Time for relaxation and reflection

June 27, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Planning, Professional Development, Shift, Tech Integration | Leave a comment
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With my first year as an international educator behind me and the comfort of being in my native country with family and friends, I feel ready to reflect on my past 10 months in Madrid. There was a lot to the adjustment in my personal life but also professionally.

The issue I’m currently mulling over is, What IS the best way to encourage change in an individual school?

From personal experience and talking to teachers in other schools, there seems to be 3 main options:

1. Hiring leaders who nurture, model and encourage 21st century change in the form of “education technology specialists or integrators” who work with teachers.

2. Teacher/tech mentors who work within their team.

3. A computer lab teacher/integrator who provides grade level curriculum lessons with technology as a tool in the lab

My experience in the states was as a classroom teacher in a school of 600 students with one tech support person and one lab plus 1-3 desktops per classroom. We had a small district-wide program to encourage “tech integration” and professional growth with limited success. Basically it was up to the individual teachers interest in professional growth and change.

My experience this last year as a K-5 “technology integrator” (the first one for the school) had it’s ups and downs. The pros are that we have an administrator promoting movement towards the future, an excellent head of technology and tech support team, a teacher laptop program recently implemented and individual teacher interest starting to percolate. The down side was the newness of the integrator position and teacher expectations that the integrator would “take over” the tech implementation as the PE, music and art teachers do- even though this was never communicated as the plan.

A friend in another international school is a teacher/tech mentor for her grade level team. This has been successful in a limited way, and as with the previous examples, it is reliant on individual teacher motivation.

The third path, the lab teacher/integrator is effective in that students are provided with 21st century learning experiences for at least one hour a week, the rest depending on the individual classroom teachers. But this may be more than students in any of the other options receive. On the other hand, classroom teachers may be less inclined to attempt updating teaching methods at all in their own classrooms.

I’m not sure which is the best path, perhaps none of the above. In my experience and what I have heard from other teachers and edtech professionals and read on blogs, the greatest need is professional development time outside the school day and/or during the summer. It takes a motivated teacher to investigate and create more relevant classroom experiences during the school year. With that in mind, I think the first and third options are best because it allows a designated person to serve as a resource who supports those willing teachers to take risks and move into the future.

Lastly, on the topic of lack of time and professional development… yesterday morning my dad saw me at my laptop with papers strewn around and commented on my confusion with what “vacation” meant. Like Bob Sprankle and the Seedlings group, I see summer as a time for fun, relaxation AND professional development. I’ve started with Brain Rules as my first beach book and plan to alternate professional and fiction books over the summer. I plan to get caught up on reading my favorite blogs and post here more often. Also, I am attending the Laptop Institute in Memphis in a few weeks and virtually attending NECC next week.

The beginning of summer is so wonderful; stretching out in front of you with the promise of much sunshine, picnics, late nights and (for educators) time for catching up and recharging! Too bad it goes so quickly!

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