What is the core, fundamental experience of instructional technology? As I reflect on my years of experience, I’m trying to take a trip down memory lane, back to what helping another educator was like. I’m reaching for that root experience because I feel that something has been lost over the years. And, with my focus having been more on communication and infrastructure, I have achieved some professional distance.
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As a campus technology coordinator in the Mt. Pleasant ISD, but also a teacher, I always remember working side-by-side with other teachers in my grade level. Just as they shared their lesson plans with me, ideas for new learning activities in the classroom, I slowly started sharing what I was already doing in my classroom–helping students use technology to reach a deeper understanding of content.
For example, I remember my first projects with third grade to sixth grade students:
- Students used The Graph Club to create graphs based on a “paper” spreadsheet they had made, measuring the characteristics of vertebrates and invertebrates.
- Students used HyperStudio to create multimedia, hyperlinked slideshows about the solar system. They introduced graphics, pictures of themselves, audio narration in English and Spanish.
- PBL (project-based learning activity) to explore complex subject like apartheid in South Africa.
These days, I often find that we focus on the tech, the tool, the app, and what you can do. It’s easier to focus on that. But I continue to long for the kinds of activities that require more of me as a learner and learning facilitator, that hearken back across the gulf of years to that time when it was about the learning objectives, and how to use tech to dig deeper.
But it’s not just about that…it’s also about encouraging others to use technology as a natural, routine, regular part of their teaching…and for students to embrace it as a part of their learning. In chatting with a colleague in Texas, he said something profound–until students had regular, daily access to technology, the culture of the classroom didn’t change. When they did have the access, that’s when the culture changed.
Of course, classroom culture has to connect to a district culture that’s equally committed to shifting instruction. To that end, my colleague described a district that did the following a few years ago:
- moved its instructional technology specialists into the role of digital coaches
- focused on digital classroom initiative that built on instructional leaders in schools and
- embedded technology in the curriculum goals and approaches communicated to everyone.
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