• By Juanita C. García, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2007
The tango (the “techno” in this article’s title) is one of the most intriguing of all dances. It is derived from the fusion of various forms of music, and it leads the dancers to make a strong connection with the music. Integrating technology with FLAIR (a professional development model) in a school is much like the music of the tango.
In schools, organizational culture has a certain style and character, but a good school fuses values and norms, the very soul of the organization, to provide a strong functioning culture that is aligned with a vision and purpose and inspires a common direction. This article describes how technology with FLAIR fits the “music” of a school (the complex patterns of beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors shared by the members of an organization), what characteristics set them apart from other models, and perhaps most importantly how teachers dance with both.
Click for Success
The blending of technology into the curriculum can provide meaningful learning experiences for all children, especially those considered at risk of educational failure. Schools that capitalize on the relationship between technology and instructional renewal help students develop higher-order thinking skills and function effectively in the world beyond the classroom.
Achieving such fundamental change, however, requires a transformation of not only the underlying pedagogy (basic assumptions about the teaching and learning process) but also the kinds of technology applications typically used in classrooms (Means, 1997).
IDRA has been working with an elementary school in Louisiana that is committed to the total growth of its students. Serving grades Pre-K through five, the school has long been ranked as one of the top elementary schools in the parish.?Its multiculturally diverse enrollment is comprised of about 460 students.
As described on its web site, the foundation of the school’s philosophy is development of the child morally, intellectually, socially and physically. The school strives to meet individual needs while encouraging high expectations, independence, self-discipline, self-confidence and an awareness of self-worth. The aim is to offer a variety of experiences at every grade level to foster full development of student talents and interests.
IDRA has been working with the school to implement IDRA’s Focusing on Language and Academic Instructional Renewal (FLAIR) model. More recently, we brought in a powerful technology integration component.
What is FLAIR?
The goal of FLAIR is to increase the cognitive growth and academic achievement for all students, including linguistically diverse students, through an intensive language-across-the-curriculum program that is created by means of sustained and intensive campus-based professional development.
This professional development model helps people in the school community work together to transform every classroom into a powerful learning environment, where students and teachers are encouraged to think creatively, explore their interests and achieve at high levels.
With FLAIR, this Louisiana elementary school has created a campuswide instructional vision that accepts no excuses for failure. All staff value the heritage and the capacities that students bring to the academic experience. Teachers incorporate research-based higher-order thinking literacy strategies into daily classroom instruction for all students.
The teachers and staff have built a learning community in which the principal supports staff. She has developed a collegial relationship with teachers, involving them in the decision making process. Teachers collaboratively and continually work together, reflecting on their students and their teaching.
What is Technology Integration?
For some educators, this question is a difficult one to answer. Clearly, it is more than merely using a computer as a typewriter, calculator or film projector. Many believe it begins with solid planning by the teacher so that the use of technology is meaningful and relevant to the educational experience of the student. It should support rather than dominate a solid curriculum. Others agree that it should assist the student with problem solving and create collaborative learning environments whereby the teacher seamlessly transitions from the role of facilitator to that of a learner.
Collectively, technology is a magnificent way to open doors for students and to assist students in becoming engaged learners. And finally, it is a tool that is able to bridge the gap between academic disciplines, thus affording educators the opportunity for thematic unit planning (Jeffries, 2000).
The FLAIR technology integration framework includes the following elements:
- Technology for language and academic language acquisition (research, communication and problem solving).
- Technology for blending and connecting across content areas (i.e., mathematics and social studies).
- Technology for student exploration and development of content area knowledge.
- Technology for teacher planning, collaboration and learning.
- Technology to accurately measure authentic classroom use LoTi (Levels of Technology Implementation).
- Technology integration for the development of authentic student products.
- Technology integration for student engagement that draws upon students’ experiences in the digital world.
- Technology integration that transforms teachers’ perspectives about newly discovered student strengths and interests.
When planning a technology-infused lesson, instructors ask themselves if their students are using the technology to produce, create or communicate, and?what higher-order thinking skills are being addressed. Who is creating and why? Hector Bojorquez, of IDRA, adds, “By expecting students to create and to address higher-order thinking skills in their projects, instructors are taking the first step to seamless integration” (2007).
Forever Tango: The Highly Successful Run
What do you get when teachers design meaningful learning experiences, facilitate the use of quality technology integration and apply effective teaching strategies? The answer is NITS! No, not the hair kind, but self-ascribed “nerds in training!” These teachers are:
- Empowered classroom teachers who build on their leadership capacities;
- Teaching and learning in powerful ways;
- Dedicated to training followed by playing and trial and error;
- Planning technology-infused lessons;
- Expecting students to create and to address higher-order thinking skills in their projects;
- Using online, ongoing assessments and discussion forums with IDRA’s online eLearning tool;
- Planning with facilitators and other teachers via this eLearning tool, webcams and web casting;
- Video taping for classroom demonstrations and for assessing teacher growth;
- Using assessment tools, such as handhelds (i.e., Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs) for making instructional decisions and assessments on the fly and tracking performance;
- Unafraid to seek new learning experiences that stretch their abilities;
- Risk takers who create classroom environments where students feel safe to take risks in their learning; and
- Opportunity seekers who look to transform existing curriculum with a dose of technology infusion.
It Takes Two to Tango
Certain activities cannot be performed alone, such as dancing the tango and educating our children. IDRA’s professional development approach fosters increased teacher capacity to enhance student achievement by combining knowledge, teachers’ self efficacy and teachers’ rational thinking processes essential to decision-making (Villarreal, 2005).
Technology integrated with FLAIR places the student at the center of the curriculum by valuing the heritage and the capacities that students bring with them to the academic experience. It empowers teachers by equipping them with certain knowledge and resources to make better classroom and instructional decisions. This is paramount if we are to prepare the students of today for the challenges of the future.
|Classnotes Podcast – Episode 4
“A Model for Successful Reading Instruction”
IDRA’s Focusing on Language and Academic Instructional Renewal (FLAIR) model capitalizes on the campus leaders, mobilizing the principal, teachers, librarians and support staff as a force to tailor-make a reading program that is research based and that results in better achievement for all students. Working with the school’s teachers and principals, and using the existing curriculum, FLAIR helps transform every classroom into a powerful learning environment, where students and teachers are encouraged to think creatively, explore their interests and achieve at high levels. In this episode of the IDRA Classnotes podcast series, Dr. Juanita García and Hector Bojorquez, IDRA education associates, discuss this model and the impact they’ve witnessed at one sample school site.
Bojorquez, H. “Facilitating a Vision for Technology Integration,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, June-July 2006).
Jefferies, S. “Technology Integration in the Classroom: A Perspective from a Future Teacher,” MathStar New Mexico Web Site (Summer 2000).
Means, B. “Critical Issue: Using Technology to Enhance Engaged Learning for At-Risk Students” (Washington, D.C.: North Central Regional Education Laboratory, 1997) http://www.achievementstrategies.org/1originalSite/learningenvironment/E6d/Link/Using%20Technology%20to%20Enhance%20Engaged%20Learning%20for%20At-Risk%20Students.pdf.
Villarreal, A. “Rethinking Professional Development as a Tool to Stimulate Teacher’s Decision Making Authority,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, May 2005).
Juanita C. García, Ph.D., is an IDRA education associate. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2007, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2007 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]