It’s March planning season…and no longer are my worries on spring break or end of the year planning. Now that my classroom days are behind me a bit, I have focused my attention to planning professional development for the summer sessions and next year’s theme. Why now? In order to have full admin “buy-in” for the coming year principals and other personnel need to be educated and aware of the plan in advance. Also, if their help is needed then they will need the “whens and wheres” of the activities. Now is the time to make it a quality learning experience for our teachers so that our students will be better next year. For my current school the coming year will bring the first phase of our 1:1 program which has all teachers getting new devices. Being the Ed Tech guy is often a difficult conversation for some but the idea is to not just implement technology for technology’s sake. My goal is to put the best tools in place for our future educators and learners.
TPACK.org or more specifically the TPACK model is the framework that I begin all PD sessions with. This model of “technology integration” provides everyone in the room with a great starting point.
Being a former classroom and technology teacher allows me some credibility in the room, I’ll grant that. But TPACK brings a larger educational impact than I ever could if it is talked about correctly. The diagram to right is very straight forward – by blending pedagogical, content, and technological knowledge learners will benefit from the best implementation scheme. The biggest issue I see is that some teachers have a difficult time with two or more of these areas and the battle is uphill from there.
Sadly many teachers lacking in the “P” or “C” areas often view the “T” as “one more thing to do”. They often don’t see any benefit to using devices, until they try it and are supported through successful implementations. But how possible is a 1:1 learning environment in your school? Leading my groups through the connecting of the dots between technology, content, and pedagogy and exploring the Venn diagram is usually a multiple hour session and has great results. This foundational subject (sets of activities) sets up all of the scaffolding for the year and beyond.
Once a teacher challenged me on devices in the classroom and said that the distractions of the devices would take away from her students learning. I told her that her fear is a possibility, but I have seen good and bad scenarios with technology. She taught early primary and had been doing so for a number of years. After my admittance I quickly replied back with a question that I like still like to use from time to time. “Do you let your kids use glue in your class?” The reason I ask that question is because I remember how easily kids could get into trouble with glue and often the answer to this question is “yes”. I then asked how the classroom can be managed with such a powerful tool that has to be kept in workshops. “Well, we have times and rules…” or something like that was her answer and it usually is by most and I like to remind them that technology is a tool just like glue. There is a time and a place that it can be really helpful, but unsupervised it can ruin your day.
Dr. Ruben Puetendura’s SAMR model is a powerful tool when looking at the working knowledge of technology in education. Now that technology is not really “new” I have heard reports of other coaches that only use the SAMR model for professional development and I applaud that. Maybe our schools systems are a bit behind the ball out west, but far too many teachers I have supported need more tools to help with the transfer of their knowledge and experiences. So much has been done with the SAMR model that each year I simply take suggestions of classroom activities and adjust them for each level of the model using technology.
Standards to consider…
If my groups are off and running with TPACK and SAMR and are producing good work then I leave it at that. But I have worked with many groups that need a more specific type of criteria to help guide them along. For me, ISTE standards are the ones that I feel have the greatest breadth of technology in education and I have fostered using them. But they are not the only standards out there. One could guess that there are over 50 different sets of technology standards that can be used, but most of them are some sort of derivative of ISTE knowledge from a various point in time. Recently I have come to also appreciate the UNESCO standards but I will get to what I like about them in just a bit.
As teacher trainers we have done a great job of getting our learners to look at standards. Whether it be school, district, state, or Common Core standards we have done our job in getting teachers to use rational in their planning. ISTE standards provide a great step for teachers looking to use that same rational when using technology in the classroom. I have found that the standards and curriculum planning also establish a comfort level in the room and communication increase. To talk with another teacher on an alike mindset as you allows both teachers to become creative in ways that they hadn’t been previously.
Evaluation is the problem key
It is almost an inevitability that if my PD group talks about standards that they will also get into evaluation and scoring. While evaluation is the key to understanding knowledge, it is also a problem when it comes to standardization across all disciplines, grade levels, and activities and for a trainer that is a problem. When my teachers get to this point of their development I like to have small group conversations about developing rubrics, but I focus on ongoing evaluation instead of a “one shot” deal. Rubrics are great tools to use as long as they contain each part of what the project is to be evaluated on. That sounds simple, right? But so many times I have encountered teachers that see the little bits and pieces of the project (the diorama and 200 word essay), but lack the overall critical thinking and creativity that are needed for tomorrow’s world.
Now that the UNESCO standards have been brought to my attention, courtesy of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator training, I feel like they have a piece of the evaluation of 21C skills that have been missing. Keep in mind that they are not aligned with any of the ISTE or other standards out there, but they are something to be considered.