Being Pushed

Just found this post in my DRAFTS and thought I should publish it. I’d love to have some opinions and ideas regarding the questions at the end of the post.

Yesterday, August 31, our school had our summer Pro. D. Day with our special guest George Couros (@gcouros on Twitter).  We were very excited to have the opportunity to have George come to our school to spread his passion toward learning and education to all our educators.

If you have never worked with George in person, let me tell you, he’s great because he pushes the limits, makes people uncomfortable, and makes them think – about the hear and now and the future.  He pushes you to think about the WHY.  He didn’t limit his pushing to anyone, in particular. He went after everyone – including me (for which I am grateful).

You see, I am pretty new in this journey.  Yes, even though I am going into my 18th year as a teacher, I am still rather new with a lot of what is happening in education today. Don’t get me wrong, technology, communication, and finding news ways to do things have always been a big part of me as an educator. When I taught grade 1 10 years ago, I had three different websites – a Poetry Site, an Educational Links site, and a classroom site.

Then, I had kids and went on to be an administrator and things shifted a bit. Come to think of it, that is when things shouldn’t have shifted. It was then that my schools, teachers, students, parents, and my own children needed me most to continue on my journey.

So, here I am with a year and a few months under my belt as a connected educator. Have I made a difference in my own learning and the learning of others? Absolutely. Do I have a long way to go? Certainly. That’s what is so great about it though, there is so much to learn, all the time. The knowledge out there is outstanding.

Okay, back to yesterday with George.

Yes, he pushed my thinking.  He made me continue to go back to my why. His questions made me

– iPads – signing out of them

– George suggested teachers (Grade groups) come up with a proposal for what they were going to do with the ipads – a project. He told us about his division having loaner iPads (ours does to, but we do it differently) that teachers can sign out for 6 weeks.  The iPads are cleaned off. The teachers decide what they need for their time with the iPads. This must be a project-based activity with the students.  The first week is just for “playing with ” and exploring the devices. For the next 4 weeks, the students work on their project(s).  The last week is for getting the work off of the iPads (this can be quite a chore sometimes).  Each teacher is required to document their learning – one blogpost each week.

This sounds great, but I am conflicted.

What about having all teachers/students have the opportunity to use and work with the devices? There will only be a limited number of teachers who will be able to use them if the devices are booked out for 6 weeks by one teacher or grade group.

Is that a problem?

According to George, it isn’t. Those who want to use them, will put in a proposal or a plan and then will use them with a purpose. They will document their learning for everyone else’s benefit – for the school, the district, and the world. Talk about making learning visible!

But, I continue to go back to equal opportunity.

What I also continue to think about is just because a class may not get a chance to use the “iPads” throughout the year, it doesn’t mean they can’t do innovative learning. We have to continue to remember it is not about the device, it is about the learning. Innovative teaching and learning can occur without any iPads.

But, even with that considered, we still have the problem of our iPads.

So, I’d like to put it out there for everyone….

With limited technology, how does your school decide how the technology is distributed or signed out?

Do your teachers have any accountability to demonstrate what their students have used the iPads to do?

When considering to buy more technology – laptops or iPads, would you ensure teachers have personal devices first before purchasing devices for student use?

Why or why not?

As you can see, I am still struggling with some of what George pushed me on.  That is a good thing though. It is important to push one’s thinking. That’s what it is all about, afterall, It’s All About Learning!

About Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.
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8 Responses to Being Pushed

  1. Hi 🙂
    I think we need to be careful not to alienate teachers who are reluctant to try the iPads or are new to using technology. A proposal would be a daunting task for someone who has never used an iPad in the classroom, where would you start if you were in their shoes? I think being inclusive of all teachers means we have to understand where they are in their learning continum.

    I’ll be the first one to admit that my first few attempts with the iPads were a steep learning curve for me and were not innovative or transformative. However, I needed to actually use the devices with my students to understand the power of what they can do.

