Technology’s Evolving Role in Education
Flat Stanley is perennial visitor to elementary schools around the world. At some point during the primary grades, students cut out and color the little paper guy, fold him into an envelope and send or carry him to family or friends. He may go to a soccer game or out for pizza before coming back to school with a written account of his adventures, teaching similarities and differences between families as well as reading and writing.
An innovative twist in Kimberly Buckley’s second grade class at Katonah Elementary School is an example of how technology can enhance even the most stalwart tradition. She had an opportunity to share the experience at the October 17 Board of Education meeting—the first of a two-part conversation about the District's Technology Commitment and the role of technology in school.
Buckley wove Flat Stanley into a unit about rural/urban/suburban communities. “After the students brought Flat Stanley back to school, they worked with a partner to photograph Flat Stanley and write a script about the experiences he had,” said Buckley. The students recorded their pieces on Chatterpix Kids, an app that made it seem like Flat Stanley was speaking. “Watching each other’s videos was fun and engaging, and heightened their understanding of what we were studying,” continued Buckley. “Technology added another layer to something that we were already doing.”
Two other teachers spoke about how they used technology. “I view it as a tool,” said Marcia Daley-Savo, the instructional leader for social studies at John Jay Middle School. “As a teacher I have to decide what is the best way to teach something. The experience of mummifying sausages in our unit on Ancient Egypt cannot be replaced by technology! Technology can make a big world much smaller through Skype. I’ve been able to make connections with the British Museum and look forward to bringing their experts to my classroom.”
“In science, at the high school level, technology is definitely a way to be productive in our work,” said AnnMarie Lipinsky, the instructional leader for the John Jay High School’s science department. “Animations and visualizations help students learn and enrich that process.”
“Students were just working with data from the Hudson River after sailing on the Clearwater as part of our ecology unit,” said Lipinsky. “They can access data about the Hudson over a long period of time. This completely changes how students interact with what’s around them in terms of science."
“Our goal is to create opportunities not expectations,” said Christopher Nelson, the District’s director of technology. He and his team have been installing Apple TVs, distributing iPads, and coaching educators across the district. “While the technology is there, we don’t want teachers to feel pressured. When the time is right, the tools are available."
"Technology has the potential to provide collaborative and creative opportunities that otherwise couldn’t be provided," said Superintendent Andrew Selesnick after the meeting. "But it also has the potential to support a kind of rote learning we don’t favor and to interrupt the vital skills learned through human interaction."
"The challenge is in getting right to its great potential and somehow bypassing the negatives that can exist in the early stages of learning and implementation."