Sunday, November 16, 2014

On being a tech specialist not obsessed with technology

There's no doubt about it, I'm a gadget girl.  I love my iPhone, my iPad, my Chromebook and my MacBook Pro.  I like finding new apps - mobile and web.  I really love teaching people something they didn't know before.  But, (you knew that was coming, right) I am not obsessed with technology.  I don't stand in days long lines to get the new release.  I wait patiently for my upgrade before getting a new phone. I usually wait until I my iPad is not longer supported before getting a new one.

Want to know what I AM obsessed with? Curriculum, standards, excellent teaching and what's best for kids.  When technology is a part of those things, that's awesome. But technology does make any of that stuff happen. Not by a long shot.

As a matter of fact, sometimes, technology can interfere with those things. Subbing in a drill and kill website isn't any better than a drill and kill worksheet. A flashy app may keep a kid interested a little longer but wouldn't ignite a passion for learning. 

Teachers do the hard and wonderful work of connecting with kids, insuring that they master the appropriate standards, help them when they don't and helping ignite passions. 

Teachers, don't buy the lie that using a certain machine or app will change your classroom. YOU + a machine or app + solid pedagogy CAN change your classroom. You are the professional. You keep up with research and best practices. You know the latest brain research. You know how to reach kids. Don't trade that power for something touted as a "game changer". 

You are the game changer. 

Stay current. Update your practices. You wouldn't see a doctor who doesn't keep up with medical research, right? But don't lose your mind. Remember - all good things in moderation. Don't go too far to either end of the spectrum. 

Where does all this leave me? Frankly, between a rock and a hard place. I try to share tips and tools that will make you a better teacher. I try to share the how and why a tool should be used.   It's how I serve. Sometimes the "game changers" and their flashy tools are louder. They seem to dominate the landscape. It can be discouraging. Not because they get more attention. But because teachers buy their lies. To be fair, I don't think that they think they are lying to teachers. I believe, and hope, they believe they are helping teachers. They may well be. But, when teachers feel inferior and pressured to go to extremes, they aren't helping kids. They are aren't helping teachers. 

As for me, I'll keep plugging away. Serving kids by helping their teachers to be better.

What about you, what should you do?  Seek a balanced approach.  Be discerning.  Don't buy the snake oil.  Keep doing what's best for kids (even when it's hard for adults).  And, as my friend Zach Snow says, Don't forget to be awesome! 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Changing Education?

Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend and participate in a panel at Tech & Learning's Tech Forum Texas.  I had never attended this event before.  I was asked to participate in a panel on cultivating student wonder and voice.  I was proud to share some of the amazing things our students are doing.

At the end of the day, I heard another participant remark at how the fun the day was and how her content specific conferences were nothing like this.  This got me thinking...

I used to be a conference junkie.  I loved seeing friends, being around like minded people and LEARNING! I love to learning.  I love to think.  I love to try to solve the problems in education.  But I haven't really enjoyed conferences since EdCampAwesome in February.  This really has very little to do with the actual conference and more to do with my state of mind.  But, I will say the conferences didn't help me overcome my crankiness.

What I loved about yesterday's conference was that there was very little discussion of the latest and greatest technology tools outside the vendor area.  There was no sessions trying to convince us why the latest and greatest tool was 'transformational'.

The sessions were focused on how to improve education.  Technology is certainly a part of that discussion but technology is no the end all be all.  I know, that sounds crazy coming from a technology integrator on a technology blog but hang with me.

The chief complaint about education is that we continue to use the industrial, one size fits all model.  However, so many people are trying to improve education with a new one size fits all model. 

Pick one:

  • "One to one is the answer" 
  • "BYOD will change education" 
  • "This device is transforming learning" 
  • "Project Based Learning is the only way to go" 
  • "Augmented Reality is a game changer" 
  • "You have to have a maker space" 
  • "Insert your catch phrase here"

My growing disillusion with the Tech Conference has been these competing voices.  People shouting at the Emperor that his new clothes are beautiful and the only way to go.

I enjoyed spending the day yesterday with educators that are willing to tell the Emperor that he's naked.  Those who understand that the work of improving education is messy and hard.  They get that focusing on students is the necessary first step to changing education.

Students are different. What they need is different.  So it will be difficult for schools to accept one pitchman's solution and make meaningful change for their students.  They will have to be diligent to investigate all possible solutions and pick the combination of solutions that will work best for their students.

You're question might be "Aimee, will you stop sharing technology resources?" No I will not.  I love using technology in classrooms.  Effective technology integration is a vital part of transforming schools.  I want to continue to share those ideas with you.  I want to hear your ideas.  I want to think and write about the business of transforming schools.  I want to think big thoughts and feel big feelings.  I want you to do these things too.  Share your ideas with us.

Education should be about doing what's best for students and not what's easy for adults.  Let's get busy!