For the second year in a row, I attended the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston. Last year’s event was enlighting and inspiring and, in many ways, it informed and directed my PD for the rest of the year. This year’s edition was equally inspiring and, in addition, it featured many sessions that went beyond device implementation toward institutional change. The discourse changed from apps to wider applications, discreet platforms to division/district-level planning. I think the shift is indicative of a larger movement of “what?” to “now what?” or “how?” to “how much?” These are questions we are asking as an institution and I am asking as well in my new role as instructional technologist.
Here are my five biggest takeaways from the iPad Summit–my 5 M’s.
Mantra – “Teach less, do more,” from Tom Daccord. “Let 100 flowers blossom,” from keynote speaker Guy Kawasaki. These two are the most memorable mantras. Framed the way it was used during the two-day event, “mantra” doesn’t mean jingle or jargon; it means synthesis, synopsis, selling point. Now, I’ll be the first to recognize that there is a potential conflict selling a corporate model at a device specific event. There is potential for misappropriation if not complete misunderstanding. Simply put: educators aren’t in sales, we’re in souls. (My mantra, maybe?) At the same time, we need to be clear and convincing to all constituencies: students, parents, colleagues, administrators. Those of us on the edtech/instructional technology side need to heed this more than most as we hope to coach and convince peers to look deeper into their practice. Mantras can undoubtedly help us do so.
Messaging & Modeling– “Democratization” was a word that Kawasaki used and other presenters echoed. The iPad and other platforms make publishing and prototyping so simple. Today a classroom of connected learners can do everything from pre-to-post production of a pretty sophisticated project in a single class period. What does this mean? Professors, presenters, and certified professionals are no longer the exclusive voices of change–we all are. This was the message underscored by Kawasaki, Justin Reich, Patrick Larkin and others. Today, teachers can create dynamic content for their classes while driving the narrative for their school or district. “Share news and narratives” was the advice from Patrick Larkin. “Create, share and show off” was the message from Tom Daccord. The role of teachers as they envision it is to imagine ways to inspire students to document the story of their learning. What do they know, think, feel and understand? How do they show what they know? How do they know what they know? How does it respond to what they’ve learned before? They will have slip-ups and side-steps, of course, they are adolescents. Our job is to help students find their voice and express it in spaces that are real and in ways that are responsible. The way to do this for both students and teachers? By doing it.
Monday/Someday – Tom Daccord presented this framework as a way to encourage and inspire teachers along a broad spectrum of tech integration. “Monday” refers to tools, skills, apps and upgrades that one can implement after just a few days. “Someday” refers to changes that take time and collaborative effort. There is a potentially fruitful feedback loop here as well: the more “Mondays” a teacher takes on, the more likely he or she is to take on a “Someday” level project. Similarly, the more “Someday” projects he or she takes on, the more skills and tools he or she will have to take on “Monday” level projects. I think this framework is a fantastic way to support higher-end users while scaffolding for lower-end ones.
Measurement – The treatment of measurement took two forms: one at the classroom level and another at the institutional level. At the classroom level, educational technology gives us unprecedented numbers of ways to see that students know, think, feel and understand. I saw countless examples of student-directed projects that allowed them to take control of the process and ownership of the product. One of my favorites was a “Modern Family” style take on Shakespeare. Educators need to understand the potential, document student work and compare their progress to learning objectives. At the institutional level, he asked the question “How can we create diverse opportunities for all to understand?” This should be the fundamental question as it related to edtech integration. A valid related question is “How do we move from pockets of excellence to systematic reform?” Success needs to be measured according to learning goals. Success needs to be measured according to the variety of ways students demonstrate mastery and the depth with which they do so. The ETT team uses the 5 days/ 5 weeks/ 5 months framework to map initiatives, and it is an easy one to work with. I would suggest that the same metric can be used to measure progress.
Make learning last– One of the more compelling dialectics I heard was “learn to create vs. create to learn.” This is familiar to the language teacher in me because “learn to speak vs. speak to learn” is a constant reminder of the power of doing over describing. This “doing” is easier now than ever before. Certain types of learning are no longer bound to computer labs or resource rooms. (Will maker spaces someday migrate into classroom spaces?) The skills that teachers are looking to practice and the tools they need to do so need to be within arm’s reach. Whenever students need to make meaning they should have tools that their disposal. This does not necessarily mean that they need to be 1:1 iPad or anything else for that matter; what it does mean is that students should have access to them when and where they are thinking or tinkering. As above, there is a potentially fruitful feedback loop here: the more students have access to creative tools–from no-tech tools to high-tech tablets–the more ways they have to express meaning and the more willing they may be to find a way to do so. I heard many presenters and assembled educators moving from the device itself ( e.g. managing) to the doing with the device (video production, podcasts, flipped lessons, sketch noting and more.) The learning inspired by these activities is creative, transferable, and potentially transformative. In the end, it is about “technology in service of learning goals,” which comes from a six-word story I drafted after one of the afternoon sessions. Now that I think of it, that is my mantra moving forward.