Leaders in Technology in the classroom: The School at Columbia University
New Media at The School
In an era of rapid and constant technological change, change that alters and improves the ways we communicate and do business, it is often schools that are the last to see the benefits of new technology. Teach21, a recent conference held at The School, the independent school associated with and funded by Columbia University, looked to counteract this trend, inviting teachers, principals and other instructors to glimpse the ways in which The School has integrated recent technology into their classrooms to the benefit of their teachers and students.
One of the seminars, “Collaboration with New Media in the 21st Century Classroom” highlighted the ways in which a school or even a single teacher can incorporate new computer tools to enhance the classroom experience for their students. Instructor Karen Blumberg, a technology coordinator at the school, led the seminar and sought to provide attendees with a slew of examples on how this technology is implemented, touching on topics as diverse as student created movies, to how to enhance student collaboration on various projects, to smart and safe Internet practices.
Blumberg demonstrated how a school can strengthen student involvement in their course works and achieve better organization skills through Google Docs, Google Sites, and other Google resources. Google Sites in particular has allowed classes to better organize academic resources into one location.
Citing the example of a particular Spanish class, she showed how the students put all of their PowerPoint presentations on Hispanic artists online in the same location. This way, students could more easily compare their presentation, parents could glimpse what their children were working on, and teachers could more easily access the individual presentations and assign each one a grade. Similarly, students created their own Renaissance-inspired self-portraits through Photoshop, scanners, and other creative electronic tools, and then uploaded the images of their finished works online. Students were encouraged to offer constructive feedback on each other’s work as well as ask each other questions in order to better understand their classmates thought processes in creating each particular artistic vision.
Further, Blumberg and The School at large put particular stress put on smart and safe Internet practices, repeating at length, “everything you do online is public, permanent, and traceable.” The School’s individual video sharing site, The Tube, their photo sharing site, The Gallery, and other School blogs can only be viewed by members of The School community. That way, if and when students make mistakes on the Internet, their mistakes are contained solely within the school community, no lasting damage is done to the students’ online reputation, and the students receive a valuable learning experience on how to better conduct themselves online. Ms. Blumberg refers to this kind of cyber-safety as “security by obscurity.”
While not many schools can compete with the electronic resources of The School, with its 1-to-1 student to laptop ratio, amply equipped classrooms, and its many other gadgets, Blumberg reminded attendees that many of these resources are free of charge and can be easily implemented in all but the most technologically deprived of schools, allowing the teacher more time to teach and the student more resources with which to learn. #