Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Sweet Spot: Building the Right Technology Curriculum

" . . . and the pitcher throws and your looking for that pill and suddenly there is nothing else in the ballpark you and it and sometimes when your feeling right and there is a groove there and the bat just eases into it and meets that ball. When the bat meets that ball you can feel that ball just give and you know it is going to go a long way. Damn, if you don't feel like your going to live forever." - John Cusack as Buck Weaver in Eight Men Out (1988)

We (administrators, a diverse group of faculty and our wonderful librarians) are searching for our "sweet spot" in technology integration. According to Wikipedia,  "A sweet spot is a place, often numerical as opposed to physical, where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort." We are hoping to dig deep and work toward finding that just right combination of learning supported, infused, enriched or extended by technology. While we realize that this is not a static target but constantly moving, we are working towards creating an environment where as many of those sweet spots can exist.

On our PD day January 2nd, we will being the exciting task of creating anew a technology curriculum (preK-12) for our school. In preparation for this task, I've gathered resources (outside of our own curriculum maps, academic goals, and strategic management plan) to both provoke new perspectives and to ensure that we truly consider what would be the best sweet spot for us. By sweet spot, I mean that wonderful area where preparation, training, knowledge, and talent meet to enable both students and teachers to consistently connect with learning with depth and joy. Creating that sweet spot means we need to have the necessary tools, a deep understanding of pedagogy,  enough professional development, and a supportive community of learners to foster  that sweet spot.

The resources I've gathered fall into three categories:
  1. 21st Century Learning/Learners
  2. Innovation Trends
  3. ICT Integration Protocols

21st Century Learning & Learners:

ICT Integration Protocols: 

Educational Origami:

  • What are your schools identified ICT objectives and goals?
  • Are these goals administratively focused or educationally focused?
  • Where does your school want to be ICT wise in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years?
  • What level of consultation and buy in did key groups have, namely students, staff, the community?
  • How are these goals integrated into your budgeting and curriculum planning?
  • How are these goals supported by professional development for staff?
  • How are these goals resourced?
  • How are these goals implemented in the school, departments/faculties and the classroom?
  • Do you have peer review of your curriculum, subject, unit plans and of teaching practice? Is this collegial support or appraisal?
  • In Industry implementation of a new product and the training of staff are usually dollar for dollar. What is your ratio of ICT investments to training investment?
  • What revision and review process do you have in place for your ICT goals, investment and training? To what degree are your students, community and staff involved in these reviews?
  • To what level is the implementation of ICT into teaching and learning mandated? Is there any mechanism for checking or accountability?
  • What accountability is in place for technologies put into the classroom to ensure they are utilised?
  • What decision making process is involved in setting student and staff access and administrative rights to computers, networks and the internet? Who established your policy, your board, the principal or the technician(s)/support staff? What are the rationale for this decision - technical, administrative and educational? Who and how is this reviewed?
  • Are your pedagogies reflective of 21st Century teaching and learning? 
 Edutopia:  [one of the best compilation of resources on this area}

 The Plan:

 My plan is for us to discuss our dream graduate profile, work which we began in our Academic Council, and then build backward from there using Understanding by Design principles. Basically, if we know where we want to be, then we work backwards from there to build the road to get to the destination. In what ways can educational technology help all our students get there? We are going to meet first as a group and then split into three teams based on ISTE standards: Team 1: Creativity & Innovation, Team 2: Communication & Collaboration,  Team 3: Research & Information Fluency [combined with] Critical Thinking, Problem Solving & Decision Making and the last two standards (Digital Citizenship and Technology Operations and Concepts) will be examined by the core group of technology integration team. It is my hope that by dividing the work into teams with us coming together to report on our progress and to continue to draft and present our findings, we will create a living document, adaptable to change, reflective of our philosophy, and firmly focused on providing the best learning opportunities for our students. Hmmm, it seems suitable to close with another one of my favorite baseball quotes:
Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham: That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?  [Field of Dreams].
I think there's enough magic out there. I'll keep you posted :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dear Blog, Have You Missed Me?

I love Top Chef. While I realize the producers amp up the drama to increase viewership, I still admire the ability of the chefs to take all their hard won knowledge (whether garnered through professional school or on-the-job training) and apply it to new situations.  Cooking is a wonderful blend of art, intuition, and science [just like teaching]. It's the ability to use heightened senses and a knowledgeable palate to create a dish worth drooling over. I deeply admire the chef who can maintain dishes cooking on four different burners, continue prepping food, and toss off bon mots to his or her competitors. You know when Padma, the host of the show, comes in that some new challenge awaits the chefs. "Hello, chefs." She will slyly smile and then tell them they have to cook with one hand, or blindfolded, or swap dishes mid-cooking with another chef. I see this happen often to teachers and administrators. "Oh, by the way, we've just redistricted and added 200 students to your school and cut your budget by 18%, but you can still meet your educational growth target, right?" I am fortunate to be in a situation where we have been able to pilot an iPad program for our youngest learners, a teacher iPad pilot with Apple TV wireless connection, and SMART Boards for many of our middle and high school STEM teachers. Teachers are absorbing tech pd faster than I anticipated and are incorporating Twitter and blogging into the curriculum. All my problems are actually blessings but it feels a bit like Padma just came in and gave us our challenge.

When the head chef, Tom Colicchio, comes in to to check on the chefs, at least one chef invariably says, "I'm in the weeds." Tom will ask some questions, the chefs will sweat some more, maybe doubt their work. Yet, [most of the time] the chef pulls through with a magnificent dish. Who needs Tom Colicchio?  However irksome the chefs may find Tom, I think his questions inspire them to reach even higher. I sympathize as I feel like I've been in the weeds. I see daylight, sort of.  I have been prepping the framework for the creation of a new Technology Curriculum, pre-K through grade 12 [hence my absence from my blog]. My hope is that this plan will underscore our educational philosophy, reflect our understanding of digital learners, embody all the hard work we have invested in Visible Thinking, Curriculum Mapping and Differentiation, use of Social Media, and correctly anticipate where technology may lead us [Ouija board anyone?]. And oh yes, let's not create a plan that will be outdated 6 months after creation. A tall order surely but I have a hardy crew of volunteer teachers from all disciplines, and armed with the great research provided by my PLN, and our curriculum maps, I am confident that we will navigate these sometimes murky waters safely. Our school is yar, our sailors skilled, and we've packed plenty of provisions. Wait, has anyone seen the brownies? Hmmm, maybe I need Tom Colicchio after all.