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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Can't we just "integrate it everywhere?"



Yes, technology should be in every course. Of course. 

But to be everywhere it must also be understood everywhere. The fact is that right now (particularly in the US) teachers are stressed, budgets are stressed, and to just cut technology courses and say "Oh, we're going to integrate it everywhere" without a plan is really saying "we're not going to use technology as much."

Getting Rid of Computer Class

Many people are going the way of getting rid of "computer class" but I have found that technology should be specifically TAUGHT kind of like we teach "handwriting" - handwriting is important enough to grade separately when there is something that must be mastered - it moves off the "report card" when it is just part of what we do. Without the grade in handwriting - this vital skill is lost.

So, as something is needed to be added to the student's toolset you have to focus on it. i.e. making videos, voicethread, wikis, collaborative writing, blogging, podcasting, editing audio, etc. and then it becomes just something you "do" like writing a paper. You're always adding aspects to it and improving it.

I know a school down the road that got rid of "computer" and put in Latin. Their reasoning was "if the kids need to know how to use PowerPoint they can come in at 7:30."  OK, well, what about global collaboration, digital citizenship, visual literacy, copyright? Oh, I see, let the Latin teacher do that? Oh, all teachers should do that? Well, they should but is it realistic?

There is what SHOULD happen and what DOES happen and all of us realists out here know that most of us have a long way between the SHOULD and the DO.

Don't we let one teacher at the elementary level FOCUS on handwriting? Shouldn't we let a teacher FOCUS on keyboarding. We reap what we sow.


Where Are We Going?
After coming back from China I realize many of us just don't get it here in the US. My students saw fifth graders doing what some of my seniors can't do -- they are controlling the stop motion camera mounted on their soccer field and capturing frames and giving feedback to the players of what they are doing! They live and breathe all kinds of media and have someone in ICT. I do think that the  International Baccalaureate Program  has an excellent framework that is influencing what I do here.



Learn from the Best.
We cannot look at those who are lagging but at those who are the best. Because of budget cuts many are settling. We cannot afford to settle at this point - I'm talking to US teachers - most likely our economy will be the second largest in the world in the next 8 years and I've seen what our children MUST be able to do.

We must move forwards not backwards. 

Sure we have to do it with less money and more sweat of the brow but goodness knows, it is time to stop blaming other people and whining. Throughout the generations tough times happen and those with great character rise to the occasion.




Be the Best.
That being said - I think most "computer classes" are hugely lacking in what they cover and often use computer software to teach what humans are better at teaching (i.e. keyboarding) and humans to teach what real-life experience can teach better (digital citizenship learning experiences, true global collaborative projects.) Sometimes we use books to teach what well designed projects would teach better (i.e. the effective use of software - point and click teaching is a WASTE of time!)

We need to follow best practices and set as our goal to be the best!


Better Your Best.
I've said a lot here and have to add that we're not perfect here either but I know where we are working towards and it is towards INTEGRATION in every class AND focused experiences to learn how to use these tools at a younger and younger age. I'd be happy if our first graders could type and make videos - but that isn't going to be possible yet so I"ll be happy w/ voicethread.


What Technology Lets You Do.
It is, however, NEVER about the technology but what it lets you do. I like Voicethread because students can easily use their voice. If they can learn to TALK in a topic sentence then when they are ready to construct paragraphs by hand - the concept is in their mind already. Anything to help bring multisensory learning and expression to differentiate and reach all students should be what we do - but it shouldn't be done some here some there.

As Chris Lehman says, technology should be like air. Ubiquitous, everywhere, invisible.

When Invisibility Happens



But it doesn't become INVISIBLE until everyone knows how to do it. Air is invisible because we all know how to breathe and it is everywhere. Technology is not invisible because it is NOT everywhere and when it is there, many do not know how to breathe it into their mode of teaching.

Time to Get Moving
Those of you who have heard me speak will recognize this - but it has to be said. The fact that you are reading a blog puts you in the minority!

You can't do it all, but you can do something.

The question is not how you compare to the teacher down the hall but how do you compare with yourself yesterday, last week, last month, last year? Are you improving yourself?

Sometimes we are too busy having a pity party to get ourselves busy and head towards that victory party!

Look at the thinking that is holding you back. Move ahead. Be creative. Let's get moving.

And until it becomes like air and we integrate it everywhere -it is going to take time. And when it becomes like air and is integrated everywhere remember that you'll still have transfer students! ;-)

This post is extracted from a conversation I've been having with Michael Rhodes, Director of Technology of High Meadows School in Roswell, Georgia through the MISBO buying consortium. I'm very happy that my small school has joined MISBO. This nonprofit group that I found out through a chance seat on a plane trip from ISTE last year has helped us buy technology at DRASTICALLY reduced rates. It is a buying consortium for small schools or independent schools. I highly recommend it and NO, they don't pay me. ;-)




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