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Finite Resources and Infinite Tools: Tensions with Edtech Innovation

13 Apr

If you haven’t done it yet, watch Dan Meyer’s opening keynote from CUE14. Like most of Dan’s presentations, it was full of great models of innovative instruction.  I was particularly caught by the first ten minutes, when he talked about his frustrations as a teacher at edtech conferences. Here’s a tubechop of the specific portion:

Tubechop of 2014 CUE Keynote: Dan Meyer

Anyone who stands up at an edtech conference keynote speaking of his frustrations with educational technology is my hero!

It’s important to recognize those frustrations; particularly as they echo a lot of the feelings I often hear from teachers during technology PDs. It’s so easy for edtech evangelists (myself included) to get involved in groupthink, emphasizing the cool aspect of new tools over the practical application of those tools.

For my part, I use the word “innovation” way too much.  It’s hard to remember that not all teachers can automatically see how innovative edtech tools can redefine learning in exciting ways. For most teachers, the “substitution” phase of the SAMR model is a large leap. By pushing teachers to be “innovative,” I can see how to some it is emphasizing newness over sound pedagogy.

Screen capture from Dan Meyer's 2014 CUE keynote

Screen capture from Dan Meyer’s 2014 CUE keynote

Dan uses this image to represent the tension he often feels at edtech conferences, trying to reconcile the infinite tech tools available with the finite amount of resources available to teachers. Those resources include time instructing students and time for planning. There are only so many hours in the day, with so many things to do. Teachers can only jump on a particular edtech bandwagon if the cost of learning a new tool will be worth the effort.

So, while acknowledging this concern, what can we do? I ask this while I am in the midst of planning for technology instruction and implementation for the next year. I always try to respect and honor my teachers’ finite resources, and the demands put upon them, but I don’t want those limitations to inhibit our ability to prepare students for success in the 21st century.

Dan recommends creating your own edtech mission statement, and offers his own as an example. (Watch the full video of his keynote to learn more about how he looks for tools to capture, share, and resolve “perplexity.”)

I agree that having a personal edtech mission statement is key, but what about for those teachers who don’t have an inkling of how they would or should be using technology? How can we provide teachers guidance with technology if they don’t have the drive in themselves to attempt any innovations?

I’m thinking of tweaking upcoming PDs to focus on teachers creating their own edtech mission statements. To do this, I plan to start with our schoolwide technology vision, which is definitely worth refreshing.

I wonder if we should remove the word “innovation” altogether and instead focus on improving instructional practices through technology?

Dan Meyer’s Resources

2014 CUE Sessions:


dy/dan blog: “My Opening Keynote for CUE 2014”

Reflections on edcampHOME

6 Jan

On Saturday I attended edcampHOME, an amazing online conference coordinated by some truly innovative tech wizards. They managed to retain the core principles of an edcamp (free, non-commercial, self-directed professional development), but they took it to a whole new level.  There were 47 different sessions, all chosen on the day of the event, but it was all conducted live over Google Hangouts.  The logistics are mind-boggling! Google scripts, volunteers to monitor the discussions, broadcasting over Youtube, videos embedded for non-attendees to watch along… Edcamps are an incredible experience, but an edcamp where you can relive each session through videos? Very awesome! I’ve left every edcamp with a wealth of resources, but I’m excited by all the videos that are still available for me on the website.

The schedule for the day included two sessions and one Slam, where participants shared great online tools. Videos of all the sessions and the Slam are available on the edcamp home website:

On the Friday before edcamp HOME, participants shared out potential topics they would like to discuss, and vote on topics that they felt should become sessions. I offered the topic “Technology Integration in Non 1-to-1 schools,” a subject that has been very much on my mind after digging deep into longterm planning over the Winter break. It’s always nerve-wracking to submit a topic, but each time someone voted for my topic, I got excited! 24 people voted for the session. In the end, six of us ended up having a great conversation.

First session: Technology Integration in Non 1-to-1 Schools

First session: Technology Integration in Non 1-to-1 Schools

For the second session, I attended the session: “Is Edtech Effective?” Even though there were only two of us, we shared a great discussion on ways that Technology Specialists and administrators can ensure that the technology they have is being effectively used. I learned about BrightBytes, and look forward to looking at their sit more.

From the slam I was particularly interested in looking more into Liveslide and Lucid Press.

After the edcamp ended, I spent much of the afternoon watching the threads about Standards Based Grading and Genius Hour. I still look forward to watching the post on Show Your Work (I’ve already preordered the book!) Repair Squad, the Blogging Journey, Literacy and Technology, Creating a Makerspace, and Helping Teachers Build a PLN.

It was an incredible day of learning, planned to precision by some incredible coordinators. And best of all, I didn’t have to leave my home!

Making every minute matter: a new year’s resolution

4 Jan

If there’s one thing my new Simpons Tapped Out addiction has taught me, it is that every minute matters. When it’s time to go to bed, you don’t send characters on 45 second tasks; you send them on 8 hour tasks so in the morning you can collect more money and XP. And if you set all your characters on an hour-long task, you better keep track of your internal clock, or unmute your phone so you can hear the notifications. Every minute matters!

Tapped Out: Look at all those thumbs up!

Tapped Out: Look at all those thumbs up!

I know it’s ridiculous, stemming from a mindless videogame, but this mindset has really increased my productivity in the past few weeks. When every minute truly matters, it makes it easier to shake myself out of my usual mode of procrastination.

This is a long winded way of saying, I need to rethink my blog.

“Make edtech happen,” it says up there, but my last post was from December 6, and not from 2013! December 6, 2012! Come on! There hasn’t been much happening here besides crickets and comment spam!

It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything with the blog. Believe me, every time I open my Omnifocus, there’s a neglected series of “blog post” tasks way way down at the bottom of the list. Occasionally they show up in red in my upcoming tasks view, but instead of making every minute matter by completing the task, I just change the due date (it was arbitrarily set to begin with.)

Part of the problem is that my scope for this blog has been unrealistic. I wanted it to be my deeply academic musings, with footnotes, and correctly cited sources. I wanted to focus solely on “edtech trends,” developing a series of well-researched pieces that cover a topic every angle, giving novice readers a complete understanding. It was a lofty goal, but because of it, each blog post I have written has been a huge burden, making me more and more anxious. And when it comes to sharing my thoughts with the world at large, my inherent nature as an introvert is hard enough to deal with.

So I’m done making this blog a big deal.

I’m hoping to write what I’m going to write about and that will be that. I’m not going to even make any more promises about posting. I do want to post more, I’m just not going to make any promises. I hope to show my work, posting about my new genius hour class, or maybe our planning for edcamp MetroDC, or maybe our attempt to implement a mobile makerspace. But I’m not going to make it a big deal. I’m going to remove all of my blogging tasks from Omnifocus, and just stop making it a big deal. A minute spent worrying is a waste of a minute that matters!

Ahh…a weight has been lifted.

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