BY AMELIA NAISMITH
The world is becoming more technologically advanced by the second, and students need to be educated on those matters using the same tools they’re learning about.
An Alberta education initiative— 21st Century Learning — is a driving force behind the idea students need to learn the technologies in order to analyze new situations and advance their minds’ critical thinking capacity.
However, in order to properly educate the students, the teachers themselves must first understand the emerging technology.
Enter the 21st Century Learning Symposium — teachers teaching teachers.
The symposium took place Sept. 26 and 27 at the Terrace Ridge School in Lacombe and was attended by 500 teachers and other staff members of Wolf Creek Public Schools, as well as other districts.
The focus of many of the sessions was training the teachers on how to use the technology as well as helping them to understand how it can be used in the classroom.
Universal Design for Learning is the idea students should have the opportunity to access and complete their assignments on a number of different mediums in order to engage themselves in a way that best presents their skills and knowledge.
“I had a kid in Grade 5, he was a nightmare. He wouldn’t do his work, he wouldn’t engage,” said Assistive Technology Tips and Tricks presenter Jay Cottell.
Cottell designed a five-week electric model car assignment for his students. Because it was hands-on the student who previously refused to participate in class was done the model in three days and spent the remaining four weeks helping his classmates.
“You have to give it (lessons) to kids in multiple ways and allow them to give it back to you in multiple ways,” said Cottell.
To Cottell, 21st Century Learning is about awareness, willingness and effort on the teacher’s part. “The more you do that meets everybody’s needs, everyone benefits.”
Technology was the main focus of the session, but not the main focus of the curriculum. “It’s about supportive learning, and teachers need to be inclusive,” said Cottell.
Supportive learning using technology doesn’t always mean high-tech gadgets.
The assistive learning continuum adheres to the idea low-grade technology helps students focus on their studies.
Cottell uses devices such as ‘wiggle seats’ or Thera-band, a rubber piece stretching between the legs of a desk for students to play with on a subconscious level to keep them engaged when the activity isn’t very hands on.
Programs including Cloud On — similar to Microsoft Office and YouTube are becoming prominent in classrooms when it comes to assignment styles.
Sharing a class YouTube account and creating videos for assignments will allow students to continue learning outside the classroom and easily share their findings.
However, in passing at the symposium, at the Wolf Creek Public Schools staff member made the comment that, while technology and the teaching benefits involved are “cool”, such as the apps that lower the reading grade level of text and assignments the students deal with, they may also be harming students in the long run.
The staff member wondered if more emphasis should be placed on the fact so many students without learning disabilities are behind in grade level abilities in today’s society.