Friday, June 18, 2010

Ground Floor

About three weeks before the end of the school year, I had a meeting with our district's IT director.  We had a really good discussion about how our we have committed many resources towards keeping the tech running but nothing in the way of developing a plan for implementation.  This conversation quickly turned into the district deciding to free up my afternoons to help with this. 

Things I know
  • Technology isn't going to make a bad teacher a good teacher.
  • Using tech to do the exact same things we've done without tech isn't productive.
  • Teachers don't like change.
  • Anything that comes from the district office is treated like a mandate and resisted.
  • "How do I use this?" is the wrong question.
  • "Why should I use this?" is a better question.
  • Professional development in the way of workshops isn't very effective.
  • Conversations are.

Questions I have
  • Where does assessment/grading fit into this conversation?
  •  Are we looking to transform what we do in the classroom?
  • Why should anyone listen to what I have to say?
  • Where do I start?

I'm not really interested in throwing a bunch of tools into the laps of teachers.  However, I'm very interested in engaging in conversations with teachers about why we do what we do and questioning whether or not there exists a tool that will help us do things better.  I threw a bunch of these questions in the lap of my IT director and found myself sitting before our superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

I can't imagine the meeting going better. It was great to see someone with 40+ years in education saying that we need to look at what we do and why we do it.  Many of the questions I had, she had as well.  One thing we knew for sure was that this vision is fluid and we are in the process of creating it.  Questions are encouraged.  Push back is needed.  Transparency is critical. 

Lots of rope. Hope I don't hang myself with it.


Anonymous said...

I look at the way that some tech has moved around my school of have-nots. One teacher gets their hands on something they wanted, we all see how well they use it (after they've figured out the kinks) and then we're all clamoring for the tech. Maybe that's your model, find the experimenter in each school, toss them some cool toy. Then keep checking up on them. If you find it in another classroom, then it's useful.

David Cox said...

I don't know if I'd say that's the model, but I do think that there's something to be said about someone willing to experiment. However, experimentation without reflection just leads us from one shiny toy to the next.

I don't think tech is the answer. But if it's a conversation starter, then I say, "let's talk."

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is a really awesome opportunity. I can't agree more about the feeling that anything out of the district office is resisted.

I think you'll have the best luck if you identify teachers individually and work on something they care about. Yeah, it's not as "efficient" as teaching an after-school professional development class to 30 teachers, but who listens to those anyway?

The key is focusing on one problem. "What can I do better?" is often a question an individual has, not an entire staff.

Why should anyone listen to you? I can name an entire math department in Atlanta that can provide a glowing testimonial. I learned from you about dynamic questions in ExamView, showed a colleague, he told another, and another...and we just spent the week building a custom question bank!

Matt Townsley said...

Welcome to the world of central office staff, David. You're fortunate enough to still have one of your feet inside and one outside.

I'm beginning to realize that assessment is a lot like technology - changing it alone doesn't help. Instead it is the (hopefully) resulting change in mindset towards teaching & learning that will benefit the students. My two cents...

David Cox said...

The interesting/scary part of all this is that there really isn't an agenda on the district's part (which is very refreshing). They're simply committing some resources/time towards allowing teachers to begin speaking with each other and asking those critical questions that really are the only way to promote change.

Stuff that gets handed down rarely gets buy-in and we don't want the most efficient way as kalamatiykat stated. We're looking at something that is gonna take some slow cooking. BTW, thanks for the kind words. Glad you've found some success with EV.

One thing we all agree on is that I need to stay in the classroom. I suppose if I could create my dream position it would be to teach one section in the mornings and then use the rest of the day to just offer an extra set of eyes and ides in the classrooms of other teachers. I'd love to see a PD plan that included conversations and teachers working side-by-side with students present in order to enrich everyone's experience.