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Follow Up: Reflecting on the 'Classroom of the Future'

Karl Ochsner

My first post included a list of changes that are needed in education today. I wrote that first post in isolation—but was interested to see that others raised similar ideas throughout the week, in posts and in comments. So I thought I'd revisit some of the changes, sharing my Teaching Ahead colleagues' observations:

1) The technical infrastructure must be ready.

Bill pointed out that, in order for real change to occur in the use of technology integration, we need to have guaranteed reliability. Nancy agreed on the importance of reliability but also emphasized that back-up plans must be in place to deal with occasional glitches. But much work remains to be done, and progress is uneven: Teachers like commenter GKPuett have no computer tech assistance and must wait three to four days when hardware needs service.

2) Teachers must be supported in our efforts to integrate technology.

Nancy's district seems to have support down, with teacher-centered professional development. Her district also allows project-oriented learning, embedding collaboration and communication opportunities for teachers and students. Her district even provides a "help-desk" at every school for teachers and students.

3) We must design procedures and guidelines that help students make the most of technology, while confronting the realities of legal and safety concerns.

Robert said it clearly: We cannot teach with technology for technology's sake.

4) The technology industry must generate products and apps that can truly support 21st-century learning.

Although no one mentioned industry's responsibility, many non-education products are being used to integrate 21st-century skills in the classroom. For example, commenter rhassig uses Skype to enable students to have Web conferences with an author. Such innovative uses of applications can help bridge students' classroom experiences with the outside world. Now if only there were more products designed to support educators and students...

5) We must find ways for technology to help us streamline our work.

Marsha wrote that web 2.0 tools provide teachers with Professional Learning Networks, enabling us to share ideas with technology. When each of us draws upon an army of coaches, we will be better supported and motivated to bring powerful resources into our classrooms. Joel's classroom is full of examples of integrated technology that seems to streamline his English classes in a motivating way. Jennie's school also has streamlined their educators with the iPad ready classroom.

Technology is moving very quickly—and schools must do a better job of keeping teachers up to speed. We can provide rich learning experiences to our students if we make strategic efforts to support teachers with better training and tools, and ensure that appropriate technical infrastructure, policies, and assistance are in place.

Karl Ochsner is a 7th and 8th grade science teacher in Scottsdale, Ariz., and teaches classes on K-12 technology integration at Arizona State University.

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