Friday, June 15, 2007

Goodbye Status Quo

We are taking steps. Slow, measured, and tender steps towards changing the philosophy in our school. The diagram above (thanks to Scott and his whole Change Week agenda) typifies the stages that organizations go through as they accept innovation and change.

Last week we opened our tablet program to our high school staff. As of this posting, over 30 teachers have responded to the initial invitation to the roll out. That is roughly 30% of our high school teaching staff that has accepted the offer to use tablet PCs in their classroom. Looking at Lucas' chart above, that tells me that we are moving in a great direction right off the bat. However, that number needs some clarification: as I analyze the list, a small group of the teachers are regulars in my professional development classes, while others I have not really worked with all that much. That is not to say that those I have not worked with are not ready to begin using the tools that I teach in my classes--we all have met those teachers (and we actually love them) who are effective with little input from tech coordinators because they are learners themselves and figure out what they needed to do. Most tech coordinators, myself included, probably fell into that category when and if we taught in the classroom. So as for our early adopters, that number falls down into the single digits. As a first step, I am excited with the turnout.

I had a great meeting today with a member of our Phys. Ed/Health Department who has been one of the early adopters in our school. We talked for over an hour about how we can change the overall attitude students have for health class. She is familiar with the tools that I hawk, for lack of a better word, but she hit it squarely when she used the word "ownership." She was referring to how to hook the students into a learning process by asking them to give it value and meaning. There are myriad ways to do that through our pedagogy, and we discussed the possibilities that did not include technology: guest speakers, community service projects that require the students to affect local change, etc. We laid out an ambitious project that we are hoping will accomplish the goals we have in mind for her health classes.

When I left the conversation and went on with the rest of my day, I kept coming back to the ideas we spoke about and I was recharged, ready for summer, and ready to push that bell curve further to the right. It was great to have a conversation that was charged with the willingness to try, to change and possibly fail. What I took from the exchange was more than anything a glimmer of hope that people do not want the status quo.


Clay Burell said...

Interesting as usual.

My PE teacher in the HS was very miffed to be excluded from the departments included in our HS 1:1 program next fall. His wheel squeaked, it got grease.

Maybe we should introduce the two and see if they might want to show the PE snobs a thing or two?

Side note: I'm pushing my admin to buy into a school wide HS theme to start the year: "The Year of Global Warming."

I've already asked math, statistics, and English teachers to mull the idea, over the summer, of devoting a 2.0 activity or project related to the theme from their different disciplines (clearly Global Warming is a magnet for science, health, math, economics, history, multimedia, and persuasive writing applications--even foreign languages could jump in with PSA's in their FL).

Every teacher said they would.

We'll post the digital products on a Global Warming consciousness-raising AND concert-promoting website for a community service 2.0 music festival project for next May.

I'm excited.

But I'd love to get those health/PhsEd teachers talking.

Patrick Higgins said...

At one point in the conversation I wrote about, we both brought up the idea of doing a school-wide theme, where every discipline contributes something to that theme and an end product or product is achieved. Our school, our state standards more like it, are not ready to allow those types of ideas just yet. However, I think within a few years we will be able to move towards that model.

What can we put together? I am pretty sure we are game from the PE standpoint this year. Cathy is so energized and ready to start initiating change in her classroom, especially from the health standpoint. We both, you and I, seem to come from a humanities background, but should we also consider statistics here? Cathy and I had talked using some of these great tools we have to track PE statistics and use them for in class analysis.

We had planned on creating a blog a la Darren Kuropatwa, where each student is a co-author on the class blog. We were planning on using his "scribe" method, where each student is required to post on specified day. Using a wiki is not out of the question either.

Clay Burell said...

Jeff (our PE teacher) is a health evangelist too. He and Cathy might see if they want to emphasize any common topics for starters?

My kids have also blogged about Jeff's running unit, which seems to be based on improving their time while training. Seems a natural for statistics and graphing? I'm all ears, b/c you seem to be smarter in this area. I'm clueless.

The blog or wiki idea would be easy enough to "flatten" somehow. I'd be open to making a "flat Moodle" on our server and letting Cathy in. But come to think of it, why? Blogs and wikis work fine.

I'll email Jeff and see if he's interested.

Patrick Higgins said...

I'll do the same with Cathy. By the way, I added you as a Skype contact, so we can get that ball rolling too.

Clay Burell said...

I emailed Jeff, so stay tuned. Fun possibilities and totally aligned with my mission to get flat classrooms out of the computer lab and into "business as abnormal" in the rest of the rooms :)

Good on Skype. I'm free and staying home all summer (Korea, I mean), except for a few days in China.

Hope we can talk. I can videochat now too, since I've got a new MacBook from school.

Bach said...


I've been following this a bit on your blog(s). What was the "carrot" that you dangled for teachers to participate and what are their responsibilities in return?

Patrick Higgins said...


We really didn't dangle too much out to them, other than they would be able to call the machines their own, without the issues of ownership and warranty if the machine should break.

Their responsibilities are going to be that they attend a certain number of professional development classes to learn the capabilities of the machines and the projectors. Also, we would like to ask them to pilot more than just the tablet, but a whole new methond of teaching. However, when I got all excited about this, our Director of Curriculum joked that we should just be happy for the first few months that they are using them, period.

He has a point, really. Baby steps are important here. We have a lot of trust and credibility to build here regarding technology.

Hope this helped.

ckooiker said...

Our building is going to have to progress from the small baby steps that you talked about to walking with a purpose. The technology specialist that serviced our students will be moving from a teacher to an advisor for the teachers. As an instructional paraprofessional, I am trying to figure out what my part is in the process. I am currently taking a class in integrating technology into the curriculum. It has been great! I was also encouraged as I read about your enthusiasm and your "willingness to try, to change and possibly fail." I think that is what is keeping many teachers who don't feel comfortable with technology from joining in. My challenge is to search for (and find) practical ways of making a difference! :)

Patrick Higgins said...


One of the greatest things I have found this year is the willingness of people to play if given the time. We try to make our workshops fun and collegial, with no pressure to take this technology and use it immediately in front of the kids. That is the worst thing you can do for a tentative staff: don't set someone up for failure, because that type of failure will follow you around. Instead, what we have done is stress that play is more important than usage. I always ask that anyone who takes a class of mine forgets that they are a teacher for a short time. In order to learn something, it has to be personally meaningful to them. No amount of external pressure to use a technology in the classroom is going to make it successful.

I am interested to hear about how things move in your building, and please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.