Monday, September 8, 2008

To Tech or Not to Tech

Welcome back to school for most everyone if not everyone. I am officially one week in to the New Year and looking forward to another high energy year with high energy students. It is always nice to come back and see all the bright, eager, young faces ready to learn. I was fortunate this year to run part of our annual staff retreat where we prepare for the upcoming year and develop our focus for the year. This year we are focusing on student voice as a way to foster engagement in students.

My presentation and activity centered around the research of Marc Prensky, Daniel Pink, and others, that say we should be including students in lesson planning as well as activity design. As a staff we focused on looking at not only who our client is but how they learn best, what are their needs when it comes to effective teaching. The outcome of the activity was fascinating to say the least. Teacher groups identified characteristics of our students and then watched the video "Our Future". They then talked about and recorded effective and engaging teaching strategies for middle level learners. The reactions to the video were priceless and well worth the time spent. The reaction of some of our more veteran staff was that the video was good but it went too fast and they wanted to see it again to get what they missed (frustration level of learning). Our younger teachers thought the video was right on in length and speed and message. They were able to pick up on the more salient points. Those of us who are tweener teachers (7 to 15 years) identified with both the opinions of the younger and veteran staff. My challenge to all, especially our veteran staff, was to think of this from the student point of view. Thank about the activity and teaching they are doing and how their students are feeling as they sit in the seats in their classrooms. The end goal of this activity is to hold some focus groups of students and have them check over our work and give us some feedback on how we did. They share this feedback with staff and use it to direct professional development and curriculum development throughout the year and beyond.

As I move along the journey of incorporating student voice in the shaping of professional development I read a post and video on the following blog (By The Way). In the video students share phrases on their laptops about learning and how they learn best and the message is quite clear, Tech is it. They make no bones about hating learning through worksheets, reading chapters and answering questions at the end. They want/crave problem solving and working together in teams using technology as their paper and pencil. After viewing the video I found myself asking the question "What about those teachers who insist on worksheets and paper and pencil activities?" I have talked with these teachers about incorporating technology or at the very least having my more tech savvy students create self correcting online worksheets all too little or no avail. They cite study after study that say students learn best when they write it out, put pencil to paper, etc. The funny thing is that most of the kids I have talked to about these teachers really love them. It says a lot about their teaching style and how they interact with the kids, so they are doing something right, they are making learning fun. However my question still remains "How do I engage these teachers to look at integrating technology into their paper and pencil world?"

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