The 411 on Authentically Embedding Technology

This assignment/reflection has me stumped.  Instead of the 411, I feel like I need to be dialling 911 and screaming for help!  I have been racking my brain as to why this is so – the other blog posts have rolled out somewhat painlessly and “authentically embedding technology” is my new job as Learning Technology teacher, so what’s the hang up? Why do I feel like this reflection and I are stubbornly butting heads?

The more I think about it, all that comes to mind is the introduction to David Foster Wallace’s address to the graduating class of Kenyon College:

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/68855377[/vimeo]

As Wallace says, “The most obvious realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and to talk about.”  That is how I feel a lot of the time about tech integration.

As a classroom teacher, I used technology a lot.  I would plan out my lessons by thinking ahead to how I would share student learning with my parents: What would my blog post say?  Why did we do this?  What was our purpose?  Thinking this way helped me focus my teaching. Posts were partially written before a lesson started (and sometimes deleted before an entirely new lesson began!).   At any given time you would find students using technology in my class:  making a video reflection, searching websites, sharing their thoughts through blogs, collaborating on google docs, reflecting and sharing via Socrative or Padlet, making stop-motion movies, interviewing people via Skype, creating timelines, adding books to their bookshelves… This was my “water”.

I liked trying new things and I wasn’t scared that the technology aspect wouldn’t work (don’t confuse this with me not being irritated when the technology aspect didn’t work – because sometimes it just isn’t going to!). It was exciting and engaging and my kids were learning about our unit but also a bunch of skills that could be applied to many things beyond that one lesson.

Now remove me from my fourth or fifth grade classroom and put me in the role of Learning Technologies teacher.  My job description reads:

Learning Technologies JD

No problem, right? Ahh….right. Except what I am finding is that we all inherently bring bias to the classroom to some extent.  And not all teachers are starting from the same point of willingness, ability, knowledge, or overall level of comfort with the integration of technology. I would even go so far to say that some teachers are yet to leap from the sidelines into the following cycle of collaboration:

Credit: Kim Cofino
Credit: Kim Cofino

 

It is not as if the standards are not clear. The standards for coaches are particularly interesting (and challenging!) for those of us in this role within our schools and give me a lot to think about as I tackle my job.

So again, what exactly is my hangup with the idea of authentically embedding technology into teaching? Ultimately I think it is the ‘moving target’ nature of technology integration.  How do we authentically embed technology in our curriculum when the technology itself,  is constantly evolving?

Hang out. Mess around. Geek out.

Essentially, just try stuff.  And don’t be afraid of it not working.

I posted on my own blog about teaching above the line.  And then I read this post that cries foul on the idea that integration be typical or linear – two things inquiries rarely are.

Ultimately, I just know that I need to keep learning, keep trying new things, keep communicating with my colleagues, and keep open to all the possibilities that abound when technology is utilised in the classroom.  This in itself is not a particularly satisfying conclusion for me.  I really do (secretly?) want a step-by-step guide to authentically embedding technology – some kind of machine where you drop in your units of work and out spits an integrated technology plan.

What I do know for sure is that it should not be the device doing the driving of the integration but the collective brains of my colleagues and my PLN and the willingness to collaborate, research, try, and commit to the process in order to unleash the possibilities.

awesome_marker

Note: I tried finding the original source of this picture on Flickr but had no luck.  I did an Image Search and got loads of hits but none with anything other than the attribution on the side of the picture.  

You’re Not The Only Teacher In The Room

The theory of connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age that:

  • believes that knowledge can reside in non-human artifacts.
  • thrives in an environment that values diversity, autonomy, and freedom.
  • suggests that learning occurs when ideas are connected.

Is this an accurate description of our current education system? Are we more concerned about collecting ideas than connecting them? Does the role of “the teacher” as we know it, need to change?  I wish I had all the answers!

I am fearful that education won’t change until the teachers in the room realize that they are not the only teachers in the room. We have all heard of the adage “Sage on the stage, guide on the side” and most teachers would gravely nod and agree, but is this the reality for students once behind classroom doors?

The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. –George Siemens

I was surprised (and yet not) to see that this article was written ten years ago. It seems like the ideas around the need for change in education have been shared but in many cases, have fallen on deaf ears.  It is almost impossible to read any kind of educational literature that doesn’t highlight the increasingly digital and connected nature of ‘school’ and yet we still seem to resist the change that is upon us.

