This past week I had the opportunity to sit in on a guest panel for the talk by Chris Lehman on the role of inquiry and technology in teaching and learning. Chris Lehman is the founding Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. The talk started with Chris sharing many of the ideas and themes from his TEDxNYED talk. Much of this focused on a need for student-centered, inquiry-based learning for all students. This included a focus on authentic and effective use of technologies embedded in instruction. Feel free to review the video from this session down below.
I have been a part of discussions much like this for the better part of a decade. What I appreciate about the talk is the line in the sand that Chris effectively made that “the real world” doesn’t include schools that don’t have adequate access to technology. I agree…and don’t entirely agree with the points that Chris made in this regard. In my talks and work with teachers and instructors in educational institutions, I try to provide opportunities for everyone to engage in this type of learning. Most of my research does focus on one-to-one applications of computing, mobile technologies, and tablets/iPads. Even with this focus, I still try and carve out a space for teachers that might not have adequate access. Some teachers are lucky to even have one computer in their classroom that may, or may not be connected to the Internet. Even in this situation there are opportunities for teachers to build the dispositions students will need later in life when they do have access to the Internet and other communication technologies. In my experience these include critical thinking skills, and dispositions such as flexibility, persistence, critical stance, collaboration, and reflection.
In terms of advocating for teachers and their access to technology, I made several points in the talk to support the use of Chromebooks, open-ed resources, and Google Apps for Educators. I think we live in wonderful times in which teachers have the opportunity to engage their students in powerful, inquiry-based learning using (for the most part) free, Web 2.0 tools. That being said, it really is inexcusable, and for the most part embarrassing that teachers in the U. S. need to lobby and petition for technology access using websites such as DonorsChoose. I’m thoroughly impressed, and in many ways humbled by some of these incredible teachers that do utilize tools in order to “kickstart” tech-access in their classroom. I just think that as a society we should provide more opportunities for our students to engage and succeed with these digital texts and tools.