Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spinning Plates - EdTech as a Dilemma?

Teachers have a lot “in the air” at any given time.

Having a conversation with a teacher about embedding meaningful technology skills in their classes/lessons can cause some of their “plates” to wobble!  I get that!  I get it as both a school leader and as a teacher.  For me, this begs the question, how can I safely relay the benefits and importance of tech skills to teachers with so much in the air?

I will not get into which plates are the largest or which plates if allowed to crash will make the biggest mess, but I think there probably is room for that conversation.  Instead, I would like to focus on “chewable pieces” - one at a time.  In a previous post I wrote about how modeling technology can demonstrate and introduce new ideas and resources to tech hesitant teachers.  I really believe this is useful.  It can be effective at showing a teacher a cool site or a slick app.  However, this may not necessarily translate into use.

I have come to realize that technology comes kind of naturally to me.  I am no expert (by no means)!  But, I do pick up on tech stuff pretty quickly and I am not afraid to try.  Technology does not make me uncomfortable.  I have tried, adopted, discarded, forgot, remembered, and forgot again about a lot of cool stuff I have seen.  I am OK with that.  Not everyone is.  Technology can be intimidating and can be viewed as an optional plate that I am not putting on a stick because I have too much in the air as it is.

Education leaders and tech savvy colleagues - these teachers need you!  BUT!!!  They do not need you to show them everything you know now and just skim over “the” how you got there.  What they need is the realization that many great tech strategies they could be using have levels of expertise.  AND it is ok to be a novice.  My friend and colleague Sean (@busedcrev) talk often about what we call  NERD-O-METER.  There is ,seemingly, someone who can always show you a tip or trick to a site, service, app, etc. that you did not know, cool!  Take stock of where the teacher you’re working with is on the NERD-O-METER and start there.  Indoctrinate them with A site, AN app, or A network.  And show them the simplest way to use it.  

Then when they start to hit walls, and surely WE do, show them how to further use it by advancing a level.  If they do not ask questions - ask them how it is going.  If they hit a wall and quit bring them back.  Help get the tech plate going WITH them.  

Tech in the classroom can be intimidating.  Tech hesitant teachers DO have a lot in the air and they’re aware of how tech savvy their students are.  Why cross that line - the kids know how to use it (right?).  

There are so many reasons we need to be embedding practical, useful, and pointed tech skills in schools.  Getting one teacher at a time to come along even one step at a time = victories.  The plates are spinning - but in education nobody said we have to keep them all going ALONE!  If you’re reading this you are likely a tech minded educator or ed. leader.  Go find someone and teach them something new, simple, and practical.  Get their tech plate in the air!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Assessing the Vulnerability

Teachers like to know the answers!

I imagine that if you're reading this post you are one or work with teachers.  And I also guess you think this is true as well.  I have known this since I was old enough to wonder what exactly was in that teacher’s edition.  I’m a teacher and I like to know the answers.  Some of the most frustrating moments in a teacher (newer and veteran alike) is being asked a question by a student and NOT knowing the answer.  What did (do) you do.  I believe it is such a pivotal moment in a teacher’s career when they can admit, in front of students, that they do not know.

Boy is it a different story in front of colleagues and other educational professionals.  One need only think back to the most recent PD workshop they’ve attended.  This room full of educators become the nervous nellie sin the classroom.  These people who surely have a swagger and confidence in their classroom suddenly become introverted - non-participants.  I attribute this so much to a vulnerability most teachers have about themselves, their classroom, their practices, etc.

I recently retweeted an article on the younger generation’s willingness to “look dumb.”  That is not innate to most educational professionals.  The area I have seen this vulnerability the most is in conversations with teachers about assessments.  When discussing formative vs summative assessments I get the uncomfortable seat shift from some teachers.  We have a conversation about assessments and their vulnerability will not allow them to ask the question they want to: what is the difference.  

Younger teachers, fresh out of ed training, can define them but usually are still developing their practice.  More veteran teachers more often than not are practicing sound assessment but cannot necessarily define the difference between formative and summative.

School leaders want their teachers to be executing sound assessment practices in their classrooms.  A leader who might say, “They do not even know what formative assessment is.” needs to be sure that is true in practice.  You may find that you have a veteran teacher continuously assessing her students in a formative way and using that feedback to structure her next lesson.  She also might not know that is called formative assessment.

I learned this lesson the easy way.  I observed a great lesson with a high quality embedded formative assessment that worked perfectly.  The teacher talked to me in the post conference about how she needed to revisit a topic because they weren’t quite there.  I commented on this being a MODEL example of useful formative assessment.  ---- SEAT SHIFT-----  Vulnerability!  “She doesn’t even know what formative assessment is!”

