Legacy Academy brought 600 electronic devices into the building just a little over two years ago
with the purpose of creating a differentiated learning environment. Our school was having a difficult time with diversity because of our whole group instruction model that is part of the Core Knowledge approach to education. Our goal was to provide all teachers and students with a new opportunity utilizing technology that levels the playing field for students. Adaptive and interactive technologies in the classroom allow students of all abilities to have access to the entire wealth of human knowledge while also giving them additional tools to become creative, critical thinkers.
Technology in most school environments ends up on the sideline at some point in its time in the classroom. In order to achieve our goal of creating more diverse learning opportunities, Legacy Academy had to evaluate technology integration as a whole. Over the last two school seasons discoveries about technology in education have been made, and we are taking steps to move past the obstacles that have caused technology to stumble in schools.
I have created a workflow for all schools to evaluate and set goals for their technology application plan. The integration of technology in classrooms only mirrors work that can also be performed in the analog world (pen and paper). This is where most schools start and stop their technology plans. Unfortunately for students and teachers, this level of application is not enough to engage or encourage the use of the technology for the long term. At the very lowest level of this phase of integration, technology may actually be more difficult than utilizing analog tools. The only way to truly engage students and create a learning environment that will adapt to a diverse population of students is to work towards moving to the application phases of technology integration. These later phases no longer mirror what can be done in the analog world, but surpass it by allowing the student to do work that is no longer possible with pen and paper. When you are able to utilize technology in these later phases, students become more engaged and are becoming creative, critical thinkers. This allows students of all backgrounds and abilities to showcase talents and use information to learn, rather than learning information.
Phase 0 is really the most fundamental use of technology that we have today. This is, TV, Video and other forms of education materials that can be played through a device and projected for others to watch. While this is a use of technology in the classroom, it really is only mirroring what could be done with a lecture or a field trip. This phase does not diversify information, it only presents it for students to utilize (mostly memorize and regurgitate later). There is educational value at this phase, and combined with clever lesson plans it can be somewhat engaging, however it often does not improve upon what a clever educator could do on their own. There was a time when it was thought that video would transform the classroom, but its inability to diversify and meet needs of different learners keeps it from being a game changer.
Phase 1 is the level that most schools start to bring technology such as computers into the classroom. Unfortunately this is also the level at which most schools stall. If you have ever seen a dust covered computer sitting in the corner of a classroom, it is because it was utilized at Phase 1 of a technology integration plan. At this phase the technology only mirrors what can already be done without it. At this phase, it does provide some slight advantages over not using it, but it also has a barrier to entry in the form of pre-requisite skills that are often not given proper time to develop. If you can handwrite a paper, you can also type it. If you need information, you can use the internet to find it, or you can go to the library. You could build a presentation to display for the classroom, or you could write on the white board and bring in posters. Schools have a hard time seeing past this point, and it usually causes them to only purchase small quantities of technology for a classroom. They might buy three computers for the entire group to use and allow them to rotate through as an example. In the end it slows down the learning process, and eventually it is pushed aside while teachers go back to what they know.
Phase 2 is where devices like iPads have been able to change the way students learn in classrooms. While Phase 1 was the mirroring of the analog world with digital technologies, Phase 2 is much more interactive and adaptive. At this phase we begin to see the technology do things that could not be done without it. The best example would be in allowing the technology to help with individualizing education. For instance a teacher could give a 100 question math practice sheet to drill on basic math facts. Students would complete the worksheet and hand it in. Between 30 minutes and 48 hours later the student would receive a paper back with red marks showing them which ones they had missed. In comparison a teacher that has access to a full range of iPad’s int he classroom could utilize a math application that would provide the same practice problems in a format that would automatically attempt to work with the students diverse needs. Modern applications can give the student instant feedback, as well as adjust the difficulty levels of problems adaptive to each individual student. The end goal is a much more effective lesson than what could have been done without the technology. Anytime that the technology improves upon a process, and can not be duplicated without the use of technology, we are in Phase 2.
Phase 3 I personally believe sums up the solution to the troubles in education. This is where technology is no longer added to the curriculum. This is where students build and create what is simply not possible without the technology. Everything in this phase cannot be replicated without devices and technology that make it possible. A good example of this would be the Apollo 11 Computer System. Man wanted to get to the moon. We knew that we needed something that could make quick and complex calculations beyond what a human was capable of with pen and paper in space. The result was a computer system that allowed us to complete the mission. When we rely on the technology to complete the task, we are exceeding the ability of a non-technical education. In Phase 3, students are creative, and inspired. They are utilizing pre-requisite skills to complete challenges that might seem complicated to many around them. Students that are operating out of this phase are usually engaged and motivated to solve complex problems. Sometimes the solutions to problems found in this phase are real world, not just textbook case studies. As an example, a student in Phase 3 might write a software program that solves math problems he or she encounters in math class. Instead of being able to simply give the answer, this student knows the solution.
The end result of our phase technology plan has been exciting. Our special education students are making large gains and we are seeing an increase in parents moving their students to our building because of it. We are currently servicing three times more IEP students than in prior years, and meeting the needs of a diverse population through technology has been the way that we have accomplished this. Every student has access to adaptive technology that allows them to learn about a larger variety of material with less of a barrier.