A number of us gathered yesterday afternoon at our school district office to discuss the role of technology in our vision for our students. I’d call it a first step but I am not sure anything really got done in the 90 minutes. We talked a lot. We threw some ideas out. We’re going to meet again in five weeks.
But I don’t think we really know where we are going with it.
For my part, I tried to make a few points:
- We need to make sure that the concept of student learning is at the center of any vision plan. As we went around the room and each school talked about the elements of their five year technology plan, I heard a lot about “hardware” and “administration” and other ideas that are important (for sure) but we need to shift our language to more student-centered ideas.
- After a discussion about what students are doing outside of school as compared to what we are doing inside the school (ie, a disconnect between the literacy and media they use in their lives and the literacy we teach them), I mentioned that, when it comes to using new technology, “The students are ready. The teachers are not.” I am referring to the fact that so many teachers have not yet made the leap into using technology beyond gathering information from websites. We need to help our colleagues.
- Thus, the concept of a technology coach, who could work directly in the classroom with a teacher to weave technology into the curriculum, and not have technology as some stand-alone cool concept. But teachers need a helping hand. If we want to really transform teaching practice, this coach concept would make a huge difference.
- Access for all students — whatever their socioeconomic level — is critical and we can’t rely on our students learning these New Literacies outside of our door. The kids with families of means will be fine, but the ones without means — those ones we really need to reach, in fact — will fall further behind. This means that technology-infused work has to be done in school and we need the tools and the know-how to make that happen.
- And finally, technology need not be some new initiative on its own — technology should be woven into the curriculum work we are already doing (such as our two-year Literacy Initiative). If we do this, then teachers will see our district values this push and that it is just part of what we do. It isn’t right now.
I’m sure my friend and colleague, Gail, will add her own thoughts. She was there and I was glad — too often, the early elementary grades get completely left out of the conversations around technology. She made sure the kindergarten set had a voice.
I often have to bite my tongue at these gatherings, for fear of taking over the discussions. I am pretty passionate about it and have strong ideas. And when it is a room of principals (nice people, all, and open to ideas), I need to be careful of what I say. I don’t want to inadvertently step on toes or give the wrong impression about what our schools are doing. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last five years — light years of progress, actually — but I find myself impatient.
A few years ago, when I was paid a stipend for some tech work, I drafted a vision statement for our school that continues to be part of the evolving plan. The vision began:
Emerging technology continues to play a vital role in the modern industrial society in which computers and software are integral to success in the life of our citizens.
The William E. Norris Elementary School Technology Team views its role as important in integrating technology into the classrooms in ways that will help prepare students to succeed in this rapidly changing world. The primary goal of all technology initiatives within this plan will be the positive impact such endeavors will have student learning.
I still believe in that.
Peace (in the vision),
So happy to see your thoughts here this morning. The conversations did get a bit bogged down at time but you did a great job and frankly I was hoping you would have more opportunity to talk. You are doing much of what they are looking for. I thought we could have moved away from some topics and on to others but when you’re in a large group at a long table, that happens. What if we had tried a think-pair-share with someone outside of our own school experience? We could have generated a new focus and addressed things that one person talking can’t do. All in all it’s a top down planning model.
There’s a great post today shared by Robert Jacobs as he references James March. He”believes that organizations may engage primarily in two types of activities, exploration, the search for new knowledge, or exploitation, the maximization of payoff from existing knowledge.” Well worth a read.
I tend to look at things from the teacher/student side and don’t get the admin aspect or even the structural part as well. So when I left the meeting, I was thinking, “How do we share with others who teach the same level/subjects while in different schools? How do we share common knowledge and tools without becoming even more cookie cutter in our teaching?”
That being said I have some ideas to share with our principal about taking what I know and putting it out on a platform (all district?) and creating a common site where teachers can see and try out some of things with a group of folks who speak their language. Originally I was thinking of taking my tools and sharing my links just within our building but now I see a use for district wide sharing.
Great post Kevin! I am glad you are speaking out and advocating for the students and teachers in your district to have more opportunities to integrate technology in your everyday curriculum. Essentially the “tech coach” position you described is supposed to be my job, but this year since we had so much change in technology (new network, computers, website, data compilation system, online grade book and email/collaboration system) I have had to focus on getting teachers up to speed with these changes.
I agree with your statement about students being ready but teachers not being ready. Students lives are now centered around technology at their fingertips and as educators we have to meet them there (even if we are not ready!). Technology should be integrated with the daily curriculum and not saved for end of unit projects.
Keep speaking your mind and advocating for what is right for students!
It’s good to know there are others out there, too.