As a gifted ed teacher who earned his stripes in Southern California, I was unaware that there was a Biggie/Tupac-style east-west divide (although with much less violence) in the field. While on the westside, we used Kaplan and Gould’s Depth and Complexity thinking tools, the eastside had Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM).
Recently my pals Drs. Angela and Brian Housand co-authored the book Using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model with Technology which integrates SEM and 21st century technology. The folks at Prufrock sent me a copy to review.
The book, which the Housands call, SEM:Tech helped me to understand the three types of enrichment activities that are core to SEM and how technology can support each one. Here’s my understanding of the three types:
Type I Enrichment: General Exploratory
These activities are designed to expose students to something interesting and encourage them to explore further. I see my Curiosities and Puzzlements as a sort of Type I experience, but a guest speaker or even a field trip would be another. The purpose isn’t for students to complete a task, but to expose them to interesting ideas and entice their curiousity. Not every Type I experience will connect with every student, and that’s fine.
Today’s technology has made Type I experiences more accessible than ever. As the book states, gone are the days of wheeling in a TV to watch a video once every two months. YouTube, Skype, and (increasingly) VR devices are powerful tools for enrichment in the classroom. The Drs. Housand provide dozens of ideas along with links to Google Docs for structuring these experiences.
I think these Google Docs are the most valuable parts of the book. The websites and apps are bound to become outdated, but the general concepts transcend specific technologies.
I especially like the “heighten anticipation, stimulate interest, deepen understanding” framework in the book. It has already shaped my thinking about how to structure my own curiosity-provoking experiences.
Type II Enrichment: Group Training
Here, the goal is to intentionally develop critical thinking skills, learning-to-learn skills, self-regulation, and so on. Type II tasks might come out of a student’s interest in a Type I experience, or from a need in a Type III experience. Movement between the three types is an essential component of SEM.
Angela and Brian emphasize the importance of these skills in the 21st century. Not simply “enrichment”, critical thinking skills are essential. They write:
We see these skills as fundamental to success in learning and life, particularly as we prepare students for an ill-defined future where they may be working in jobs that do not currently exist.
In this section of SEM:Tech, the intent is to move students from consuming through technology to skillfully producing using technology. Type II experiences might purposefully develop:
- basic technology skills
- digital citizenship
- creative processes
I think this is especially important. It’s easy to assume our students are “good at” technology, just because they use it a lot (beware that term “digital native”). This section in the book seeks to intentionally develop the cognitive and affective skills that students will use in a rapidly changing world.
Again, Angela and Brian provide specific tools as well as organizers to help scaffold the processes.
Type III Enrichment: Investigations into Real World Problems
In a Type III experience, students are acting as (probably simplified) professionals. Working individually or in small groups, they pursue a problem that particularly interests them, employing the kind of critical thinking and research skills developed through Type II experiences. These problems should be authentic, and the students’ solutions should be communicated to an authentic audience. To this west-coaster, a Type III experience might be called an “independent study.”
Again, 21st century technology makes this experience richer than ever. Angela and Brian list numerous communities, competitions, and ways to create that didn’t exist a decade ago. They emphasize not just tackling an investigation, but creating a product and sharing their results with interested peers around the world.
Many of these competitions and communities were unknown to me and would open some pretty incredible doors to students who are deeply interested in a topic that’s beyond the scope of a typical school day.
The SEM:Tech book helped me to better understand the three types of enrichment experiences, and how they are relevant to students in the 21st century. I found it especially valuable to see how the three types support each other – how a Type I activity could lead to a Type III investigation, but that same Type III investigation could lead to new Type I experiences.
As with any paper book about technology, there are inherent conflicts. How specific do you get, knowing that technology is quickly outdated? How do you handle links in a medium you can’t click on? How many screenshots should there be?
I think the trickiest problem is deciding who the audience is. How comfortable are they with technology? Do they already know SEM or not? The book tries to reach a wide group, so be aware that some parts may be overly simple to you and some may be too advanced.
Setting aside these difficulties with the medium, Angela and Brian have thought deeply about how the Schoolwide Enrichment Model works in a world that has changed rapidly in three decades. I appreciate the multi-faceted look at technology in the classroom – we must think about how we’re using technology, not just if we’re using it. This book pushes the use of websites, apps, and devices beyond mere “electronic worksheets” into enriching experiences and provides some great scaffolds to get you there.
And, from the westside, much respect to Dr. Renzulli for recognizing that the Schoolwide Enrichment Model could be freshened up, and for asking the Housands to connect his classic work with new technologies.
Psst. If you’d like my copy of Using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model with Technology*, be the first to shoot me an email at email@example.com with the subject “SEM:Tech Please”. *Sorry! We already have a winner!
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