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EdTech Update





BFTP: Putting the fun in dys-fun-ctional

 Can a group that doesn't have a function be dysfunctional?
                                                                               - the Blue Skunk

I noticed this year that the number of meetings I've been required to attend has gone down and the meetings themselves have grown shorter. The "informational" role meetings have played is being replaced by e-mail and a great deal of collaborative work is now done online. State-wide meetings are mostly held via computer, telephone, or video teleconference.

A couple of groups of which I am a member seem to be struggling to find a purpose for continuing. One continues to meet primarily for the social value, I believe; the other simply out of tradition.

For some reason, a tremendous amount of attention has been paid in our district to groups developing "norms." A lovely buzz word - "norms." I had always considered group norms to be behaviors that developed naturally over time - "norm-al" behaviors. But I guess "norms" sounds nicer than "rules," even if rules are what are actually being created.

Ironically, the less important a group's reason for being, the more stress placed on the group's process.  I don't care how many "norms" are created, unless there is a purpose for the group, its meetings are time-burners during which everyone just secretly checks their smartphones anyway.

A committee, group, task force, whatever. can have value if it provides a means for:

  • serious input into planning and problem-solving efforts - real give and take - with a range of perspecitives and areas of expertise represented
  • the exchange of nuanced information and points-of-view that easily get lost in translation via electronic communications - especially that which is highly value-laden
  • reporting that is taken more seriously due the public nature of the reporting venue (shame-avoidance is great motivator, and thus a good reason for meetings)
  • training that is complex, essential and time-critical

One important reason meetings are still held is that some members of any group would just "never get around to reading the memo" if all communication were done electronically. At a F2F meeting there is at least the illusion of having all members' eyes and ears. If those members attend. And they are not checking their smartphones.

So, what meetings do you attend that still have value - and why?

Original post June 18, 2010


It's not a 1:1 program

This school year I will be advocating for a plan that gives every student in grades 6-12 a computing device in our district.

But I am not selling it as a 1:1 program. The device is not the point. I don't really care if our device selection task force settles on laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, or Etch-A-Sketches. The device simply enables 24/7 access to resources that are or will be important for student learning success. In fact, that access should be the major factor in determining what device is chosen.

My biggest fear of any technology implementation is that the gizmos are not used or not well-used. Smartboards used as projection screens, iPads used as gaming devices, or computers used as typewriters are common examples of technological underutilization.

What I do not want to happen once all students have those iPads in their hot little hands, is for their parents to ask, "How did you use your device in school today? and the student say, "We didn't." or "We only used it in English class." or "I just used it to text my buddy sitting next to me." Not how a lot of parents and community members want their tax dollars spent, I'd guess.

So I spent a few minutes yesterday thinking about the resources every 6-12 student should be accessing everyday. The little graphic above is a simplified version of that list. The LMS will be the main tool for 6-12 we will be supporting through PD and curriculum development.

OK, those of you who are SAMR fans may be thinking that these are all Substitution or Augmentation uses of tech. Probably. But teachers as they gain familiarity with programs and methodology will make more powerful uses.

Sometimes in technology planning we have to ask if we are shooting for broad use or transformative use. Ideally it would be both, but in the case of (not) 1:1 programs, I am going for universal use.


Last old man in the woods

Nature deficit disorder refers to the phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Wikipedia

This old man spent a good deal of time Saturday afternoon chasing after an energetic grandson at a local state park. It was good for both of us (and his grandmother) to be out enjoying a cool, windy afternoon climbing over rocks, roots, and fallen branches on a twisting, hilly dirt trail that led to a small waterfall.

I have long enjoyed giving both my children and grandchildren the opportunities to enjoy hiking, camping, and just playing in nature. Whether scuba diving with my daughter in Cozumel, hiking in Havaupai or Abel Tasman with my son, climbing Harney Peak or canoing Quetico with my eldest grandson, or exploring Effigy Mounds with his little brother, I believe our time outdoors was always a healthy thing. If my offspring retain (or regain) a love of being in nature, I will feel successful as a parental unit.

And while I fully subscribe to the benefits to children as outlined in Last Child in the Woods, I also think we adults benefit from getting outside and among trees and bugs and mud and such as well. Sleeping on the ground. Having a little dirt in your panacakes. More of us, especially those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time behind a computer screen, need to get out more into the elements and away from our phones and our iPads and our earbuds. Standing under a tree is good for the soul. It's good for the psyche. It's good for the bod.

When I retire in a few years, I hope to have good enough health to continue hiking and biking and snorkeling and other outdoor activities. None of these activities is horrendously expensive. I plan on week or month long hikes. I plan on cross state bicycle rides. I could even see spending a winter doing the pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago.

So, start now. Take a walk at lunch. Soon you will make noon hour a sacred time, a temporal space carved out for you. Take your kid to a state park. Ride a bike with a grandkids. I bet they will remember the time more than the expensive gadget you last gifted them.

Hope you have woods nearby.