My job is to support teachers with technology integration. Sometimes it’s technology that they’ve learned from me, and sometimes it’s technology they have sought out on their own via a conference, Twitter, a colleague, or some other avenue. I really enjoy sharing new tech tools with teachers. It’s important for teachers to be equipped with a reasonable amount of options for how they can infuse more technology into teaching and learning. The end goal is to positively impact student achievement. That should be the #1 driver of anything we do with technology. I want to help build teachers’ capacity so that they leverage technology to bring innovative learning experiences to students.
I’ve discovered through my experiences being the provider of support and a facilitator of learning opportunities, that teachers don’t like to feel overwhelmed any more than students do. That is certainly the last thing I want a teacher to feel. A barrage of too many edtech tools will leave teachers feeling confused as to which one is best and without a clear plan of action going forward. It can feel like you’re trying to take a drink from a fire hose. In my role I follow a simple rule: If I’m sharing it with you, that means I’ve vetted it and it’s worth your time.
If a teacher is initially overwhelmed with this firehose style delivery, it can cause real damage to that teacher’s willingness to try out new tech. ~Kerry Gallagher
Why do so many conferences and other professional learning events offer so much of the “firehose” style experience? You can easily see it with a quick glance over any conference program. We see so many sessions like “842 edtech tools in 60 minutes” (I admit this is exaggerated) or “72 ways to use Google Forms in your classroom”. I sincerely appreciate the willingness to share, but is that what’s best for teachers that want to become comfortable with new ideas?
If you’re leading professional development you have to be cognizant of your audience’s needs and make sure to have adequate sandbox time sprinkled throughout.
If you were having students create a multimedia presentation we wouldn’t throw an unnecessary amount of tool options their way. We’d give them a few and if they find others and want to give one a go that’s great too. I’m all for options and not being locked into just one way to show mastery, but I think an overabundance of options doesn’t make for a good learning experience for teachers either.
We’re quickly approaching that time. The end of summer draws closer and the excitement of another school year begins. Many teachers enjoyed some relaxation as certainly did our students. Many of those same teachers also invested a lot of time and energy to learning about new ideas and technologies; whether that be attending a conference, edcamp, adding new books to their professional libraries or taking a grad class. The opportunities are, and will continue to be, plentiful.
From my own experience, as well as something that can be quickly deduced by chatting with any educator interested in edtech, keeping up with it all is a never-ending challenge. We always have new tools, new devices, this movement, and that movement. To try to keep up with it all can feel like quite a daunting, yet incredibly satisfying task all at the same time.
Just like Uncle Ben told his nephew Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility.”. We now have the power to keep ourselves at the forefront of educational technology. We can connect and learn on Twitter, through reading blogs, attending face to face events, taking classes, or by just doing a quick search on YouTube. Even if we don’t have every device available or are using every tool that’s available, it’s important for teachers, as well as school/district leaders, to keep our eyes on the horizon for what’s possible. The horizon always looks far away, but it should represent a place where we want to go professionally and be a place we want to take our students to in their learning.
Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better. Pat Riley
Over the last few weeks in my district we have had The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program visit one of our middle schools and one of our elementary schools. I appreciate having one of our teachers and one of our library media specialists and their administrators invest the time to bring this experience to students. It’s still a really new program that Google is taking to various locations around the country to test it, as well as raise awareness about it. If you’re wondering, when they visit your school they bring everything necessary to give your students the Google Expeditions experience: about 30-60 Google Cardboard viewers, Android phones (and chargers), Nexus 9 tablets, and they even bring their wireless network. The entire experience is guided by the teacher using the Nexus 9 tablet. The teacher takes students on a virtual field trip with about 140 locations worldwide to choose from. The teachers push the expedition to the Cardboard viewers and guide students to various points at each location. The teacher can even see where students are looking from the tablet app. It’s definitely something you have to experience first hand to fully understand how it works.
During the day yesterday I noticed that my friend Devin from Council Bluffs was also watching students have the exact same experience at the exact same time. We both were tweeting/instagramming (is this a word now?) pictures throughout the day. Devin wrote a reflection post called Oooh and Ahhh Moments. Devin and I were on the same wavelength with our respective posts I think.
Watching students have a learning experience like this should be cause for reflection. Their excitement and engagement for learning in this particular instance was infectious to be around. We can all remember (hopefully) a learning or teaching experience like this. Yet, we still are so ingrained with learning being all too static of an experience. Am I saying that we all run out and buy this set up (you can’t yet by the way) and make everything into a Google Expedition? Of course not. My point is, that with all the access and devices we’re providing students, are we truly stopping and reflecting deeply about teaching and learning? All the access and all the devices in the world aren’t going to change a thing. It will be our leaders and teachers that make the time for thoughtful reflection and conversation about what’s best for kids that will. Then it’ll be those same leaders and teachers that are willing to make big changes necessary to truly move us forward. Learning is not confined to a physical space or a given time frame any longer. The world is out there, and our students can be taken to it in an instant.
Here’s a short recap of some of our 2nd thru 6th graders’ day with Google Expeditions. Enjoy.