Category Archives: issues

Pedagogy Before Technology Part 1: The Rant

Today I attended the Ohio eTech State Technology Conference. The day started of with physicist and Futurist Dr. Michio Kaku. He made us laugh, but I’m not sure I left the session with anything that will affect how or what I do anytime in the foreseeable future.

I then headed down the hall to listen to a teacher list off the technologies he uses with students. He didn’t:

  • tell why he used the technology.
  • tell how the technology supported student learning.
  • give concrete examples of what he was using the technology for.

I lasted 20 minutes or so before I hit my breaking point. That point was when he asked, “Does anyone have examples of project based learning that works? I haven’t had much success with it.” I respect anyone who chooses to take the risk of getting up in front of their peers from around the state to share their work. I remember my first time, it is a nerve wracking experience. With that said, if you’re going to get on stage, have something worth sharing.

I feel like every year at least half the sessions I attend are this way. I used to attend all three days of the conference, I’m now down to one. Honestly attending is more about presenting with my wife and running into good friends in the halls between sessions.

My biggest frustration is there are teachers out there who believe what they see in these sessions is good. They take the lessons they learn and take them back and try to implement them. They try to use technology for technologies sake, not thinking deeply about how the use of the technology supports their learning targets. They are not thinking about pedagogy.

So how do we make this a conference better, come back tomorrow for, Pedagogy Before Technology Part 2: The solution, when I’m not in a sour mood.

Kicking Buts

We’ve all been there, sitting in a meeting where you throw out what you thought was a good idea and within seconds…yah but this and yah but that. It is quite frustrating. It kills innovative ideas. It sets a tone where only ideas that fit into the box we live in are accepted. Last weekend at Educon 2.4, David Jakes led a conversation on Design Thinking titled, “What If?” In the session he stated, “What if is the opposite of Yah But.” How do we create a culture where more people are thinking “what if?” How do we, to quote Deb Delisle, former Superintendent of Schools in Ohio and current Assistant Secretary of Education under Arne Duncan, “how do we kick the BUTs out of education?”

Today is Going to be a Great Day.

I started my day off like most; shower, coffee, in the car for my 30 minute drive… Then the juices started flowing. I had a new thought. A potential solution to a dilemma I was faced with last week. Then, I hit a traffic jam that I knew was going to cause me to be a little late. Usually I start griping and looking for people to pass, not today. Today I pulled out my iPhone, opened the voice recorder app and started talking. The ideas were coming out faster than the rain of the day was coming down.

Then…

It hit me. I control this everyday. I don’t control everyone else. I control me. This is such a simple concept. Why don’t we all see it? In education there is so much to get overwhelmed with. Last week I sat at meeting and everything that came up boiled my blood a bit. Many of these decisions just didn’t make sense to me.

What I thought about today was, this is reality. How to I affect this reality positively? If I join the gripers, I just become part of the problem. I stop progress. As a leader in the area of 21century skills, it would be hypocritical for me to impede progress.

I’m not saying I am going to stop working for what I believe in. I am going to change how I frame things in my mind. If this is reality, what can I do to this reality to make it a positive one? I am going to make every day a great one!

Should Schools be Equal?

