Having been involved with educational technology for almost 20 years, I’ve had more than my share of conversations around the issues of implementation, integration, transformation, use of technology in the classrooms. People are usually quick to point out the barriers which are mostly around leadership and pedagogy and more recently the word is mindset.
But no amount of change in mindset addresses the least talked about problem with edtech. Bandwidth.
My journeys have led me to work with some wonderful educators who indeed have a resiliency and passion for innovation. They are the ones who create work arounds when a site is down or blocked, they tether their phones to create wifi for their students. They spent hours editing video and installing apps on their student devices. While they are great champions and sometimes are highlighted, they are a problem in that leaders assume all teachers can and should act in this way.
Imagine teaching English using books with half the pages ripped out. That’s essentially what it’s like for teachers trying to use devices with no bandwidth.
Bandwidth issues aren’t talked about largely because we aren’t quite sure what the issue is. Is it a small pipe? Is … Read the rest
“Future Ready” is a theme I’m hearing more and more in our schools. The idea that schools is about preparing for the future and getting kids ready for adulthood. It’s important stuff and certainly schools need to be in this business. And yet….
Mindfulness has been and continues to be something I try to practice and live daily. The stress that so many of our young people experience as well as adults concerns me. I worry that this stress is partly the fault of schools and the overt and subtle pressures we place on them. I’m concerned with my own parenting as I witness my own children often speaking about “getting through this” or “once this is done I’ll feel much better”. Those are natural but somewhat debilitating thoughts. Living in the moment is very hard. I would argue the vast majority of our day is spent on planning ahead or reflecting on the past and not so much on just focusing and enjoying right now.
Years ago while working on new curriculum, I spent a great deal of time with colleagues collecting and identifying exemplary work. Usually attached to rubric, these artifacts were intended to showcase the highest quality of work and present students with something to aim for. We often would reference these with students to the point where these became more than guides but the ultimate goal. It’s one the problems with rubrics. But it’s not just within curriculum where exemplars can be an issue, it happens all the time.
There’s no question that exemplars can be useful and even motivating. But often they are unattainable or perhaps not even desirable.
Let me share a few examples.
While I believe showing examples of quality work can be useful, many students immediately shut down when they perceive too great a gap between their current ability and what is deemed exemplary. I’m certainly not against the use of high quality exemplars but caution against too few examples as well as a lack of scaffolding to see where incremental success can be found. In addition, the power comes when the student decides what they want their work to be.
Part of what makes me pay attention to an article like this is that it’s written by someone whom I respect. Clay Shirky talks about something fairly radical for a person who is generally seen as an advocate for social media and technology. He admits a complete change in mindset on the use of laptops of his class.
I have been teaching classes about the internet since 1998, and I’ve generally had a laissez-faire attitude towards technology use in the classroom. This was partly because the subject of my classes made technology use feel organic, and when device use went well, it was great. Then there was the competitive aspect — it’s my job to be more interesting than the possible distractions, so a ban felt like cheating. And finally, there’s not wanting to infantilize my students, who are adults, even if young ones — time management is their job, not mine.
I’ve been guilty of using the same arguments to challenge those who didn’t want to use devices in class. I would still use the same argument for many people but this thoughtful realization speaks to doing what’s best for students as opposed to what’s easiest for teachers.
After every course I teach I receive an evaluation from my students. Typically 80% or higher provide with highly positive feedback. 10% are indifferent and 10% are less than satisfied. Most of the dissatisfaction revolves around lack of structure and and timelines. This is partly my personal flaws and partly student preference and partly a communication failure. I take these evaluations seriously and don’t dismiss these critiques but really do try to improve. I need to get better. But….
As I try and create more ownership and agency for students, my efforts to empower them is the thing I need to really work on. How do I get my students to “own their learning”? Consider what ownership means. When you own your house, you can complain about the manufacturers of your home for its flaws but ultimately you’ll need to consider and act upon things that aren’t working. Sometimes you do it yourself, sometimes you ask for help, but either way as an owner you take action. Even if you ask for help, you are responsible they do the work and do it well.
Today I saw this tweet:
Do we want people to feel overwhelmed when leaving a conference?