Tech an ever-changing target for students

Published 10:08 am Friday, April 24, 2015

By Ryan Mayers

Technology Integration Specialist, Austin Public Schools

According to the New York Times, as much as 65 percent of students currently in grade school may end up working in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, due mainly to the increasing pace of technological advancement. This startling statistic begs a very important question: how can we effectively prepare our students to be successful in such a rapidly developing technological landscape?

For Austin Public Schools, the answer lies in an effective utilization of technology in education from an early age. To address this, APS has begun employing technology integrationists, whose job it is to work with teachers to develop curriculum that incorporates technology to enhance education while also teaching students how to use the technology available to them. Students at Woodson Kindergarten Center have been using iPads to work with various reading and math apps. These apps are specifically chosen to allow teachers to monitor student progress while giving students the opportunity for educational reinforcement through games and activities. Teachers are also utilizing numerous online resources, including GoNoodle and Mondo.

At the elementary level, students are learning how to operate computers, work with various programs both for content creation and presentation, and research and evaluate sources. In many cases, the elementary technology integrationists are working with classroom teachers to develop projects that require students to use their technology skills to create final products ranging from videos and presentations to basic robots and digital games.

The skills students learn in the elementary schools are put to good use when they move on to I.J. Holton Intermediate School, one of the district’s two schools with a one-to-one ratio of students and laptops. I.J. Holton students are using technology to investigate engineering problems, learn the basics of robotics and programming, and create and share collaborative presentations with their classmates. The Technology Integrationist at I.J. Holton is also training teachers to discover and evaluate new resources to enhance their teaching.

At Ellis Middle School, along with extended versions of many of the same programs, students are participating in a flipped classroom for seventh-grade math and making more extensive use of Moodle for online learning. The technology integrationist at Ellis works closely with the teachers to effectively utilize available technologies both in and out of the classroom.

At Austin High School, students are using a wide variety of applications, programs, and websites to enhance their learning. From online presentation tools to blogging and programming, technology is quickly becoming an integral part of education at AHS.

Today’s students face an uncertain future. A large proportion of the jobs that tomorrow’s graduates will be doing haven’t even been invented yet, and the best way to prepare students for this is to give them a solid base to work from. This means teaching them not only how to use new technologies, but also how to find, understand and evaluate them. At Austin Public Schools, we have been working very hard to provide both the tools necessary for success and opportunities for students to learn how to use them and the district’s technology integrationists are a huge part of that.