Roughly ten years ago I had the opportunity to teach in a classroom that received a grant titled “Classrooms for the future”. The problem was, despite added pieces of hardware and software to my classroom, this was not the future. Nor would this be the classroom that students ten years later would experience. The same can be said of the classroom of 2015. I assure you this will not be the classroom that students in 2025 experience. This is why we should not get caught up with hardware and app smashing in our respective classrooms. This is not to say that apps cannot do great things, but ultimately, apps and hardware should never drive instruction.
Instructional design with technology has never been more important in today’s classrooms. Additionally, professional learning models have never been more critical for utilizing educators’ time to help nurture evolving instructional design paradigms. The two run parallel because educators need the time to share learning experiences and develop and share new ideas on how to best integrate digital tools and applications. Below are some ideas for both school leaders and instructional leaders to help teachers design dynamic classrooms that lead with learning rather devices or applications.
Remix and rethink professional learning models
The best professional development models lead with the voices of educators. More often than not, teachers simply want time to discuss topics and vet ideas with each other. This is always evident to me when I attend an EdCamp on a Saturday and see the way ideas culminate and flourish when there is both time and space available for connecting and sharing. Educators have an innate desire to learn and grow professionally. Unfortunately, professional development models get in the way sometimes. The key in professional learning is to develop a time for this to happen, encourage collaborative learning models, and give educators time to have conversations and share ideas in both small and large group settings.
Develop and sustain community
We are living in a post “Bring in the big consultant who doesn’t work in a school” to deliver professional development world. Rather, schools can learn from each other and engage in professional learning communities or PLCs that connect regularly throughout the year in order to focus on a shared vision or reach a common goal. What’s more, districts and schools have the tools and media to collaborate with each other. Districts or schools should never live in isolation and feel that just because they are deemed “innovative” or “progressive” that they are. Or, that they are sustaining those identities. Schools should consistently collaborate and seek out learning experiences and conversations with as many schools and districts as possible.
At Grafton, we have set up technology PLCs in each building. I meet with them regularly and we focus on meeting our goals each meeting, but also discuss action steps and any shortcomings we encountered. As an administrator, this is valuable time for me to engage with colleagues and understand what everyone needs. Additionally, it gives me insight into classrooms that I might not be able to connect with regularly.
Devices and apps come second
In the connected or 1:1 classroom, educators need to temper the idea of racing toward apps and specific devices. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, eventually iPads and chromebooks will be passe and new devices and applications will emerge. This is not to say what we’re doing now with technology is a “fad”; rather it’s the world in which our students will enter. Therefore, it is every school’s responsibility to provide relevant and purposeful technology in order to challenge students daily.
Instructional Design process
This is where it all comes together. Let’s take a writing strand from the common core state standards.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Before I even consider a device or application I consider the skill set I want to develop and how I want students to not only understand this concept, but apply it. But not just apply it via pen and paper (not to say this is a bad way) but apply it in an arena in which they are familiar. So, here is my technology integration process…
- Skill Set or learning goal: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- Introduce students to Twitter and the constraints and parameters by which Twitter was founded: A micro-blogging forum that limits all users to 140 characters.
- Ensure that all students have an account for Twitter and understand the privacy settings. (Those who don’t wish to create an account, can do this via a Google doc or easel paper taped to the board)
- Develop a hashtag for the class #MarcinekELA4
- Have students produce clear and coherent sentences that use heightened vocabulary and express clear, concise thoughts.
- Post them to Twitter or have students write them on the analog Twitter wall with markers and easel paper.
Where you take the lesson from there is up to you. This could lead students’ sentences into constructing an introduction paragraph, or potentially a blog post.
The point in all of this is that educators need professional learning or development time to share ideas like the one above and have conversations around how they are integrating and synthesizing technology into their respective lessons. Schools don’t need overpriced consultants (who are not practitioners or involved with a school in anyway) in order to teach effectively with technology. Nor do they need 30 apps for teaching History. What educators need more than anything is time to connect, design, and share ideas around instructional design with technology.