I’m Easy and Cool!

Ok finally post number one from #ISTE11. This year I went through the exhibition hall, for more than the 5 minutes I was in there last year. Only really went to see my friends who are venders. I tried to make it through this planned path from each place then out. I TRIED. I had Bob Dillon (@ideaguy42) in tow who just received a huge tech grant so the Doc wanted shop. So as we walked I felt molested (can I say that in an edublog? May get weird searches on analytics now lol). It was so uncomfortable, ladies in French maid costumes or the ones who had this need to touch me or my name tag, but I realized a common theme. The more pushy the sales person the more they would say there product made teaching “easier” or their product was “cool.” Ok, annnnnd?

Is this our goal for technology “easier” or “cool?” Boooooo! Yeah I’m a short cut taker. When you have ADHD tedious things take longer so you have to adapt, but I’m not so sure we are on the right track here. When looking at new technologies, whether something we are buying or that new Web 2.0 tool from a session, we need to ask a few questions:

1. Does it fit into framework of good pedagogy? Think about it, 3D projector “ohhh ahhhh” fancy. Get to wear awesome glasses. But a 3D projector? For?? Football? Oh yeah this is for classroom. If you have one need for this pplllllease tell me. Sometimes the coolest tech is pointless. Waste of money. I don’t know about you, but my district or classroom account doesn’t look like Scrooge McDuck’s vault, diving into gold coins.

2. Does the technology take away real life experiences or add to it? Let’s go back to the 3D projector. Saw an example of a frog that could be dissected. I know so kids opt out of cutting animals, but most don’t. Yeah a class set of frogs is a little expensive but so is he projector. Are kids going to learn more from touching a real heart (or getting that gross pregnant frog with the millions of eggs inside- every class gets one) or from a teacher standing in front of the room showing it on screen?

3. Are the students using the technology or are the teachers? Yeah I know, we want the short cut, but if I was a buyer of technology in a school I would have a hard time saying ok to the purchase of something that never touches the students hands. My mom says a lot “it’s not about you,” I think we need to remember TEACHING IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!!! Its about the kids you see every day. Get over it.

4. Does enhance learning that is already happening? Perfect example of this is “Letters Alive” that I have had on my mind past few weeks (I’ll link it as soon as I get to a computer, blogging mobile here). So you put these flashcards of basic sight words under a document camera and the program not only reads it, the pictures on cards (in 3D, see not all 3D is bad) act out the sentence. At first I thought “cool” then I keep thinking of how this will really help those early learners. When I taught 1st grade there were kids I literally had to act out words for them to understand. Now, they can with out me.

5. Lastly, is it taking something already BAD and making it digital? I see this a lot. It is usually hidden under words like “21st century” or “preparing for future.” Think digital text books. You know the PDF pages that are not open source or used for anything else but book on computer. Waste of money. Or even better, multiple choice test, but done through a computer. (I have to give MC test, but I still not a fan). Let’s not take something that already doesn’t work & put stilettos on it.

Please know there are some great resources out there, I’m sure those who were at #iste11 or followed the tweets have a new amazing list, but don’t be fooled. We need to really think about our students & their learning before adopting what is “easy” and “cool.”

Get Your Hair Wet

I’m a person who likes to observe others. I usually observe people’s idiosyncrasies but through that I learn more about them. This week I was at the state technology conference. Now last 3 “conferences” I attended were TN Teach Meet, Educon, and Edcamp Bham, so I almost had a hard time adapting to this conference. Not that it was a bad conference by any means, just different. So as I watched the attendees in my sessions and other sessions I attended I was noticing that you could almost categorize everyone into 3 groups. We talk often about life long learners and that is how we all should be as educators, I think everyone was there learning but the different levels of passion is what makes the difference.

