Enriched Environments and Technology in Schools

Jon Becker tweeted about his experience while visiting the Information Technology High School.  As my curiosity got the best of me, I was anxious to hear about what that high school had going on that was new, innovative, etc.  Much to my surprise, the 1:1 initiative was taken away after the first year because kids could not be trusted and there really wasn’t anything noteworthy to back up such a profound name!

Combine this thought with a developmental psychology class that I took in my Master’s program – where we are discussing and reviewing research about the benefits of an enriched environment.

Add in nagging pessimists who say technology hinders kids from learning more so than helping them.

Okay, now everyone is up to speed on what is going on in my head.

The developmental psychology class brought me up to speed with how taking a kid out of a horrible environment and bringing them into a “normal,” “basic,” (however you want to phrase it) environment has a great positive outcome on the learning curve.  The unknown territory comes when a kid is moved from the “normal” environment into an “enriched” environment.  What is an enriched environment?  What would it include?  Who would it include – and how would we decide the who is?  Well…arguments continue on how societies decide what an enriched learning environment is, but regardless of how schools set themselves up, or districts determine the make-up of such an environment, or how national standards influence what the new “normal” is…every learner is different and every learner will not benefit from one overall “enriched environment.”

Now that it has been said, how can standards, districts, and school systems work together to produce the most conducive environment for enriched learning to take place?  Well…I think technology has a major role in the answer to that question…

With apps for almost everything – including calendars, note-taking that syncing across devices (Evernote, Sugarsync), learning management systems (Blackboard and Moodle), cloud printing (ePrint, Google Cloud Print), and everything in between – administrators, teachers, and students have the technology created to go completely digital.  The problems = funding, upkeep, updates, technology leaders in the school, etc.  I completely understand that there are still many issues which need to be addressed in the schools for technology to completely take over – and some schools are doing great jobs at this, but even more are resistant to change.

There is an immediate need to change!

My wife is in dental school and they tell them about apps that are available to tremendously help them, but…they are over $200.00 a piece!  My brother-in-law finished up PA school in southern Kentucky and they mandate the use of apps for such prices.  Which…you guessed it…forces the student to have a smartphone or computer capable of supporting this type of learning.  Higher education (at least at most flagship universities) are beginning to push this technology into the classrooms, but primary and secondary schools are missing the mark.

When we have a high school with the name of “Information Technology High School” and they can’t keep a 1:1 initiative going and don’t have anything else that a normal high school has for students to learn, then what message are we conveying to the future of the kids, the future career opportunities, the future of our nation?  School used to be a place where learners grasp an exemplary understanding and knowledge base of the latest theories and hardware for their disposal in the job market upon graduation.  We wonder why we need more degrees for every generation in order to get a job?  It’s because we spend more years catching up rather than moving forward.  Technology is here, technology is now, and technology needs to be the new “normal” environment rather than the impossible “enriched” environment.

Where does data visualization and evaluation come in?  Try understanding 200 years of information through looking at and studying charts, diagrams, and numbers (it would take forever).  Hans Rosling helps us to see 200 years of health and wealth data in a matter of minutes and understand how that data interacted as a result of the past and implications for the future!  Videos, infographics, interactive visualization sets for students and teachers, real-time visualizations for administrators to monitor school performance, networking technology for schools to work together for the students rather than competing for personal recognition…the possibilities are at each of our fingertips…we just have to dive in and make our mark on the future!

Don’t wait for tomorrow when you can change your life today.