ASCD 2006: Closing Thoughts

The final day of the ASCD conference wrapped up with a full schedule of technology sessions and lectures, including one on No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Technology-oriented sessions covered what scientists and mathematicians will need to know for the future, achieving 21st century learning through technology immersion, and an instructional leader’s technology tool kit.

“An Instructional Leader’s Guide to Technology: Today’s Classroom Toolbox,” gave educators insight into what the “millennium” student has access to and is using in school and at home. Presenters Gene and Stan Silverman, a husband-and-wife team, covered different technology resources available to students, including video on demand, blogs, and probeware.

“We are dealing with a new student,” said Stan Silverman of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). “[Today’s student’s] access to technology is fundamentally different than any other student.” Silverman called this generation the “generation of thumbs,” and referenced the many technology items and application–including iPods, instant messaging, text messaging, tablets, and PDAs–that students are using for personal and education use.

“These kids have grown up with this technology, it is a part of their aging,” he added. When students use technology in the classroom to publish and communicate, they are not only working on assignments for class but are also publishing their technology skills and what they know.

Educators must make sure to use technology to entice, encourage, enable, and empower their students, the Silvermans said.

Making video on demand available to teachers and students, especially searchable video, should be a goal, the presenters said. Video conferencing gives teachers the ability to get resources from all over the world, and distance becomes irrelevant.

Silverman said probeware is especially useful because its connection with computers makes science more real for students. “It’s transformational science instead of recipe science,” he said.

Webinars, seminars held online, are powerful classroom tools that students can use to communicate with other students and in turn use that communication for research and other work, said Gene Silverman, of the Nassau Board of Cooperative Education Services in Nassau County, N.Y.

While these technologies translate well for classroom use and can be very effective, the presenters warned that teachers should be careful about cyberbullying–students using technology such as cell phone text messaging, blogs, and instant messaging to harass their peers. Educators should, when possible, try and prevent this from occurring.

Voice discussion boards also prove useful in the classroom. Instructors record presentations, and students can respond to their instructor and to fellow students asynchronously using inexpensive headphones. This is especially helpful because students can review and replay the sessions at any time, such as for a homework assignment or research project.

All the technology included in the presentation can also help teacher professional development. Technology skills and tools can improve, teachers can expand their communications with students and school staff “outside the walls,” and courseware and content can expand.

Despite the attraction of technology, a school or district’s administration has to consider the professional development costs and schedules associated with a new technology product, the budget for equipment, support services, materials and licenses, and new tools, leadership for the new products, staff and student management, and the time that staff and students have available to use the technology.

Monday’s schedule featured a closing session by Neil Howe, who spoke about the different generations in the country, how they differ in behaviors and attitudes, and how each generation will steer the nation.

ASCD’s 2007 conference will be held March 17-19 in Anaheim, Calif. The theme will be “Valuing the Whole Child: Embracing a Global Vision.”

Laura Ascione
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