I have a question. Should all students have the option of getting an equal education? (Equal does not mean the same). Does anyone really need to think about this? If so, what is there to think about?
The 6th largest district in the state of Ohio, nearly 21,000 K-12 students, failed another levy this week. Attached to that failure is the loss of teachers, athletics, high school busing, band, theater, all after school activities. For some students they lost the reason they come to school in the first place. Some can claim the failure was due to the economy. I don’t because two-thirds of the levies in central Ohio passed the same day. I put part of the blame on sections of the community not putting a value on a quality education for the students who live in the neighboring homes. The big question is, do those people have the right to choose the quality of education our children will receive?
I put the majority of the blame on a broken system. A system that give individuals who feel little or no tie to the local schools the ability to choose the fate of its students. All students deserve a quality education. Not just the ones coming from a community that backs it schools because they know the value of a quality education. While a high school teacher in Southwestern City teaches 155 students a day, teachers in neighboring districts will teach 120, 100 and even some as low as 80.
So, what is the solution? We need to stop relying on property taxes to fund schools. There needs to be a solution in which a set dollar amount is guaranteed to be spent on every student in the state. This amount needs to figure in reasonable loads for teachers based upon university research on class sizes. It needs to include technology. In the 21st century, technology should be ubiquitous in our schools. In Southwestern it is just old and dusty (Some labs have 10 year old computers). This money should include choices for our students. High schools should look more like colleges because of the vast experiences that are offered.
I know life is not fair, but should we be teaching that lesson to our youth through an unfair education system? Only a voice as loud as thousands can make a change to this reality.

I Don't have Time for That

About a week ago I asked my PLN on Twitter, “When a teacher says ‘I don’t have time for that’ do they mean, I don’t know how & I’m not willing to take the time to learn.” I will start by saying this is not my opinion, I was trying to start a discussion.

There was a great amount of wisdom in the responses.

@futureofedu It might just mean “I’m scared to try that!” from @kellyhines

I agree, many want to jump in, they are just scared of the water. In my district, there is me and the others in our educational technology department there to be their life jackets. Still, not all people are jumpping in.

@futureofedu means teacher doesn’t know how said thing fits w/curriculum therefore said thing is perceived as added on to curriculum. from @nancydevine

We must stress that it isn’t one more thing. When we talk about embedding technology and 21st century skills, it happens with the teaching of content, not separately.

@futureofedu Probably more like: “I’m being pulled in too many directions with stuff I already know to take on something else.” from @nlowell

@futureofedu Yes and no-My current workload exceeds my contractual liability.Should I feel pressured into even more with no allowance – no? from @sdisbury

@zemote @futureofedu re: teachers/time – I don’t even have time to do the things I know how to do and I desperately want to do. from @teacherc

Dear adminstrtors, please make time in your teachers schedule for them to learn and grow. Hire people in your district that can support this professional learning.

Dear Politician, Find a way for the above statement to be financially feasible for ALL schools.

Teachers need to shift their practices to embed 21st century skills and technology. This should not be an option. The problem is the lack of understanding and funding for this shift to happen at the speed it should be.  The question I am left to ponder, what do we do to change this?

eTech09 Reflection Part 1

I am very fortunate to have one of the largest technology conferences in the US only 15 minutes from my front door. The unfortunate part is the lack of technology available at this conference. We have some of the best minds in the country keynote every year. This year Wes Fryer was the opening keynote speaker. He brought a great message of bringing change into the educational world. With thousands of educators in the audience he tweeted a message that he was going to have a back channel open using chazzy. As the introductions were made, he chatted with those of use that were in the chat room. WOW, chatting with the keynote speaker 2 minutes before he walked on stage, this is cool use of technology. This could have been a powerful conversation, but!

There is no wireless Internet at this conference. Ok, there is a coffee shop with one small hotspot. The only people in this conversation were those of us with smart phones (as if I needed a reason to love my iPhone, it gave me another). What about all the people in the audience who could have benefited from the conversation?

So what does this mean? Every negative has a lesson. The lessons I learned are:
•    Make sure you have the connectivity to support your audience. In schools, the wires, servers and other network hardware are more important than the computers. Feed your funds into the backbone of your network!
•    It is productive to have a digital background conversation during a lecture. I was engaged in the lecture (which is what a keynote really is). Our students can text, chat, IM during class and be productive. There need to be rules and guidelines though. I need to ponder this one a bit more.
•    Even the tech people evolve. A year ago I would have never said “let them use their cell phones I class.” This showed me as a learner how it can be done productively.

Those are lessons I have the ability to affect. One lesson I can’t affect is regarding eTech Ohio. I’ve been told for years about the dysfunction of eTech. This conference displays the dysfunction. Hopefully new leadership in the state of Ohio will bring new life to the governing body of technology in the state.

