“The careers of the future will not use notebooks and folders. Our students will need to be fluent with the technology tools of today in order to be ready for their future,” said Mr. Darling.
The future our children will inherit will require a deep knowledge of how the digital world works. “Simple familiarity with tools is not even enough anymore. Students must understand the underlying fabric of programming and coding in all this technology,” he stressed. Teaching K - 6 coding may seem like a daunting task, but Mr. Darling utilizes a wide range of innovative tools and programs to get students on track early.
Employing programs like MIT’s Scratch and Code.org, he lays a foundation for digital literacy that students can build on as they get older. For example, Kindergarten and First Grade classes use the app Scratch Jr. on iPads to learn the basics of how coding languages work and practice creating within them. “This literacy will empower them to understand technology more fully, use it effectively, and adapt as technology evolves,” said Mr. Darling.
Using the technology effectively and responsibly is critical for Mr. Darling. He dedicates a significant amount of time to ensuring his students know how to carry themselves when interacting in online communities. Using Google Classroom, he posts discussion questions and has his Sixth Graders curate online communities for the Second through Fourth Grade classes.
Mr. Darling, who earned his B.S. in Communications Media at Fitchburg State University, and M.S. in Special Education at Lesley University, strives to create an engaging learning environment for his students where they are empowered to take charge of their education. “As a martial artist, I love the term ‘sensei’ which means, ‘one who has gone before,’” he said. “The teacher is a ‘guide on the side’ who coaches students to do their best work and be good class citizens. Sometimes a student knows more than the teacher, and it's okay to let them take the lead from time to time.”
The fruits of Mr. Darling’s approach are best seen in the Fourth through Sixth Graders’ Genius Hour projects. Over the course of the year, students use the computer lab and library to create independent study projects that range from podcasts and videos to slideshow presentations. The projects not only allow students to direct their own learning, but also provide a safe platform for being digitally creative. In conjunction with all of our classroom teachers, Mr. Darling is helping the students become upright and responsible digital citizens.