Schools across the world recognize the need to connect students through technology for the purpose of learning. Teachers are caught in a frightening position often feeling unprepared to teach in technology-rich environments for lack of skills, while their students easily master social media and multiple device platforms.
Historically, teachers focused on content and its application but now must add technology to the teaching toolkits. In small schools that lack funding, the divide between teachers and students skill is widening. How will schools deal with the changing expectations and pedagogy in the 21st century? How will teachers remain current? How will schools strike a balance between human interaction and the benefits technology brings to learning?
Prince of Peace Catholic school is a small, private school funded primarily by its students’ families through the education ministry of its parish. Founded in 2000, it remains committed to the traditional virtues of religious education, family values, and the teaching of the Catholic church.
The school is among the most successful Catholic schools in Birmingham, Alabama in academic performance and growth. They have always recognized the need for computer technology in learning but have not allowed the fascination and convenience of technology to become more important than the work of teachers. Students learn the fundamental reasons for its use in education, as well as its potential hazards.
School leaders have intended to change with the times while remaining firmly connected to the purpose behind its mission. Technology plays only a small part in the school’s overarching goal of educating the whole child.
As the school has grown, it has worked to incorporate technology into the existing architecture of its courses, versus moving its courses onto the structure of its technology. This is entirely different than neighboring school systems, who rely heavily on technology to deliver and support what students learn.
The school is located in the center of the Hoover City School system which is very progressive in its use of technology at all levels of education. The extensive school system cannot be compared to Prince of Peace in a statistically meaningful way, but many families in the area have children in both schools making the comparison somewhat unavoidable.
There is no indication that Prince of Peace intends to commit resources to the degree public school systems can. It is, however investing in the preparedness of its teachers to ensure they can successfully lead students seamlessly into either its own Catholic High School, John Carroll, which is making great strides of its own in student use of technology, or the public systems in which Prince of Peace families live.
For that reason, Prince of Peace administrators has charted a path to advance the skills of their teachers through professional learning events during 2016-2019. The plan concentrates on teachers’ technology knowledge, their ability to choose and use appropriate technology for teaching and learning, and teachers’ ability to assess the impact of technology on measurable learning outcomes.
It is a tall order, but the school is well organized with decisive leadership and a shared vision that focuses on the needs of its learners. Time will tell if their plan to support the development of teachers will indeed keep the school on course in the ocean of change that is coming with 21st-century education, but they are certainly well on their way.