I recently visited New Zealand schools with a few other teacher educators. I was amazed at how well technology has been integrated into the curriculum. Students are not "learning computers". Technology is an authentic teaching and learning tool. What struck me is the way that common teaching and learning practices have been transitioned into a technological medium. Book talks, book reviews. bulletin boards and oral presentations have been given a new look via 21st century technology. In one school, I saw a book talk conducted as a video conference between two students in different rooms. Books reviews were carried out in the form of podcasts with blog introductions accompanied by short movies. So the reader/listener's senses are fully engaged. They are reading the introduction, watching the movie as they listen to the podcast and finally have the opportunity to post a comment. It's brillant. Universal design for learning at its best. Every learner can participate.
I am certain that these advances are not isolated to New Zealand. This particular school was in one of the country's poorest areas. So it was not about being in an affluent neighborhood. It was because the school administration and the teachers were innovative. More importantly they are dedicated to improving teaching and learning for their students. Technology is a means to that end. Please share how your school age students are being engaged with technology in authentic and meaning ways. Also share the process because the end products may seem so complex and advanced that many teachers may continue to see technology integration as out of reach.
You have quite the undertaking this year! I work for a company that strives to do exactly what you are doing within your district, bridge the technology gap! Many of the visual learning tools/educational technology are fantastic, Interactive White Boards, Inspiration/Kidspiration, and the list goes on! A difficult challenge facing educators today is: integrating these tools into instruction effectively. For all practical purposes, the purchase is new educational technology comes with good intentions, however, new technology tools without supporting educators can lead to these tools reinforcing old methods of teaching, nullifying the intentions for these tools. If you have a free minute, visit our website, there is some great info! www.sublimelearning.com
Best of luck with your endeavor this year!!