Monday, August 24, 2009

The 21st Century Classroom

What does a 21st century classroom look like? The subject has inspired a lot of debate and discussion in many school systems. After spending time in the last few weeks at the newly renovated Ibraham, the new Caleb's Creek and Kimmel Farm, I have seen what it can look like and was impressed at the setup for the classroom teachers who were moving in for the first time last week. And I felt the same way at Reagan High's new wing during the Nothing But NETS conference several weeks ago.

It's not about the tools and technology. I've seen incredible teachers who didn't have access to a lot of technology, and I don't believe you can place an ineffective teacher in a technology-rich classroom and expect them to transform into a master teacher. Technology is only a tool for engagement. But the teachers at these new schools will find a wealth of technology to engage students. These new classrooms are outfitted with computers, interactive whiteboards, slates, student response systems and sound systems.
What an amazing setup for teaching students.

The challenge for these new schools will be to use these 21st century classrooms to impact their instruction and engage their
students. Teachers may need to revisit their practices. The technology in these 21st century classrooms shouldn't just be an "add-on" to what has always been done. The hope is that these technologies can transform instruction for teachers and students at these new schools. It won't happen overnight, but it was very encourgaing to see the excitement from the teachers in these new classrooms, and their desire to receive the kinds of training that will allow them to realize the potential of these 21st century classrooms.

Nothing But NETS

Last week administrators and leadership in the WSFCS system converged on Reagan High School for the Nothing But NETS technology conference. It involved two full days of sessions related to some of the current technology going on in our district. I finished thinking of what a great opportunity it had been to have contact with the principals and instructional staff in our district and how impressed I was with the participants in my sessions. I heard similar positive things from others session instructors.

Because leadership "buy-in" is critical for the successful integration of technology, I was pleased to see and hear such supportive feedback from the participants at the conference. Principals not only allocate funds for technology and plan the training sessions for the use of technology, but also set the expectations for the use of technology in their schools. Some of the best examples of schools and classrooms using technology in our district come from schools that have strong leaders who promote the use of technology by their teachers and expect to see teachers and students using technology in meaningful ways.

The Nothing But NETS conference was a unique opportunity to connect with those who are currently setting the stage for technology use in their school for the new year.