Sunday, November 18, 2007

Learning from other's mistakes

The first blush of technology gave me a rush of hope. Now, nearly twenty years later, I am more realistic about school change. Human nature does not change with the introduction of new technology or information. We laugh when someone says, "Don't confuse me with the facts!" We laugh because it is true! And since it is ultimately the humans who make or break technology implementation, there are critical issues to be dealt with over and above the complexities of equipment and curriculum.

We are receiving equipment in my current school, a school in which teachers are eager, fearful, overwhelmed and resistent to technology all at the same time. We are poised on this side of all the mistakes facing a nearly blank slate.

How do we keep from messing it up? To answer that question I did the first thing that any good librarian would do, RESEARCH. Curiosity, that ineffable quality that made me a librarian, drove me to ask; What have those districts that have had longitudinal experience learned about technology implementation?

I found great sites and great thoughts. WestEd (originally one of the regional Educational Laboratories funded in the 60s-70s by the Federal Government, and consequently dismantled by the Republican Reformers from 1980 on) is a grant funded non-profit entity serving colleges and K-12 institutions. The list that follows is theirs, but includes my commentary..If you want the unexpurgated version click on the link above.

  • a rationale for the technology and related resources --

This is desperately needed. Teachers do not see how technology should change teaching. We need to help understanding that we are not to be dispensers of knowledge, but guides and enccouragers along the path. The very concept of a GURU of technology is antethetical to the model we want to achieve!

  • the stakeholders get involved in the decision making process

We are probably a little late for this to happen. So these decisions have already been made and we are receiving equipment. How we can use these tools and add software to grasp the goals of those who made the decisions is really where we are at present.

  • a way to promote thinking about the most cost-effective uses of technology

One of the problems in our recent past is that we have had technology but have not used what we had. There are currently computers lying fallow, a bit out of date -- but still able to be upgraded and used in many applications. Is it wasteful to just slough these off?

  • assurance that technology applications are aligned with the curriculum

This has been done, but the side that makes it useful -- creating easily accessed applications needs to be addressed. For example in the library we need to have people working on joint lesson plans that can be utilized by any librarian to collaborate with classroom teachers with the help of technology coaches in our district. The concept of everyone inventing the wheel is time consuming and wasteful. We have been shown the technology (wiki) where this collaboration can take place. Now we need coaching to make that happen and time off from our other tasks to give it a chance to happen. I am writing this under the covers as I blow my nose and cough instead of attending church Sunday morning! But there is no time in the school day to make this happen.

We need lots of 45 minute-long lessons using technology that a librarian can grab and download and implement in a small lab setting with the teachers operating alongside. These need to be created by librarians and tech coaches working together. It increases the likelihood that the librarian's AND tech coaches can collaborate and increase the chance that teachers will experience technology is a more positive way.

  • help in determining the specific training and assistance needs

Our district is on the right track here....with tech coaches who are available at the point of need! Now we need to put the Librarians in this mix with training and encouraging their teachers to use those applications we identify as useful in helping them get the understanding of themselves as guides. Even though this idea has been taught in colleges of education for a long time (When I got my MA it was taught -- but not modelled by professors 1990) it is not easy to do. Just as our children learn by our example we have learned by the example of all our teachers - who used large group instruction and taught people who wanted to learn what was in the curriculum.

  • assurance that existing resources are used in the plan

This is something I don't think we are attempting to do in large part because it is seen as a huge expense. But if we utilize the people that are in place it might be cost effective. I see two parts to this -- a software and a hardware part. In my school I have cultivated AR in the library. Teachers who learn to manage AR for their classes (which has mostly been my job) learn a great many technology skills-- therefore we should consider AR as a part of our technology education plan. On the hardware side -- we have many IMAC computers which our district no longer supports that could be utilized if we added memory (canabalized from dying machines) and updated the system or OS X -- but because they are no longer supported they are simply sitting unused. During most of their lives they were only used to access AR or for CDROM programs --- since they were the only technology that teachers could see much value in)

  • a method for determining how to evaluate the impact and progress of the technology

This needs to be done -- and we need some less quantifiable measures --included in the measurement.

  • a vehicle for communicating steps for others to follow adapting the plan

This could happen as a part of the collaborative planning that librarians do with grade levels and if it were part of a regularly planned monthly intervention with our technology coaches.

  • a process for coordination with other programs and projects

Perhaps planning with PE, Art, Music could happen at regular intervals to involve them in wholistic ways with what is happening in the classrooms. Perhaps each grade level could do a focus like this in nine week segments. That way no one would feel overwhelmed with the way that this kind of learning seems to take away from their direct instruction aimed at testing. Just the planning is bothersome to the teachers who are not really used to doing collaborative planning...

  • that the teaching addresses the needs of all learners

It is important to create examples of how technology can be used to help rather than hinder in the classroom - specific plans for various learners would be helpful.

  • guidelines and a context for the insertion of new technologies

Seems logical, but need to see examples of this.

I will blog each day this week about an aspect of implementation that might help us -- IF we talk about it ahead of the implementation...We are currently in the beginning of a pilot project, so we are poised to make mistakes, but we should also be poised to learn from those who have already made mistakes.

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