Re-focusing

As I work toward the future (or catching teachers up to the present), I struggle with where to start. The day to day tasks of emails, meetings, etc… sometimes move my focus. I am now trying to refocus on the question, how do we get teachers into the 21st century. Some are already on their way. Those are the early adopters. Many are interested, they just don’t know what direction to take. Should I focus solely on these folks right now. There are enough of them to fill my days. The dilemma I run into is, what about the kids who don’t have these teachers? Is it fair? A student could luck out and get all the “21st century teachers” and live an engaged life. Another students could sit through 6 hours of lecture a day. The only engagement they would get would be lunch conversations.

My goal today is to figure out what the focus of my work is. Do I target groups? Do I fight the fight to change the entire system? Do I keep spending my time with the teachers who come to me (the good news is there are enough of these to fill the majority of my time)? Oh, my brain is already aching and I haven’t even started?

When will the Ignorance End?

I am furious. I just received an e-mail from a counselor in our district that her wiki is blocked. I then tried to go to my wiki, blocked. Seriously? We are blocking wikispaces? We use a consortium for our filters. Many of the schools in central Ohio use this same filter. This means that at least on of these schools has asked for wikispaces to be blocked. When will this ignorance end? When will our students and teachers be aloud to enter the 21st century? I’m so mad at this moment I cannot even formulate intelligent solutions.

Lucky for me, we have override power. I’m confident that our district will have their access back before the end of the day. What about the other local districts? Do they have people inside who are educated enough to know these sites shouldn’t be blocked? What about the great collaborative learning experiences their students are missing? Words cannot tell how sick I feel right now.

It's a Tagged World Out There

It is nice to be back to my blog again. After a week of making websites with 7th graders (very cool project, check out the final products). I have a few minutes free.

Life has been good over the last week. I found out my job isn’t being cut (this year), created the websites mentioned above and saw the Columbus Destroyers (Arena Football) win a game. Why did I mention the game? After the game my friends and I are sitting and listening to a band, interesting funk band at that. The table next to us are a bunch of kids (early 20’s) snapping pictures. I overhear this statement made from one of the young ladies to a young man: “what is your name? I’ll tag it.” Our kids are living in a world where they know what tags are and how to use them. How many teachers know what a tag is? How many teachers have even heard of a tag? I asked a teacher what a tag is in regards to technology and the reply was “is that the sticker with the number on the side of the computer?” A tag to a teacher is a sticker we use to identify the computer in our inventory. This comment stresses to me that we have a lot of teaching to do, not just to our students, but to our teachers.

 The question being when? With it being testing season finding time is tough. Everything right now is “I can’t till after the test.” UGH

My Dream Classroom

In the world of failed school levies and 4 million dollars in cuts, union negotiations, and all the other “stuff” that negatively effects our schools, I need a positive moment. Here is my dream school.

Every student has a computing device with wireless access. To make this even more of a utopia, they have wireless access to the network from home also. Every teacher has a laptop, smartboard and projector. All of these teachers have spent days of professional development time preparing themselves to engage their students in a 1:1 environment. The teachers are also given 2 periods per day for planning and professional development.

Gone are the days of the teacher speaking at the students for 50 minutes about something they truly could care less about. The students are creating content: wikis, blogs, videos, podcast, social networking sites, etc… The assignments are project based, not memorize these facts based.

My roll in this classroom will be very similar to what it is now. Ongoing training and support of how to seamlessly embed the technology into their lessons. When a teacher needs help, I will plan with them and go into their classroom and help.

Hopefully one day soon I will live in this utopia. There will always be issues and problems, but I hope we solve the big ones that exist today (at least in my district and state) very soon. 

My new motto (needs work)…”It’s not about the technology, it is about teaching and learning. The technology will allow us to change how we teach and improve the students learning.”