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As an 8th grade technology teacher at a KIPP school, I’ve recently spent a lot of time investigating how the use of technology in our classrooms can help to engage kids, teach media literacy, and hopefully promote student achievement in individual content areas. So what better way to spread resources and ideas than creating my own blog?! ? After posting on one for my students for a couple months now (SaltineRockstars), I decided it might be time to move into the ‘adult’ world of KIPP teachers, to hopefully engage some more teachers in this exciting challenge of fully utilizing the technology that a lot of us have at our schools.

For those unfamiliar with KIPP, I’m going to rely on Wikipedia to help me out, as my descriptions never seem to do it enough justice. (For those of you already familiar, feel free to skip ahead) Hopefully this’ll sum it up for you:

KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a nationwide network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory public schoolsin under-resourced communities throughout the United States. KIPP schools are usually established under state charter schoollaws.The schools operate on the principle that there are no shortcuts:outstanding educators, more time in school, a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and a strong culture of achievement and support will help educationally underserved students develop the knowledge, skills, and character needed to succeed in top qualityhigh schools, colleges, and in the competitive world beyond. Over 95% of KIPP students are African American or Latino/Hispanic; over 75% are eligible for the federally-subsidized meal program. Students are accepted regardless of prior academic record, conduct, or socioeconomic background.”

For more check it out here: http://www.kipp.org/

So while KIPP schools are doing a ton of awesome things right now, it appears an area we are struggling in (from my somewhat limited viewpoint) is that of technology integration. While many observations have led me to this conclusion, I’d prefer to keep this blog focused on the ‘what we should be doing’ instead of the ‘what we’re not doing’. Reasons I believe we’re struggling with the implementation of technology in our schools:

1) Time. KIPP classrooms don’t often use textbooks, which means a lot of extra hours spent every week creating materials for the classroom. Combine that with extended school hours (8-5), aggressive curriculums, after school tutoring, Saturday School, sports, earned prizes/trips, and you end up with negative 14 hours a day. So how exactly are we supposed to make time to teach ourselves the 2,000 new tech creations that come out every hour? I can speak for myself as a former first-year KIPP teacher, and I was overwhelmed enough with the basics of learning to teach, that spending the extra hours struggling with technology that was completely foreign to me just didn’t seem feasible. So as a result, it was often pushed to the end of my to-do list. Yet in retrospect, I’m guessing the kids would have been more interested in classroom blogging than the impressive clip art on my classwork…

2) Urgency. We emphasize urgency all the time with our kids in our schools and classrooms, and it makes me realize where I feel the urgency in my own room. There’s urgency when it comes to creating Unit Plans, assessments, lesson plans, grading work and calling parents. However, who’s putting pressure on us to learn the newest technology and incorporate it in our rooms? Right now there simply isn’t the pressure for all teachers to keep themselves updated, and by extension their classrooms, so we see progress remaining pretty stagnant. In many other school districts around the country there is a Tech Facilitator per district, in many cases per school. Their job is to educate themselves on how technology can supplement instruction, and then to train teachers and hold them accountable for implementing these new practices in their room. (I’d love to explore this idea more later by doing more in depth research on more specifically what they’re doing and whether or not it’s working)

3) Resources. So let’s say we did have the time (or made the time). Where can we go for help? So you have a SmartBoard sitting in your school… do you know how to use it? Do you even know how to hook it up? Do you know who to turn to if the answer is no to both of these questions? How many sessions were there at KIPP Summit last year about technology? How many of US even know what Web 2.0 is, let alone what it can do for our classrooms? How many technology teachers are there in the KIPP network? Do we know who they are? Do we know who to talk to even if we HAVE thought about learning more about tech integration?

So unless I can somehow invent a time-creation device, or quickly find millions of dollars to fund Tech Facilitator positions in all our schools, there’s not much I can do about the first two. However, the third is one I know a little something about… I’ve spent the last year and a half finding as many resources as possible, trying things out in my room (failing many times, which allows me to hopefully offer some suggestions for improvement when you try it in your room 🙂 ) and asking a ton of questions of people a whole lot smarter than me.

Moral of the story= technology can’t be taught just in technology classrooms (or ignored completely). If we allow that to happen, then we’re setting 100% of our kids up to fail at the college of their choice. Whether we like it or not, tech literacy is possibly the most important skill they need to survive, and thrive in college, and in life. The good news= it’s not that hard to teach it in every room! Hopefully you can find some of these ideas helpful, and can then pass them along to the other teachers at your school.

PLEASE leave comments, suggestions, questions, etc. so this blog does not remain the voice of just one, not very experienced teacher, but instead grows into many, experienced teachers throughout the KIPP network (and even beyond), all working to use technology successfully in their classrooms.

CONTACT:

jsmith@kippgcp.org

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Janice,

    I am so happy to see instructional technology at its finest here at another KIPP school. The future of education is with educational technology. It is impressive to see students writing blogs and working with technology to enhance their own education. Keep up the great work!

    Regards,

    Howard

  2. Wonderful idea! I’m an ’06 TFA – Houston corps member who is going to a KIPP school next year. I’ve bookmarked this useful site and plan to steal your ideas (I believe that amateurs borrow and professionals steal) and have linked it to my page, too. Best of luck.

    Sean


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