A month ago I was hired to be the Director of Instructional Technology at Boys’ Latin Charter School. I proposed the idea in the fall of 2009 and the idea soon became a job proposal. I interviewed, was hired, and now I’m devising my next steps as our school year winds down towards the summer. At times I feel overwhelmed with seeing this position through and finding the time to keep track of everything I want to accomplish for next year. On top of that, I’m also designing the curriculum for the AP English Language and Composition course that Boys’ Latin will be offering for the first time next fall. So where do I begin? Where do I start? Should I just tell all of my colleagues to begin belching into voicethread, followed by a transitional roller coaster prezi that ends with a thirty second animoto clip? This plan is probably not the best idea unless my goal is to acquire seething stares rather than tech driven lesson plans.
Ok, so this is the part where you give me an answer. Give me some direction!
I’ve decided to divide this process into three steps. Three bullet points that will help me guide the next 6 weeks of school and not drive my exhausted colleagues crazy.
1. Survey Monkey
Survey Monkey, of all the monkeys, you’re my favorite. And I will use you to find an ideal starting point for fusing technology and curriculum at Boys’ Latin. The one thing faculty members can’t stand is a PD that throws technology at them and does not provide ample time to break it, fix it, and learn it.
Technology should be introduced in summer PD sessions and allot enough time for your faculty to find a comfort level with the new application they are using while not being overwhelmed by grading, parent emails, and planning. I’ve seen former colleagues put their laptop screens down during an ed-tech PD and stare at the presenter for the remainder of the session. There is always one. Getting that one on board is my goal.
Finally, this survey will give me insight into what my faculty wants to do with technology in their classroom. I have seen districts force teachers to use technology just so they could look like a tech driven school. This never works. Teachers can present 21st century lessons and learning without having aspect of technology in the classroom. The grand assumption in 21st century learning is that classrooms need laptops, cameras, wikis, moodles, pods, etc. But that’s not true at all. 21st century learning skills take the context of contemporary times; bring those ideas into the classroom through varied lessons, assessments, and collaborative projects that provoke student learning. One of the greatest skills a student can have in the 21st century is the ability to filter through a plethora of information and seek the best pathway to an answer. Tangible technology is only one component of this new style of learning.
2. Connect and Organize
The one element that is lacking at Boys’ Latin is interconnectedness between Administration, Faculty, Students, and Parents. At the beginning of the year we were given cell phones, but only half the faculty consistently use and charge them (I suggested Google Voice Numbers). Some of us are on twitter and most are on Facebook. I know a few colleagues who understand the brilliance of using Google Docs, but for the most part, go unused. This is sad.
Because most districts, charter schools, and private schools have the ability to connect like never before, but are not using these forums effectively. All of these applications are free and require little effort and time to manage. Here is where I hope my new position can shine in the early stages.
I’ll start by introducing a handful of applications that will unify the school’s tangled web of communication. I plan on starting with a wikispace where all of my colleagues can share resources: links, blogs, wikis, etc. This gives everyone a chance to share and build a resource library.
The next step will be to get all of my colleagues signed up on twitter. I have gained so much from having a twitter account and creating a personal learning network of teachers around the globe. Imagine an entire school community using this forum effectively. The possibilities for interconnectedness and collaboration are endless. Teachers can share resources, updates, and plans that go far beyond the school web page.
Finally, I want to give the faculty candy. Yes, candy. Here is a Butterfinger or a packet of gummy worms for trying out this new technology. I want to keep it simple and allow them to break it, fix it, and learn it. I don’t want to overwhelm them with every clever new presentation tool or acronym floating around the Ed-tech movement. In the end, let them play and give them candy.
I want to sit down with each department and work on creating collaborative lessons and projects that are inquiry based, provoke student thinking, and challenge students to seek out the best answers to questions they generate themselves. The focus in these meetings will be the content, standards, and objectives that each project will highlight. In many planning meetings and classrooms I notice technology abuse. Teachers use technology as the focus of the lesson and forget that the content, standards, and objectives still drive lessons and always will.
The meeting outcomes will not resemble a well constructed lesson plan, but simply content that my colleagues wish to enhance through the use of a collaborative technology project. My job is to turn that content into a lesson that will use technology and align to 21st century skills.
These are my first and next steps as the newly appointed Director of Instructional Technology or as the call me on the streets, “MC DIT”. As some of you quickly email that attempt at humor to fail blog, stop for a minute, and give me your feedback on my progression. Offer suggestions and constructive criticism. I’m sailing into uncharted waters and have an idea of what course I want to take, but sailing with an experienced crew is much better than going at it alone.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check in as I chronicle my experiences as Director of Instructional Technology.
*Image Courtesy of “God At His Computer .” Atheist/Agnostic. Web. 7 May 2010.