The Technology Is Easy But The Teaching Is Still Hard

I remember not to long ago when the integration of technological resources into a lesson plan required a great deal of planning and support (at least for me).  So as I struggle to see why technology is not being integrated into our schools and classrooms as quickly as it could be, I am reminded of the words of our Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Conti).

I have heard him speak to educators numerous times on the topic of integrating technological resources into schools. His comment that resonates for me is as follows:

“The technology used to be hard and that has changed, but the teaching is hard and it will always be hard.”

Keeping this in mind and the whole idea that searching for technological tools and resources has been compared to taking a sip of water from a fire house,  we have what appears to be a difficult task in front of us.  How do we best conquer this two step process of showing teachers how easy these tools are to use and then help them to navigate the seemingly endless number of resources available?

It makes me think that the fact that we have so many options makes the technology hard again, albeit in a different way than in the past.

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A Great Way To Approach Technology – "Pause — Think — Crawl — Walk — Run."

One of my favorite leadership books of all-time is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  He captured my attention three sentences in with the following statement:

“We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools.” 

It is ironic that when I first read the book shortly after its publication in 2001 I skipped quickly past Chapter 7 which is titled “Technology Accelerators.” At the time, I was in a place where technology purchases were few and far between and that was fine with me as I dealt with so many of the overwhelming details of being a brand new Principal.  Another reason for my jumping past the chapter was that Collins said the following about technology:

 “Technology and technology-driven change has virtually nothing to do with igniting a transformation from good to great” 

I have to admit that my perception of the situation was that we had a great deal of work to do in creating a more student-centered approach and coming to agreement on learning expectations. So, I was happy to put technology discussions on the back burner and have one less thing to worry about.

Fast forward to Burlington in the present and I have a different view of Chapter 7 from Good to Great.  The quotation from Collins about technology has become a “yeah, but…” for me. While I know that technology alone cannot change an organization, it is now clear to me that technology when deployed thoughtfully can bolster improvement efforts. It gets to the heart of what is intended in the quote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach above. Technology alone is not going to move an organization or an individual from Good to Great. However, technology that is thoughtfully deployed can help us move a bit faster. 


Great schools and teachers will share that traits of the great companies that Collins described by selecting and focusing solely upon the development of a few technologies that are fundamentally compatible with their established strengths and objectives.”  They will not fall in love with the newest or shiniest toy that the vendors are peddling.  I can’t help but wonder how many millions of dollars have been wasted on Interactive White Boards in schools that did not first consider how they would be used or if they fit well with the goals and objectives of teachers who received them. 

As we receive visitors, calls, emails, etc here in Burlington about our iPad initiative, I caution schools to employ Collins approach to adopting technology  – “Pause — Think — Crawl — Walk — Run.” 


Here is my interpretation of each term:


Pause – Don’t get caught up in the initial wow factor of a new resource.


Think – How would this support current objectives and initiatives you are currently working on? 


Crawl – Have some teachers start to utilize the resource on a small scale and provide school-wide feedback to all staff. Also begin staff training on use of resource in the classroom. 


Walk – Get a whole department or cohort going with the resource and have them report out to the entire school community staff members on how the resource is impacting learning outcomes. Ramp up training. Ensure all staff have access to differentiated training.

Run – Continue to ensure that there are frequent opportunities for learners (all school community members) to provide feedback on best practices. These opportunities should extend to other school communities doing similar work.

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Villalta and Kikuchi Recipients of BHS First Annual Innovation Awards

From The BHS Principal’s Blog:

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BHS Principal Mark Sullivan (left) and Robert Buckley (right) present the First Annual BHS Innovation Awards to Jessica Villalta and Walter Kickuchi. 

Congratulations to BHS Class of 2012 graduates Jessica Villalta and Walter Kikuchi who were the first recipients of the BHS Innovation Awards sponsored by Riemer and Braunstein. Jessica, who is headed to Bryn Mawr, and Walter, who is headed to Brown, each received $4,000.00 for this honor.

 The criteria which applicants were judge on are below:

  •  A demonstrated commitment to understanding and addressing difficult social issues
  • Leadership and a dedication to community action
  • Leading other students to new approaches to old problems
  • business plans for fundraising
  • Innovative community service
  • after-school activities
  • uses of communications tools such as chat, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc
     

Please check out their video submissions below!


We are proud of Jessica and Walter for achieving this honor! Thanks go out to Robert Buckley, a Senior Partner at Riemer and Braunstein, for his support of this award and his commitment to continue the award next year!

We can’t wait to who off more of the amazing work of our BHS students!

More Thinking About Balance And When To Unplug

Having played a big part in the fact that there are over 1,000 students in Burlington walking around with web-enabled devices, I do spend a great deal of time thinking about how to continue the important conversation of maintaining balance with regards to the use these devices. I wrote a post on this a little while back in reference to my own device use, which I admit is sometimes imbalanced.

