DAILY INSIGHT: Technology apprenticeships

By Christopher Fahnoe, CIO Advisor

The model of apprenticeship dates back to the Middle Ages but the same principles can be effectively applied in today's classrooms to encourage student development in the area of technology use. Being an apprentice, or learning while working with a mentor, provides many of the same experiences or opportunities we desire in our modern school settings. As educators, we hope to have various methods of sharing knowledge so that the next generation can utilize that for innovation, creative solutions, or improvements. We also encourage hands-on experiences that involve real world application. In the apprenticeship model, one learns by doing, has frequent feedback, and has multiple opportunities for guided practice while working with a mentor. Finally, the apprentice is often able to individually work on parts of a project after sustained practice or exposure. This is equivalent to our modern-day desire to allow for self-directed learning opportunities for even our youngest students.

This model can be quickly applied within our schools especially in the area of technology and can lead to empowerment, additional support, and enhanced ability without the need for direct instruction. The students will learn essential technology skills through hands-on work and assisting with tasks that are required from the teacher or the classroom. These opportunities could also lead to student generated projects or extensions of existing classroom needs. The apprentice can be of any age as one strength of technology is scalability across various user levels and activities. In the classroom an apprentice could be assisting a teacher in the development of materials for the class, generating a slideshow that supports instruction, managing the social networking tools for the class, supporting website development, troubleshooting classroom equipment, maintaining the classroom blog or setting up equipment for projects or instruction. These real life experiences can provide many opportunities for students to be involved and feel that they are engaged as part of the classroom beyond a recipient of information.

If we look at students as apprentices in the area of technology within the classroom, it provides many meaningful opportunities without demanding changes in schedules or significant amount of additional classroom time. It would require shifting dynamics within the classroom and involving students much more throughout the process of generating materials, prepare for instruction, executing lessons, and ownership of the classroom itself. As technology becomes more a part of every day experience in the classroom, students have direct and meaningful opportunities to learn while they are doing and at the same time provide an additional asset to the classroom.

Chris Fahnoe is the director of technology and assessment at Arlington Heights School District 25 in Illinois.

Look for Christopher's next post about how mentoring is working for his district.