The 3 L's of Educational Technology
The 3 Ls
In real estate the three most important factors in home value are: location, location, location. I have a similar list for education technology: learning, learning, learning.
3 Types of Learning
The first type of learning is student learning. Everything we do should promote positive change in the way students learn. We need to remind our staff, especially the more technical members, of this prime directive. I am remembering the story of a reporter who ran into a janitor at NASA. The reporter asked what the janitor did there. He replied “I send men to the moon.” As we debate about computer models and server upgrades, we need keep in mind their impact on student learning. How exactly to measure that impact is probably a topic for another discussion, but keeping that vision will help us to make good decisions for the sake of students.
The second type of learning is teacher learning. To accomplish improvement in the student learning, we have to make progress with this second type of learning. Let’s not neglect to show our teachers how technology can change the culture of instruction. In our district, a group of teachers is compiling examples of how to use technology with different concentrations of computers, from a pair of computers up to a 1:1 classroom set. These examples will help teachers understand what they can do with various amounts of classroom technology. The great majority of teachers want to use technology to positively impact their students, but they don’t know how that looks in their classroom. We need to work with our curriculum leaders to show them.
The third type of learning is technology learning. Our own IT staff needs to continue to grow in order to support the needs of students and teachers. Give them time to interact with peers in other districts, when possible. My programming team is very involved in the state user group for the student information system. Comparing notes with their counterparts has helped them sharpen their own skills. It is difficult for them to slip away when report cards are due, but they often come back with a better perspective on our own work. In another example, I had a conversation this week with one of my network systems engineers. He had changed his mind about a particular type of technology as a result of discussion with a systems engineer from another district. They have been communicating through a regional office of education list serv.
Keeping Focus on the 3 Ls
Just like the real estate mantra, a focus on learning, learning, learning may seem like a “no brainer.” However, it is amazing how easy it is to lose that focus in the day-to-day struggles of our jobs. By maintaining it, we can make a difference in the lives of the students we serve, and in our own satisfaction as well.
Craig Williams is the director of information services for Illinois School District U-46 in Elgin, Illinois. He and his team are overhauling the district’s infrastructure and seeding technology into classrooms, to ensure the all of the district’s culturally-diverse students have the opportunity to expand their learning and achievement. His previous work with schools, first as a building architect, then as a technology design consultant, provides him with a broad perspective on planning for improved student learning. Williams currently serves on the Board with the Illinois CoSN chapter - Education Technology Council of Illinois.