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.

Letting Go…Eventually

When I was meeting with a teacher earlier this week, the teacher said to me, “I’m just having a hard time letting go”. This was in reference to a current method of instruction because of a new piece of instructional technology I was supporting her use of. I honestly don’t remember what the technology was because this past week was a crazy one. This teacher’s comment resonated with me though. By the way, my response to her comment was something along the lines of, “That’s OK. Change is hard but doesn’t have to be instant”. In my efforts to support this teacher in a new endeavor of  instructional technology, it would be unfair of me to push too hard. Don’t you agree? Should there be a speed limit on the change process?

Teachers need a continual support system in place with any instructional strategy, technology or not. They need the initial formal PD upfront, classroom visits if necessary, ongoing communication to “check in”, and then more formal PD to build upon existing skills. More specifically to technology, however, if a financial investment is made and a plan is not in place to support it (continually), then we have not only failed our teachers but we are also failing our students. When I say “we”, I don’t mean there is a finger-pointing at any one leader (principal or other administrator), I mean “we” as a collective body of leaders that want what’s best for students.

I think sometimes we try too hard to exceed the speed limit in the change process. We get excited and want to buy everything and we want everyone to change right now. We’re at a point in education where change is inevitable, and necessary. We shouldn’t forget the old adage, “Talk is cheap”. However, how fast is too fast to expect change? Teachers are going to have a hard time “letting go”. Do they need to eventually “let go” 100%? I think they do.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

— John F. Kennedy

Let’s be ready to support teachers appropriately but also remind them in their effort to try something new, change doesn’t have to happen overnight. However, it does need to happen.

Just some thoughts on the matter. Thanks for reading.

The Wheel Is There

The Green Wheel at Roskilde Festival 2009photo © 2009 Stig Nygaard | more info (via: Wylio)

Have you ever said this phrase: “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” For me it’s always been a phrase to remind me to quit over-thinking something. That I was making something too difficult. That I was trying to recreate something that has already been created. Perhaps a reminder for me to just put my own unique spin on something.

I find myself saying this to teachers when working with them to integrate technology. Not in a negative way, but just as a reminder to not let the idea of students using more technology seem so daunting and like they have to reinvent their teaching. I’d rather them think more on the “why” in regards to using technology than the “what”. Focus on the skills not the tools as my friend Bill Ferriter has said. Now, does that mean teaching practices won’t change? I hope they do change. I’d think that by making technology use more of a priority, working to get it more commonplace, our teaching methods would change for the better. I’m not talking about what we’re teaching (content is content), I’m talking about how we’re teaching.

If you’re thinking of trying a new technology tool/idea/website to bring to your classroom for the 2011-2012 school year, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Think about how it’s going to enhance what you’re already teaching, how it will make you a better teacher. How it will get your students having meaningful conversations about what they’re learning. How it will get students creating and sharing their learning in new ways.

Don’t feel like you have to try technology tools X,Y, and Z all during first semester. Or even the whole year! Pick one, stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, and be sure to involve students in the conversation about how it went. Get their feedback. Listen to them.

The wheel is there. Think more on the learning and where you can take your students.