This morning, I read a blog post by Doug Peterson, that inspired the following comment.
Shortly after publishing my comment, Doug sent me this tweet.
I like a challenge, and so I started writing.
To me, it’s the second paragraph in my comment that really requires more explanation.
Since Doug’s original post looked at the role of the educator in the use of technology in the classroom, I will keep the focus here on “technology.” (I wonder though if similar comments could be made for “change” in general.)
I first think back to my Grade 6 teaching experience at Ancaster Meadow. When I was teaching Grade 6, I worked alongside a fabulous teacher, Gina Bucciacchio. We did a lot of planning as a grade team, and our planning discussions often included the role that technology would play in learning. We talked about how to introduce different apps within the context of our specific learning goals, what app choices might be most beneficial for which projects, and how various apps worked or didn’t work in the teaching and/or application of various skills (and how we would change things in the future). Having the opportunity to share ideas with each other, allowed both of us to make positive changes in the classroom, and I think, ultimately benefitted our students. While either one of us could have reflected on our own, working together, allowed for a greater impact on more students and insight into practices that we may have missed if working alone.
I see the same thing happening in classrooms at my current school. I have to thank both Stefania Sackfie and Nina Wallace for letting me share their experiences here. These two Grade 4 teachers, looked closely at the needs of their students, the technology available to them (i.e., one-to-one iPads), and their use of space, and re-created their classroom spaces to maximize student learning. They looked at how to make the Maker Movement a regular part of their classroom practices, and how to integrate subject areas to lead to deeper thinking and learning. It’s awesome to see both low-tech and high-tech tools used in their classrooms, and used differently by different students based on interests, strengths, and needs. The teachers are definitely not invisible in these rooms, but instead, taking on different roles, as facilitators, questioners, observers, and small group and/or individual student supporters. Speaking last week with Stef, I realized that both Nina and her have looked ahead to the other grades, and how learning happens in them, and are providing some of this prior knowledge and skill set to lead to even greater student success. By working together, Stef and Nina can reflect on what works, what doesn’t, and what to try next … and this is exactly what they’re doing. They’re not limited by their own ideas, but what they can do together.
Administrators are also an important part of these teams. I’ve been fortunate to work with many amazing administrators over my teaching career. At the school level, these principals and vice principals can model technology use, as they tweet and blog to network, share, and reflect. One of my previous vice principals, Kristi, has inspired countless numbers of my blog posts by what she shares both through Twitter and her blog. When I was at Ancaster Meadow, my Grade 5’s used to tweet her photographs and videos of their work, and her questions would inspire deeper thinking and new directions. With technology, we never have to be alone in the classroom. Even when Kristi was elsewhere in the building or out of the school for a day, she could still be “in” our classroom thanks to the use of a device. She often sees things differently than me, and the students benefitted from hearing hearing her feedback as well as my own. My current principal, Gerry, also uses technology for educational purposes. I love how he regularly retweets and/or captures and shares the learning that’s happening in different classrooms. Seeing ideas that we can’t see when working in our own rooms, often inspires new ideas or reflections on old ones.
These technology connections don’t stop at the school level. I think about the senior administrators in our Board. I first “met” my previous superintendent, Sue Dunlop, through Twitter. Just like with Kristi, Sue’s tweets and blog posts often result in new learning for me. I love how she takes the time to connect online as well as in person. A couple of weeks ago, I sent out this tweet.
Shortly afterwards, Sue replied with this question.
Our back-and-forth conversation helped me make more sense of the problem and what to do. Technology connects us as learners, and ultimately, the new learning that we do impacts on our classroom practices. The tweet that I shared is a good example of a question that I have and have discussed with other teachers, but sometimes, it takes somebody with a different background, an outside view, and/or different experiences to give that necessary, new perspective.
Parents also play an important role on these teams. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have many parents that comment on blog posts, tweet replies to questions and/or student sharing, or email me new ideas or resources. Many students will record videos and/or take photographs of their work because they want this information shared with their families through Twitter or our class blog. I can’t help but think back to a conversation at a staff meeting a couple of years ago. My principal at the time, Paul, was talking about various views on homework. He mentioned that many parents like homework, not necessarily because of the work itself, but because it gives them insight into the classroom and opportunities to connect with their children (paraphrased here). Paul’s comment has stuck with me over the years. If children use technology in isolation, there isn’t a chance for this connection with their parents, but if they work together at home to create something new, receive feedback from parents on their projects, or show and discuss what they’ve done at school, then we have true parent engagement. Technology provides a chance to parents and students to work and learn as a team, in a face-to-face and online situation, because of the easy sharing that can happen anywhere, at any time.
Yes, as adults and as students, we can learn a lot, on our own, from the technology available to us in the classroom. I think that we learn more though when we use these tools as “teams,” when we’re open to reflecting together, and when we make changes and/or implement new ideas, together, based on these reflections. I can’t help but think about the last paragraph in Doug’s post.
I guess that my questions would be, do we ever want technology to be more than a “guest?” If we use these tools without the various human connections, what’s lost in the learning? Technology gives us information. It lets us publish and reflect on our work. But when we use technology as co-learners, to make positive changes to practices, and to merge online and offline interactions, I think that our learning becomes deeper, richer, and more beneficial for kids. What do you think?