    Logistically, our school has 21 divisions. Six weeks each class would mean that only 6 or 7 classes would be able to use them in a year. This may cause resentment and stop teachers from even looking on twitter or sharing what they are doing, because if you can’t get the equipment then what is the point? If I couldn’t get my hands on the iPads I would really frustrated.

    I would have to respectfully disagree with George on this one. We may be ready to try the “personal device” model in the future but we are just too young in the process right now. Perhaps when we are able to get a few more we could split them into a “ipad immersion” cart, 6 week/proposal style and have a half-class set for “sign-out”.

    This is a great post, Tia! Your questions are the right place to begin. Thanks for all you do for our staff and students, we have come so far already!

    Diana

    • T. Henriksen says:

      Hi Diana,

      Thanks for your message!
      I think one important point to consider though, and something that I keep coming back to, if teachers want to innovate, if they want to be transformative in their teaching and learning, they do not need iPads to do this. In fact, I know many amazing teachers who use other forms of technology and/or their school “computer lab” to transform learning.

      I think that’s what I keep coming back to. It’s not about the iPads at all.

      Will the iPads really make the difference in the teaching? The pedagogy? Or will having teachers who are using the technology in transformative ways, and sharing this learning with others, have more impact on all?

      Again, thanks for your response.

      🙂
      Tia

      • I agree completely. Innovation can be done in many ways. I think that the iPads are a hook to get those teachers who aren’t doing any “innovating” involved in the dialogue. You have to get them to come and be willing to give something completely new a try and the iPads are very intuitive and straightforward to use. I am always surprised at the number of colleagues in the workshops that I have facilitated who are genuinely afraid to try. I think the days of the computer lab with complex sign in and saving procedures are still a hangover for some teachers.

        Once we get them started and they see the possibilities, then we can talk pedagogy. I think we run the risk of scaring off many good teachers because they don’t think they will be able to keep up with the few “superstars” who are blogging and presenting their work.

        D

  2. Bruce says:

    OK, you asked for it!

    Q1: Equal Opportunity? – Technology is only as good as the use to which it is put. It can’t make bad things good, it only makes good things better. If you haven’t got enough for all then you should put it where it will do the most good, and that means with teachers who have a well-conceived pedagogical plan. Why give a smart board or an iPad to someone who does not know how to use it effectively (in an educational sense, not just a technical sense) when there are others who do?

    Q2: Teachers First? – Unless a teacher knows how to design learning activities that utilize the power of technology it probably won’t have much lasting impact, so I say train the teachers before you start handing out technology to students, or even encouraging BYOD. Would you give students graphing calculators if the teacher didn’t know how to use one? Students would figure it out themselves of course but the instructional plan in the class would not use this potential effectively if the teacher was still in the dark. Of course, knowing how to operate the technology is a much different thing than understanding how to use it to increase engagement and learning, but unless the teacher at least has a chance to operate it and play around a bit (i.e., experiment freely) to develop familiarity, it is unlikely s/he is going to be able to figure out how to put the technology to use educationally. I don’t think the teacher has to be more technically advanced than the students – thank God – but s/he does have to have some basic comfort and some first hand experience in order for the educational implications of the technology to start to make sense. So, I say, if you haven’t given the teacher the opportunity and support to understand how technology can be used effectively then giving it out to the students is just amusing them. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

  3. A couple of points.

    As someone who was trying to be innovative in an environment that was stifling to say the least (computers crashing, internet failing etc…) I am so thankful to finally have access to good reliable technology. It really is a shame that those who truly want at it for the right reasons can’t get at it. It’s sad actually but I’m thankful because of my sharing and blogging many opportunities opened up for me this year.

