Technology in education invites learning through collaboration

Picture a classroom full of anxious test-takers, ready to finish the challenging test. All students are taking the test with a digital device, which allows the teacher to see, in real time, that nearly every student is incorrectly answering question No. 4.

The teacher can, at that very moment, clarify No. 4 or choose to re-teach the content.

Immersive technology is improving education, and students are thriving in this new digital environment.

Digital curriculum provides a new tool to engage students.

“I feel like ultimately, in my second year of teaching, the iPad (tool) has helped me reach all learners,” said Jen Kious, a second-grade teacher at Fortville Elementary. “The students are more engaged, and I could differentiate my teaching. I could reach my higher learners and my struggling learners in a better way than the previous year without the iPad.”

Kious uses many creative, free apps to teach, including Showbie, which allows her to scan in a homework document and offer her students the traditional paper option or the chance to submit their homework through the app. If the students choose to submit it through Showbie, Kious will still see the student’s handwritten work. Not surprisingly, approximately 70 percent of students chose to submit via Showbie.

A blended learning environment, meaning students are learning through technology as well as paper and books, is important to stimulate a lifelong love of learning in students. The Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. (MVCSC) provides a blended learning environment using books, pencils and traditional poster projects, as well as collaborative digital projects. One example of these immersive digital projects might be a student group sharing a single research document, with all participants editing the same document, at the same time, from different locations.

Kious and several other Mt. Vernon teachers find using digital instruction methods in their small student groups to be particularly effective. Some applications allow the teacher to evaluate in real time how students are progressing through the assignment. It also allows the teachers to immediately adapt their next instruction to best meet and further the group’s learning. Specific groups can move on or possibly skip the next step, while others may receive a similar assignment to further help master the topic.

The benefit of the teacher immediately analyzing results allows the teacher to adjust his or her steps in the next moment, providing more effective learning relevant to the student’s needs.

Technology stimulates communication and collaboration through its expansive opportunities. Digital learning is defined by the Georgia Digital Learning Task Force as “learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over time, place, path and/or pace.” This tool of interactive instruction engages students, allowing them to spend more or less time to develop the same skills as their peers.

Technology has revolutionized our world; the benefits of technology should be applied in education as well. However, it is not enough to merely provide the tool/device to students and staff. Leaders need to have the mindset to inspire those working for them to use the immense learning advantages available through this tool. To reach and engage learners effectively, staff also need to have continued professional development on best practices of digital instruction.

Mt. Vernon has implemented “Delayed Start Wednesdays” to provide teachers with the necessary professional development. Teachers meet on Wednesdays and learn new ways to utilize digital applications, as well as review collective student data as a grade or department.

Teachers have overwhelmingly stated they appreciate these “Professional Learning Communities,” furthering their education. At these sessions, teachers learn new digital best practices from state speakers, from each other, and through department collaboration. This facilitates continuous improvement not only for instruction methods, but for the academic excellence provided at Mt. Vernon.

Besides preparing children to succeed in the 21st century, digital instruction engages students, invites creativity and collaboration, and stimulates a love of learning through an interactive tool. Teachers can personalize instruction through technology, charging students to grow and learn at their own pace, which stimulates skill mastery. Mt. Vernon is pleased to provide students and staff with devices and the training needed to effectively and continuously improve the educational experience through digital curriculum.

Maria Bond serves as the director communications for Mt. Vernon Community School Corp.

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