Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's Not About the Tool...And, And, And...

The title of this post was inspired by a conversation lead by David Jakes this past weekend. I'll write more about that presentation in a future post.

It's Not About the Tool!
This fall, Will Richardson kicked off our district back to school gathering challenging the staff in our district to "Redefine Awesome!" He pointed out that,
"The great thing is.."We now have an easy connection between one's passion to learn and the resources to learn it."
"Unleashing student passion for learning" is one of the cornerstones of our district technology plan, along with "Empowering great teaching! Even the wording speaks more to educational philosophy and pedagogy, rather than "let's get some cool tools!"
To me, the focus of this document, and for that matter the National Educational Technology Plan, which I'm a big fan of, is on LEARNING, not on the tool! The learning is the most important part. If it can be done more efficiently with a pencil, or a portable slate, then use it! It's about the learning!

Earlier this fall, Dean Shareski was struggling with the phrase, "It's not about the technology." He created this slide to prove his point.

As much as I appreciate Dean's idea here, I would not want to subject ANYONE to ME playing a cello! I believe ANY tool, in the hands of a good teacher will have a positive educational impact, just as any tool in the hands of an ineffective educator will not.  Dr. Robert Marzano said as much at the 2009 TIES Conference Keynote. Still, Dean's point is that in the hands of a skilled person, the tool IS important! Besides, great teachers deserve great tools for instruction, just as students deserve great tools for learning!

Last November, voters in our district supported our technology plan by passing a referendum that dedicates funds for technology in our district for the next 10 years. Our next task is to define what a 21st Century Classroom will look like. We are working to define the standard tools that every teacher will need. In November/December, we sent out a survey for staff, seeking their input. The survey results indicated that:
  • Teachers were unsure about some of the tools available to them
  • Teachers tool preferences varied by grade level
  • Teachers tool preferences varied by subject area

So on Wednesday of this week, we are inviting staff to come test drive some tools that may or may not become part of that digital classroom at a Technology Fair. Hopefully staff will get some hands on opportunities with specific tools for interaction, communication, creation and presentation to empower their teaching and unleash student's passion for learning. We will also be broadcasting some of the events happening with Digital Learning Day, as a way to showcase how the tools can be used to transform learning here in Edina.
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