An insane two weeks of connectivity, and I am on the more moderate side of things, has left me wondering where this is all heading. So many new tools that shorten the distance between worlds and worldviews have popped up. Twitter has just blown holes in my ability to disconnect. Now it's even infected my iPhone, keeping me glued to the action in any setting (is there a hack to install twitterific on the iPhone?). Whether it's uStream, Operator11, or even plain old Skype, our ability to teach and be taught on the spot by anyone who is willing is really throwing wrenches into my ability to filter out what matters and what doesn't.
Stephanie Sandifer, who just seems to be driving a lot of my thinking lately, rattled off this great post on Friday, which contained the following push:
In a comment or on a blog post on your own blog — take some time to reflect on and address the following questions:
What? (…is going on with our work, with our blogging, with our exploration… OR …new tools are we discovering, playing with, trying to find classroom uses for?)
So What? (Who cares? Why is this important? Why is this not important? What does it matter? Will it ever matter?)
Now What? (What do we do NEXT? What kind of gameplan do we need? Do we need a game plan? Do we collaborate, start over from scratch, quit doing whatever we are doing altogether, or disappear somewhere deep in Second Life? Seriously — WHAT NOW?)
much in the same way Steve Dembo dropped this on us Friday afternoon after the previously mentioned week of interconnection:
Time for Friday afternoon reflection: Share something you learned this week. (No websites or tools. Something new you actually LEARNED)
My reactions to these questions are below, but I before you read mine, I encourage you all to think along these lines as well. In the past, when we introduced new ideas into classroom pedagogy, we had the comfort of knowing that there would be ample time before the next "big thing" would come along. Now, do we have that time?
First, in reverse order, my response to Steve was as follows:
Learned that our best assets in the classroom are still our teachers who have vision and the guts to follow it.By this I was referring to the meetings I had with teachers this week, all who wanted to push themselves and their students beyond what was required of them. I think I am fortunate to work in two buildings where things have really caught fire in terms of expanding the walls of the classroom. Our teachers want to be involved in creating with their students, and want to reach students in meaningful ways, and the explosion of collaborative technology truly augments their desire. The fact that they are becoming more adventurous each day makes me excited to be a part of the process.
Stephanie's post is slightly more difficult as it is truly forcing me to analyze where I am going.
What: When I answer this question, the first thing that comes to mind is our stated goal of trying to expand our learning time to outside of the 40 minutes we see the students. Our first steps involve getting teachers to use collaborative writing tools: Google Docs, wikispaces, 21Classes, etc. As far as some of the tools I mentioned in the opening, those tools are going to take time to trickle into the classrooms, but that "seep time" is so dramatically shortened by the situations our teachers are creating. One teacher wanted her students to create a news broadcast for a mock trial and I immediately thought: Ustream!
So What: What's important to me is that our teachers have begun to see that their learning cannot stagnate; if I can get around to it this year, I am going t really push for the creation of PLE's for our teachers. The translation to the students will be immediate. Case in point: we gave tablet pc's to nearly 80% of our high school staff, and the students in those classes are being exposed to resources that those teachers were privy to, but did not know how to translate them into the classroom. The level of transparency is unprecedented.
Now What: Our big focus, in my humble opinion, is to keep asking this question. Tools are not what we need to focus on, but the teaching is. If our teaching does not match our technological abilities, all we have is a digital dog and pony show. When we stop looking at these tools as a means to an end, then we have failed our teachers and our students.
The best meeting I have had this year with a teacher did not involve my laptop or discussion of tech, but rather a discussion of pedagogy and the Socratic Method. As tech coordinators and technofiles, we bridge a gap between teaching and technology. We cannot afford to be lacking on either side of our expertise.
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Image credit: Bridge Suspension, from Jeff Epstein on Flickr