The last talk of the day that I attended was “Beyond Pockets of Excellence” by Justin Reich, one of the founders of EdTech Teacher and blogger for Education Week. Now, I have to leave this talk early so I will likely end the post prematurely.
Justin argues that for any technology integration to be successful, we have to ask the question: “What do you want students to be able to do?” We cannot simply add technology and stir. Rather, we need to be intentional and directed. Schools need to think carefully about their choices and means by which to measure their success.
- What kind of change do we want?
Technical Change vs. Adaptive Change
“Does promoting your learning goals require the application of well-established procedures and technical skills? or does it require a paradigm shift in culture, values and mindset (along with a shift in procedures and technical skills)?” Ron Heifetz.
Here is a great video of Dr. Heifetz discussing the merits of these distinctions
Justin argues that we need to think more about methods than we are about tools. While the iPad is cool and has great features, we really need to think about the way that we do things. Shiny new devices may enable us to have the conversations, but that doesn’t change the fact that we need those conversations to be deep and meaningful.
Experimenting with these materials in the classroom can be scary. Teachers often fear that they will look foolish, that they won’t work, that it will fail (especially in big stakes testing environments), and that it will waste time. Ultimately, as individuals push through their discomfort they grow and then adapt. He argues that the best way to nurture the cycle of growth and institutional capacity is to provide opportunities to share their practice, even informally.
- What can school leaders do to support change?
Think about what type of learners you want your students and faculty to be. Next, think about how you will demonstrate that in your own practice. You need to show to your faculty and/or students what you want to see in them; mirror the practice. You need to do so visibly (e.g. via social media) and let people see you making it happen.
Next, you need to encourage your faculty to take risks and branch out.
- provide access to hardware
- provide time for planning and co-planning
- provide motivation for experimentation
- provide protection from the consequences of mistakes and failures
- celebrating and show-casing successful projects and lessons
To truly accelerate, we need to share our practices – classroom visits, blogging, tweeting, newsletters, etc. We need to engage one another and learn from each other. Justin argues that in order to effectively collaborate and communicate, we need to use a shared, instructional language. What language we choose doesn’t matter, so long as everyone is using the same vocabulary.
- Did we change?
Any plan of change needs to include a measurable and tangible element that we can measure to determine if we met our objective goals. This does not mean standardized testing, but we need to be able to perform empirical research to determine whether or not the investments we are making are fruitful.