As complex as it is for an individual teacher to integrate daily use of high-tech devices into routine classroom practices, technology integration at a school level is even more complex. A classroom teacher with 25-35 students can alter the structures of her classroom and create a culture of learning, achievement and mutual respect. Hard as that is, it is do-able. I and many others have profiled teachers who have created such classrooms.
Imagine, however, schools with 30 to 100 classrooms and getting all of those teachers to work together to create school-wide infrastructure and a learning, achieving, and respectful culture–across scores of classrooms that seamlessly integrates computers to achieve the school-site’s goals. A complex task with many moving parts that is fragile yet strong. It does happen but remains uncommon.
I have observed a few schools in Silicon Valley that have integrated new technologies across the entire school requiring teachers to teach lessons using particular hardware and software. These schools vary from one another but tout that they “personalize learning,” blend instruction, and differentiate their lessons to meet differences among students. Invariably, they say they use project-based instruction. They have created both an infrastructure and culture that subordinates technology to the larger tasks of preparing children and youth to do well academically and socially, graduate, and enter college (and complete it) or enter a career directly.
Considering what I have observed in Silicon Valley, documented nationally in my studies, and retrieved from the research literature on such schools elsewhere in the U.S., what are the common features of such schools?
Here are eight different yet interacting moving parts that I believe has to go into any reform aimed at creating a high-achieving school using technology to prepare children and youth to enter a career or complete college (or both). Note, please, that what I have garnered from direct observation, interviews, and the literature is not a recipe that can be easily cooked and served. Listing these features I have isolated is not an invitation to insert some or all of these into a formula for producing such schools near and far. These schools are rooted in their contexts and context matters.
These features are:
*Recruit and train teachers who have the subject matter knowledge and skills to work with students before, during, and after the school day.
*Recruit and train school site leaders who have the expertise and skills to lead a school and be a pillow and sandpaper simultaneously with teachers, students, and parents.
*Students have access to non-academic subjects that cultivate the mind, heart, and sensibilities.
*Equip all students with the knowledge and skills not only to enter college, persist through four years and get a bachelor’s degree but also have the wherewithal to enter a career immediately.