Thursday, March 10, 2016

The real innovation: The Teacher

I was working with a group of teachers today.  We were prepping a lesson study where myself and my colleague were introducing the teachers to a method of implementing technology in the classroom.  At one point during the prep, a teacher asked if technology was really necessary to complete the lesson.  This was a group who constantly struggled to get technology in their class, while the other half of the group had 1:1 chromebooks in the classroom.

The more I thought about it, the more I figured it could be done without technology.  Here is an outline of the activity.

We were having small groups of students collaborating on a single google slide.  The slide contained a primary source from the women's suffrage movement and 4 boxes.  Each person in the group was responsible for a part of the information: a 7 word summary sentence, persuasive words, an inference from the reading, and an overall reaction to the reading based on the other three boxes.

Once they finished their slide (one of 15 in the slideshow), they were responsible for going to the next two slides and leaving feedback in the notes section of the google slide.  Groups could add feedback that was in Agreement, addition to, or a connection to their slide.  Each group did this to 2 slides.

Once this was completed, students returned to their slide and, based on the feedback they received added to or readjusted the thoughts on the slide.

As a follow up, students were then required to use 3 primary sources and interpretations of the slide to write about the women's suffrage movement.

It was great, the students loved it, and they were completely engaged.  If you stick to the definitions of the theory, this was an S in SAMR.  This is an activity that could be accomplished with posters and a gallery walk to follow.  Does that mean this is bad?  No, the fact that this is a simple substitution does not mean that it does not engage students or increase their learning.  Could we have incorporated video, presentation of models, and extensions of learning that required students to pilfer the internet searching for extensions, opposing beliefs or something else?  SURE.  The point I am trying to make is that just because it is a Substitution of technology for paper does not mean it is a bad thing.  Over the last few months I have seen people searching for tools that are better or that do something different.

There is no magic bullet or something that will make every activity great every time.  The innovation is not the S-A-M-R level of the activity or the newness of the technology tool, it is in the teacher and the creativity that teachers use in implementing the technology.  The Common Core focuses on the 4 C's: Collaboration, Communication, Critical thinking, and Creativity.  As teachers we need to make sure we exercise the heck out of the last one.

Creativity does not mean finding the next great tool, it is repurposing and pinteresting (yep that's a verb) the hell out of the tools that we and the students know so we can model creativity and engage students with the ways that we can get them to do amazing things with the simple tools we have and can use.  Focus on the learning, what is the learning goal and what is the point of the lesson?  Be innovative in how you create the lesson and how you structure the activity: groups, pairs, personalized learning, competency based, etc.  Even if it is with an old tool.

I train a lot of teachers in technology.  It is not because I think technology is the only, or best way to teach, it is because I think it forces teachers to modify the ways they create lessons and pushes them to be creative.  Technology is a tool that pushes us out of rows and into innovative practice.  The practice itself is not a result of the technology, it is a result of the teacher.

Sorry if this is a rant... Nevermind, I'm not.

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