Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Technology Integration Is Like Learning to Ski, part 1

Over Spring Break my family and I traveled to Keystone, CO to go skiing.  Rumor has it that I skied once upon a time with my Daddy.  I remember it vaguely.  I worked at a fried chicken place to earn half of the money for a ski trip my senior year of high school (yes, I had those parents. I love 'em).  I hurt myself the first run.  Three years ago we went to Keystone for Christmas.  My brother in law tried to teach me to ski again.  Finally, he looked at me and said "Are you going to do this or not?" Not.  This time Ryan wanted me to take a lesson. I did.  I skied a little for two days. Then Ryan and I went down Schoolmarm, a green/easy slope.  Suddenly, did I did not know what I was doing. I was not happy.  I hurt. There were tears. As I was hurling myself down the mountain, I thought...

Before the trip, we are very excited and spend a lot of money to get ready.  When getting ready to integrate technology we spend a lot of money on devices, network upgrades (hopefully) and accessories.  We spent weeks shopping and gathering stuff for our trip.  We looked good, we were ready to go.

We take lessons.  We have staff development where someone throws a million ideas at teachers.  Very often, teachers are not given time to play after learning a skill.  They leave training feeling overwhelmed.  After my lesson, I was tired.  I thought I knew what I was doing but I didn't practice much with my instructor because I was tired.  I wanted a hot bath.

We try it on our own.  Teachers get back to their rooms and try to remember what they just learned.  But they get confused about how to best integrate the newly learned technology to their standards.  They aren't sure how to get help.  The first day after my lesson my husband, sister in law, brother in law and nephew went back to the learning area.  They are all great skiers.  They said they wanted to ski with me.  I started down the mountain.  I could not make my body do what I knew it should do.

We go ahead and try it anyway.  Teachers forge ahead.  But they aren't confident.  As I tried to make it down that learning area slope, I was determined to get to the bottom, even if I was doing it wrong.

We get frustrated.   Something unexpected happens in the middle of the lesson and teachers aren't sure how to recover.  Many are afraid their break something.  Some give up at this point.  I was totally frustrated with myself.  I knew what to do but I couldn't pull it all together.

We compare ourselves and get more frustrated.  We see the 'tech savy' teachers integrating flawlessly.  Our students ask why we can't do XYZ like we do in Mrs. Smith's class.  I have a 5 year old niece who can ski blacks.  My sister in law can ski and talk and take videos with her phone - AT THE SAME TIME.

We decide to stick with what we know.  We scrape the technology lesson and go back to the old comfortable way of teaching.  After 3 half days, I returned my skis and called it quits.

What can we do to make this process easier for teachers?  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Monday, March 3, 2014

What, EXACTLY, are we doing here?

I am a technology specialist.  I absolutely love finding new ways for the teachers I serve to integrate technology.  It is my firm belief that technology is just one of several tools available to teachers.  Technology is not an end all be all.  Our state required standards are always the first step in building any lesson.  If the technology does not help our students demonstrate mastery of those standards, we have a problem.

In February, I attended TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) as I have for the past 5 years.  I love going to TCEA for many, many reasons.  Not the least of which is the people.  I have developed a wonderful network of educators.  I get to learn from these wonderful people everyday on Twitter but seeing them face to face takes the learning to a whole new level.

At TCEA, I kept hearing about programs that brings technology to teachers but also makes them jump through ridiculous hoops. I've been thinking on this for the past month.  I work hard to try to see things from other people's point of view, not be too judgmental and understand that different things work in different districts but I just kept thinking...

What, EXACTLY, are we doing here?

If we really believe what we say we believe, why aren't we making it super easy for teachers to get the help integrating technology?

If it's really about engaging students with standards driven technology rich lessons, why require teachers to spend extra time and energy just to ask for help?

Yes, resources are few. Tech Specialist have many schools to serve and not enough hours in the day.  But there has got to be a better way to go about things.

It's time to rethink what our purpose is as Technology Specialists.  We are often the 'gate keepers' of technology. Our attitude toward getting it out to students and teachers shapes how our teachers react to it.  If we require teachers to work so hard just to get our help, we perpetuate the idea that integrating technology is hard.

It's not hard. It's just different.  It requires patience and a willingness to fail forward.  It requires a new thought pattern.  It's constantly changing.  Our job is to keep up with those changes, sift through the deluge, vet sources and bring the best to our teachers and students.

So, today think about your processes.  How you can make it easier to get engaging, technology rich lessons to the students you serve? How can you make life easier for the teachers you serve?  Because that's what we should be doing here.