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In last week’s story, I proposed the idea that the use of technology in the classroom may not be the best solution to promoting innovation in a 21st century learning environment. I shared how some schools believe it detracts from learning and can even inhibit the development of creativity and problem solving skills. But there is another school of thought that firmly backs the idea that tech in the classroom can enhance and support learning if used in a thoughtful and pragmatic manner.

Effectively incorporating technology into a learning environment is not an easy task. Some of the keys to successful integration include having a proper plan for implementation and providing adequate support to teachers. The Alt School is a network of schools and curriculum that does just that by “helping educators create personalized, foundational knowledge and project-based learning experiences focused on developing the whole child.” They have created new ways of learning to engage children, increase collaboration, and facilitate self-paced learning, which is often difficult for a single classroom teacher to achieve on his or her own. They see technology as a flexible tool that allows teachers to vary activities based on interest and that enables them to adapt to each child’s learning style. The Alt School’s methods view technology as just one piece of the puzzle in ensuring that each child has a meaningful and engaging learning experience.

David Thornburg, the noted educational futurist, also supports the idea that educators should learn to use technology as a tool to further student learning that will help every learner thrive. His educational philosophy is based on the idea that students learn best when they are constructors of their own knowledge. In contrast to those who believe that technology detracts from creative thinking and cultivating problem solving skills, Thornburg believes that technology can aid in “empowering students to learn what they need to learn in order to solve the problems they think need to be solved.” He and his cohort recognize that technology does not exist simply to replicate old ideas in a better or faster way, such as conducting research online instead of using a physical library, yet it exists to enable children to think differently and view the same subject matter in new ways. Most importantly, it can “create an environment where students are freed to explore domains of understanding and knowledge through direct experiences.”

Just as students learn in many different ways, it is evident that there are varied avenues to achieve a learning environment that puts the child at its center. We must directly involve and invest children in the acquisition of their own knowledge in order to instill in them a lifelong love of learning.