Thursday, December 18, 2014

Leap Frog (The Original Version)

Not really a big fan of this game as a kid, really liked the Bill Cosby version with "Fat Albert". But this image came to mind last week in one of my schools when I watched the teachers playing catch-up with the students use of technology.
For years we have focused on tech PD for teachers......get the staff the technology first, spend countless hours trying to bring them up to speed, to finally get them to a place of comfort, understanding, and ability to "use" and "demonstrate" to students. Then we "roll out the tech". Handing out iPads and Chromebooks like it was Christmas for the students,
only to find that the students surpass the technical expertise (read: students use tech for things their interested in) within about 2 class periods. In my experience this led some teachers to grab the tech back, put it away, and "we'll wait until you can use this for something besides playing games" before we get it out again. (which should be another conversation we should have about playing to learn).
Last week I watched as the administration of this school, in too much of a hurry to wait for staff training, needing to get the technology into the students hands to prove the district purchase was worthwhile, not willing to wait another month to show the community that the school was really moving toward the 21st century.
The equipment came in, was configured and handed out to students all in the same day. Instantly students were using docs, email, sharing, researching, and collaborating to finish their student led presentations for parent night. In a nutshell, the students got their work done, using a new tool that was now in their tool chest.
Maybe I was the only one concerned about this obvious end around of staff PD, my mind fast forwarded to the ensuing drama about to happen....... when the students "know" more than the teachers.........How the teachers would renege the tech...... Students only being able to use the tech when the teacher was ready for them to use the tech. But what happened next was completely the opposite.
We've been talking for awhile here about the fact that we typically spend nearly zero time providing PD for students on new technology. Students have a knack for knowing all the functions of the only button on the front of an iPad, or how to share a document between One Drive, iCloud, and Drive. Now we have staff playing catch-up with the students (which as teachers we are very good at that skill, we just haven't had to do it with devices in the past). I have watched as teachers have received shared files from students containing their work, and observed the teacher looking over the shoulders of students asking how they did that. I heard one teacher ask if they could share an assignment with the entire class, and if the teacher sent the file to the student if they could help share it "around"!!
Maybe we have this purchase/train/deploy a little backwards. Maybe the students should be providing the PD for staff? Sometimes I think we should just get out of the way. One of my son's friends just tweeted "this school thing is getting in the way of my education". Maybe we should try a game of leap frog?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just Dig the Hole

Image Credit:
Have you ever planted a tree in your backyard? Not just any tree, but one that will grow up to provide hours of relaxing in the shade, laying on your back. One that you can tie a rope on and push your kids so high they are almost upside down. A tree that you can say in 50 years that you planted the same year your first son was born. This type of tree takes careful planning, the precise location in the yard must fit all the variable of sun, wind, shade......not to close to the house, but not too far away. Sometimes you might watch all 4 seasons go by to calculate and contemplate its exact location before you start to dig.....

Working in education and technology today requires the same type of planning, but the timeline to implementation is measured in days not years. We drag our feet trying to decide if we should put in another computer lab, or get a rolling cart, while the reality is both of those options are from "days gone by". We now try and figure out how we can support a 1:1 program, and if we time it right, wait long enough, keep asking the same questions because we hide behind old data based on the assumption that our students don't have the Internet, 1:1 will be history too, replaced by students that can BYOD.
We need to move, take action, implement technology today that will help our students do real-time work, personalize their learning, and give them anywhere, anytime access to educational content. Sometimes I feel like we are afraid to fail, purchase the wrong technology, or make the wrong decision. When in reality Failing Fast, so we can Succeed Faster is a much better place to live. Let's move forward....Just Dig the Hole.