Monday, May 11, 2009

Take a moment and think...

Something that concerns me with integrating digital tools into classrooms is making sure that they're used for more than "show". I hear a lot of stories about how awesome a tool is at engaging students...then disppointment strikes when the activity it's used for doesn't help students work towards learning objectives, it's an "add on", a carrot, a reward. There are times I have to admit that it's really hard to look the teacher in that situation in the eye and say "what a wasted opportunity."

As I take on more and more of a leadership role in terms of digital pedagogy in my school I've been looking at ways to ensure digital tools are being integrated authentically and to enrichen learning. I've found reflection tools to help educators measure how their planned activities fit in a scale of transformative learning and higher order thinking skills (one of my fav has to be the 'Technology Integration Matrix' from Florida).

But facilitating effective ICT rich learning experiences takes more planning and thinking then this. There's all sorts of things to 'manage' and admittedly, over the years some of these I didn't even know about until I was half way through an activity and something came up and surprised me. As I lead and support other teachers on their journeys I want to help make their journey a little less stressful and far less lonely than mine has been so far. So I want my colleagues to know about some of the "surprises" that have taken years off my life and damaged professional connections because of their timing and implications. Just being aware of things like relevant department policies, copyright (yours, mine, ours, theirs), digital citzenship concerns (cybersafety, data management) - to name a couple of things - puts a whole new level of thinking into my planning around the integration of digital tools. And now @shanetechteach and the comments on his post are opening a whole new layer of thinking and's making me wonder if this is all worth it, I mean surely teachers think of this stuff...

That's what led me to start thinking about some sort of "risk assessment" scaffold for digital tools. It was my drama background and the management of physical activities (clowning's quite dangerous you know - and I won't even mention stage fighting) that made me think in those terms. Having come up with the idea I turned to a couple of my "gurus" and asked for their input, @shanetechteach has been my sounding board with a lot of this and it's been interesting to read the impact my questions and idea has had on his thinking, which he discusses in his latest blog entry here.

What I'm trying to develop isn't a "risk assessment" tool anymore, it's a thinking and planning tool. It's all well and good for teachers to find a fun tool they want to use in their classrooms, but they also need to ensure it's being used validly and in an informed way.

Ignorance is not an excuse, and the reality is that, as @cnapi5 points out in his reply to @shanetechteach's post, there is a murkier side to the internet and technology that we don't often discuss. My challenge at the moment is coming to terms with how I encourage my colleagues to integrate digital tools while also ensuring they've considered all aspects of authentic digital tools, digital citzenship, copyright, data management, and the complicated waters of conforming to departmental policy.

Honestly, at first I thought it would be easy - turns out it's not. I'm in version two at the moment (and two versions couldn't be much different and still orginate from the same idea if I tried) and I'm not content with it yet. I'm hung up on a couple of worries - how to shape it so that despite the seriousness of these concerns it doesn't just see teachers go "too hard, not doing it" (in relation to the tech or the document); how to give it the scope it needs (cause you can lay money on there being something I haven't even considered).

I admit there's also a degree of hesitation in putting forth the idea of a tool like this - I'm worried colleagues may see it as insulting to their professionalism, as though they don't plan effectively. It's not that, it's just that so many of us (and yep, I've done it) have no idea about some of this stuff, where do you even start thinking and planning for these things? I would like to give them a tool to help them start, to encourage them to pause for a moment and think about it...

Pause and think

Image: 'Pause and Think' by mabar


jnxyz said...

Hi Nicole - that integration matrix was worth the price of reading alone! Anyway, here's a curly one for you - how can you also allow in such planning for the creative failure, the wasted opportunity that might lead to something unforeseen? ... Yeah, I don;t know either!

Shane said...

Nic, some deep thinking here. Has me thinking even further about the issue. I concur with your desires to help staff purposely and intelligently plan ICT integration. Really it should be seen as no different to planning a new learning experience, with the same commitment and professionalism.

I for one have neglected the murkier side of the internet in teaching my students, yet from this discussion it has me thinking I've skipped a major responsibility.


Nic Mobbs said...

I've got to admit I've probably neglected that murkier side many a time too, Shane. Admittedly today as we talked through ethical standards and "fair use" policies I caught myself thinking about this dreamt of scaffold and wondered about what my reaction to it would have been when I first got started. I don't think I would have responded well, it may have been that last thing that stopped me 'staying the course', it may have been that one last thing that made me put tech integration into the too hard basket.

That's the part I'm stuck on at the moment, how to make sure that isn't the reaction to it.

Jonathan, you can't say that with all the best plans something WON'T go wrong, it will (and usually when an international guest is walking into your room ;)). Creative Failure (love that term) has been so important in my own journey I wouldn't deny someone else the joy. At the moment my questions aren't about HOW they'll use it in the room, well not directly. They're more about the concerns - have you thought about how you'll manage things like data management and what are the potential copyright issues.

Part of the reason I think I'm able to look back on some of the things I've done in the past and grimace is because I wasn't aware of a lot of the policies and such - I don't want others to leap in and set up a ning, or class twitter account, or whatever, blindly.

Thanks for keeping me thinking all day about this from so many different angles!