My technology instruction involves four major goals:
(1) Developing the foundational technology skills and knowledge for the 21st century workplace.
(2) Providing students the opportunity to use technology in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) projects.
(3) Incorporating technology in project-based learning and the design thinking process.
(4) Developing student technology skills and knowledge, thereby allowing teachers to easily integrate technology tools into the core subject curriculum.
FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE
FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Technology teachers have a critical role in developing curriculum that prepares their students for the future. They teach 21st century skills and knowledge through the use of technology to ensure students successfully transition into the 21st century community and workforce. According to the P21's Framework for 21st Century Learning, students should master the following skills to be successful in work and in life:
Life and Career Skills
Learning and Innovation Skills (Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity)
Information, Media and Technology Skills.
Technology education provides students the opportunity to develop these essential 21st century learning skills. As educators, we cannot assume that "digital natives" are born with these foundational skills and knowledge. Technology teachers need to aid students in using technology meaningfully and effectively. This involves helping them understand what they create, share, and consume on the Internet, and to properly navigate public networked spaces.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS
The goal of STEM education is to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through rigorous real-world projects. During technology instruction, students gain the technology knowledge and skills needed to complete these STEM projects. STEM education requires students to learn in context, make connections between core subjects, and work with others to develop solutions. It helps students gain interdisciplinary content knowledge that will prepare them for higher education and the workplace.
According to the Buck Institute of Education for Education (BIE), project-based learning is a “teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.”
Technology educators can use the project-based learning approach for their classroom. This creates a learning environment that promotes student-centered learning activities and integrates authentic, real world issues. Additionally, these educates can create activities that foster interdisciplinary learning through the use of technology. When used correctly, technology can provide students with the opportunity to collaborate, think critically, solve problems, and actively participate in their own learning.
This teaching approach is centered around a meaningful and intriguing driving question that is based on real-world task, concern, interest, or issue in the students’ lives. To answer this open-ended and challenging question, students need to gain key knowledge, understanding and skills that are connected to standards-based content and instructional goals. Students also engage in sustained inquiry where they continually ask questions, find quality resources, and apply the skills and knowledge they gain through their investigations. Students have a voice and choice in how and what they create for their project. The project also involves students reflecting on their learning, giving, receiving, and using feedback to improve what they create, and making their work public so that people outside of the school can see it.
Design thinking is an iterative method used to solve complex problems with a focus on human-centered design and radical collaboration. This solution-thinking method is ideal for any technology class because it generates creative solutions to design problems. The process involves five stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
The Empathize stage involves the project team gaining a deep understanding of the clients and their situation. Empathy is gained through meaningful interviews where the clients share in depth information about themselves.
In the Define stage, the project team gathers information from interviews, and places them under two categories: needs (end user’s goals) and insights (information advantageous in creating a solution). The most significant need and insight are used to develop a problem statement. Next, the Ideate stage requires the project team to list as many visual solutions they can for the problem statement. The solutions are then shared with the end users for feedback. It is also another opportunity to learn more about the end user's beliefs and perspectives. After reflecting on the feedback, the team develops a new solution for the problem statement. In the Prototype and Test stages, the project team creates a physical mock-up of the solution and allows the end user to test it out. The prototype can also be a service or a system that the end user can participate in. The end user then provide feedback to the team on what aspects of the solution worked and what did not. This process can ignite new ideas and start the whole process over.
DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY SKILLS FOR INTEGRATION
Another important role of a technology educator is to prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to operate technology tools for learning objectives. General education or core subject teachers can freely incorporate technology into their lessons without the fear of spending time instructing their students on how to operate technology tools. Technology educators need to prepare students with these skills so that these teachers can differentiate instruction, foster project-based learning, and encourage constructivist pedagogy in their classroom. Additionally, integrating technology helps students to become active learners, allowing them to evaluate and analyze information, and create their own ideas.