Last week, I attended the ISTCO Education Everywhere Leadership Symposium in Worthington, OH. The focus of the symposium was on ways school administrators can lead the integration of technology, including mobile devices and web 2.0 tools, to transform teaching and learning. The keynote presenter, George Couros, creator of connectedprincipals.com, had a powerfully moving presentation about how technology can help us humanize school even more because of the ability to share stories. Story has always been, and will continue to be, a way to make connections and create community. Creating a community where everyone feels they belong is one of our goals at LHS, so his presentation was fitting. Also, we’ve emphasized technology integration the last couple of years as a way to increase relevance in the classroom. With that said, technology is not the only way to increase relevance or create community. It is a way, however, to enhance relevance and community. Following are three personal takeaways from George’s presentation:
1. We have to provide opportunities for students to create, connect and share content with a much broader, global audience using the technology. As we harness the power of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr, we model appropriate ways to make our learning public and transparent. The more comfortable we are using these tools, the more likely we are to integrate these tools with our students. At GLHS, we allow students to use their mobile devices, so let’s show them how to use them to connect with experts in a particular field or connect with a group of students in another state or country.
2. Schools will continue to be relevant as long as we focus on humanizing the content. This basically means that as we harness the power of technology, use it to tell stories about our learning, share our struggles and successes, and connect with one another beyond the traditional means of email, we will continue to expand the learning for our students. Technology will not or does not replace face to face interaction; rather, it enhances this interaction. For example, I’ve interacted with George via Twitter and blogging before we met face-to-face. Our face-to-face meeting was like seeing an old friend as opposed to being introduced to a stranger. He lives in Canada and I live in Ohio. I am a better administrator because of what I’ve learned from him, about him and his school using social media.
3. “Learning and sharing is synonymous.” Daniel Pink states that learning is a social event. Therefore, harnessing tools such as Twitter, blogs, and other means of digital storytelling enhances the learning experiences for everyone involved. We can add to each other’s experiences as we reflect on our practice using a blog, comment on one another’s blogs, engage in professional conversation via Twitter chats, and willingly share our experiences with others. The more we’ve done this, the more comfortable we’ve become with our students sharing their learning experiences in a positive ways.
In addition to the keynote presentation, the symposium was organized into six sessions of table talks, with five talks to choose from per session. I liked this format because it provided opportunities for the facilitators of the table talks to engage the participants in meaningful conversations about our craft. For example, some of the table talk topics were:
• Blended Learning (Reynoldsburg ESTEM Academy)
• Design Standards for Online/Blended Learning: Quality Matters (ESC of Central Ohio)
• Comparing Mobile Technologies and Preparing for a 1:1 Environment (St. Joseph Academy)
• Conversations with the keynote, George Couros
• From Ohio to the World (Jackson High School)
• Professional Development Without Walls (Westerville City Schools)
• Design Thinking: Technology (Delaware High School)
There were so many nuggets I gleaned from the symposium, but my biggest “aha” or takeaway was more of a question than a statement: “Are we using technology in an adaptive or transformative way?” For example, adaptive use of technology is having students use a laptop or other mobile device to create a document instead of using pencil/pen and paper. An example of a transformative way is to use technology to create or remix content in new and meaningful ways. The more transformative we are, and allow our students to be, the more relevant and rigorous learning will be. George summed it up best when he said, “with technology we all can be teachers and learners.” As we embrace this, just look at what we are becoming! Feel free to comment about any of the information. I look forward to hearing what your reflections are.