What are the first steps?

I am not sure if I have mentioned it lately, but I teach in the same division as George Couros, and he has been instrumental in my introduction to twitter and blogging. He has developed e-portfolios for his students, and has shown how powerful they will be in the education path of each of his students. I read a great post today by Patrick Larkin about new resources to help replace textbooks. Lisa Neilsen wrote today about a number of initiatives school should take to help students in the 21st century including online learning, using iTunes to help teach and tech supported student self assessment. Inspiring stuff going on all over the world, and for me just down the street. It can be a bit overwhelming, so I know that in our building we need to plan where we are going with technology, social media and their connections to our students. To do so we need a place to start.

If we let ourselves get wrapped up in every exciting website, tech tool or social media fad, we probably won’t end up with a definite direction for our building. We will never be able to do everything for everyone, so we have to focus on a few key questions

1) Why are we interested in utilizing this tool/site with our students? Is it because it looks fun? Is it because its the newest gadget? Or are we actually looking to support student learning or teacher growth?

2) Is it relatively simple? Can anyone pick up this new technology or will it require an endless amount of off site or online training that will turn most people off of using it?

3) Is it affordable? Better yet, is it free? We need to be realistic with what we commit to doing, but we also need to spend the money we do have wisely. Maybe buying a lab of desktop computers would be easy, and probably a bit cheaper, but wouldn’t a wireless cart of laptops meet the needs of our students in a better way?

4) Do we have teacher leaders interested in piloting and then assisting others with implementation? What good is a tool or website if no one knows how to use it and no one has the time to show them. Or worse, the only person who knew how to use it has moved on? If we are going to dive into a new plan, we need to make sure its use is made sustainable by fostering leadership amongst the staff that are going to be there to continue with it.

5) Is it the right thing to do? When it comes to twitter and teachers using it for their own professional development (or perpetual professional development as Patrick put it), I have said there is no reason NOT to be out there developing your own PLN that will help you meet the needs of your students and help you become a better educator. Its the right thing to do, so we need to find the time, the money or whatever it takes to make it happen.

It is these questions that will help us decide in our building what our technology priorities should be. I can let you know that e-portfolios are one priority, but as for what else, we still need to figure that out. Feel free to add your 2 cents, we can always use a little advice.

2 thoughts on “What are the first steps?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What are the first steps? | Opening Doors and Turning On Lights -- Topsy.com

  2. I imagine many are working through these same questions in their own districts.

    1. “Bling v. Bang!” – are learners using this tool in such a way that it significantly alters their learning experience? When considering the SAMR model (http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/), would it fall within the range of Modification or Redefinition? If so, it offers a “bang!” for learners that wasn’t possible, or accessible before. If not, it’s more “bling”…and then we have to wonder, as engaging as it might be, does it move the needle for their learning and is it really worth their time?

    2. Greatly appreciate this question! Knowing how quickly the vehicles and tools for learning change, does what we’re considering offer…
    – “Low Floor” – relatively easy for new users to pick up and apply?
    – “Wide Walls” – how flexible is it? can users apply it in a wide range of ways?
    – “High Ceiling” – how far can users take it? Does it offer opportunities for users to build upon, or show their depth of understanding as it relates to content, multiple perspectives, real world issues, etc.?

    3. & 4. It has helped our efforts immeasurably to invite our students into these conversations…well, all of the conversations, really. Their voices are key!

    5. While attending a recent conference, one of the speakers, William Skilling (http://www.oxfordschools.org/section_display.cfm?section_id=55), suggested: “No Excuses. If it’s important enough, restructure, releverage…”

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