Attending a 1-2-1 conference in Mumbai and the question on everyone's lips: Does all this increased technology have an impact on student learning? If it does, how do we know? How do we measure it?

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I'm not sure the teaching practices we're talking about are actually new. maybe repackaged in how we conceptualize it all. Its a question I've been dealing with a lot in my job to facilitate districtwide staff development. I keep coming back to learning intentions that are clearly identified and the kinds of evidence that shows specific targeted learning. Recently we launched a large blog environment to have students across 12 schools participate in a conversation of "going deeper" in 10 selected novels. We invited the teachers in and spent 80% of a day experiencing specific literacy strategies to connect to text, writing frames to dig a little deeper, and some self-assessments that the kids could do really fast. We wanted to use the tools to extend communication and to go deeper into literature as well as practice ways of speaking in an online environment. We're a month in with 890 participants. what I've noticed is that those teachers who spent time in practicing with A/B partner shares and using frames had written posts from students that showed some critical thinking. Their second, third and more posts went even further. In fact, some students even challenged others to find details to support their thinking. These have now gone beyond our original scaffolding lessons.

Sometimes I think that assessment is an afterthought - something we do after a project (summative). Even in its formative sense can be misconstrued. Rather than complicate things to a 10 point rubric, why not just as simply "how do you know you got there", "when you compare pre/post, what do you notice", These are the questions I'll be asking the teachers when we close the experience in 2 months from now (actually i'm asking them now).
Well having been one of the educators working at the American School of Bombay back when we started the laptop program, I would say that yes - technology has an impact on student learning if it is used to transform teaching and learning. In other words, if we just use the computers to do the same old types of tasks we used to do or if we replace lectures with powerpoints then, no, there is probably no measurable impact - in fact, since technology amplifies, it might even make the worst of traditional methodology even worse.

I would say that technology offers a world of possibilities for teachers to TRANSFORM their learning environments by creating more innovative, relevant and engaging tasks for their students in a way that wasn't possible before. The trick is to ensure that critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are explicit goals of each task. What is the project? What will the students create? How will they do so? What do they need to know and be able to do to complete the task? How/when will we check to see what they already know and what we need to give them guidance on? I think access to endless amounts of valid and reliable information and access to digital tools that allow students to learn how to filter, synthesize, evaluate, analyze and most of all CREATE definitely can improve learning if the learning coaches (formerly known as teachers) know how to coach well....(hint: coaches don't always have to play the sport they coach at the same level of their players - they just need to know how to get their players to play at the highest level - taking that to the classroom - they just need to know go get their learners to learn at the highest level).
There is plenty of research emerging on the impact of blogging, writing using computers etc...and how it can improve writing. However, to me the real measures are the following:

1. Are students engaged?
2. Are they producing high quality, creative projects?
3. Is there evidence of high quality student reflection attached to the projects?
4. Are student projects getting more complex as they progress through the grades?
5. Can students intelligently talk about what they are learning about/working on?
6. Are students effective at working with others?
7. Are students integrating the digital tools at their disposal in ethical and creative ways?

Just a few thoughts - I know I'm a little bit on the edge but I like hanging out there on the edge....
Impressive list! And the edge you refer to might possibly be the cutting one... I'm eager to share some of your ideas in my next letter to parents and faculty - permission requested.
Just returned from the NESA Conference in Bangkok where technology was highlighted (again). Again I heard how this is an exciting time in education - a turning point where we find the best ways to use technology to improve student learning... or not, as Heidi Hayes-Jacob said. It's too scary to think that we might ignore the opportunities. Appreciate your thoughts, and glad they're out there for public consumption.
I think great teaching is key to learning. The technology allows teachers to empower students with more information than any of us can imagine at their fingertips. However, the teaching is what makes it all work. That being said, technology does require a different kind of teaching if it is meant to be transformational. The idea of using a computer like pencil and paper is a huge mistake.I think student centered learning and relevance have to move to the forefront. Teachers have to be innovative and create innovative, relevant project based lessons around standards as opposed to merely presenting standards a hundred different ways.


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