Last year, I was a member of my high school’s Technology Field Test Team, a group of teachers, Technology Integration Specialists, and administrators who were piloting various technology initiatives (e.g., one-to-one iPads, BYOD, iPad carts, etc.). This year, that team is morphing into a team focused on technology integration building-wide rather than additional pilots. Along with the two Technology Integration Specialists and another teacher, I will be leading this team. Over the summer, I was asked to think about the vision, the scope, and The Why of this team.
After some thought, I realized:
We don’t need a Technology Integration Team
We need a Teaching Best Practices Team
The very idea of a technology integration team puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable. We need a team that can help our teachers adopt pedagogically-sound best practices for teaching. Often, those best practices may involve the integration of technology. Sometimes, they won’t. Regardless, the technology isn’t the first step; and, furthermore, if the technology doesn’t support pedagogically-sound best practices, we need to make sure our colleagues are aware of that.
To be clear, I’m not against technology in the classrooms. I try all sorts of stuff and see what works for me and my students. I feel much better when a particular use of technology is supported by educational research. So, while I don’t send students home at night to watch Khan Academy videos, because that doesn’t help students learn (and may actually reinforce their misconceptions and make them over-confident), I do use iPads as a key tool in peer instruction and follow a process supported by educational research.
Here’s a helpful matrix on the spectrum of technology integration. By focusing primarily on the technology, I think teachers can get stuck on the left side of this spectrum. They use technology in a substitutive manner in which they are doing the same things in a somewhat better way. If we focus first on doing better things, we can explore more transformative uses of technology.
I have a theory that these transformative uses of technology occur in quantum steps. Having a great Learning Management System (LMS) like Instructure’s Canvas enables students to create online portfolios of capstone projects that are easily shared within and outside of the classroom. Having access to seven laptops and Vernier’s LabPro and LoggerPro make possible a whole collection of physics labs. Having access to 15 laptops and Tracker allows pairs of students to learn about physics through video analysis. Having access to 30 iPads and NearPod allows the discussion and debate of rich questions during peer instruction. Having one-to-one of a uniform device and set of apps enables students to … well, I’m not sure since I haven’t experienced that, but I expect it will be another quantum step.
I don’t know who coined the phrase or if the context was even related to technology, but I think this sums up my philosophy of technology in education:
Doing Better Things over Doing Things Better
When I wrote the above quote, I was reminded of Agile Software Development, which was a major focus of mine in my previous career. Personally, I find a great deal of similarities between my educational technology philosophy and my software development philosophy. In fact, upon revisiting the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, I found it surprisingly relevant to the world of education and technology when viewed from that perspective. Here it is:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
From one perspective, I think these principles could apply to the relationship between teachers and students in a classroom. From another perspective, I think they could apply to the relationship between teachers and our technology integration team.
I think there is a lot of wisdom in Stephanie Chasteen’s post about a talk at the AAPT Summer Meeting by Chandra Turpen in which she promotes the idea that “we should focus on providing powerful experiences with educational innovation that allow faculty to see success for themselves.” This perspective combined with developing a growth mindset in our faculty could be a powerful combination.
So, maybe I’ve finished my summer homework. The Why of our team is to better help students learn by helping teachers adopt best practices. Our scope is advocacy and support for pedagogically-sound teaching best practices that may or may not require technology integration. Perhaps our vision could be captured by rephrasing the Agile Manifesto in the context of the relationship between teachers and our team.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to have thought about this. I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences and share those with this new team.