Key Issues and Concepts
Unit 8 allowed for the opportunity to explore the value of emerging technologies in an academic setting. In October I began a new job as a technology integration specialist. In six short months I have explored many new apps, devices and software packages that could enhance instruction and improve student learning. This has all been productive. But I must say that all of the conversations we have had around accessibility, devices, professional development, infrastructure and training all really lead back to two of the most important points:
- Any initiative I have, or our tech group has, must become the initiative of the administrators. Without the ability to convince people in power of your cause, it really is just talk.
- The use of technology needs to be directly linked to curriculum, units of study or lesson plans. It needs to have the capability of direct and immediate impact for student learning. Without this connection, teachers won’t see how it can enhance what they do.
We are currently using our curriculum map at our middle school to create a web-based resource that outlines tools, applications and apps that teachers can refer to that are directly linked to their units of study. Take a look at our 7th grade Social Studies page: http://region18techintegration.weebly.com/social-studies-7th.html
With this being said I think the next steps are to build this document out so teachers can easily learn about and use new tools that can enhance their instruction. In time, we plan to build this out for each grade level and content area throughout the district. We have our tech department, media people and various teachers all pitching in to select the best and most appropriate tools.
(picture from http://www.creativecommons.org with permission)
My Experience in this Unit
For this unit’s learning challenge I chose to take a closer look at the emerging technology of 3D printing and it’s potential. Simply put, a 3D printer creates a model from an electronic file by using flexible materials or by “…spraying a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder” (Johnson, 2014, p. 40). The leftover deposits help create or build an object by layers and with great detail. CAD software is usually used in conjunction with 3D printing as Autodesk is one of the best known software providers. Currently on the market are the MakerBot series 3D printers which allow the creation of almost anything but still carries a price tag of over $2500.
There are many applications for using 3D printing as it allows for exploration of objects that might not normally be available to a student or university. At Iowa State University, for example, geology students can study rare fossils, rocks and minerals without risking damage to these objects (Johnson, 2014, p. 40). In my learning environment, I think this technology could be utilized in our drafting and engineering courses. Now students use CAD software but are limited to its design only. Being able to create from a design is ultimately the next evolution in allowing students to really examine the details and accuracy of their work.
Observations and Questions
The biggest concern I have is that change moves too slowly in education. This is particularly an issue for technology because it’s changing more rapidly than anyone (especially schools) can keep up with. The result tends to be a lot of missed opportunities and hesitation to see what other districts are doing first. For this reason, I think it’s imperative to gather as many people in on the conversation so more people take ownership of the issues at hand. Administrators possess the power to make change so convincing them that your initiative should become their initiative is a developed skill and so important in a field that is often underfunded and understaffed.
Unfortunately, I think it will be a while before we begin to see 3D printing readily available in the k-12 environment primarily due to cost. However, as more companies begin to develop products and increase competition, the price is predicted to fall dramatically over the next few years. I foresee this technology being utilized heavily in the sciences and arts too where students have more of an opportunity to create an end product.
As far as new technologies are concerned, I think there needs to continue to be more consideration for staffing for appropriate professional development and support. Teachers already have a multitude of initiatives they need to satisfy and technology can be overwhelming for many. There is a growing need for instructional technology support to help bridge the existing gaps between sound instruction and technology that can enhance this instruction.
Region 18 Technology Integration Site:
10 ways 3D printers are advancing science: http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/10-ways-3d-printers-are-advancing-science.html
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2012). NMC Horizon Project Preview: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.