Yesterday, I spent a day at the National Staff Development Council’s pre-conference at a session entitled “LEADERSHIP FOR USING TECHNOLOGY EFFECTIVELY TO SUPPORT TEACHING AND LEARNING“. While the program indicated that all participants were to bring laptop computers, the day wasn’t about using the computer, it was about leadership and how that might be used to model and effect change in schools.
Yes, we did use the computers. Much of the activity that we did was initiated from a leadership wiki and some of the results were reported back through the wiki. The concepts will remain in place there, presumably for others to see what we did, but also for us to look back and reflect on our day of learning.
During the introductory session, as we went around the room and some 50 of us introduced ourselves and talked a bit about technology, it became obvious why sessions like this are required. There had to be at least 50 different directions reporting in and it was kind of difficult to see how we were all in the same business of educating students! It was all good, but different.
It was also Saturday which is a prime day for folks to get onto Twitter and chat about the events of the day and what’s special in their portion of the technology using world. So, I also had my Seesmic Desktop open collecting messages and would take a peek every now and again and during breaks. Some of the conversation happening there could just as easily have been going on in our session. You had the constructionists and connectivists sharing their thoughts in both places.
A couple of activities that we did had special impact on me. Despite not being labelled as a NETS-specific session, our discussion was guided by the NETS and diving in and out of the various elements and that was good. While I’ve looked into the NETS for years, this was the first time that I had worked this deeply with them. Like most things in education, there were things that I immediately agreed with and things that I need to think about.
One of the activities that we did, though, had special meaning. We compared the NETS from 1998 to those of 2007. The interesting comparison came when you look at the focus. The first set focused directly on the tools and the expectations of what you would see the students producing with those tools. The current set is focused on what you should see students doing when using technology effectively. The message was clear – instead of using technology in a very lock-stepped, one size fits all method where the technology is a separate identity to do stuff, the emphasis is about using technology as the true tool to support learning. I was trying to think in my mind how best to describe this effectively when a Twitter message went by.
@langwitches shared a document on Flickr entitled the 21st Century Teaching and Learning Bubble. In a very graphic format, this document could have been part of what we were learning. It very clearly shows a shift in thought.
Take a few moments, if you have the time and really think about the implications of the image.
One of the other topics of discussion for us dealt with having administrators lead and model this new approach so that teachers and students are encouraged to do their best. Why isn’t this happening everywhere. I hypothesized that it’s because of the level of transparency that the new approaches requires. In the good old days, when your creations were a project or a document, you had total control over who sees and, more importantly, comments and evaluates it. As educators, we all grew up in a system where there were clearly right and wrong answers. Taking the results of these tools and publishing for the world (or at least a portion of it) to see is a big risk. What if I make a typo? What if someone vehemently disagrees? What if I blog and someone posts something inappropriate? What if I post something to Twitter and draw the ire of everyone with a keyboard? It’s not so easy. It’s not so comfortable.
There was a lot of good thinking for me. As a computer science teacher, I am really comfortable with the notion of creating a product and handing it in. I like to think that through this blog and the wikis that I’ve developed along with all of the other things, that I’ve reached into the concept of transparency in my own use of technology for product and communication. Transparency doesn’t mean revealing everything. With the exception of the odd dog picture and references to my kids of whom I’m incredibly proud, I can keep that side of me private.
This shift in thinking is quite apparent but, ironically, it’s only because I’ve elected to become part of it that I see it. If I hadn’t tried these tools, I might not have seen it.
One of our activities was to express how we felt at that moment in time. The number one comment that leaped out as we once again went around the room was “implementation?” That’s a big question for us all. I met some great people and a couple of new Twitter friends as a result. Hopefully, the conversation can continue.
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