Two metaphors I often hear our Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, evoke while discussing our work with technology are the faucet and the pool. They are ones I find myself repeating more, as we explain the work we are doing with digital literacy.
In a typical district, school or class, the adults control the supply of technology that students use to support their learning. While the district may have invested millions to support all students with digital literacy, in some classes the technology faucet is turned off; in others it is a slow drip, while others have it open wide. We are trying to allow all students some steady flow of technology to support their learning — regardless of a particular school or class. And, while some will enhance the experience, all students will have basic access.
In K-3, all students in West Vancouver have access to Dreambox (I have written about this program before here). In some classes it is part of the school day, but all students can access it from home, and all parents can access the analytics to see the areas where they can support their children. In Grades 4-12, we are just beginning to explore what is possible with student dashboards. Gary Kern, recently wrote about them here. All students have email, instant messaging, storage, and a series of other tools which allow them to collaborate in a safe environment. All students can actually instant message the superintendent (and four have so far). We are not turning the technology faucet on full, but we are creating a steady stream for all students. Students can explore how they can ethically use digital tools to support their learning.
It is difficult to teach kids to swim without getting them into the pool. And, this is also true of being good digital citizens — we can’t teach digital citizenship without giving students a safe digital space to experiment, learn and grow in. Again, the student dashboards are part of the latest effort to teach our students to swim in the digital world. And better yet, we know that when we get into the water with the kids, it is even easier. We also know we need to continue to support administrators, teachers and parents in the digital world to be more comfortable swimming in the water with their kids. While some take the approach that the technology pool, although very inviting, is closed with large, raised fences around it — we are taking a different approach. We want to be able to say that all our kids know how to swim safely.
Turning on the faucet for all children and jumping in the water with them does challenge the status quo. Giving all students access to some technology and expecting all students will have some ability to navigate in a digital environment is not the norm. If we believe what Coquitlam administrator, David Truss recently wrote, that education is going to be increasingly open and distributed, we need to support students for this world.
There are times when I wish this fall looked more like last fall — it would make life easier but, of course, it would not be the right thing to do. It will continue to be exciting to see what happens as we open the faucet and jump in the pool with our students.