Instructional Leadership, Saskatchewan Curricula, Technology, Uncategorized

Taking the Lead in Technology Integration: Instructional Leadership in 21st Century Schools

Part 2- Technology and Curricula

In Saskatchewan our curricula is mandated by the provincial government and built around a framework designed to support teacher instruction and student learning.  Curricula revolves around the constructs of The Broad Areas of Learning and The Cross Curricular Competences.  These constructs represent the vision for education in Saskatchewan, made up of the beliefs, values and understandings our students need to acquire  throughout their Kindergarten to Grade 12 learning journey. 

 The Broad Areas of Learning create a foundation for this vision that expects Saskatchewan graduates to become Lifelong Learners, have a Sense of Self Community and Place, and take their place as Engaged Citizens in our local, provincial, national, and global community.  In this 21st Century world it would be impossible to imagine any of those three areas void of technological understandings and digital fluency.  By not integrating technology in the instructional design of our current classrooms we fail to prepare our students for the world as it is today, let alone the world they will inherit in the future.  At the end of grade 12 students need to be lifelong learners in ways that include technology.  Their sense of self, community and place is not limited to the confines of the classroom, school or even local community.  Becoming an engaged citizen in a global community is now not only a possibility, but a necessity in a world that is becoming increasingly connected.  Understanding what global digital citizenship is, and how to become a contributing member of it, are critical understandings for students today. 

In addition to the foundation provided by the Broad Areas of Learning, the Cross Curricular Competencies provide an interrelated way of viewing important understandings, values, skills and processes that go beyond subject specific areas of study.  (Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2010)  These Competences expect that students in our education system will develop their thinking, their identity and interdependence, their literacies and their sense of social responsibility.  The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education clearly states that “embedded within these four competencies is the effective use of technology for teaching and learning.”  (p.23)  Once again, technology is not an add-on for teaching and learning.  It is a part of the teaching and learning. 

In order for our education system to meet the vision and intent of the Broad Areas of Learning and Cross Curricular Competencies technological integration in education can no longer be ignored.  It is a mandatory component in education and needs to thrive within the classrooms, schools, curricula and learning in Saskatchewan. 

Students deserve an education that will prepare them for the technology driven world that exists today and will surely exist in the future. 

To create these learning opportunities teachers, administrators and entire school systems will need to embrace and support the use of technology in instruction and student learning.


Classroom Technology and Raw Chicken: My text to self connection

Go back in time with me if you will… to a time when a new invention, the microwave started to hit the mainstream market.  I remember the day that I was first introduced to this new technology.  I was sitting in my grandma’s kitchen with my grandparents and great aunts and uncles.  My grandma had just got her first microwave (a gigantic box the size of a small car) and everyone was gathered around it staring.  Or at least all of the adults were staring at it, some in awe, saying this would change the way we cook forever, some in horror, saying microwaves would kill us all, all those “waves” in the air.  I just remember wondering what all the fuss was about. 

My grandma decided to demonstrate how this “fancy new invention” worked to the enraptured audience.  Before turning it on she placed a cup of water in the microwave, saying that this would prevent it from exploding and killing us all.  On that day the microwave entered my life, a technology that was made scary by the adults who introduced it to me.

A few weeks later my mom and dad proudly introduced us to our own personal microwave (again a box the size of a small car).  This time in addition to the microwave which must always contain a cup of water (just in case it turned on by itself) we also had a cookbook.  This cookbook contained every recipe you would ever need converted into microwave friendly language.  It was a veritable silver bullet for microwave cooking.  My mom promised that between the cookbook and our new microwave, the stove would now be obsolete in our house.  Never again would she have to stand in front of a hot stove or heat up the whole house with the oven.  From roasts to cookies the microwave could do it all and the cookbook would be our guide with it’s easy to follow steps.  Everything we would eat would come from this wonderful new technology. 

Oh what excitement, what joy we experienced as night after night we were presented with meals ranging from raw looking “roast chicken” to bread pudding (I wouldn’t recommend).  Some recipes were pretty good but for the most part I began coming very cautiously to the dinner table.  After a while mom sick of microwave cooking, put the cookbook back into the cupboard, and started using the stove.  Oh it was so good to see real roast chicken again and all of our other favorite dishes.  Now does this mean she never used the microwave again… no just the opposite she began to use it all the time, but not for everything.  She had somehow gotten to a point where she knew when the technology would work beautifully and when it was better to use something else to cook our food.  She learned that it really depended on what you were cooking.  When she knew what she wanted she could choose the technology/appliance that would get her the desired product.  Not necessarily the quickest way but the way that would create the best quality product.   

Now as an adult I wouldn’t dream of not having a microwave in my kitchen. It works great for defrosting meat, steaming vegetables, heating up milk for my favorite Chai Latte.  All these things and more I do in the microwave without even thinking about it.  The technology is seamlessly integrated into my life and the lives of my kids, who have no memory of a time before microwaves.

For many teachers the new technology in our classrooms is a lot like the new technology of the microwave.  Some teachers are saying it will change the classroom forever and some want nothing to do with it.  Many teachers are looking for the “cookbook” of easy step by step instructions so that they can plunge in and try every recipe in the book with their students.  I am sure that if they are able to find a “cookbook” to follow some recipes will work and some will not.  One thing is for sure, it scares the adults way more than the students.

In the end the hope will be that we can all learn when to use technology and when to not…and when we do use technology what technology to use.  We need to be able to think about what our end goals are for our students, choose the path that will help them reach those goals, and create the best possible opportunities within our classrooms and schools.  This is a journey that will not always be smooth, and we might have some truly awful meals at the technology table, but it is important that we keep trying, keep searching for the balance.  As educators we need to take this technology journey for ourselves and for our students because like the microwave oven, classroom technology is here to stay!!