Friday, June 24, 2016

Watch Me Grow

Things I've learned about myself lately:
1. I'm a scaffolding queen. I like to support people until they feel comfortable. I sometimes still find the balance to let them feel little uneasy and I have been known to kick them out of the nest sometimes before they think they're ready but never before I think they are ready.  I think that's important for a tech coach but I also think I need to learn how to create a "catch and release" scenario sometimes. Teachers need opportunities to fail forward without my assistance so readily available. I think with many of the teachers I support it would cause us both to grow.
2. I find unknowns both exciting and overwhelming. Fortunately most of the time the exciting aspect of new endeavors that might benefit our students wins over the fact that I don't always feel equipped with time and talents before the fun begins. The perfectionist in me is learning to just move forward and grow. It seems this post is a self-assessment of my growth potential!
3. A full day of learning something new is overwhelmingly tiring, yet we expect the same attention to detail at 2:30 PM from our students as we do at 9 AM. The last two days I've learned new concepts regarding project-based learning and by the end of the day my brain was toast. I hope that I can remember that next year as I work with students. Brain breaks are important, movement is important, time to absorb new information, and opportunities to shut down and relax is important. There is no way I could have left those sessions and done any homework. Granted I have some pain issues going on but many of our students daily have outside issues going on as well. New concepts drain the brain, as teachers we need to be collaborating with each other to make sure we are not overwhelming our students each day with too many new concepts in multiple disciplines.
4. Learning is fun for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

iOS 10 Bites early adopters of iPads

iOS 10 will change the landscape of education technology dramatically. Many schools like my own jumped on the iPad bandwagon early. Because of that, I have 3 carts of iPads in my elementary school that are iPad 2s and 3s. The next operating system update from Apple will not support these iPads.

What does this mean? The iPad won't become a brick but as apps adapt to the newer iOS updates these iPads will not be able to do that. In my elementary school that will mean the usefulness of the device diminishes as the apps we have found to be useful in the classroom stop responding. It is my guess that they will always be a connection through the browser and therefore are not completely unusable. But as an instructional technologist that is worked hard to find solutions for my teachers to integrate technology well this is a discouraging fact. We have not budgeted to replace the iPads currently and therefore I am a wee bit nervous about what type of issues we will have this coming school year. As anyone who works in Ed Tech knows, if technology is cumbersome it is often laid to the side and I completely understand why.

In our upper school we are in a BYOT environment with over 90% of our students choosing to bring iPads thus far. Because we  became a BYOT required school when the iPad 2 hit the market, many of our parents are going to be faced with the same dilemma. Their children will have devices that are quirky and the teachers of these children will also become frustrated.

I don't blame Apple. All technology is pretty much obsolete as it rolls off the assembly line. The iOS 10 updates bring about some amazing new things. It just so happens the iPads that many schools have won't support those things due to the fact they are older models. The question becomes how do schools respond to this? As I look at options chromebooks are looking better and better due to their price point. I love the flexibility that a tablet gives to students regarding creativity and ease of annotation. I wish that the option of touchscreen laptops were more affordable than they are currently. I do believe we are just a few years out from that being an option. But the question remains what's my best solution for next year?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Algorithms, learning curves, data and change.

In a series of strange events for my life, I spent 45 minutes with the chief operating officer of a fortune 500 company yesterday. The discussion we had was an interesting one. As he discussed the significance technology plays in his world, I found myself grinning. Unlike many companies in his industry, the company he works for doesn't believe that every client is cookie-cutter; they do believe that leveraging technology can play a major role in personalizing each client's experience for the better with their company. 

As I sat there with him and two other people, I realized that the conversation we were having was one that I find myself having on a regular basis in the educational world. I do believe that technology will be a major support and game changer for teachers. I do not believe that technology can lead to the best mode of personalization without the help of a trained professional to guide the process. In the educational world this professional is the teacher. 

Much like teachers fear that technology may one day replace them, I realized that employees in other industries have the same fears. We talked about algorithms, learning curves and data. While one employee shook his head that the human factor would always do a better job than a computer in analyzing individuals, the COO (and myself) disagreed with him. I shared that I don't think his job would ever go away, it would just morph into something other than what he currently knows. 

In some weird way I enjoyed the fact that a fortune 500 company is dealing with some of the same fears, excitement, and unknowns as I am as an instructional technologist in a school of 1400 students. It was the biggest "future ready" slap in the face of reality that I have had in a very long time. It also reminded me of how relevant my work is to life for my students. Change is scary for individuals but if the goal is to best meet student/client needs, then change must be considered.