Digitalization at VR Schools – it’s about the ”how” not the ”wow”
Learning is messy and there is no one easy path forward. VR Schools is known for its innovative approach. This requires us to be agile in how we integrate and effectively utilize our resources, both analog and digital.
Digitalization is a term thrown around a lot in meetings, media, and discussions. Given the recent debate in SVD between Torkel Klingberg and Elza Dunkels, we want to clarify what this “term” means to VR schools. For us, it’s about the “how” and not the “wow”. For us, the “how” is about creating the optimal learning environment for every student.
Since 2007, when VR Schools started 1-to-1 with a digital device for every student and staff member, we have worked to find the best use of technology to (em)power the learning in our schools. Digitalizing aspects of our work have led to great improvements:
-automating tasks that are done repeatedly
-working with G-Suite for Education tools to facilitate real collaborative learning
-connecting with experts virtually
-facilitating interactivity with content
-public and transparent ways for students to show their knowledge beyond the classroom
Yet in each example, the true development has little to do with the tool and everything to do with “how” the tool is applied to important aspects of the learning process. Under the careful study of our engaged and experienced teachers, technology tools and digital processes are reviewed, tested and revised. Through a pedagogical lens, considering the realities of our classrooms, we critically filter what works best for our students. We are not “wowed” by all of the shiny digital textbooks and tools hitting the market. We are not trying to revolutionize och glamorize how we facilitate learning. We are trying to combine what we know from educational psychology, neuroscience and subject-specific pedagogy with appropriate tools to find out how we can achieve the most efficient and effective learning.
While we are open to new ideas and testing hypothesis, we are also critically engaged with the real results. We don’t all use the same textbooks (online or digital) because one size does not fit all. We do not ban mobile telephones in every classroom because when used correctly they can aid the learning process. We do collect mobile telephones when we need to support our students’ gain more focus. In both of these cases, we rely on our competent teachers to make informed decisions and exhibit needed classroom leadership. Again, digitalization for us is about the “how”.
So, what exactly is our “how”?
Between 2017-2020, VR Schools are working toward:
- All schools use instructional design to achieve blended learning* environments.
- Effective learning for every student – personalized learning that builds one each student’s needs, background, experiences and interests
- Prepare our teaching force – digitalization strategy; digital competences; efficiency and effectiveness
How we are achieving this is by:
-creating a cohesive digital ecosystem that simplifies and organizes the learning in VR Schools
-dedicating time to staff development and to staff discussions regarding – the “how”
-piloting different technologies in small scale to see what works for our students in our classrooms
We agree with both Klingberg who says structure and focus are important for learning and with Dunkels who says we must adapt the digital skills we teach to be in line with our students’ reality. However, we disagree with Klingberg when he suggests that we should wait until “we know more”. Within our organization we have many different opinions on the topic and an ongoing, healthy debate. Our reality is that digitalization is a big subject with lots of moving parts – it is dynamic and developing all the time. To keep up, we must employ an agile and iterative approach to development.
We are excited about the “wow” that we can achieve when we combine powerful tools and talented people. Our school leadership takes responsibility to study, develop and implement systems that organize workflow and allow the most effective use of time. Our teachers take responsibility to discover and design what works best for each group of students. Our students benefit from blended learning environments where they can develop their adequate digital competence.
When the “how” works, the learning is “wow”!
Kristy Lundström is writing about what digitalization is about for VR schools.
*VR Schools definition: Blended learning, led by teachers, involves leveraging technology to afford each student a more personal learning experience, including increased student influence over the time, place, path, and/or pace of learning.