Wow! Another year has come and gone and I am still employed. Not that I shouldn’t be, just that this blogging thing puts you under a bit of a microscope. One wrong word and BAM! You are collecting unemployment and rummaging through people’s road side recycling, while the kids are at school and the wife is at work.
This year has certainly been eventful and rewarding but I am definitely not on the same track I was last year at this time. Last year’s Christmas reflection was all about the student, the device and the classroom. This year, my iPad cohort went to hell in a handbasket and thus my attentions are not quite so focused on iPads In The Classroom so much as they are Technology and the Classroom Teacher.
As a result of this shift in focus, this years reflection has a more teacher centered slant… and defies the laws of physics apparently. So here goes this years moments that make you say “hmmmmmmmmm?”
This was the Acronym of the year and perhaps the single most important part of my professional development over the past year. The Personal Learning Network has gone digital and in doing so, has revolutionized how we communicate as professionals.
I have gone with a three-legged stool approach and have built my PLN on the following.
- My Blog
- My Twitter Account
- An information source (Zite)
These three items have come together and have profoundly changed the way I do my job but more importantly, how I see my self as a teacher. The Digital PLN is a POWERFUL tool and I highly recommend it to any and all teachers.
See further resources below
Time / ProD
It has become crystal clear, that if we expect teachers to make digital technology a more significant part of their teaching practice, they need more Professional Development. When I say “More ProD…” I don’t mean a series of rinky dink hour-long workshops on “using twitter in the classroom” or “The latest apps for teaching…” I mean purposeful hands-on experience with technology both in and out of the classroom.
In order to get an idea of just how much time the “experts” with educational technology have put in, I will use myself as a “Average Joe Blow Educational Tech Geek” example.
The very first day of my practicum in 1993, I was introduced to a program that made word searches and crosswords that you could print out for use in the classroom. Since that day, I have logged innumerable hours using technology to make my life in the classroom easier and hopefully my teaching practise better.
To get an idea of just how much time I have spent, assume that since that day in 1993, I averaged a single hour a day using technology for the purpose of improving my teaching practice. Multiply an hour a day by approximately 180 school days for 19 years and you get 3429 hrs of hands on time with educational technology. I am quite certain however, that number should be doubled if not quadrupled. In the past 12 years, I have easily met and far surpassed Malcome Gladwells magic 10,000 hour mark to becoming an “expert” in anything.
What is most important to keep in mind here, is that these 10,000+ hrs have been purposeful. It wasn’t just time sending emails, surfing the net, watching silly kitty videos or squandering time on some social network. What is also important to note here is that, until this year, the hardware used and the time spent has been almost entirely on my nickel. This time has been a HUGE investment for me and I did it because I love the stuff but other people have other areas of pedagogical interest; therefore, we can’t expect that everyone is willing to put in the hours on their own dime, like I have.
Finally, if we look at proficiency with Ed Tech from a “purposeful time spent” perspective, it goes a long way in explaining why “digital literacy” is not all that common in the classroom. It also helps to dispel the digital native myth and explain why new teachers are not coming hard out of the gates, with the digital skills necessary for the 21 Century Classroom.
Technology in the classroom will always remain on the fringes if teachers are not provided the opportunity to play, practice and implement the technology they are being asked to use.
All in or All out
There are two sides in this Educational Technology debate and I have tried to situate myself squarely in the middle of them, not because I am afraid to take sides but because I firmly believe both sides have value and can coexist.
There are those however, who are hunkered down in their respective battlements and are preparing for the looming battle that lies ahead but like any war, little good will come of it.
This past week our director of Educational Technology in West Vancouver said to me, something along the lines of… “With my own kids, I just wish “we” (as in education system) would just decide to which world we are going to educate in” He then suggest that I read a book by Steve Johnson – “Future Perfect”. I have yet to crack the binding but my understanding is that the premise is that technology is changing the way we think and that going digital is just part of our evolution.
Although I can appreciate the premise, I cannot buy into it. As a classroom teacher and a parent, I watch the kids who straddle the two worlds (hardcopy and digital) and they are excelling. The ones who are all digital and in the rare case, all hardcopy, seem to me to be struggling.
At this point in the game, I don’t think all in or all out is wise. Kids need to be able to think and function in both, in order to be successful.
BYOD or Single OS
At the beginning of this year, I was much more Pro BYOD then I am now but I will go out on a limb and say it here and now. For instructional purposes, having a set of single platform devices in the classroom is far superior to having a rag-tag, hodgepodge, mix-in-match, dogs breakfast set of devices in the classroom.
I know that there are a number of people out there saying how wonderful BYOD is BUT! It is not a plug and play scenario. A single OS classroom makes things simple because it is easy to have everyone seeing and doing the same things on the same application at the same time. Yes we need to personalize education but there are times when uniformity kicks the stuffing out of diversity and instructional time is just one of those times.
Situations where BYOD works
- Classes with highly digitally literate students.
- When the applications you use are available across all platforms.
- When you just feel like pulling your hair out in frustration.
For the past 2+ years, the iPad has been seen as the only single OS option worth considering because of its portability, functionality and moderate price but now with the new $250 Chromebook on the market, that should change. I am really quite excited about the Chromebook and think it will go a long way in making the single OS classroom, an easier task.
This is a biggie. Access to digital tools and digital networks is simply a must have, in order for Educational Technology to be effective.
Get the a device in the hands of the learner piece, is a no brainer. No device, then no digital assisted learning. Although 1:1 seems to be the “ideal” scenario, lately I have been hearing noise that 2:1 is actually better. It creates a situation where kids have to work together because they actually have to talk to each other, share the device, their ideas and even plan how they can best accomplish the task at hand. In a 1:1 situation, you have kids so immersed in their device, nary a word is spoken.
The second piece is Access to a network that will give you access to the Web, without which, much is for not.
Late last summer, I was doing an iPad workshop at a school that didn’t have any wifi and from what the staff said, there didn’t seem to be any plans to have it installed. It was certainly a challenge, running a show and do workshop with no wifi but it wasn’t near as difficult as it was going to be for them, trying to implement iPads in the classroom with no wifi.
Wifi access is even an issue in a wired school district like West Vancouver. We have become victims of our own digital success. We are stretching our wifi capacity to its limits and using your digital device is frequently more of an exercise in frustration, then it is a learning experience. I have even had to used my phone as a wifi hot spot, just to get through a lesson. Not only is this an annoyance, it is costing me $$$ in data use.
The thing that makes the digital device so powerful as a learning too, is its ability to access and share information. Without network access, both you and your students are handcuffed.
Some Quick Thoughts
I will wrap up with a couple one liners I heard over the year that resonated with me and are worth sharing, as I think they are very important as we move ahead in the world of Technology in Education. All but one I agree with.
“Failure is inevitable but from this failure will come innovative teaching practice” – Tony Wagner
“Teachers who are using technology effectively in their classrooms, need to share” – ???
“I take offence to the notion that I cannot do my job without a digital crutch” – Spencer Capier
“I’ve yet to have student tell me they can’t use technology in class because they haven’t received any PD on it.” – Sean Junkins
“The B.E.S.T. conversations I have had with the people who know THE MOST about TECH has never been about TECH.” – Jen Wagner
“A notion of public education that’s anchored in technocratic values functionally inhibits the realization of democratic values.” – Toby Steeves
And so wraps up another year of iPads In The Classroom.
Stay Tuned for an exciting project my good friend and colleague @Scapier are working. We will release it in the new yearand hope to turn the teaching world on its ear!