The school district where I am a K-12 technology integrator moved away from computer labs at the elementary level about five years ago. Each elementary building is assigned a technology integrator to work with teachers to assist them integrating technology in their classroom. Prior to this effort, students met in a computer lab once per 6-day school cycle. Lessons were very much isolated and included instruction on how to use Word, PowerPoint, iMovie, etc. Much of that time in the labs was spent on lessons that were isolated and not connected to curricular activities occurring in the classroom. Classroom teachers now have portable carts of MacBooks and an integration teacher to help them plan, co-teach, provide resources/tools, or support them in the classroom. A resource I would think many teachers would love to have access to.
In my opinion, this is a tremendous step in the right direction and allows teachers to use technology in a meaningful way. However, I’ve recently heard from a number of teachers that we need to go back to scheduling computer class and even resurrect computer labs because “these kids have no skills.” My first thought is do they realize that schools all over the country are advocating for integration and trying to move away from labs…something we’ve done successfully and way ahead of the curve. A more pressing issue for me is what do they mean by “these kids have no skills”? What skills? Word processing skills? Do they know every menu item in PowerPoint? I couldn’t disagree more with this assessment!
I have watched elementary students access their district Google domain, create a document, share it, and collaborate in the cloud. I’ve watched 3rd graders create a Wordle and take a screenshot of it. Then log in to their class blog, upload the picture, and add a riddle to it in order to spark a conversation with readers. There are very few, if any, of our teachers blogging on their own. I’ve also seen students in 5th grade create a multimedia presentation using Keynote, zip that file, log in to our Moodle server, find the teacher’s course, and upload their presentation. Just take a minute to consider all the skills these kids have demonstrated both curricularly and technologically to complete these tasks. No skills? I have to disagree!
Skills students need to develop today in 2011 aren’t the same as they were 10 years ago. Students don’t need to be taught the intricacies of word processing and spreadsheets in isolation. These need to be authentic and meaningful lessons. I don’t believe we need to bring back computer labs. I believe we need to educate teachers about the evolution of technology in the classroom. They still think that the most important skills to learn with a computer are how to use a specific application and keyboarding. This needs to change…but I imagine that’s a completely different post. Any ideas for that post? I’d love to hear your thoughts.