When we tell people about THINK Global School, one comment that we often hear is “why didn’t this high school exist when I was in high school”. I often wonder what it is about TGS that led people to make that comment. While different people may have different reasons as to why they wish they had TGS as an option back in the days, the strategic integration of technology and education is certainly one of the reasons, among many other, that has drawn me to make that very same comment myself.
Having graduated from high school as recently as seven years ago, I was one of those who had the privilege to attend a high school that adopted the one-to-one laptop program. While I had access to online resources, no one taught me HOW to use them effectively. Sure – there were systems such as blackboard and intranet, but when it came to research essays, I didn’t know where to find the materials that I needed. I didn’t know how I could learn more than what was taught inside the classroom with the laptop that I carried every day. I even remember that one day back in my first year of undergrad, I felt that my exposure and “experience” with technology in high school gave me no advantage at all. I struggled just as much, if not more, when it came to using technology as an effective tool in education. My high school teachers never taught me that integrating such simple things as Youtube video clip could make my presentation so much more interactive.
Every time I hear our CTO, Mike Hourahine, tell others about the technology system at TGS I get a little more fascinated. It amazes me not only because of what is being built, but also the ways in which technology will be integrated into the daily life will encourage both teachers and students to learn and grow together. It is no surprise to us that when we give a laptop to kids nowadays, most of them will have no issues using it. But there is a difference between using technology and using technology effectively – the former, according to many experts, comes naturally to the “Gen Y” group, while the latter needs to be taught.
Take facebook for example. A while ago when I was in Sydney, I had the opportunity to engage in an intellectual conversation with a very good friend, who told me that his school was one of the few that did not and would not block facebook and other social websites. This is because many amazing educators see no added value in blocking facebook. They see it as a passive way of “teaching” kids how to use technology. Furthermore, are there truly no educational values when kids go on facebook during class time? What if they use facebook effectively as a way to collaborate and engage in intellectual discussions? What if kids use the Notes function on facebook to share their experiences with the rest of the school and perhaps the world?
As someone who relies heavily on technology in both my personal and professional lives, I know that if I had been taught how to use technology effectively, I would have been much beyond where I am with it today. At TGS, the MacBook, iPhone, or perhaps the iPad are not only our central classroom library and collaboration tools. It is also through them that our students will develop responsible digital citizenship, which is part of real and active teaching.
Ultimately, it is about teaching kids how to use the tools that they have. With the effective and responsible use of technology, students and teachers can be highly engaged, and most importantly, learning can be real fun!