Teachinghistory.org at ISTE

ISTE crowd
Tue 13 2010

What is it like when almost 20,000 educators dedicated to promoting, collaborating, and communicating about teaching with technology all converge on a single location?

That was the story at the 2010 conference of the International Society for Technology in Education held in Denver June 27-30 this year. The Clearinghouse was there both presenting information about teachinghistory.org and other resources available through the Center for History and New Media and participating in workshops and information sessions.

An elementary school principal from a Texas summed up the mindset of these thousands of participants as she sat exploring her new iPad in the conference coffee shop. "We've been given this technology," she explained. "Now we have to figure out the best way to use it in the classroom—for the teachers and to prepare the students for the world outside school."

Tremendous creativity is at work, from small economically disadvantaged school systems to large districts to affluent institutions with access to state-of-the-art technology.

What we noticed? A paradigm shift. We have moved far beyond technology for technology's sake. Forward-thinking educators no longer view technology tools as adjunct teaching aids, but as essential elements of curriculum presentation from research to the implementation of collaborative, project-based instruction that incorporates multiple formats.

Summarizing the breadth and depth of such an extraordinary event is elusive .

In every subject area, curriculum that incorporates technology-based collaborative learning increases student enthusiasm and involvement, engaging students who have been hard to reach and leveling the playing field for differentiated learners.

The extraordinary need to support teachers with ongoing professional development is palpable. One-shot workshops or sessions on the nuts and bolts of a technological tool simply aren't enough. Ongoing collaboration and communication are vital to help teachers restructure lesson plans to integrate new teaching methods, to share instructional materials, to create, and to talk about what works and what doesn't.

Where a school district is fortunate enough to have them, technology directors, instructors, and coordinators may be the teacher's best friend. At ISTE, these educators were constantly alert to collecting content and methodological resources for their teachers across the curriculum. When schools can't afford technology experts, teachers are beginning to set up wikis, skype conferences, and other self-help routes toward professional development.

What we might have wished? Among these thousands of people, history educators seemed under-represented, and we wondered why. Sciences and mathematics disciplines dominated, yet one technology instructor pointed out, "History seems like one of the richest subject areas for exploiting technology in the classroom."

About the Author

Lee Ann Ghajar is a digital history associate in Public Projects at CHNM and a PhD candidate in American history at George Mason University.