What do you think of when someone talks about technology in schools? Do you think of labs full of desktop computers? Students sitting at desks with laptops or scattered about a room with iPads or Chromebooks? What about scissors and glue?

Prior to computers, if someone mentioned “cut and paste” it meant the use of that last pairing: scissors and glue. That was technology at that time, even if it was not labeled as such, and students produced amazing things with those tools because they were used to support classroom instruction, and served a defined purpose. Imagine what would have happened if a class was given scissors but not told what to do with them?

Today’s technological tools may look very different, but they have the same requirements. In New Ulm, there is one critical question asked before any technological purchase is made: How does the equipment support whole student learning?

In our schools, the tools we employ include iPads, Chromebooks, Apple laptops and desktops, SMARTboards and interactive projectors. The first three are significant because they offer mobility, and mobility offers flexibility; instruction can now be provided in innovative ways that do not require students to sit at a desk with a computer in front of them. We also know that mobile technology is only going to become more prevalent in our society, and with many of our students arriving “mobile,” it is important that we capitalize on and further develop those existing skills.

The devices used by elementary students are mostly iPads, with our 7-12 students using Mac computers/laptops or Chromebooks. But that doesn’t mean each building does not have a diversity of devices. Like any tool, it is important to use the right one for the job, so a building’s technology needs to be varied. Elementary students spend time with Chromebooks and Mac computers, and high school students have access to iPads, too. There is no one-size fits all solution, and a benefit of choice is the ability to provide differentiated instruction to students at all levels of need.

Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is an important tool we use, especially the Docs, Sheets and Slides components. Each of those services allows students and staff to access their documents from any internet connected device, work together on projects simultaneous, share feedback, and even publish to the web. GAFE helps us provide an educational environment that extends beyond the classroom as we strive toward “anywhere, anytime” learning opportunities.

Technology can extend our reach into the world, and it can do so almost effortlessly. It is important that the devices we use do more than just support student achievement. They also must allow us to teach our kids how to live in this new digital age.