The Time is Now: Don’t Throw a Huge Opportunity Overboard

The Time is Now: Don’t Throw a Huge Opportunity Overboard

The shift from Grade Level Content Expectations to the Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS) is one of the most significant opportunities we have had in many years to advance the use of technology by students in our classrooms. We are all scrambling to get ready to fully implement the CCCS by revamping instructional pedagogy and materials, developing new ways to assess learning, and rethinking priorities. The time is NOW to make sure that technology is an integral part of this process to ensure that our students are prepared for tomorrow’s high-tech information economy.

One use of technology in this new era will be the expansion of online test-taking. According to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, online testing of the CCCS will begin in the Spring of 2015. Implementation of online testing will require schools to have the infrastructure for large groups of students to use computers simultaneously. It will also be important for students to become comfortable with online test taking, which will require extended time in hands-on settings. However, our planning needs to run so much deeper than “Do we have enough technology so that students can take the tests electronically?” Whether technology is used to solve math problems, access information, or promote literacy and communication skills, it is vital that technology is part of the learning solution, not viewed as a separate competency and not used simply to support the test-taking process.

Because many aspects of the curriculum will be examined, updated, strengthened, deepened, and broadened, adoption of CCCS could, unfortunately, also be an opportunity for us to completely miss the boat or, to extend the metaphor, to be tossed over the side of the boat as excess cargo. It has long been the case that the best uses of technology in teaching and learning are deeply integrated into teaching and learning tasks. Now more than ever we cannot afford to have technology uses which are (or are viewed) as add-ons.

Most policymakers, economists, and businesspeople agree that society’s long-term economic health depends on innovation, collaboration, and creative problem solving. According to Governor Snyder in his April 2011 special message to Michigan legislators: “Our education system must position our children to compete globally in a knowledge-based economy. To prepare and train the next generation of workers, Michigan needs a capable, nimble and innovative workforce that can adapt to the needs of the emerging knowledge-based economy and compete with any nation.” Technology goes hand-in-hand with these skills that our students need. If we plan and deliver instruction correctly, it will also make learning highly engaging. A learning environment that includes technology to encourage collaboration, multidisciplinary learning, and treating students as creators must be cultivated.

If we do it correctly, the plans that we make as we move to the CCCS can help us improve the educational experiences of our students, as long as we emphasize the application of technology for student use and student learning. Adoption of the CCCS offers the perfect opportunity to continue to emphasize student-centered classroom practice with a special emphasis on active student use of technology. When designing, planning, and evaluating learning activities, it is vital to carefully examine what the students are doing in the classroom. Is the use of technology relegated to students watching a video or passively taking in a presentation that the teacher has created? Or do all of the students have the chance to hold the technology in their hands, actively participating in activities that not only meet the standards but exceed our expectations?

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Written by Pam Shoemaker and Jon Margerum-Leys

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