The digital world lowers barriers to learning, provides opportunities for peer teaching, allows students the chance to make their own choices, learn at their own pace, delve deeper into topics that ignite their passions and connect to others in ways that were previously impossible. Living and Learning With New Media showcases many of the ways in which youth interact digitally and the impact this has on the way they learn and the way they differentiate between ‘life’ and ‘learning’ (it’s one and the same).

Einstein

Einstein figured out that providing the right conditions for students is the best way to promote, encourage, and support learning. This math teacher came to the same conclusion once he gave up his teacher-centred ways and focused more on a student-centred approach to teaching. He shares that the “integration of technology into every subject and at all grade levels allows unprecedented levels and types of exciting collaboration and learner to learner connectivity.”

One of my favorite authors on the subject of technology and 21st Century education is Marc Prensky.  In this ASCD article, Marc talks about kids ‘powering down’ when they come to school – and not just their devices.  He talks of students in the past as ‘coming into the light’ when they went to school – enlightened by the knowledge that was imparted upon them.  Today he describes students as being ‘born into the light’ -surrounded by and connected to knowledge from birth.

I found the readings this week to be encouraging and inspiring at yet at the same time, I found myself increasingly bogged down by what our education system isn’t. The problems, the faults, the gaping holes that need filling.  Then I read some more of Presnky’s work in which he reminds us of what an exciting time it is to be alive and offers the following advice to teachers:

Today’s kids are fledglings on the ledge of a new, and towering future and our job is help them leave the aerie in a way that allows them to soar.The most important thing any teacher can say to any kid in our new context is “Surprise me!”

Surprise ME

Connect, Connect, Connect.

The first ‘desired goal’ of our first course is to:

Goal!

As I read this, I am having that great feeling you get when everything just slots into place.  I have long been a big fan of the importance of being connected as an educator.  To not take advantage of the wealth of information that so many teachers share so willingly seems borderline crazy to me.

In The Connected Educator , Nussbaum-Beach and Hall write of the emergence of a new culture of teaching in which “conversations turn to topics of practice rather than staffroom complaints.” They go on to describe the evolution of the teacher as a process in which there is “a shift from seeing education as a series of things we do to students and instead as a dynamic learning environment in which learners take ownership for their own growth and pursue it passionately.”

This is why I am part of this course.  I am so inspired when I sit with a colleague at lunch (as happened today) and they recommend the ideas and passions of their former colleagues and it turns out they and I have long been connected, virtually.  I have stopped expecting someone else to take care of my professional development and I am dedicated to ‘passionately pursuing’ my own growth.

From links to articles, to ideas on lesson plans, my Personal Learning Network is a real time professional development network of educators that I rely on to help me do my job as an educator. –Jeff Utecht REACH, p 10.

I agree with Jeff wholeheartedly although I would go so far as to define ‘educators’.  I was intentional in the way I set up my Facebook and my Twitter accounts (although the lines in Facebook are becoming more blurred as educational organizations like Edutopia, Mind/Shift, Making Thinking Visible, and various PYP groups are pushing a more visible presence on Facebook).  My intention was to keep Facebook for keeping up with friends and family and Twitter for education and educators.  And authors.  And humanitarians, poets, activists, innovators, ruckus-makers, and disruptors.  I made a conscious decision to not follow friends who tweeted about their coffee/dinner/workouts. I love these friends but Twitter was my sacred ground for teaching and learning.

I started my blogging life with a blog that was a little bit of everything – personal, professional, cooking, crafting, photographing.  Then I found myself leaning more toward the education side of things, buoyed by comments from friends and parents of children I was teaching or had taught.  My education blog evolved from there. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to say but I blogged anyway.

When Jeff talks of the time it takes to develop a PLN he is spot on.  There have been times over the course of the past two years when I have felt like quitting the blog.  Who would miss me amongst the excess of 200 million blogs already in existence? So I eased off and then I stopped (and had a baby) and then I got going again because I missed not being connected.

Yesterday my dad sent me a message on Facebook.  It read:

Dad Love!

Dads are great, right? But he touches on the same issue that Jeff mentions: blogging when no one is looking (or reading).  My stats indicate that I have a lot of ‘lurkers’ and I would confess that I too, am a lurker at times.  But when I get out there and post and comment and respond, that is when the learning happens.

A quote that has stayed with me since I first read it in his book, Creating Innovators is as follows:

Looking forward to getting plugged in to all of you over the coming weeks and to seeing what we all can do with what we know!