I am constantly wrestling with the issue of using technology in schools to TEACH and to LEARN.

Long ago, I have resolved that teaching and learning DO NOT depend on technology nor are “not real”, good or effective without it (see Changing-Shifting a School Culture, Bringing in Experts.  Transformative Teaching and Learning? and It’s not about the Tools, it is about the Skills ). The best “tool” for good teaching and learning…is… a good teacher! That teacher can be a professional educator…it can be “yourself”… it can be a group of your peers… it can be a book, film, audio…(insert whatever media) or it can be… (insert whatever suits you, your learning or teaching style). What technology has done for me (it came naturally) is that it makes everything CLEARER!

Through the technology lens, I am:

  • amplified… I learn amplified…I can teach amplified..not only to physical bodies that I happen to share time and space with at the moment…
  • reachable… I reach and can be reached whenever I choose to
  • worldwide… I am in contact with people from around the world… I disseminate, ask, receive, share, publish to a worldwide audience
  • connected… to information, an audience,  a personal learning network, etc.
  • collaborative…I am collaborating with educators from around the world to figure out “this thing”…how to best prepare the citizens of the future, so they can solve all the problems of the world awaiting them…
  • available…I am available to others asynchronously via my online presence. Limitless information, opinions, experiences, expertize from others are available to me anytime, anywhere in whatever media and platform I prefer to learn with/through…
  • exposed to multiple teaching styles… I am stretching my own teaching style by exploring and experimenting with media and platforms beyond my normal comfort zone…
  • exposed to multiple learning styles… I am able to differentiate multiple learning styles by giving students choices that allow them to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways…
  • networked… I am part of a network…I am not alone…a network of peers, experts, learners… a network that helps me be fluent in accomplishing tasks, solving problems, being inspired by ideas, remixing of information…

Without the lens… teaching & learning seems fuzzy… uni-dimensional…monolingual…not reaching its full potential… to me…

When I became a “Technology Integration Facilitator“,  I wanted to use and help teachers use technology in their classroom NOT as an add on, but as a way to support their teaching. As I grew in my own learning process and became a 21st Century Learning Specialist , I realized that it was not enough to integrate technology. There had to be a change (an amplification) in what learning and teaching could be in the 21st century. Technology was merely the tool, not the end in itself.

In the article Creating a New Culture of Teaching , Alan November points out the difference between AUTOMATING a task for learning (“using a $2000 pencil”) and INFORMATING teaching and learning (“think about information systems, whole systems of the flow of information and communication”).

It has been hard…I have not always been successful… in trying to help teachers see beyond the technology and the logistics of how to use it in order to TRANSFORM the way we teach and learn. There seems to be the need of keeping the change (that needs to happen) wrapped up in a “technology bow” in order to have excuses WHY the paradigm shift can’t happen. It seems easier (and more acceptable) to say “I don’t do computers” than “I don’t know how or don’t care to prepare my students for a different future than I am used to and adapt MY teaching to THEIR learning needs”…everything is fine the way it is…it has worked for the past 20 years…!

Technology integrationists, computer lab teachers or whatever the title , still seem to serve as the crutch some teachers want to/ need to lean on, instead of taking responsibility of becoming “21st Century literate“.   If classroom teachers are taking their students to the lab to “do computers”, then they can CHECK OFF the use of technology. If a 21st century coach/facilitator/specialist/resource is in a classroom to co-teach with them, then they can CHECK OFF the use of technology integration… no matter if the classroom teacher physically leaves the room, checks mentally out or grades worksheets in the back of the room…

How can we support the paradigm shift in teaching and learning if teachers and administrators are still hung up on the logistics and basics of technology use? How can integrationists, facilitators and coaches best use their time in moving forward and supporting TEACHING and LEARNING when they are asked to hold hands with AUTOMATING tasks that have been done with paper and pencils before? They are asked to :

  • fix printers to print out worksheets
  • upload and edit images and videos that will be forgotten on hard drives
  • help students type their book reports to be displayed on the bulletin board outside classrooms
  • be on call for teachers to help them when students need to take computer based tests
  • supervise students with kill and drill math and vocabulary games
  • bookmark Internet resources to be accessed by students
  • help students with digital drawings to be printed out
  • help with basic tasks like text formatting and file management

I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Maggie Hos-McGrane at ECIS in Frankfurt, Germany last month. Her presentation The Role of ICT in the PYP was an incredible eye opener. Maggie mentioned The SAMR Model, which immediately caught my attention.

SAMR, a model designed to help educators integrate technology into teaching and learning , was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.  The model aims to enable teachers to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning experiences to lead to high levels of  achievement for students.

Maggie explained how she is using the model to move teachers from substitution, where “technology acts like a direct tool substitute, with no functional change” to a redefinition, where “technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable”.

The SAMR model seems to perfectly align with Alan November’s Automating and Informating distinction.

Maggie and her team are deciding what skills their teachers will need to start taking on:

In the case of substitution we felt that teachers themselves should be able to lead lessons that involve simple data handling – adding information into spreadsheets to produce graphs for example. They should also be able to support students using a simple graphics programme, have students take photographs and transfer them onto the computer, use a digital microscope to view images, access the internet for research and use word processing software.

I liked the idea of the model to illustrate and formally outline for teachers the different stages. By pointing out their responsibilities in taking on the roles of leading and supporting their own students in the Enhancement/Automating stage of substitution and augmentation, the “crutch role” of the facilitator in the classroom should be diminished, limited and even eliminated. Classroom teachers take on the responsibility of these tasks. If they need help to learn the tasks for themselves, they receive training outside of the classroom without students. When teachers are ready to redesign and transform tasks (not automate) to create learning opportunities that previously  would not have been possible, the facilitator becomes the co-planner, collaborator, co-teacher, connector and coach.

I wrote previously about the issue of teachers relying on coaches/ facilitators too much in 2009 in a post titled Interested? Supported? Let’s move on to taking the Reigns.

How do we keep moving from one stage to the other? How long do we “allow” teachers to stay in one stage? How do we make sure we don’t enable teachers and get stuck? How do we increase the chances of sustainability? How do we prepare teachers so they are able to take the reins and enjoy the ride?

Almost 18 months later, I am still contemplating the issue…I have not found a solution yet… I believe  the SAMR/November model/idea can give us a roadmap.

I will be working with Andrea Hernandez on creating a customized chart with example tasks to illustrate for our teachers  what stage their “technology use” in the classroom falls under. We will formally outline what kind of responsibility we are expecting teachers will assume in leading and supporting 21st century teaching and learning through technology.

Here are a few more of Maggie’s blog posts describing how she is using the SAMR model at her school:

What kind of task do you see in your own school, classroom or work that would fall under the 4 stages outlined in the model? What stages/tasks do you support directly? Which ones are classroom teachers’ responsibilities?