Category Archives: EdTech

An informed decision

I met with the administrative team earlier this week at one of our middle schools. They wanted to talk iPads. They were thinking about purchasing them for themselves to be more efficient with their administrative duties as they do walk-throughs, formal observations, etc. We met for over an hour talking about the device. What it will do, what it won’t do, and possible workflows for things they wanted to be able to do. They came ready with their questions, which was fantastic. They came into the meeting with an open mind. In fact it was so open of a mind that by the time I left they had decided to not buy iPads for themselves. They didn’t come in with the “gotta have it” mindset. They came in with the “do we need it?” mindset.

These administrators did however, get a much firmer grasp on the possibilities when placed in students’ hands. I didn’t spend a lot of time showing educational apps, but I did show a few of my favorites. I keep folders of apps for several subject areas on my iPad so I have them organized and ready to go if I need to do a little show and tell.

I’ll admit, I had a pretty good feeling going in that the device wasn’t going to be best for them for what they were wanting to do. It’s not going to replace a laptop. Will it get there some day? Possibly. Do I enjoy having an iPad? Absolutely! This Apple fanboy has his hand proudly raised. However, while it is a great device and offers great potential in the hands of students, I also know that it’s not the device for everyone. I wasn’t there to tell them they couldn’t buy iPads. Even if after meeting with me they still wanted them, that was fine. I would still support them in their use. I was there at that moment to help them make an informed decision. The administrative team decided they did not need them, but they did decide that they’d like to begin some sort of implementation in their building to put them in the hands of students. Not as the end-all be-all device, and no huge instant influx of them, but to add to the variety of tools available to teachers and students.

We get so excited about the next big thing. It’s easy to get excited! I get just as excited as the next person. If you were on Twitter around noon CST on Wednesday there was lots of excitement:

I’ve learned, however, to have a bit more of a critical eye to what the device (doesn’t matter what it is) can do for our students. Isn’t that what we should do with everything? Not be so quick to run out and buy, but to ask, “Does this make learning better for our students?” This isn’t a decision that can be made in one hour, or even one day. Careful planning and thoughtful questioning is important. We have homework we need to do too.

I really appreciated these administrators taking the time to make an informed decision rather than just running out and buying because it’s a hot item right now and then after the fact say, “Now what do we do?” I think the willingness to be open, ask questions, and be informed in the long run can sometimes take us farther in the long run.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.

Looking Back to Move Forward

“I don’t need to see where I’m going…….I just need to know where I’ve been!”

Name the movie. I’ll give you some wait time….if you said Cars good job! More specifically that line came from Mater the tow truck as he demonstrated his mad backwards driving skills to his buddy Lightning.

As I caught a glimpse of the Daytona 500 tonight, this reminded me of the brainstorm I had for this post. My good friend Steven Anderson will be glad to hear I had a Nascar event on the TV. Anyways, let’s get on with it.

We always talk about “moving forward” and “looking to the future” when conversations arise about making school better. You can take it a step more specific by talking about what we’re having students do with technology, design of learning spaces, or anything really that’s related to education. It is important to do that. Long term goal setting and planning is important work.  Dreaming big is really fun too and can really help getting some creative ideas stirred up.  We should always Keep Moving Forward (coincidentally enough I quoted another Disney movie in that post 🙂 ).

While we do need to have somewhat of an idea where we’re headed, don’t forget to look back on what we’ve done.  Don’t forget to celebrate those things. Teachers some times say to me, “But I only tried one new tech tool in my classroom this year. But I planned these four things and I only did two of them.” So what?!? You achieved something! Look back on this and celebrate where you were when you started and pat yourself on the back for where you are now. Talk with your students about it. Get their feedback! That’s growth! You worked to make learning better for your students! Knowing where we’ve been can be equally as important as having a vision of where we want to go.

I’m meeting with some teachers this coming Friday to continue work they’re doing with various (yes they have choices) ways to use technology to make learning better for students. The first thing we’re doing though, is looking back at their “action plans” they began at the beginning of the school year. To look at what they set out to do, what they’ve accomplished, reflect on its impact in their classrooms, refine as needed, and keep plugging along to accomplish more between now and the end of the year.

Making time to look back, can often be the best plan for help with moving forward.

I welcome your comments. Thank you for reading.

photo credit: Avard Woolaver via photopin cc

Wired for Sound

This video has certainly made the rounds in the last couple years with over 3 million views to date. It’s posted over at TED, however, it is from the  2009 World Science Festival. Take 3 minutes and give it a watch. The video features Bobby McFerrin. You might remember him from this video (but don’t watch that one right now, watch the one below…unless you really want to).

Interesting and entertaining at the same time isn’t it? Over at TED the title of the video is, “Bobby McFerrin hacks your brain with music”. He shows that by creating a “common chorus”, or finding something we’re all commonly connected by (in this case music), we can tap into the ways we’re naturally wired to produce something great.

What if we took more time to learn how to do this for our students? That is, finding commonalities that give deeper connections to learning for everyone, that tap into those ways we’re naturally wired; rather than trying to re-wire (back to a previous time period many times).  Is this just another way to say “differentiated instruction”? Or is it more than that? Will Richardson calls this “Beyond Differentiation” in his latest piece over at ASCD called Preparing Students to Learn Without Us, where he states:

For schools and teachers, it means connecting our expectations to students’ passions and interests as learners. That is both a challenge and an opportunity for educators working with 20 or 30 students in a classroom. The reality is that despite having talked about personalized learning for more than a decade, most schools and teachers have been slow to discover its potential through the use of the social web, interactive games, and mobile devices.

Would you agree that our students are coming to us being naturally wired this way? All of this technology (social networking, devices, etc.) is not just part of, or an add-on in our students’ world. It IS our students’ world. A world we as educators need to catch up to.

I had the pleasure of being invited to keynote TeachMeet Georgia a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, where I talked about a new responsibility we (teachers) have to our students: the ability to Connect, Collect, Curate, and Create. Most of the time I was working on that presentation, in my head I kept referring to these as “skills”. I was then reminded of Howard Rheingold’s “Crap Detection 101″ , where Dr. Rheingold conveys the importance of this not just being a skill, but a literacy. We should want all our students to have these new literacies to truly empower them with the tech and devices that is their world, the “wiring” that they come to school with if you will. It must be more than consumption of information. It needs to be creating, investigating, criticizing (constructively), and sharing.

However, these literacies start with us. Teachers, Administrators, Librarians, and Parents.  We must model them and refine them. Regularly.

Which is harder: to change how we’re wired or how they’re wired?