Technology Integration: Stuck in an Infinite Loop

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Recently, the advertisement above appeared in a national educational technology magazine.  I sent out a tweet, asking “Why would I want do this in my classroom?”  One response was, “You’re looking to create ICE in the classroom! Independence, Challenge, Engagement! Differentiated classroom with open objectives.”  I replied that I could do that with a book.

This is what “technology integration” looks like.  Doing the same activities with new objects.  Further why are we asking the student to convert digital content to analog content?  My guess is the student is completing a worksheet or “taking notes,” moving information from one place to another (Jamie McKenzie).

How did this hardware get there?  My standing hypothesis is that it’s not curriculum-related.  Some “influencer” attended a conference or other presentation, returned, and stated that “we have to do that.”  “Our students will be behind if we do not do that.” Peer pressure from other districts forced action.  The equipment was purchased, teachers were shown the switches, buttons and a few “apps.”  They were asked to brainstorm how to use the gear, asked to make a lesson, and sent back to their classrooms to “integrate the technology into their classrooms.”  There will be little results related to student learning.  There will be an assorted discussion about student “engagement” and “use of technology.”  Little or nothing about student performance and achievement.

The hardware and software are the fourth most important feature with classrooms and learning:

  1. What should students know and do?
  2. How will we know they understand and can do?
  3. What instructional strategies will we use?
  4. What hardware and software will we use to support the strategies, student learning, and student assessment?

Any framework for technology integration has levels of integration and districts attempt to move teacher practices to “higher levels.”

Starting with student learning and assessment, districts can determine their direction and their practices.  This will transform learning, by unleashing the promise of hardware and software.  Teachers are not left to figure it out themselves by “integrating technology.”

So until we get thoughtful leadership in our schools that quits talking about “technology as a tool” or “technology integration,” learning in school with hardware and software will be stuck in an infinite loop!

Notes From Techcon 2012

Techcon 2012

Techcon occurred October 26, 2012 at the Naperville Campus of Northern Illinois University. Over 160 local school administrators, technology leaders, and classroom teachers convened for the one-day session.

Google’s Jaime Casap (Twitter: @jcasap) was the keynote speaker. His presentation focused on the crisis of low expectations and that even though the jobs that will exist in 2037 are not known today, several skills exists today that are fundamental to success years away: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, analyzing information, and problem solving.

He noted that we learn and solve problems in different ways so we should have different types of assessment. Further students today have new capabilities to learn differently and that education is beginning to take advantage of new learning models.

With one of the themes of the conference was about cloud resources, sessions addressed the Illinicloud, and Google, Apple, and Microsoft cloud offerings. Other sessions outlined digital learning opportunities, a 1:1 implementation, digital mapping, Open Education Resources, and social networking applications in schools.

Apple’s Patrick Beedles (Twitter: @beedles_apple) closed the day with a summary of the day’s key points.

This day-long program is a strong collaboration of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials , the Illinois Computing Educators, and the Illinois Chief Technology Officers.

Next year’s conference is at the same location on October 18, 2013.

Technology Leadership

image source: http://www.pace.com

The following is the executive summary from our recent publication The Challenges and Professional Development Needs of the District Technology Leader.  The full report is available here.

The district technology leader could be an administrator, manager, or teacher who has responsibility for technology operations across a school district. The
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) calls such individuals the “Chief
Technology Officer” (CTO).

This report outlines a survey of CTOs in Illinois public and private school
districts. The survey asked participants to identify their three top challenges and
four top professional development needs.

For their top challenges, CTOs were precluded from using “time, money, and
(lack of) people” as their primary challenges. These components were identified
as universal challenges for all organizations. Through a focus group, nine
challenges were identified. Later CTOs were presented the list and asked to
identify and rank their top three challenges. Responding CTOs ranked
Professional Development for other employees issue as their top challenge.
Increased Expectations ranks second, followed by Instruction and Staff, both tied
for third. Professional Development includes formal training programs and adhoc,
spur of the moment training session for individual employees.

For professional development, CTOs were asked to rank their top four
professional development needs based on CoSN’s “Framework of Essential Skills
for the K-12 CTO,” which has ten categories. Responding CTOs ranked Planning
as their highest professional development need, followed by Instruction, Policy,
and Leadership, respectively.

For professional development, school district leaders should recognize that CTOs’
professional development needs are not technical. CTOs know how and where to
get assistance about the core components of their jobs. They need professional
development on CoSN’s broad categories of “Leadership and Vision” and the
“Educational Environment.” This development can occur in formal opportunities,
but likely best when CTOs are mentored and included in district planning and
policy development, curriculum initiatives, and school-level projects.
The most important insight from this study is that district leaders need
professional development for strategic elements, including planning, leadership,
policy, and instruction.