Classroom Project Planning and Support
There are excellent teachers who don't need computers. The importance of considering learning styles, cooperative learning, cognitive development, critical thinking and constructivism didn't start with networked technology. However, the classroom computer cluster model seems to suggest inquiry-based interdependent groupwork, and offers teachers an opportunity to look more closely and explicitly at their objectives and methods to support such an environment.
On the other hand, computers DO make new things possible, such as easy communication with people outside the classroom (both synchronously, as telephones permit, and asynchronously, as letters do). How do opportunities for authetic communication with real-world information sources affect the way class projects should be structured?
Computers allow student to produce higher production-quality work faster, and suggest portfolio evaluation rather than quiz-and-test methods. The work of students can directly affect each other and the world around them. How will such opportunities be promoted, managed, capitalized on?
Supporting "action research" - a more formal examination teaching and learning - as networked computing is introduced is an important task of the planning team. Below are some activities that should be considered as part of an ongoing program of curriculum development support (which is a far more accurate term than "staff development").
- Host an Orientation: The period after new computers have entered the school is a sensitive one for all concerned (particularly parents). Share the broader vision, and help all stakeholders establish approrpriate expectations for the level of activity and support appropriate to this stage. Help teachers "Get Real" about the promises and perils of classroom computing by discussing promises and problems.
- Find and Share Project Examples: Invite teachers to find project examples online and share them in team meetings. Schedule field trips to other schools that are using technology well.
- Support Project Design: Develop a system for in-house project generation, selection and implementation. An annual project development cycle is an excellent model to shoot for.
- Offer Ongoing Teacher-Targetted Workshops: Plan workshops for teachers interested in participating in technology planning and project development. Consider also the wide variety of online courses for teachers.
- Find More Funding: Implement a funding strategy to purchase items left on the wish lists and expand the capacity to support teachers as their need for more computer access and functionality increases.
Student Work as Curriculum Content
One of the transformative opportunities of digital networking is that student work (as well as teacher work) can be available for use across classes, grades and years. This is one reason why a conscious and guided process for curriculum development is so important - it gains the most possible leverage from projects that work, and articulates lessons learned from those that don't.
Because of the opportunity presented by the World Wide Web to share content and collaborate, avoid proprietary solutions to digital portfolio production (such as HyperStudio or the school's bulletin board system). A school website (whether public or internal) should be used to mount and index work. Below are some issues to consider in establishing this common resource.
- Organizing Production: Will students be primary authors of the school website? Will they be empowered to do web editing and develop their own voice?
- Defining Acceptable Presentation: What kind of material should be online? These issues can be explored in bulletin board discussions.
- Linking and Collaborating: Who should be linked to the school website? Web pages can connect the school to other schools and to community organizations - thus, visiting the school website gives the browser an image of the "web of connections" between stakeholders.
- Indexing Work: What plans exist for cataloging and sharing student and teacher work products as curriculum content for other students and teachers in other classes, grades and schools? Is student work of a quality that such dissemination is worth promoting? How should student work be selected and presented for such distribution?
Take A Breath!
This guide is intended to provide enough information to get started in the right direction towards a democratic, teacher-directed technology plan. Our last page will touch on next steps: resources and issues that come to the foreground perhaps after the first few years. There are far more comprehensive guides than this, which offer more technical information, which you'll also find there.