS standard and then by the Grade Cluster. There are six NETS-S technology standards. The sixth standard, which deals with technology operations and concepts, is embedded in the scenarios of the other five standards. Additionally, each standard has four performance indicators. Throughout the scenarios you will see references to both the standards and the performance indicators that are listed at the end of each scenario. For example – (6a, 3b) – indicates that that part of the scenario covers standard 6, performance indicator (a) and standard 3 performance indicator (b).

Each of the five standards is divided into four sections designated by grade cluster (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). For example: in NETS-S 1 there are three scenarios in grade cluster K-2, three in 3-5, three in 6-8 and three more in 9-12. The same pattern exists for the other standard areas. There are a total of sixty scenarios.

You will notice that most of the scenarios address multiple NETS-S. In order to avoid confusion, we decided to only note the “targeted” standards in each scenario.

At the end of each scenario there is a reference to the National Education Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) that would be addressed by the teacher who implemented the scenario.

The Glossary & Index

It is possible that the scenarios contain terms and tools that some readers may not be familiar. Consequently, this document is followed by a Glossary. Each time you see an italicized word in one of the scenarios that word can be found in the Glossary. In addition, each item in the Glossary is indexed to the various pages where it appears in the scenarios. In this way, if someone is interested in seeing how an indexed item is used in multiple ways they could easily locate them in the scenarios.


The Importance of Pedagogy

Throughout this document we refer to the importance of effective teaching practices and strategies. If there is one thing that we have learned over the past decade, as it relates to effective technology integration, is the importance of pedagogy. The Vermont Transformation focused on the concept of “student-centered learning.” We believe this idea is one of the key elements that unlock the door to effective technology integration. What is student-centered learning in a 21st Century context? How does this concept, coupled with project/inquiry-based learning and differentiated instruction, allow for a true transformation of our schools? Investing in technology without critically examining our teaching practices could be a poor investment that produces little or no change.

It is our hope that these scenarios represent a shift away from a more teacher-centered learning environment to one that is more student-centered. In these scenarios, we envision students engaged in authentic learning tasks that are relevant to their lives. Students collaborate with others beyond the walls of the classroom in their desire to create new knowledge. Student choice is evident as teachers strive to meet the individual learning style of each child.

It is very important to note that these scenarios represent a range of transformative possibilities, from the “just starting” to “fully” transformed.


Content Standards and Grade Expectations

In this Second Edition of “Transformation & Technology: A New Way of Learning – Classroom Scenarios” we have added the appropriate Vermont Content Grade Expectations based on the Vermont Standards. The scenario writers have identified those content grade expectations that they would assess if they implemented this scenario. However, they acknowledge that it may be possible to assess several other content grade expectations from various other disciplines, as well.

The scenarios are grouped by NETS-S standards. In each one we have identified those Performance Indicators addressed only for that particular standard, even though it would have been very possible in most scenarios to have identified performance indicators for several, if not all, of the NETS-S standards. We focused on only one standard at a time to minimize confusion while reading the scenarios. Likewise, we could have identified the concepts, knowledge and skills that comprise the various content grade expectations in order to introduce or practice them in the scenario. Once again, in order to avoid confusion by overwhelming the reader, we chose to only identify those content grade expectations that would be assessed.

As we know, true learning doesn’t typically break into neat disciplines like science, math, or reading. It often incorporates all of these disciplines interacting with each other, sometimes in complex ways. Since we envision many “transformed classrooms” engaging students in real world problem solving, the scenarios are often interdisciplinary. We ask teachers, even specific content area teachers, to look at them through this lens. In many of them, there is (potentially) something for everyone. If you are a science teacher and you don’t see any science grade expectations identified, we urge you to look deeper. The potential may well be there, but the scenario writer just may not have just not have focused in that area. Additionally, these scenarios are only “quick pictures.” If you like the ideas in any of them, revise them, add the content grade expectations you wish to address, and make them your own.

Although possible, these scenarios are not intended for teachers use as they are written. The idea is to use the scenarios as “seeds for change;” to plant ideas to show teachers that on how using effective pedagogy, supported by technology, and connected to addressing strong content grade expectations, can transform their own classrooms using their own transformed curriculum and instruction.


A Final Thought

Twelve different educators developed these scenarios. Consequently, they are written in different styles and have varying levels of detail. Yet, each one tells a story. Some stories are based on units or projects that these or other educators have implemented. Others are creations of the mind… of what could be. Some may be tempted to dismiss them as unrealistic or undoable given their present circumstance. We urge you to look at the potential, not the limitations. We acknowledge that there may be hurdles in the way of implementing scenarios like these. Every journey starts with a dream. Dream… and ask yourself “why not?”

There is a journey that must be taken; one that traverses the uncharted terrain between teacher-centered and student-centered learning, between “one size fits all” and true differentiation. The struggle that occurs along the path, the support of each other as we travel the road of doubt, and the gradual ascent up the ladder of understanding, will ultimately bring us to a true transformation. It will take time, patience, and a concerted effort. We will all need to support each other on this journey. There are no shortcuts.

As you read the scenarios, imagine the excitement that exists in these “classrooms.” Imagine the student engagement in learning and student ownership of that learning. Would you want your own child in these classrooms? Do these scenarios reflect the “picture” of the classrooms in your school? If not, they could!