Yeah - yeah she does!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Technology and Leadership - Modeling the "Cool"

Teaching the iGeneration is a workshop where teachers and administrators sat together – vulnerable to the new technologies that our students mastered long before us.  For this particular workshop this is as it should be.  Tech initiatives that are top down are doomed to struggle, if not fail, in my opinion.  The learning curve is too steep and the price is too high – literally.  In my last post I referred to the Teaching the iGeneration workshop and its ability to Help… your students (or yourself professionally more on this later) work and learn collaboratively…” 

I am finally getting around to "the more on this later" piece.  As a school begins to define its direction technologically – Google Apps for Education, 1 to 1 initiatives, Tech infrastructure, cell phone policies, BYO Devices/Technology – training their staff on this proposed new reality is really important.  This is true to ensure that teachers can leverage the technology efficiently AND how to put it to good use for their students.  This is where leadership is vital.

In my leadership role (Department Chair) I talk to teachers all the time about modeling and providing exemplars for their students.  As I listened to Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) last week in Dallas he discussed the collaborative learning opportunities we could provide our students by utilizing tools like Google docs, Diigo, Voicethread, etc. As a teacher he energized me but just as quickly as Department Chair he challenged me.  MODELING!  The practical classroom application of many of the ideas we discussed were to get students thinking, writing, talking, and working collaboratively.  I want to do that with my classes!  I’d like a lot of teachers to want to do that with their classes!

My goal is to use some of these applications, as Ferriter suggests, in my role as Department Chair with the teachers.  Many of the strategies we talked about were cool and new – new in that I had never seen them before!  If I can share one of these ideas every few weeks through normal communication and departmental “stuff” I can then have follow up conversations on how this site could also be used with kids. 

If it is not clear I would encourage you, if you’re so inclined, to attend Teaching the iGeneration very worthwhile!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Teaching the iGeneration

It is mid morning of day 2 at the Teaching the iGeneration workshop in Dallas, TX.  Day 1 was fast paced and filled with great Ed Tech information.  Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) is an engaging presenter with a wealth of resources and knowledge.  His presentation style is really cool in that we, the participants, are working hands on with the tips, tools, and ideas he is sharing with us.  What I am really enjoying about the workshop is that - at its core - it is about quality teaching first.  This is so what I was hoping for!

The idea that technology can be a useful and powerful tool in the classroom is widely accepted.  I like to think that I am pretty competent when it comes to new technology.  One lesson that I learned yesterday is that technology is faster than me!  It likely always will be.  I am also pretty sure that when it comes to using technology most of my students are also probably faster than me.  And that is OK!  But, my students are likely not maximizing connecting what they know about technology with how they are learning.  This is the area I want to target as their teacher - making their "toy" a component of their learning.

Buy Bill Ferriter's Book and attend his workshop if you're interested in...

1. Learning about or more about Twitter and other new Social Learning tools

  • I felt pretty comfortable with Twitter coming in and in the first hour of the workshop my knowledge and ability to leverage information on Twitter increased significantly.

2. Helping your students (or yourself professionally more on this later) work and learn collaboratively utilizing the web and in a way that mimics what they already do regularly in their social world.

3.  Dialoguing with other like minded motivated professionals about teaching AND technology.

Break is over the afternoon promises to good as we will begin working on a Unit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Motivation to Learn - EdTech

I read something Mark Cuban wrote recently that said you can easily find your passion within what you do by what you value with your time.  Since reading that I have been very aware of my time management.  Not that I changed anything, rather, I was just keeping a mental clock on what I valued with my time.  Lesson planning and grading are what they are.  In the other time, when seeking professional fulfillment or development I turned to tech devices and articles, blogs, tweets etc about how technology is impacting and will continue impact (exponentially) the kids we get in our classrooms and how they expect to learn.

There is, naturally, a guarded approach as to how to best incorporate technology in the classroom.  We all ask prospective teachers the technology question in their interview - but what really do we hope to hear as an answer.  What I've been reading and learning seems to suggest that most of those (us) asking the question wouldn't know the best answers even if we did hear them.  I am currently reading The Connected Educator By Sheryl Nussbaum Beach (@snbeach) and Lani Ritter Hall (@lannihall).  This book starts out with a simple yet profound truth - most kids have to "unplug" when they come to school.  Our realm (the schoolhouse) is a place our students have to live a secret life one of lap texts, Internet filters, and "on vibrate."

I am really looking forward to learning some methodology for letting our kids plug in at school.  How do we let them connect at school the way they are connecting in the "real word?"  The information I am reading seems to be pointing to one truth with many approaches, practices, and answers - and that is the World has changed technologically and schools need to.  As much as we stress the necessary skills that we believe our students need in their tool belts for their futures - Core subject skills like Math and Literacy - there is a technological world in which they live now and it is becoming increasingly more complex.  As educators we need to prepare them for this world too by teaching them sound 21st century skills.  As easily as a student can get lost in the text of a classic novel they can get lost in this cyber world that exists.

I cannot wait to meet with other educators attending the Teaching the iGeneration workshop in Dallas this week.  I am curious if I am asking the right questions and who out there has started to answer these questions.

I hope to update this Blog from the conference - we'll see!