The interviewee is a colleague at another elementary school in our district, he is in his 8th year of teaching in general grade 5. The interview was in his classroom after school, below are the 3 summative points from the conversation.
He felt that one of the main underlying themes to actively integrating technology with teaching practice was taking risks. Technology combined with content and pedagogy, “unless actively practiced and tested in a classroom environment cannot become an integral part of a teacher’s toolkit.” He takes risks daily when using new technology but finds that the rewards that present themselves when technology “clicks” far outweigh the times when his experiments with tech failed. When a piece of software or hardware can be used for a specific application he often found that that device or app had much broader applications when applied between subjects or combined with previous successful technology platforms. He had to break out of his previous “binder based” lesson planning to start to develop his lessons online and this in itself required an investment of time and risk into a new platform to better store his work. He stated, “part of the risk was letting go of your control over all aspects of the classroom and realizing that with these new tools there are many times the knowledge is reciprocal especially, for example with coding.”
He talked about the lack of cohesive resources that tied technology to content and competencies within our newly developed ADST curriculum. He is moving towards a station approach to his classroom with Math and Science in which each station has an interdisciplinary approach using tech. He is trying to develop automated websites which the students can log into to follow online instructions to learn the new digital fabrication and physical computing component that our district elementary schools are investing in. “A direct teaching method is unproductive using stations and the individualized, authentic approach we are trying to use. The challenge lies in developing web based platforms to guide the students, moving them to self regulated learning tasks creating projects that combine reflection, adaption and collaboration.” He does not have time to create these resources and finds it frustrating that our district and government seem to lack any centralized repositories to help teachers develop and integrate tech into their subjects.
He felt Multi User VIrtual Environments were possibly the most interactive, cooperative, dynamic teaching tool he had used thus far. He uses Minecraft with his teaching I asked him how the M.U.V.E.’s could benefit students. He stated that “these large scale sandbox platforms are a place for teachers to build lessons that most closely mimic our physical environment in terms of unpredictable events, visual relation and open creativity.” He felt as if M.U.V.E’s were in their infancy and not often used, however as an interdisciplinary tool for all subjects it covered a broad swath and had limitless possibilities. He stated, “Most teachers will dismiss it as just a game, but the level of creativity and problem solving I have seen from our disengaged learners is astounding.” Professional development on how to use this tool was probably the best way to bring it into skeptical teachers focus. He said “the limiting tool could possibly be the level of technology that schools require to run the platform in their labs.”
This is a great post that identifies two key issues that I see in my own teaching practice: resource and professional development. If the tech is going to be effectively used in the classroom, everybody needs to be given reliable access and real, honest to goodness time to play with the options/dials. That means both students and teachers, in my experience. Early adopters of tech are often marginalized by lack of support (we share one IT person between 20 schools) or condemned (FOIPPA or other institutional privacy regulations) (Mouza and Lavigne, 2013). In my interviews this week a colleague said something that I think we all believe–the tech we all want is already out there. We don’t need anything more than access, permission, and time to explore.
Mouza, C. and Lavigne, N. (eds) (2013). Chapter 1: Emerging Technologies for the Classroom. Explorations in the Learning Sciences, Instructional Systems, and Performance Technologies.
Your point of encouraging risks in technology incorporation is well taken. How can we promote exploration with technology amidst limited resources, time, skill, etc. Does it depend on individual teachers, and is the occasional professional development enough for teachers to challenge status quo?
Nathan, it is valuable to point out that risk plays an enormous role when adopting new technology. I find there are many teachers out there that fear the unknown and are not risk-takers towards new applications of technology. It may be because they are not given a chance to practice. Due to the wealth of resources at our disposal with the internet, I agree that we need time as teachers to curate our resources by practicing with them. Teacher need to explore the resources at their disposal, similar to how our students might explore in station activities. How can we expect them to learn, if we ourselves don’t know what is to be discovered?
I agree, they do need to be given time to practice, which is where the district Pro-D comes into play. However I still see a huge lag in how districts approach technology. Perhaps this is because there are not enough presenters to bring the ideas to the districts? We still seem to be focusing on numeracy and literacy gurus but little thought is put into where technology fits in with their ideas.