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Posts Tagged ‘Technology in the Classroom’

Early Learning and Technology Part Five: Social Interaction and Collaborative Learning

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 03/15/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

We know that relationships are essential to healthy child development. We can observe organic collaborative Girl at Computerbehaviors even in very young children, who often explore their worlds and gather information while they play independently, but then eventually come together to learn and share experiences with others. 

Technology offers unique opportunities to cultivate the innate human instinct to collaborate. Educators and developers have embraced these possibilities by creating platforms and projects designed to facilitate learning experiences and communication–between peer groups, teachers and students, and school communities and families–and to expand virtual space for cross-cultural education.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology can support collaborative learning:

1) Extending Access

In 2001, education researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra launched a unique experiment he called the “Hole-in-the-Wall.”Mitra installed a public computer in a remote village in India. Young children in the village quickly discovered how to scroll, seek out information, learn English and more. In short, Mitra witnessed young children teaching themselves and one another via the computer’s resources.

The Hole-in the Wall project cracked open the concept of a school “in the cloud” that children can access anywhere, anytime.  The community computer and its content enabled a natural learning environment to grow, complete with encouragement from mentors, teachers, family and friends.

As Dr. Mitra’s work demonstrates, technology’s potential to extend access to learning content far and wide is huge. In the last decade, partnerships between educators, ministries and organizations have helped to deliver content and training across the globe, from reading on mobile phones in developing countries to professional development seminars that can be viewed offline for communities lacking internet connections.

2) Creating “Blended” Learning Environments

An approach commonly called a “blended” learning model encourages classroom collaboration, and technology can provide a wonderful support system for the experience. For example, students may be organized into small clusters based on shared learning styles, abilities or interests. This organization allows teachers to focus carefully on individual students and to craft dynamic learning scenarios for an individual child or small group. Technology’s capacity to support personalized learning pathways allows for individually tailored pacing and practice, in turn promoting subject or skill mastery. As a result, students feel confident and are proud to share their knowledge.

3) Learning by Playing

Digital games powered by quality content can improve attention, focus and reaction time. Whether there are two players or many, gamers acquire pro-social skills through healthy competition, which then translate to other relationships and aspects of life.

Consult KQED’s Mindshift’s Guide to Digital Games and Learning for recommendations on digital learning tools.

4) Making Global Connections 

Increased connectivity can offer children real-world insight into communities and cultures around the globe. There are a number of exciting collaborative projects and platforms that create space for teachers, students and parents to communicate and learn from one another, regardless of geography.

For example, ePals uses web-based tools to bring diverse learners together in virtual classrooms. Over 4.4 million students and teachers are currently participating in cross-cultural exchange on the platform.

Look out for projects and competitions that bring kids together to reach common goals via online collaboration, like the Give Something Back Project’s Virtual Classroom.

5) Bridging Home and the Classroom 

There are also many free apps to connect teachers, parents and students in order to support timely and confidential communication. Check outGoogle Apps for Education. This free suite of productivity tools helps keep parents in the loop on their children’s progress in class. Parents can log into Google Drive and see what their kids have been up to in any class and communicate with teachers.

Whether you are encouraging technology-enabled collaboration at home or in the classroom, remember to balance screen time with face-to-face conversation and interaction.Encourage kids to think about digital citizenship and to act as positive role models for others in all social interactions, whether on-screen or off. Happy collaborating!

Technology and Early Learning: Part Three Bridging the Digital Divide
Practical Resources for Educators

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 02/05/2015 on the HMH blog.

Just over 30 years ago, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shared a vision for a society with “a computer on every desk and in every Girl at computerhome.” We’ve made great progress since then – over 80% of the American population now has a home computer and more people than ever now use the internet. From smartphones to Skype, digital resources shape much of our daily lives.

Today’s edtech landscape is exciting, with adaptive technology, learning management tools and interactive content designed for students on-the-go. However, we still have work to do when it comes to digital equity and closing the digital divide — the Pew Research Center reports that digital access varies drastically by state and geography.

Furthermore, educators report a number of barriers to smooth tech integration in the classroom, from budget challenges to low-bandwidth internet connections to lack of professional development, and many have also observed that their classroom’s use of technology remains basic – word processing, video projection or simple research.

We’ve explored the concept of “too much” tech and the importance of a digital diet in the last post, but what’s at stake when learners do not have access to digital learning resources?

Here’s some food for thought about the digital divide and education:

  • 72% of public K-12 schools and the majority of public libraries do not have sufficient broadband to support 21st century learning.
  • 30% of households do not have high-speed internet, making it difficult for students to benefit from digital learning tools at home.
  • Teachers and students in underserved areas disproportionately carry the burden of these access issues.
  • 85% of teachers surveyed by the Pew Research Center seek out their own opportunities for professional development around effective use of tech; 75% say digital tools have added new demands to their lives.
  • 84% of teachers worry that access to new technology is leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and districts.

Comprehensive digital literacy and advanced technology training has become more essential than ever to career development and college-readiness. We can’t afford to have some students using microblogs, creating podcasts and communicating with instructors via social networks, while others struggle with outdated hardware and limited internet connections. Without holistic action to bridge this access gap, many young people (and educators) will be left behind. 

Digital equity is a complex systemic issue that stretches beyond the education space, but it is not insurmountable and individual actions will make a difference. So, what can educators looking to increase access and sharpen skills within their own classrooms and communities do to move forward? There’s plenty:

Look To Your Greater Community

  • Explore creating technology alliances with civic organizations such as the YMCARotary, and Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Local community colleges, colleges and universities have some of the best technology resource centers around. They also often have services for the greater community, like volunteer mentoring programs and free or inexpensive workshops.
  • Children’s museums offer age-appropriate technology centers for teachers, parents and kids. See if there is an Intel Computer Clubhouse in your community and encourage students to join.
  • Create relationships with local businesses. Many are interested in community investment and can offer professional development for teachers and/or resources for students.

Utilize Complimentary Tech Support 

  • Stores that sell computers often hold workshops for people that have recently purchased equipment. Sales people can be very knowledgeable and eager to help you better understand the technology landscape.
  • All tech companies provide tutorials, videos and product information for their products. Increasingly, customer service support is available by online chat in addition to toll-free phone calls and is reliable and real-time.
  • Internet and telecommunications providers routinely have school and at-home programs available for communities and families that do not regular have internet access. 

Visit Your Local Library Network

  • Make a standing appointment with a local resource librarian. Libraries often offer free courses or seminars. You could even provide questions prior to your appointment to maximize learning time.
  • Most public libraries now offer computer and internet access. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarians for information about access – what are the rules or guidelines for young users? Are there times when the computer stations are used for classes, or are very busy? Are there branches of your local library network that are especially well-equipped?
  • Check out a book! There are many great print resources on technology for beginners looking to enhance their digital skills and expertise.

Technology is best learned through practice. If one thing is certain about the tech boom, it is that the digital landscape is constantly evolving. It is easier to gain confidence when you understand that learning new things is an inherent part of using and benefitting from technology. And don’t be scared to learn from your students – they make great teachers, too!