I started my day today at 8am at EdTechTeacher’s Innovation Summit at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and ended it at 8pm at a MEMSET (Massachusetts Elementary and Middle School Educational Technologists) meeting at the Fessenden School in West Newton. At the Innovation Summit I attended the pre-conference workshop “Launching Innovation in Schools” with Justin Reich and Peter Senge. We spent the day discussing leadership and the following cycle in the process of change:
- Bring people together around ideas they care about
- Refining a vision and getting to work
- Cycle of experiment & experience
- Measuring progress and adjusting along the way
We identified our schools’ signature strengths, goals, ongoing initiatives, and powerful uses of technology. One of my biggest take-aways from the day was that the use of technology needs to build upon the schools’ strengths, goals, and initiatives. It has to be an extension of a current initiative rather than an add-on. It can’t just be another thing because then it becomes burdensome. The technology needs to be a way to get at what we have already identified as something we care about and are committed to working on. The tools must help us move forward with our goals; they can’t be added on as new initiatives on their own.
Later in the day I attended a gathering of local educators and ended up in a conversation about screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released their updated recommendations for children’s media use. This got me to thinking about how much time we ask our students to sit in front of a screen to complete assignments for school. I am 100% in support of educational uses of technology that enhance the student learning experience, but I want to make sure that technology is not used for the sake of technology but rather as a means to another end. Dr. Ruben Puentedura devised the SAMR model, a framework for thinking about integrating technology into teaching and learning. SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Teachers are prompted to ask themselves, “Is this use of technology simply substituting something I am already doing in the classroom? Or is it enabling me to enhance my students’ experience in some way by modifying or even redefining the lesson and what students are able to do?”
This leads me to ask the questions, “How are we evaluating the effectiveness of our technology integration? When technology is implemented into the classroom and curriculum, how are we evaluating the learning outcomes?” to make sure we are being intentional about our use of technology. It needs to be meaningful and purposeful.
It is my hope that the majority of my one-on-one conversations with teachers about technology use in the classroom begin with, “What would you like your students to know or do? What are your learning objectives?” rather than “There’s this really cool app…” When it is recommended that our students spend a limited amount of time in front of screens, we should make sure that their time spent with screen is a powerful and effective means to accomplish a task that otherwise couldn’t be achieved and that builds upon the school’s goals and initiatives, or in the case of an individual classroom, the learning goals of the teacher.