A Penny for Your Thoughts | A Little Change in Education

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We recently went to ESC Region 11’s Campus Carousel at Keller High School. It was great getting to see Keller High School’s wonderful campus and the great job that their CTE teachers are doing to create student engagement in their diverse offering of CTE courses. That being said, we went to Keller so our staff could network and get ideas from other districts as we move into our 1:1 rollout. While the walkthrough was wonderful, I think I can speak for my City View team when I say that we got much more out of our collaborative sessions at the Region 11 Mini-EdCamp with teachers and administrators from the DFW area that took place after our Keller walkthrough. We then carried that conversation over to our ride home. It is stunning what happens when groups of intelligent people brainstorm and collaborate. Below is a brief overview of what I took away from our discussions:

Professional Development and Accountability

From a pure technological standpoint, professional development is the key to successful implementation. This might touch some nerves, and it should- from the top down, everyone in a district is responsible for professional development. Technology departments need to strive to create meaningful professional development, and inform both administration and teachers of best practices for use of technology in the classroom in accordance to the curriculum being served. Any technology integration needs to be done with the students best interest in mind. In order for professional development opportunities to be meaningful to teachers, there has to be buy-in, modeling, communication and follow-through from administration. Just as we can’t expect the students to use technology correctly without teachers modeling correct and positive use, we can’t expect teachers to correctly use technology without modeling, communication, and follow-through from their campus and district administrators. Teachers have to be held responsible for the correct implementation of the technology in their classroom. Administrators have to be held responsible for correct implementation of technology in their buildings. Technology departments must be held responsible for correct implementation of technology in their district. Main point? For meaningful PD to take place, there must be accountability and communication across the board.

Modeling Positive Use of Technology

This is an extension of professional development and accountability. One of the things we noticed at Keller HS is that student use of cell phones in the classroom was up to teacher discretion. In our district we don’t allow cellphones in the classroom at all. There is this understandable fear among adults that kids are going to abuse technology. We have created this culture that forbids personal technology in the classroom, while at the same time trying to push the correct and positive use of technology in that same classroom. What message does that send? Why do we not embrace the powerful tool for learning that our students already own and have with them daily? If we permit cell phones in the classroom, and model how to use the device for productivity and positive growth, it gives us the availability of another very powerful tool for collaboration, innovation, and creation. These kids are already intimately familiar with their own devices. Why don’t we promote their use in a positive manner?

These were very empowering discussions that we had. When the day began, I never thought that these discussions would be the outcome. That should be the lesson here. When you network and communicate with others, you can start to create opportunities for authentic learning. Before we can teach students to create and innovate, we have to collaborate and become innovators ourselves. At the end of the day, we are fighting to build an authentic learning model and to do so, we all have to become learners.

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