I was challenged this weekend to really think. Lisa Nowakowski, many of you know from her work with CUE Rock Star, listed five things we have to stop pretending in education. and then she tagged five other educators including me to list five more things as part of the #makeschooldifferent challenge. Okay, here it goes.
1) We need more technology in schools.
Solution: We don't need more technology in schools. We need a better focus on how technology can improve teaching and learning. Start with great teaching and then ramp it off the charts by giving students tools to deepen their understanding, dig for more, and then share their knowledge or skills in authentic and impactful ways. Now, in areas where that vision and set of priorities is in place, bring on the technology! LA Unified Schools systemically lacked all of the above on their failed, massive iPad initiative and is now trying to blame Apple and Pearson. It's not the technology's fault for the shortcomings. Technology can have zero impact or worse without great teaching and know-how. It's like a chainsaw. Don't buy if you don't know what you're doing.
2) Technology use needs to redefine every task, providing experiences previously inconceivable.
Solution: I am a big proponent on the SAMR model of technology integration and have presented a number of times on it and its value. SAMR identifies at what level teachers apply technology. A major misinterpretation comes when people think the only good integration is the highest level of redefinition, or that what was previously inconceivable. Trevor Shaw wrote about some of that today in eSchoolNews. Nobody wants the iPad being used solely a $300 worksheet, but it's unrealistic to expect every tech use to earth shattering. Sharing documents via Google Docs might not be "redefinition" but it has huge inherent value over just typing something. We can't live in "redefinition". It's just not practical.
3) Teachers need to be trained in how to work new tech tools.
Solution: Teachers don't need to be trained how to push buttons, copy-paste, or export to Quicktime. What teachers need is to be immersed in an experience where they learn to put specific technology tools to work in their classrooms to boost teaching and learning. Too many presentations or workshops end up being magic shows with cool tricks but not much depth in how to make a difference. The learning needs to be continuous as well. For growth and sustainability to happen, co-workers need to be constantly helping each other by sharing little victories, their tribulations, and ideas for better management.
4) Initiatives are like satellites. All they need is strong engineering and a solid launch.
Solution: Planning, design, and a great roll-out are essential to any initiative. The problem is that too many people think that after the launch the work is essentially done. Initiatives aren't satellites though. Initiatives are more like the cooking and serving of a seven course meal where the food needs constant attention, and the diners do too. How many things have you seen in your career rolled out with great energy go on to fizzle quite quickly because there was no follow up after the launch? If you're going to "set it and forget it," just forget it.
5) We are just teachers and only administration can bring meaningful change.
Solution: This one might be getting a little hacky because it seems like it has been stated emphatically in every keynote address I have attended in the last year but it can't be stated enough. A lot of real, positive, sustainable change in education comes from individual teachers or small groups of teachers who find things that work and they share those ideas. For whatever reason, co-workers often put more clout into something new they see or hear about from another teacher as opposed to it coming from an administrator. There is something powerful in knowing this technique, app, or strategy actually works in someone's actual classroom. Whatever works in your classroom needs to be shared. It's not bragging. It's moving education forward.
So, there you go. Those five have been begging to be shared. Thanks Lisa for lighting the fire!
Now it's time to pass the challenge along to five more great educators. Let's see what else we need to stop pretending. You are now officially on the clock Kelly Croy, Sue Gorman, Sean Junkins, Brad Wilson, and Ben Rimes.
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