    But Dianna’s second comment, particularly when she says ” I think we run the risk of scaring off many good teachers because they don’t think they will be able to keep up with the few “superstars” who are blogging and presenting their work.” is completely missing the point of why people are sharing their work. I certainly don’t consider myself as a super star but the only reason why I know what I know is because someone shared their ideas with me. I took those ideas and made them my own. Those of us that are open to sharing are doing it (or at least I am) to show what can be done. To show that what seems impossible can become possible. I am certainly not sharing my learning to intimidate others. Heck I will do any thing I can to share what I’ve been doing if I think there is the smallest chance that it will help someone else out. There are many great teachers out there who do not blog, and do not tweet who are doing some incredible things in their classrooms. Wouldn’t it be great if they did share so that we could all learn from them? Even if that sharing just starts with a couple of teachers on their staff?

    Back to your post the more I think about it the more I agree that if there are people that really want to be innovative with the iPad tools then they should trump those that just want to “play” with them. But does the innovation have to be an entire cart of iPads? Can’t it happen with six or eight at a time? I’m not sure how many iPads you have but from what I remember there are a few, and perhaps some could be dedicated to innovation projects and others to hourly sign ups thus hitting both needs. I also feel that proposals should be written to show series intention. Sharing out is important too but I think that can and should take on different forms. Not everyone is comfortable sharing on line and I totally respect that.

    Wow, you have me thinking again this evening. Thank you for that Tia.

    • T. Henriksen says:

      Thanks for your commment, Karen.

      It is a really challenging place to be for me because I see both sides very clearly – and agree with both in many ways.

      Oh, my.

      • Carrie Burton says:

        One of the most important things I learned while working with George Couros was to ask WHY do we do what we do, and how does this support student learning. Technological devices are powerful tools we can use to help students access information that goes beyond the classroom and brings purpose or relevance to what they learn. Project based learning is certainly one way to structure learning to enhance that purpose. We are at a point of pedagogical transformation at our school, but not all teachers make changes in their teaching practices at the same pace or in the same manner.

        The dilemma we face is one of providing access to these devices for teachers in ways that appear to be equitable. There is no equity in change and in the classroom environment, the focus should always be on the students – not on the teachers. This does not necessarily mean that only those teachers who are more “tech-savy” get to use the devices more often – it just means that they may use it differently. Some teachers may need to book the devices out for longer periods of time, while others may require them for shorter periods of time. For example, an intermediate class working on a project about “Changes To City Planning” may need access to devices for several weeks,while a primary class creating stories using “Puppet Pals”.may only need them for 1-2 weeks.

        The devices should be available for any teacher or groups of teachers to sign out for the benefit of their student’s learning. If we are truly making learning visible, it would be reasonable to ask them:
        – What do you want students to learn and how will the devices enhance that learning?
        – How many devices are needed and how long will they be used?
        – How will your students share what they have learned?

        As educators, we have a responsibility to learn and enhance our teaching practices. I am a new “techno-learner” and spend time outside of the school day exploring twitter, blogging, attending workshops about 21st Century Learning, working with others, and asking questions of those I know who can help me. I believe in the strength of a team and know how much others have impacted and changed by learning. I would expect that of the staff at my school. Thank you Tia -for being a mentor and a leader.

        We are at a point of transformation at our school: the point at which a critical mass (for the lack of a better word) will help move our school community to a place where students are more engaged learners, where the walls of the classroom are not limitations to learning and where all students will be able to demonstrate their learning in different and more meaningful ways. The teacher is – and will always be the most important factor in this change. I think – “If We Build It – They Will Come!”, because I believe that all teachers truly want what is best for their students.

      • T. Henriksen says:

        Great response, Carrie!

        I like the questions you asked, but I would also like to pose another one.
        We are all learners and it is important for everyone to see themselves and others as learners together. So, I also think it would be fair for teachers to answer: How will you share what you have learned?

        Yes, we are at a point of transformation. We are not all starting at the same place or learning at the same rate (I speak as a “Plunger”, but I understand and commend the “Toe-Dipper” as well. It is imperative that we do not inhibit this “Toe-Dipping”, instead, we want to embrace it and encourage further exploration of the water. 🙂

        Thanks for reading and commenting, Carrie,
        Tia

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