When thinking about my “big learning” from my explorations in the past few weeks, an image of a jar full of large round objects keeps coming to mind. These are the “Big Rocks” – the significant take-away pieces from my explorations of “Integrating Educational Technology” into teaching practice. Because of limited size, a jar can only hold so many of these large objects before the lid will no longer close. However, in order for the jar to be really full, you can also fit in objects of a smaller size – the pebbles and sand. Then, just when you think not a single other thing will fit, in goes the water…until every space is full. To me, that is what learning is like. We stumble across large rocks that we want to keep and frame our work around and then add in all the smaller bits that make up the finer points.
In recent weeks, the largest rock that I have stumbled upon has been…
1. The Big Rock – Farewell, Narcissism!
My huge take-away is a paradigm shift in how I see my practice. It is a shift from teacher-centric thinking to student-centric, especially as it relates to technology integration. It really is NOT all about me!
In this context, the change means that my stress around mastering technology ahead of my students and keeping on top of each great new app and tool is not the point. MY learning of a new technology is not what is vital here. It really is not the point. With the help of explorations into TPACK, relevant readings and online discussions with my peers, I have come to see that the key point is to ensure that I root the use and integration of technology in solid knowledge of content and pedagogy. The piece of technology as the “tool” is not the end goal. My expertise in modeling it is not the vital piece. My facility with all new gadgets is not what is at stake. I need to be the guide on the side and empower students with skills with which to explore these tools and help them successfully navigate their appropriate use. I need to let them take the lead and help facilitate discussion and discernment in the selection of what would work best for each different context of learning and individual student need. My job is to ensure the digital citizenship, information literacy and transliteracy skills of students are honed and razor sharp and ready to put into action…in fact, I can think of myself as a bit of a boot camp leader helping my students get “fit” to face a challenging world! I need to enable them to skillfully engage as part of a participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006).
2. Pebbles and Sand (what can we make with them?)
Creativity is a skill that is vital to cultivate. It may be unfair or inaccurate to say that it can be “taught”, but I believe that it can be modelled, nurtured, and encouraged. A huge a-ha moment came for me when reading Seth Godin’s (2012) manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?). Item 51 (How They Saved Lego) states:
...The secret to LEGO’s success was the switch from all-purpose LEGO sets, with blocks of different sizes and colors, to predefined kits, models that must be assembled precisely one way, or they’re wrong. Why would these sell so many more copies? Because they match what parents expect and what kids have been trained to do. There’s a right answer! The mom and the kid can both take pride in the kit, assembled. It’s done. Instructions were followed and results were attained.LEGO isn’t the problem, but it is a symptom of something seriously amiss. We’re entering a revolution of ideas while producing a generation that wants instructions instead.
That was a light bulb moment for me – how do I work with students to cultivate a desire to play, explore, innovate and create instead of only looking for the “right” or “approved” way? This is out of my comfort zone, as I tend to like to follow the instructions, too. I have made it a personal challenge for the future to model, encourage, and enable creativity.
3. The Water that holds it all together
The water, or the “glue that holds it all together” is teacher self-efficacy. This is not in contrast or contradictory to the “big rocks” statement about losing the narcissism! This is about how we feel about ourselves as teachers and the confidence we bring about our abilities to our classes and interactions with everyone within the educational setting. The ripple effects are huge – the more confidently we approach our teaching, the more (calculated and insightful) risks we are willing to take and the greater the impact on our students, colleagues, the whole school culutre, and by extension parents. Our self-efficacy impacts all aspects of our teaching.
It is amazing how much you can pack into one small jar!
Godin, S. Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?). (Free Online Publication, 2012). Available in various formats through Seth Godin’s blog at: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/02/wwwstopstealingdreamscom-my-new-manifesto-is-now-live.html
Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416. Retrieved from: http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/OtherPages/Koehler_Pubs/TECH_BY_DESIGN/AERA_2007/A
Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved from http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF