Technology Tools in an Increasingly Connected World
It is no secret that the jobs in the field of education are constantly subject to modifications and adjustments to cater the needs of the students of new generations. This is due to the fact that students should graduate from school with lifetime skills that are consistently updated in conformity with changes in society.
Advancement in technological tools which has greatly altered society in the way people communicate, express ideas, buy and sell, etc., has its impact on all sectors of society including the field of education. Technological tools and applications that can be implemented in education are quite countless. The rapid rise in their production is more likely to change the educational system as a whole. However, most school make a big barrier between curriculum and all these technological changes, ignoring all its benefits in enhancing students lifetime skills among which are communication, collaboration, digital literacy, and global citizenship. In no way can anybody accept this man-made separation between curriculum and changes in society, when almost all students are carrying the latest version of the iPhone.
Taking into consideration this current situation, and being entirely concerned about enriching our students with lifetime skills that are indispensable for their future career, I felt the responsibility of modifying my job as a teacher as well as a school counselor. What really interests me now is to drag some technologies that are greatly practical to make a change in school with the least possible cost. I fully recognize the concerns of the school administrators regarding financial bills of implementing technology in schools. Nevertheless, I am deeply concerned about graduating skillful students. I firmly believe that we can make a change for the sake of teachers and students at the same time.
Fortunately, during the BRIDGE Workshop and iEARN Conference 2017, which I attended thanks to the Stevens Initiative, I learned about many new technology tools. Rachel Manley, the program coordinator asked us to visit her online Padlet to access all the materials related to the conference with the possibility of adding any suitable material. Right away when reaching my room that evening, I made a new Padlet and uploaded all the work I did for iEARN.
Instantly, a new idea ignited in my head. As a counselor, I can reach all teachers in all public schools by just spreading the link of the Padlet. It is unbelievably practical. Anybody with the link can access the site, download any material and at the same time upload files of any type: pdf, ppt, mp4, mp3,and smart lessons. What’s amazing about Padlet is that it is user friendly and can be continuously updated.
Downloading and uploading files obliged teachers to update their knowledge in basics of digital literacy. They also felt satisfied that they can store their work on an online source that is quite easy to access. So far I prepared two Padlets; one for cycle 1 and other for cycle 2 with their QR codes distributed to all counselors who visit more than 500 schools. I am quite reasonably happy now because any material I prepare will automatically reach 500 public schools. Needless to say, teachers quick responses were: “This is amazing, Who taught you this.” Definitely, my automatic answer is: iEARN Conference 2017 in Marrakech.
During one of the iEARN concurrent sessions, Pamela Petit, the IT person at iEARN- USA informed us about several free apps for video meetings. We selected the Zoom application and downloaded it. So easy and practical that so far I have done several zoom sessions with colleagues and students as well. I used it for guiding students while navigating iEARN site and for reviewing test materials. Not once did I find my students overwhelmed with excitement as during Zoom sessions since this application successfully took the place of sitting hours in an internet café. Our work as colleagues or students work as partners in a project is much more accessible now. It is really a worthwhile educational tool. There is a strong likelihood that with more zoom sessions for students , their communication and collaboration skills will be greatly enhanced. With zoom I can meet all counselors from all areas in Lebanon and share with them my screen to accomplish together a specific task. All this can be done in one hour and for free.
In the last concurrent session of the last day of iEARN conference 2017, I attended the one entitled: “Smart Phone Documentaries, Tips and Tricks” presented by the educator from Pakistan, Shahzad Sheik. I will never ever forget her words, “Never attend an event like this without producing a documentary film about it using your iphone only. Teach your students this skill.”
All what we need as she added is some close and far shots, some short action videos and several talks from organizers and attendees. At that day, a lot of educators were on the way of leaving Marrakech. I ran to the lobby and asked several attendees and conference organizers how did they find the conference. Every one answered my question from his/her own perspective. I ended up with 5 to 6 short interview videos which I would embed in my future documentary. No sooner did I arrive to Beirut that I started collecting photos and videos of attendees and keynote speakers. In addition to that, I wrote a brief summary of all the main events and recorded my voice several times until I succeeded to produce the tone of a documentary film narrator.
Putting all these resources together, I produced my first nine minute documentary film using the iMovie app on my iPhone. It took me some days to finish it and revise it, but it was really worth my while. In no way can anybody consider producing documentary films as a mere fun. In addition to media skills, this app develops writing, speaking and rhetoric skills as well.
Evidently enough, these treasured memories of the iEARN conference 2017 in Marrakech is more likely to reshape my career in the coming years .I made a Padlet entitled: “My Virtual Exchange Experience” where I uploaded the film, its trailer power point of my Ignite Talk, and reports I wrote at the end of my trip. Probably what defines me now is how can I bring all technological advancement to classroom. This will highly likely empower our students with communication, collaboration and digital skills paving their way successfully to university life and future career.
Definitely, this is not the whole story. Meeting with all these teachers and specialists in the field of education and technology and most importantly the tactful welcoming of all bridge facilitators and iEARN-USA team members has greatly attributed to the frame through which I recently perceive Project Based Learning accompanied with virtual exchange experience. The influence is clearly discernible. Indeed the window through which I see education is different now. I do believe that communicative, collaborative skills in addition to media skills that students and teachers would acquire as a consequences of virtual exchange project is more likely to make the curriculum more flexible, freeing it a little bit from its firm structure. Broadly speaking it is like pushing the fast forward button speeding the process towards a more efficient teaching – learning system.