The “Sprinkler” Learner: Remember summers as a kid and getting to play in the sprinkler? You would run though it and hope to get wet as the drops dripped on you. Is was a weird thing because you ran so you would not get wet, yet you wanted to be wet. This is the chick in my session talking on the phone in the back row of the session. (Actually this happened twice as I started sessions, gave them the teacher eye, works on adults btw) Sprinklers are at conferences, some PD, mostly for CEUs or because district sent them. Some may go technology conferences because they know education is changing, yet still intimidated or resistant. Some times conferences are overwhelming and there is a shut down mode. Either way, not a lot of learning or passion is happening here. It’s like the kids running through the sprinkler, going to sessions and Hoping information or new tools “fall on them” without getting them too wet. I am sure I really do not need to share the negatives of this, mostly there is a lot this person is missing. Not much growth is happening.

The “Wading” Learner: When kids and I go to pool, I’m notorious for begging them not to splash me and get my hair wet. I like to wade in the shallow or lounge on the floats. I’m cooling off in the water yet not making the commitment to look like a drowned rat. So the wading learner goes to conferences because he/she really want to learn something. They go in, take notes, focus mostly on sessions that teach tools they can turn around and immediately use. Nothing wrong with this at all, this is just the type of learner. Focus on the what can I use now. The problem with this, especially in the technology area, things change at a fast pace. It’s almost like ice cream for dinner, great at the moment but growling belly later. There is some passion for learning something new but that is the end of it. They will be at next PD or conference to learn something new – which is great – but no learning in between.

The “Cannonball” Learner: “And I need all of you to stop what you’re doing and listen. Cannonball!! *splash*” Everyone needs a visual of Ron Burgundy in his maroon skivvies. Cannonballs are fun, you not only get the jump into pool but you get to splash everyone else. This is the learner who goes to the sessions that focus on not just tools but how they increase student learning. Or stay after the session to ask how to get a twitter account, when the session was not about twitter. Or asks questions that get people thinking. Cannonballs love conversations on student learning, not griping about students. Their convos are on how to change things, not how things suck. These are the people who are at unconferences, on twitter, my PLN! This is what I am used to, biggest reason this conference threw me for a loop. Cannonballs are looking for ways to continue learning. This is where passion takes over. They cannot turn off the desire to become a better educator, learn more and more each day. This is where “life long learner” has real meaning.

I think I can pin-point a time in my life where I was each of these learners. Luckily I am pretty sure I am a “cannonball” right now. I have found my passion and love to jump in! My mom tells me every time we are at pool “Life is too short, get your hair wet!” I think that is a good motto, with education changing the way it is, it’s time more teachers get their hair wet!

I Call Mulligan

Remember growing up playing backyard football or baseball and you would do something stupid and yell “Do over” or “I call mulligan”? If granted, you tried so much harder that second chance, didn’t you?

Today I bombed at something. Something that should’ve been easy, a breeze, etc. But when you are as passionate about something as I was today, sometimes nerves take over. I froze & brain turned to mush. Good for others, bad for me. All afternoon I have reflected on “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” But there are no mulligans here, so I must live with it.

In a conversation last week at cheer camp a coach told me “There are no do-overs in real life, kids need to learn that now.” Now that was in a different context about a weird situation she was in. But why? Why can’t kids have do-overs? No there are no do-overs in “life” but guess what, when you are a kid there should be! I’m sure kids invented the idea anyway.

Recently, I had a student tell me when he got home he kept thinking about different things he should’ve said during his presentation and asked to do it again. How could I say no?! How much time could he have spent thinking about this? Poor guy. Yeah I can relate!

We need to remember our goal is for the students to learn. Not perform on their best everyday. My student presented perfectly this time (I actually thought he did ok the 1st time). Our goal in the classroom is for the students to master the standard. If they have a bad day that doesn’t mean they have not mastered that standard. Why not give them a safe place to try again?

No, there are not do-overs in real life but school is not real life! It needs to be a safe place students can be successful. Needs to be a place of learning from mistakes. It needs to be a place students can show their learning, do-overs allow that.