This feature first appeared in Journeys Fall 2017.   

Technology and Personalized Learning

It’s been less than two decades since we’ve entered the 21st century, and technology is moving at a crazy space, becoming an integral part of our lives. Penetrating workplaces, homes, and even classrooms in one form or another, it is becoming increasingly more and more predominant.

We can research just about anything that we want to on our desktops, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, and even smartwatches. Social media is no longer as baffling to use, and the way we use technology has transformed the way we live.

Singapore American School educational technology specialists guide teachers, work with students, run digital citizen boot camps, host informational parent coffees, team up with counselors, advise on digital media, and lead the way in creative approaches to teaching and learning to leverage and maximize technology use.

Woven into the curriculum and collaboratively taught by counselors, educational technology coaches, and teachers, digital citizenship is increasingly becoming part of the SAS DNA. The school’s educational technology team has led more than 250 trainings, sessions, and meetings to date to support teachers in integrating technology.

A PLAYFIELD FOR STUDENTS

At the preschool level, the Reggio Emilia-inspired approach—an inquiry-based learning method—encourages students to ask questions, investigate, and learn about things that genuinely matter to them.

In elementary school, teachers and ed tech coaches guide students to set goals and monitor their progress, and use technology to express themselves, demonstrate their learning, and support the development of critical skills and core knowledge.

When a fifth grader asked, “How does a keyboard work?”, the ed tech coaches collectively decided that the easiest way to discover how something works is to take it apart. Collecting an old computer keyboard from the middle school library and borrowing a screwdriver from the elementary creation stations, the student proceeded to deconstruct the keyboard.

Through a combination of online videos, and her own experience with deconstructing and reconstructing the keyboard, the student was able to understand the inside mechanics of a tool that many of us use in our day-to-day lives. She was able to record her learning journey on her iPad and share the video for her fellow classmates to glean from.

Personalized learning has aided our students in identifying “why” questions, while we as educators work to co-facilitate their journey to  finding the “how.” With a desire to learn about3D printing, another fifth grader used Tinkercad, a 3D design program, to construct a miniature robot figurine. In using Tinkercad, he had to figure out what the dimensions of each element of his design needed to be, in order to ensure that it would be printed to his specifications. Applying his understanding of geometry and measurement concepts from math class, he was able to use iterative design thinking to digitally construct an appropriately sized robot figurine. Watching the 3D printer as it weaved the filament into his desired shape and color, the student was able to develop a more profound understanding of the 3D design and printing process.

Technology and Personalized Learning

Elementary students are encouraged to ask questions and analyze data across subject areas while learning to express themselves in writing, presentations, and discussions. Using technology for self-expression, demonstrating learning, and supporting development of critical skills and knowledge offers an unconventional learning pathway.

“Two years ago, after one of our fourth grade students began exploring virtual reality games, I knew we had to connect with Manuel Clement, a virtual reality designer at Google. After meeting at a Google Apps for Education Summit, we coordinated a Google Hangout and got Mr. Clement together with Ms. Koehler-Smith’s class. The students were able to learn everything about coding, virtual reality, and working at Google,” says Tara Linney, educational technology coach.

MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLERS EXPLORE TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION

Middle and high schoolers maximize learning, creatively express themselves, and prepare for success after SAS. Middle schoolers use TRi Time to take their understanding of the inquiry process and apply it to their own interests, laying the foundation for a lifetime of engaged, personalized learning. Faith J., who designed the prototype of a treehouse she planned to build during the summer said, “I get to do a lot of stuff that interests me, other than my electives. I would have never done this if it weren’t for TRi Time.”

High school students participate in semester-and year-long projects that push them to ask difficult questions and pursue answers. Computer science to engineering science, robotics, STEM, mobile app development, graphic design, and even game design allow students to enhance literacy, research, and explore technology integration.

The mandatory Catalyst project tasks juniors and seniors with identifying a topic that interests them and requires building a project around that interest. These projects demonstrate our students’ ability to ask hard questions, investigate solutions, and publicize and present their findings.

At SAS, students curate digital content as they collaborate, experiment, reflect, and engage in the pursuit of individual passions and interests. For students looking to extend their learning, a two-week project-rich summer semester experience gives them opportunities beyond those offered in traditional classroom settings. High school students may also extend their learning further in Quest, a year-long project-based program, and Advanced Topic courses which have been designed to mirror college-level work.

Technology and Personalized Learning

SAS is also a member of the Global Online Academy (GOA), a consortium of the top independent schools from around the world. As a member of GOA, SAS students can enroll in courses as diverse as The Graphic Novel or Medical Problem Solving. Learning alongside their peers from the US and other international schools, SAS students have an exciting and flexible online learning opportunity that will challenge them to further develop cultural competence and global citizenship skills.

According to Tobin Beal, an SAS parent, “SAS is an amazing ‘one of a kind’ school. The true measure of excellence is in the detail and their ability to address the needs of every child. This is not a school that addresses only the exceptional and problem children, they manage to reach all of the children. Amazing.”

Inquiry, the ability to ask the right questions and find the correct answers, is at the core of an SAS education. Challenging and supporting each child at his or her own level, SAS educators deploy a powerful array of digital technology tools so students can optimize and personalize their learning in a variety of ways.

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