Monday, October 8, 2012

Your Town as a Learning Community

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

Recently, I started thinking about the concept of a city/community as an extension of the school. It made me start to believe that this should be the goal of all schools.  Obviously, every community and school is different, but I wanted to share them anyway.  I also want hear back from all of you as well. We all know that a school is not a place that can succeed in a vacuum. It takes everyone, with students or not,  taking responsibility and doing their part. Of course, technology can play an important role in facilitating this and getting people involved.

If you want to build support and get people involved you need to do some outreach and research. There are so many people out there that are untapped resources for your school that just need to be asked. When a child leaves the school to go home for the day they pass by so many opportunities that can help a school in educating our youth. They just need to learn how to identify them.

It can be as simple as inviting community members into your school to see what is being taught and then exchanging ideas on what they may be abel to contribute. If someone is not able to come on site, offer to have them speak to the class via a Skype session or maybe via a pre-recorded video presentation. This can also be an opportunity to teach them something that will enrich their life or improve their business. Everyone needs to look at this as a give and take learning scenario.

Developing relationships and collaboration skills are so important for our students to learn. So, why not use your local community as the starting point.  I am sure that both parties have a lot to share. Students can use a variety of technologies to record interviews or create presentations to share with their classmates.

Let’s not forget that technology is not just computers.  There are local experts out there that can come into your classroom and teach students about a variety of STEM subjects too. These relationships will empower the students and show them real world, living examples to emulate.  Participating in STEM related activities can be such a great learning and idea sharing opportunity.

The city government needs to take a roll in this as well. Building shared services with your local library and city government to offer resources, computer time and instruction after school hours will pay great dividends to those that don’t have a computer or Internet connection at home. To take this one step further, opening community technology centers that can be manned by local experts or teaching staff that can offer supplemental technology time would be great. Something just as simple as keeping the school’s computer lab open for evening access can solve this problem.

The school district and city IT departments can work together to create city wide technology resources. A wide area wireless network or a private cloud infrastructure can really break down the walls of the school to create anytime anywhere learning. That, coupled with collaborating with your local intellectual resources, can created a community that works together to educate their children.

I really believe that this is the way of the future for building strong school community bonds. These bonds will return great dividends with not only a better education, but people wanting to live in your community and former students coming back to live with their families too. After all, why wouldn’t they want to live in a community that works together to educate their future. The economy, tax base, and educational opportunities will only expand.  At least, that’s what I believe will happen.

Your thoughts are welcomed..