|Integrating Productivity Tools in Primary and Secondary Education|
Extending Classroom Technology Capabilities and Opportunities
The New Classroom
Telecommunications technology is rapidly changing how we learn and teach. Along with the new possibilities for learning come new demands upon already strained human resources.
Telecommunications technology in education is a double-edged sword. Increasingly over the past decade, educators have had to work with tighter budgets, more limited teaching materials, larger classes. With the advent of the Internet into education, instructors have gained an incredible teaching aid and, hand-in-hand, the requirement to gain a complex set of skills to master and manage that aid. Educational technology is changing so rapidly that a considerable time investment is needed to keep abreast of the wave.
How does an educator find the time and extra arms to integrate
the virtual world into the classroom?
Technology and the Volunteer Resource
One important resource is volunteers: parents, grandparents, seniors, business people, students. Volunteers with an interest in and a commitment to education become partners in the educational process. Where they are welcome, volunteers aid teachers in classroom activities, assist with projects, lead small group activities.
Parents and grandparents are often the front line volunteers,
having the most direct interest in their students' learning experience.
However, concerned volunteers from many different quarters will
step forward when presented with a satisfying project: seniors
with talents, time, and a wealth of experience to contribute;
business people interested in fostering savvy future employees;
community service organizations seeking meaningful contribution;
students with time and talents in technology.
The Teacher-Volunteer Collaboration
The benefits. Teachers who never had the time before can
now collaborate with community resources. Community understanding
of the demands upon educators is enhanced by actual participation
in the classroom process. More parents can become directly involved
in the educational process, becoming advocates and partners in
learning. Just one day per month in the classroom can heighten
appreciation of the rigors of teaching today. Understanding of
the students' experience also adds a dimension to family relationships.
And the parents' involvement doubly reinforces the importance
of education to the child.
The tasks. Depending upon school policies, instructor needs, and parent interest and capabilities, parents can:
Volunteer interest and comfort level, as well as staff comfort level can best determine the level of volunteer involvement and responsibilities. Because of availability of Internet access, much management work can be done from home. Actual involvement with students might be only one hour weekly, with the remainder of the project activity being done at the volunteer's convenience. Often, classroom schedules can accommodate volunteer availability. Flexible scheduling allows for participation by skilled volunteers with limited availability during the school day.
Examples of volunteer-led project can be seen on the WWW at NickNacks: Learning Together Around the World.
The site was developed by a parent volunteer who telecollaborated
with instructors around the globe to develop and manage global
The training. Parent training requires two components: classroom skills (policies, skills and procedures); and telecommunications technology. Where students are contacted, precaution is required.
Student evaluation is of course the responsibility of the instructor.
Therefore, students must demonstrate learning in a form which
can be reviewed and evaluated by the instructor. If the program
is to increase learning opportunities, it must also save staff
time. Training must be cost-effective and efficient. Volunteers
must be able to operate independently. Need for extensive teacher
supervision will reduce the effectiveness and benefits of the
Recruitment of Volunteers
Volunteers who want to be involved are a highly visible, easy to access resource. The first group is often parents who come to school, call, write notes, volunteer for other activities. By starting a technology aide group with these parents, the teacher can organize a demonstration project and use it later to recruit more volunteers.
Face-to-face invitations are most effective, including:
Finding the next level of skilled, interested parents and other community members may require a little more work. Potential volunteers may be solicited by:
Screening of Volunteers
It is necessary to develop some method of screening parents for
capability and effectiveness. Often parents will screen themselves,
specifying confidence and comfort. Inviting parent participation
to assist in classroom activities allows the instructor opportunity
for observation and informal assessment of parents' capabilities.
It also encourages parental involvement, unlike formal screening
Share Your Success
Let us know about your
successful volunteer technology program or ideas from other types
of volunteer projects. NickNacks will post instructive reports
on the WWW to help others mobilize their technology volunteers.
The Tech Corps is
a non-profit organization attempting to promote and harness technology
volunteer efforts across the country by chartering chapters in
every state to coordinate state-wide efforts. The organization
can connect you with other interested parties, and can provide
A Call to Action
Our schools, our students, our future stand on the brink of a new age-at the edge of the information superhighway. This valuable resource awaits development-and the children, our future, deserve our best effort. The schools need volunteers to step forward today; the schools need to embrace the volunteers' efforts. Partnership enters a new stage. Responsibility for educating the children now belongs to the entire global community.
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