Saturday, August 15, 2015

Edtech Empowerment or the Lack Thereof

Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why are the camps of "anti-tech" and "all in for tech" filled up to the maximum, with big giant fortresses of THIS IS OUR STANCE built around them. It's not to keep the others out, heavens no...each camp does its best to lure the very few undecided to its camp, but the question remains "Why is the divide so big?"

To start with I was quite offended and bumfuzzled by anyone that couldn't see the value of using technology in the classroom. I'll be quite honest, I still scratch my head in dismay at the educators that draw a line in the sand and say "students can't learn this way" or "students can't create this way" or "students can't read this way." If you watch this generation we are teaching very long, you will see there are no longer any stigmas to the way they are willing to use technology for learning. You will also see that they are doing it well- it isn't an adjustment for them, it is their norm.

When my role first changed to a technology coach, it angered me when teachers refused to use technology in the classroom. I mean come on, we are mandating BYOT at different levels at our school. You've been given an iPad and a laptop- you had some days of learning about Notability, GAFE, LMSs, and classroom management of devices...get on board. BUT my EdTech model has changed over the last 2 years.

So what if a teacher still wants to use their overhead projector? So what if a teacher doesn't want to change the way they do things and only allow students to use technology to take notes?  What use to make my skin crawl now makes my spidey senses tingle with possibilities. What I am learning is that most teachers just want to hear some concrete ideas and they might be willing to try something new. They don't want you to teach them the latest, greatest technology or app- they want ideas on how to implement it in their classrooms. They need time to mull it over, process its benefits, they want to know you will be there to talk it through with them. Sometimes they want their hand held as they move forward because they are great teachers and they don't want that to change because they are taking a chance on something new. Sometimes they want to see it in action first- in fact, oftentimes this alone is a catalyst for change.

So what does this mean to me? How did I change? I try to spend a major amount of my time researching, designing, and listening.

  • Researching- The area of EdTech has to be the fastest changing source of curriculum out there. One day teachers are all upset that they can't double space in an app and the next day, the app let's them do double spacing. It is my job to stay current, connected, and cooperative. I need to constantly be looking for new things for my teachers through my professional learning networks and I need to take seriously the demands/concerns my teachers have with current technology and be cooperative to helping them find a balance if something doesn't work for them. It is my job to look for new solutions to new and old problems. It is my job to hark the benefits of EdTech that just gets better and better at individualizing student's learning.
  • Designing- I am trying very hard not to just say "Hey, I heard about this great formative assessment tool called Kahoot. Take a look at it!" Instead I say, "Hey do you have a minute? I want to show you this formative assessment tool and help you brainstorm ways it might help you in YOUR classroom." When I am given the opportunity to do professional development opportunities with my teachers I don't just say "15 apps in 15 minutes" because some teachers can't wrap their heads around that shotgun method of learning. Instead I lump apps in categories (with screen shots for later) and I give examples of how "I might use creative writing apps in a center." The teachers can then go back and see which one of those creative writing apps appeals most to them but they already have an idea in their toolbox for how to use whichever they might pick.
  • Listening- Dogmatically mandating certain things in the classroom often doesn't work well. It is human nature to push back when we feel forced to do things. I must add here that it still angers me that some refuse to implement at all, but only because we are a BYOT mandated school and we are not being good stewards of our constituencies money if we don't take implementation seriously. That being said, there are very few teachers that aren't willing to say "yeah, I probably could make this lesson a bit better." It is my job to hear their needs and desires and see if technology is a good fit for that lesson. It is my job to hear their hearts and help ease their fears. I can't passively sit around and wait for someone to come knock on my door to ask for EdTech help. The only teachers that do that are the ones that are already implementing. I must actively reach out to the hesitant and make suggestions. I must find opportunities for them to see good EdTech in action and send them there.
Supporting EdTech in a school is messy. It is a roller coaster of highs and lows for me at this point. I still find myself wanting to shake my fist at things but I am also seeing change comes not from pushing (although I 100% believe EVERY SINGLE TEACHER should be required to participate in some form of technology professional development every single year if they are in a technology mandated environment). There is proof in the pudding, so to speak. We are no longer in an age of "Oregon Trail" and Microsoft Paint being sold as educational software. Technology is making a difference in learning. It can no longer be ignored. Millions of dollars go into developing newer and better ways to enhance a student's learning experience beyond the traditional. I don't want it to replace the teacher- I want the teacher to be able to spend more time doing what drove them to education anyways- being relational with the students, allowing time for passionate discussions about subject matter...being difference makers with the tools at hand.