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Transforming international education through technology
the data line
6th Apr, 2009 | Source : Michael Crowley and Doug Stone

One of the many challenges faced by today's international schools is how technology, coupled with other developments in instructional practice, can improve learning for all students. This challenge is compounded by the exponential growth of new information and corresponding technologies. How does a school decide which technology to invest in and what the indicators of success should be?

Investment in technology alone will not improve student learning. Doing old things with new technologies will not transform educational practice or outcomes. It is imperative that investment in technology not be about the technology itself, but about enabling students to learn more dynamically, enabling teachers to teach more creatively, while simultaneously improving the links between home and school.

Many schools have redefined and broadened their missions and have explicitly articulated not just what their students should know, but also the behaviors that will allow them to interact effectively with the world and the people around them.

If technology can help students to develop these dispositions, to achieve this mission, then the investment is not only worthwhile, but necessary.

It is commonly understood that environments in which students are actively participating in their learning are more effective than those in which students are simply passive recipients of the teacher's knowledge. Technology is particularly well-suited to support collaborative activities in which students are actively locating, investigating, analyzing and presenting information.

At The International School of Brussels, with the recent introduction of a wireless network, tablet computers for students and teachers, wirelessly networked projectors and digital workstations, teachers now have a powerful instructional platform that frees them from the "front of the room" and allows them to work with students individually or in groups, while simultaneously projecting teacher and student work in front of the whole class.

Similarly, at The American International School of Rotterdam, who also employ a wireless network throughout the school, students gain access to their on-line study environment through the use of laptop computers available on mobile carts. The carts can be moved easily from room to room as required and students check them in and out whenever they need a computer. The number of carts and frequency of usage has increased dramatically as both students and teachers develop their skills in this technology-based learning environment and the full range of curricula becomes more integrated

Both schools function digitally through the use of a "virtual learning environment (VLE)" which, among other things, enables teachers to post assignments, create links to desired websites or even administer tests on line. Students have access to the VLE regardless of where they are. They may be in the school's library, at home or traveling with their family but are still able to gain access to the VLE, therefore maintaining contact with teachers, assignments and other aspects of the daily work of school.

Specialized educational software can reinforce difficult concepts and graphically present information that may be otherwise difficult to visualize, and they also give teachers a broader set of tools with which to tailor work for individual students who require it. "Online classroom" software provides a repository for all materials related to a course and a virtual meeting place for students and teachers through which teachers and students can collaborate and communicate.

There are unique challenges involved in providing education in a technology-rich environment; however, schools cannot afford to ignore the obvious benefits. Technology coupled with the appropriate instructional practices is the most effective environment in which to produce truly international graduates with the necessary academic knowledge and dispositions that will equip them for further education, the workplace, and the world at large.

Michael Crowley, Head of Middle School, International School of Brussels

Doug Stone, IT Director, International School of Brussels



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