Past, Present, Future in My Classroom

I want to start this post by reflecting on Brandon Hoover’s post on the Coetail Online Site. 

I recently had a conversation with our own IT specialist or whatever the term is called about her role and the current situation at the school.   I am new to my current school and have found the transition from a 1-1 environment in Grade 3 with access to iPads and netbooks at my fingertips throughout the day to a school with major limitations to technology. The vision is there in a vague sense but the practice is rather discouraging.

We have an IT department that deal with the systems, booking and delivering of devices and overall management of the support.  We have 2 Elementary IT specialists.  The K-2 specialist is seen as a specialist and she teaches the IT classes for each homeroom 1 time/week when they come to the lab.  Our Grade 3-5 specialist does not necessarily teach the class but is there to support the teachers during their IT time.  This doesn’t always happen because of the comfort level of most of the teachers.  I think she does a lot of work with jobs that the IT department should be dealing with….to no fault of her own but just because of the lack of clarity in what the vision of her role truly is.  She would rather been more of a coach who comes into classes and works with teachers.  However, we are far from this approach with the current vision of technology for the school and the actual practice.

In my class, I am working with:

  • Google Apps for Education
  • Class set of Gmail accounts for use in Lab and when chrome books arrive
  • 3 Classroom Mac’s that I can’t access due to a “phase out” of Macs to PC.
  • an overhead projector that isn’t wireless so I am at the back of the room when using it.
  • 1 Elmo for digital projection also at the back of the class.
  • a scheduled 45 minute IT class where I work with the IT specialist to plan the lesson.
  • access to iPads on a booking system with limited apps
  • 8 Chrome books arriving “soon” – probably 2 months from now.
  • access to netbooks through a booking system but they are primarily used by M/HS.
  • opportunity to use the lab at other times but space and time is an issue.

I was able to really see my own practice change as I moved from Substitution to Redefinition using the SAMR model in my former school where we were 1-1 in the elementary.  I am struggling with how to do this in my current situation.  Teachers are not on board with this and do not see the real transformation that can happen when you use technology to do things that were not possible without it.  I think this is key.

To reflect on what I have been doing over the last few months I wanted to look at my activities through the SAMR lens.  I was inspired to do this from a blog post I was reading this afternoon.

  1. Our first IT integration of the year was something my team had developed so I was walking into something already established.  It was to develop a cover page for our portfolios using Microsoft Word.  After talking about design and layout, the students were to create their own cover page using Word and skills they learned within the program. In this activity, the technology integration did not move passed the substitution method.  The technology only acted as a direct tool substitute from former ways of doing the same activity (Using Word instead of Paper/Pencil/Colored markers).  Perhaps there was a bit of Augmentation as there was some functional improvement by using some of the tools within Word and layout changes that may not have been possible through the old way.  Do I still there is a place for these tasks and skills? Yes, I do but it was the time that it took to get through this (we are still not done because I got fed up with using all my IT time to do this).  It did not redefine what we were doing and it was not inspiring me.
  2. Now, it was time to move into my first unit which was about Continents and Oceans and Mapping Skills. The other teachers in my grade level had traditionally done a power point presentation at the end of the unit.  The students put their research into powerpoint pages and this became part of their summative assessment.  I went out on a limb and started looking at Google Maps for use during this unit.  To me, it only made sense to use Maps and have the kids looking at our world through a more interactive lens rather than through atlases and globes.  I wondered how I could line up my standards (content) and still achieve the same results but use a cool tool to get there.  I built the unit around this task of using google maps to be the hub of their research.  I blogged about the result and the process on our classroom blog here. This task when beyond M-Modification because it allowed the students to work collaboratively on the tasks as they worked in groups to plot their research on the google map.  They then did a jigsaw approach to learning about the other continents via the plots on the map from their classmates.  The sharing of the map on my class blog allowed others to comment including parents.  This was the result:

Looking Ahead…

As I look ahead to the coming units and what I know about my school’s situation and approach to technology integration, I believe that redefinition is possible.

2 thoughts on “Past, Present, Future in My Classroom

  • Tim, you are doing GREAT work! I love your maps project! Hang in there and don’t let the school situation get you down (I’m trying to convince myself to do the same). As the other members of your team and other grade level teams see how you are integrating technology they will want to be developing units where they are using the same level of integration. And as other new teachers join us, we can definitely move the school into the direction that they don’t yet know they should be going.

  • I am consistently amazed at how easy Google makes it for us to take our work to the next level. And how great Google Earth is for our students.

    I moved from a 1:1 environment to a school with a laptop cart four years ago. I received more PD for the laptop cart than I ever did with the 1:1. While the ideal environment is 1:1 (it was a painful backward step), having a supporting tech/curriculum team is equally important.

    We’re now 1:1 throughout the school and as we introduced more hardware, we also introduced more PD and a clearer role for the tech/curriculum people. I find COETAILers often lead the way, by asking for help from the tech people and having the guts to take a risk with tech and having an understanding of what Redefinition looks like. So good luck helping shape the role technology plays in the entire school!


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