Tim Kivell and I presented today at the Hamilton Wentworth Principals Conference, summarizing lessons learned after three years orchestrating PD plans for the schools directly involved in the technology facet of the Transforming Learning Everywhere initiatives here at the school board. These are the slides we presented, but slides can only tell half the story, so I’ve attempted to expand on the ideas shared to provide context.
The presentation explored the SAMR model as a mechanism for assessing the depth of technology integration within the classroom. Our presentation chastised the infographics found on the internet that attempt to quantify apps on the SAMR ladder. Our thinking being, that the app in and of itself does not guarantee an elevated position. Google Drive, when used (incorrectly) merely as a word processor similar to the desktop version of Word, could be categorized as substitution. The tool itself does not immediately equal elevated status; it is through the process of sharing the document created with other editors and commentators — preferably before the task has begun — allowing for ongoing assessment of the process, that makes the task one we might consider “Modification” or “Redefinition”.
Product becomes secondary to process. Using an online post-it program, if that collection is never re-visited, is no more efficient than using paper and pencils, and may actually introduce other facets that further complicate the creation of the product (connectivity issues, passwords, etc). This is where substitution — although a necessary first step — is a step backwards if we linger there for too long. It’s the process that makes the task more relevant, more rich, and more engaging. Having the “post-it” board available after the class has been dismissed — and after the type A personalities have commandeered the conversation in class — provides opportunities for those more introverted students who have now had opportunity to consolidate their thinking, to share with their classmates. This is an example of where technology provides a functional improvement.
As we assess our efficacy in the classroom, we need to ensure we aren’t getting carried away with shiny new tools that merely substitute for more traditional tasks (the app trap). Technology that isn’t being used to modify and redefine what is possible, is missing out on the true value of technology integration.
From SAMR, we shifted to the second part of our presentation, which explored TPACK as a means of measuring effective professional development planning for teachers. We acknowledge that there is an initial need to address the individual facets of TPACK: Technology, Content/Curriculum, Pedagogy; but feel that the more time we spend on the outer edges of that model, rather than aiming for training that addresses all three areas simultaneously, misses the mark. In our example, we use iDoceo to address how we could simply cover the creation of a checklist, or we could explore the deeper facets of assessment triangulation, knowledge of curriculum, and the ways in which technology can assist us to better knowing our students, when we focus beyond teaching the tool.
There is no questioning the fact that this is more difficult. It is far simpler to have someone come in and teach how to create a Google form; but if the example provided is a multiple choice question investigating the colour of the sky (red, blue, green?), then we have missed an opportunity not only to address how to ask good questions, but also how one might use this tool in the context of the curriculum.
What does this mean then for staff professional development opportunities:
- There is a need to differentiate for individual strengths and needs
- There is a need to avoid “whole class” instruction in similar ways that we recognize is ineffective when teaching children
- There is a need to contextualize learning about technology, or about effective pedagogy, within the context of the specific curriculum being delivered by each learner
- There is a need to offer choice, so learners can address individual deficits, and explore personal growth targets
When we began this journey three years ago, we struggled through ballroom style training sessions, delivered by external partners who didn’t understand our needs. Our more recent PD opportunities offer choice, and attempt to operate within the centre of the TPACK diagram: addressing effective pedagogy, within the context of curriculum, accelerated by effective use of technology. There is a momentum from these sessions that seem to suggest we are on to something.