Keeping up with technology

Guest blog by Ikie Holder, Academic Principal at Ben Barber Innovation Academy in Mansfield, Tx.

The technology world is an ever changing beast that is difficult to tame.  It is virtually impossible to keep up with the advancements and developing nuances that arise almost instantly in our educational world.  How do everyday people keep up with the newest changes, let alone schools and school districts?

The younger generation has an insatiable appetite for technology and all that it can do.  It can make their lives easier, make it simpler or open doors for them in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago.  Technology changes so rapidly that it is difficult for some to comprehend what it can do and how it can benefit students today.  The students have a capability to adjust and adapt their technology by using their own means.  School districts have a more difficult time in adjusting to these changes in technology.

School districts have a limitation in that they must budget school funds ahead of time or ask for bonds to be passed in order to allocate money to a particular project.  That being the case, they cannot allocate money until they have researched where they want to spend their money.  They also have to decide how to spend the money.  With the ever changing landscape of technology and what it can do, school districts have to have dedicated resources that are continually looking to improve and adapt their technology goals to fit the needs and capabilities of the students.

In our district, the technology component is a masterful part of the education system we have.  The school board at the suggestion of the technology department has been and is still willing to allocate the necessary funds to install campus-wide wi-fi throughout all of the campuses.  This was done to prepare for the main stroke of their plan which was to issue every high school and middle school teacher and student an iPad for their own personal and educational use.  This technology component has allowed students to take their own education and personalize it.

This technology would just be a paper weight without the necessary training to make it, not only useful, but productive in the educational environment.  Teachers are required to participate in trainings to learn better, more productive and more creative ways to use the iPads in their classroom teachings.  They are also shown more and more beneficial apps that students can use in the classroom learning, presentations or studies.

This is a masterful stroke on the district’s part, but that is a very general piece of technology.  What if a student wanted to be a nurse?  How can we address their needs?

The district I work for took a leap of faith and invested over 10 million dollars to add to our amazing technology center.  The programs offered were already tremendous.  What this money and the growth that came with it did was astounding.  The district invested monies into buying computer controlled mannequins that can simulate heart attacks, strokes and even child birth.  This has allowed technology to be incorporated in an area that, in the past, only allowed students to discuss and watch.  Now they can simulate real-world scenarios without having to be with real patients, all because of technology.

Strangely enough, these adaptations to the schooling in our district have been the easiest part of the process.  The larger step comes at a varied pace.  That step is getting teachers to incorporate technology at the same pace that students desire.  A large number of teachers are younger and have grown up with technology, so incorporating it in their classroom teaching is natural.  It is the older generation that is the stumbling block.  Their potential reticence in using technology can stifle education in today’s classroom.  It is not feasible to push teachers to use the technology.  The momentum cannot be forced.  It will come as the teachers see the students craving the technology, just as they crave the learning.  It will come, but the districts must be patient.  This is difficult to do, because technology is not a patient tool.

The true beauty of this beast is that the only way a district can truly and successfully implement a progressive technology plan as we are doing is to bring in the technology, but to still allow teachers to use the most powerful technology around.  That is the students’ minds.  It sounds odd, but districts cannot allow technology to outpace students thinking for themselves.  It is a delicate and complicated dance, but our district is listening to the music.


Supporting Premise –

I. A.  The technologies that make this new digital world possible must be viewed as opportunities and tools that can help us in educating and socializing the young both in and outside of school.

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