Adding to my anxiety on the topic is the fact that there are articles with misleading headlines like this one – Many Teens Tell Survey They Are Addicted To Social Media, Texting – which recently appeared in the Washington Post.  While the headline is a bit disconcerting, the content of the article makes it clear that this there is a lot more here that we need to discuss. Check out a few of the excerpts I think we need to focus more on and decide or yourself whether the negatives really outweighing the positive.

“Two-thirds of respondents said they text every day and half said they visit social networking sites daily. One-quarter of teens use at least two different types of social media a day.”

“Three out of 10 teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing, compared to 5 percent who said they felt more introverted.”

“Still, half of all respondents said real-life communication is the most fun and fruitful for their relationships. Only 4 percent prefer to talk on the phone.”

As I see my own tweens spending more and more time using their devices to interact with their friends, I can’t help but think of the quote below by Danah Boyd. Is it really the devices and the social media platforms that they are addicted to or is it the communication with their friends? 

It brings me back to Clay Shirky’s thoughts on this topic from his book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity And Generosity In A Connected Age.  I agree with Shirky on the following:

 “when we talk about the effects of the web or text messages, it’s easy to make a milkshake mistake and focus on the tools themselves…But the use of of social technology is much less determined by the tool itself: when we use a network, the most important asset we get is access to one another.” 

I think the thing that our children need help with is learning when disconnecting is necessary to refocus and refresh. In addition, we need to be sure that they are getting plenty of technology-free opportunities for the rich face-to-face interactions and experiences that are so beneficial. This point is clearly articulated in a recent post by John Spencer titled What We’re Missing In Acceptable Use.


What we need to understand is that our children are connecting and collaborating in ways that we were never capable of.  Or as Shirky puts it:

“Although so much of what kids are doing online may look trivial and frivolous, what they are doing is building the capacity to connect, to communicate, and ultimately, to mobilize…The old idea that media is a domain relatively separate from the ‘real world’ no longer applies…”

The bottom line here is that we are never going to be in a comfortable spot with our children if we do not continue to have discussions on this topic. We need to encourage our children to use these  resources wisely and have balance, but we also have to understand that the way they communicate with one another not going to look like the same as how we communicated with our friends back in the day…and that’s OK!

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Thinking About Balance…Am I That Guy?

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I had the opportunity to present at ISTE in San Diego last week with my good friend George Couros, an administrator in Canada who I have learned so much from over the past few years. As we developed our presentation for our session, George shared the video above with me from a recent Louis C.K. appearance on Conan. While I was laughing at the scenario Louis C.K. shared of individuals glued to the screens of their devices, I was also well aware that I can be one of these people sometimes who missed out on the real-time occurrence in an attempt to get a picture or send out a message.

With this in mind, I headed to the Portsmouth Air Show over the weekend and decided to leave my devices at home. I have fond memories of seeing the Navy’s Blue Angels flying squad as a young boy with my dad. At first, I was thinking of bringing my iPad with me to get some clips of the Blue Angels on video. But as I thought back to the above clip, I realized that there are plenty of clips of the Blue Angels online that are much better than I could shoot and that I should just stand back and take the whole thing in with my own eyes. (Check out the great Blue Angels Promo video below)

When it was over, I was pleased with my decision, having seen a lot more with my eyes on on the sky and not focused on the device. Not to mention the fact that I probably would have dropped my device when one of the jets flew about 50 feet directly over my head and I caused me to block my ears to save my ear drums.  (See below)

.@patrickmlarkin and @wwollaeger watching the Blue Angels at ... on Twitpic

Anyway, my main point in this post is that we need to continue to think about having a balanced approach to utilizing all of the great technology that is available to us. There are many times in our lives where the best choice for technology is to leave it out of the equation so that we can fully immerse ourselves in the moment. As always, I feel fortunate to work in a school district that allows students to utilize technological resources because I do not think we could have authentic discussions about balance if our first inclination was to deny access.  


So the next time you go to grab your phone, iPad, or camera, take a moment to think whether or not you will really miss something without it or whether you are missing the bigger picture with it…

Classroom 2.0 Book – Another Great Free Resource from Classroom 2.0!

The Classroom 2.0 Book went live yesterday and I am proud to have a chapter (“Setting the Stage for 1:1”) in this free e-book that was created as part of Classroom 2.0’s 5th Anniversary Project (You can check it out below).  As of now, 16 chapters have been uploaded and more are to follow in the days ahead.

A few of the chapters currently available include the following topics:

Curation for Professional Learning – by Kristen Swanson
Keeping Students Engaged in a 1:1 Environment – Ann Michaelsen
TPACK – Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge – by Steven Anderson
The Flipped Classroom Model – By Jackie Gerstein
Digital Writers Workshop – By Erin Klein

Thanks to Steve Hargadon, Richard Byrne, and Chris Dawson for their efforts in pulling this project together!

Patrick Larkin – Setting the Stage for 1:1 – The School That Launched 1,000 iPadshttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/98582363/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-qtz8spwvinhahncc0t0