Dan Larson-Knight, Colegio Internacional Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela
How do we as educators promote 21st century learning in South American schools when the network connection is anything but stable, reliable, or fast? This is the question that our school has been continuously confronting since the school year started in August. The solutions we’ve come up with are complex to say the least. The technology team began by identifying this as a goal for which we wanted to improve this school year, but as with many goals, this isn’t something that will improve overnight. So while our gear heads prepare proposals on how to improve the situation, our students and educators strive to engage education in an innovative manner. The results have been nothing short of inspirational. Through a shift in our innovative team’s ideology, utilizing programs that don’t require an online component, preloading materials for class, testing alternatives to wifi, maximizing the network that is available, and networking with other educators, all while keeping a backup plan in our metaphorical back pockets, we continue to strive to provide a 21st century learning experience for our students.
Our innovative team has shifted focus to supplying opportunities for teachers to submit applications that promote innovative directives in this regard. An example of this would be our fourth grade class submitting an application for the Lego Mindstorm EV3 robotics technology. This kind of innovative initiative embraces Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in the classroom, while not relying on a network connection. All while playing with Lego? Awesome.
Utilizing programs that don’t require a connection has our third grade classroom producing engaging lessons that deliver all six key stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy – Learning In Action. By using programs such as, ‘Show Me’ in their 1:1 iPad classroom, they have had students recording math lessons that have the students relating to math in a manner that is displaying knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, all within half an hour per lesson.
Preloading materials for class puts the ‘pre’ in prep time at our school. Ensuring that videos are downloaded as opposed to streamed is key in not bogging down our existing network. Staff has been diligent in this regard, front loading videos before the school day starts, or downloading them in their entirety overnight. Educating staff about online utilization has had a great affect on the bandwidth we do have available, keeping it for research related browsing, and using our Google apps for education.
Testing alternatives to standard wifi has also come with it’s successes. We have tested the using of 3G networks through sim cards in smart phones and iPads to provide a hotspot instead of a wifi connection with positive results. The most noticeable advantage of using 3G instead of a wifi connection is that you are not reliant on who’s using internet in the next room. This geek is currently in the process of writing proposals to move forward with an initiative to either have the school; provide 3G capable devices to classrooms school wide, promote students to bring in devices with 3G, or to have it be a requirement upon entry for the next school year, fingers crossed. Maximizing the network that is available is another aspect of being successful in delivering a 21st century learning experience to our students. Above and beyond the examples above, a key component of maximizing our network is diligent communication between our technology team, and our staff. In order for our systems administrator to be successful, staff must communicate a lack of connection, or speed, so that he is able to assess the problem. The communication between these two parties has been very productive thus far this year, and has lead to an improvement in systems utilization.
The backup plan is, as you all know as educators, essential in our profession. But this is much more apparent when trying to deliver a 21st century initiative, with a limited network. You must be willing to be frustrated, in order to succeed. You must have plan B for when the network is moving like a snail. Technology is great when it works, but enough cliches, more importantly I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate and celebrate the staff’s efforts in this regard. It is really easy to throw the papers in the sky when technology doesn’t work, but it is the perseverance of our staff that enables our students to continue to receive a 21st century education. Daily this perseverance is necessary to be successful under this circumstance, and it is applaudable the effort that is applied to this issue.
Networking with other educators is another essential aspect of this process. By utilizing social media outlets in their entirety, our students and staff remain connected to the international community. Sharing ideas, and initiatives online keeps our school cutting edge in terms of utilizing the technology and network we have available to us. An example would be our students being involved in projects that involve 14 countries worldwide researching for their global issues network class. Another example is our staff tweeting internationally in multiple educationally like minded groups. Being connected to the international community on a regular basis is essential in striving to provide a 21st century education to students.
Through innovative thinking outside of the box, delivering a 21st century learning experience with a limited network is possible, it occurs on a daily basis at CIPLC. It’s truly an art to be innovative in this environment at times, but this isn’t an art one must create alone. Sharing our experiences, successes, and ideas is what allows for success in this regard. Together we can move forward towards discovering new and inspiring ways to engage our students. Start with this connection, if you follow me, I’ll follow you. @dancipl