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Technology in K-12 International Education

Jonathan Chenier Director of Athletics and Co-Curricular Activities Colegio Nueva Granada

There is no road map for international schools to follow that indicates the ideal way to integrate technology into their practice. Schools need to be open to new possibilities as technologies advance and evolve at a faster pace than educational systems are willing to. The challenge has become to find ways to teach students to be adaptable and open to change themselves, while developing critical thinking skills and dispositions that will help them as they encounter new problems to solve both individually and collaboratively. Today´s school leaders must step towards the future and have an eye on emerging trends in order to facilitate student learning that will truly serve their populations.

The first step towards truly embracing the idea that technology must be completely integrated into our education practices is to run away from the current model. International schools with American accreditation are often stuck in a model that is based on a design to educate future assembly line workers or staff the “bureaucratic machine” of a fallen empire (Smith, 2014 and May, 2013). Although serendipitous change is unlikely overnight, schools must be open to what Steven Johnson calls the “adjacent possible,” taking parts of what currently exists and connecting them to the vision of a more useful future school. That future, however, is not possible without an idea, a planted seed that needs to be nurtured in order to grow (2010).

At Colegio Nueva Granada, a SACS/AdvancED accredited K-12 school of over 1800 students in Bogota, Colombia, that seed has been planted. An idea exists that looks to close the gap between the vision of the future and the reality of the educational system that we live in. After patiently, admittedly too patiently for some stakeholders, scanning the horizon for the route to success in integrating technology in schools, attending conferences with expert key note speakers on the topic (2013 AASSA Latin American Administrators Conference in Atlanta for one), looking at inconclusive research of one to one lap top and BYOD programs, and cautious of defining the school by initiatives or tools rather than learning, the school leadership decided to take a leap.

THE CLASSROOM

School Director Dr. Eric Habegger describes the new space on campus as a Global Learning Launchpad. This will not only be a space in the school´s library that houses the most advanced technology on campus (extended curved screen covering a whole wall, several touchscreens for students on adjacent walls, innovative classroom furniture, and lighting that supports the rhythm of each activity), it is laboratory where students will connect with peers, teachers and experts all over the world. Partnering with industry giants such as Samsung, Google, Intel, Philips and Steelcase, stakeholders were invited to join the school on its journey, and have eagerly signed on. Although not every classroom will be equipped like this, teachers at CNG are invited to use it as an example to get creative about the use of technology in their own rooms and, since there is no universal consensus on an ideal approach, pilot other projects that compliment student learning and helps prepare them for the future in which they will be living as adults.

The route to the classroom of the future was not always clear, and remains a path full of unknowns. Having been hesitant to pull the trigger on any one technology or trend may have proven to be the best possible solution for CNG, however, with the excitement of so many possibilities, a school must also consider speed bumps that may pop up along the way. In technology, funding is always a concern, as eager corporate partners could very well turn their attention to other projects in time and the costs of expanding on innovative technologies weigh heavily on a budget. Concerns over appropriate student use are also not to be ignored. However, with all of these things in mind, it must be noted that speed bumps such as these are the cost of doing exactly what we encourage our students to do; take risks, be innovative and do not be afraid to fail.

Experts are predicting a time in the not so distant future that technology will extend beyond our human capabilities. What will education look like when, as Ray Kurzweil espouses in The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, “our technology will match and then vastly exceed the refinement and suppleness of what we regard as the best of human traits?” With IBM already developing “brain chips” that are microprocessors that mimic the functions of the human brain, what will education need to look like when that technology becomes standard? The answers are not all needed today, however educators and their students should absolutely be asking the questions.

There is no doubt that the future of education will be exciting. The seemingly insurmountable task of overhauling the educational system inherited by the industrial and empirical revolutions of centuries past no longer appears to be so impossible. Change is on the horizon, and international schools should be proud innovators and early adopters of technological integration, facilitating the development of their students who are poised to leave a mark on their communities. WORKS CITED Goodwin, B. (2011, February 1). Membership. Educational Leadership:Teaching Screenagers:One-to-One Laptop Programs Are No Silver Bullet. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/feb11/vol68/num05/One-to-One_Laptop_Programs_Are_No_Silver_Bullet.aspx

IBM produces first ‘brain chips’. (2011, August 18). BBC News. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14574747

Kurzweil, R. (2005). The singularity is near: when humans transcend biology. New York: Viking.

Johnson, S. (2010). Where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation. New York: Riverhead Books.

Smith, K. (2014, January 11). US education model creates assembly-line workers. New York Post. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from http://nypost.com/2014/01/11/us-education-model-creates-assembly-line-workers/

May, K. T. (2013, February 26). A school in the cloud: Sugata Mitra accepts the TED Prize at TED2013. TED Blog A school in the cloud Sugata Mitra accepts the TED Prize atTED2013 Comments. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://blog.ted.com/2013/02/26/a-school-in-the-cloud-sugata-mitra-accepts-the-ted-prize-at-ted2013/

Our SchoolVision solution. (2013, April 11). – Philips. Retrieved August 22, 2014, from http://www.lighting.philips.com/main/application_areas/school/schoolvision/schoolvision_solution.wpd

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