Dear District Leaders,
I am writing you because our education system hangs in the balance. Technology is so important to the educational process, yet many of you approach it all wrong. i love technology, but it is not the be all end all answer to school's issues. The process has to be there. Can it transform a classroom? Yes, but it can because the teacher is using it to, not because of the tech that is there. You can't just throw money at the issue.
Tech is the future. It is not going away. It's just going to become more and more prevalent. You as a district leader have to start having plans that work. Tech can transforms students experience by allowing real world projects, connections, differentiation, collaboration, and so much more. It's our job to prepare students for the future. Tech is a major part of the business world so in my mind students should be using basic technology skills in every class. There are issues there though, and many districts continue to make the same mistakes. Below you will find my list:
In closing, technology is just going to become more and more prevalent. You guys can lead the change. Make tech transformative. Teach teachers how to use it. Reject companies that are not innovative no matter how big. Remember its all about the purpose and the practice, its not an issue you can throw money at...
Technology is vast. It can be confusing. I can't even imagine being a teacher who is a digital immigrant on the downside of their career. How would I get started in the vast area of ed tech? This blog post is for you. This post gives you one tool to start using in almost every area you will need. It's a starting place. Hope it Helps!
Learning Management System- Edmodo
Office- Google Drive
Website Building- Weebly
Students are people not numbers. There I said it. Schools have such an obsession with data that in many ways it is just sending the US further and further down the rabbit hole in education obscurity. President Obama's education initiatives where initially supposed to move us away from high stakes testing and focus on more tangible skills that schools are teaching. In reality, it has made the focus on data and testing more prevalent then ever.
The problem with data is that it is very difficult to get data that matters. It also tends to be a issue that schools continue to throw money at with very little success. This morning I attended a training by the Georgia Department of Education showing us their new data system. While its a cool tool, it does not really give me that much to look at because it's based on last years data. While it could be helpful in interventions, SST, and RTI, it does not take into account major factors that change in the life's of our students from year to year. Basing instructional decisions on something that is over a year old and sometimes more is ineffective as students mature and change. Yes, High School kids actually mature. They turn over new leafs. They can of course also go into negative things from year to year. All of these have very little to do with the actually school.
The other issue I have with this new system and big data in general is that test data is such a major part of it. I teach US History which has an end of course test. The data taken from my students after they take the test is then compared to data from their last Social Studies test. That test happened in MIDDLE SCHOOL. Yes, they actually want me to compare and do interventions based on a test that happened 3 to 4 years prior.
Schools should be measured on their instructional practices, not on some test that frankly does little to measure the effectiveness of a teacher and a course. How are students learning to think? How are they learning to create? It's one of the reasons I love the Maker Movement. It goes to what really matters. How are we preparing students for the real world? What technology skills are they learning in classes other than technology? They are all questions that should go into effectiveness measures. Guess what they are not.
With all of this, I also want to to ask the bigger question of why comparisons to others are so important? Situations outside of a classroom are different from state to state. One state might have more economically disadvantaged that measures into their scores. One state might have more rural districts that struggle to put the best teachers in the classroom. They are things that factor into that data. Comparing the US to other countries is also a losing battle. Most other countries send the less capable to trade schools early. We carry kids through a normal schedule until they are 18. The advantages and disadvantages of that system are a topic for another day, but it shows how big data stinks.
Big data is not the answer to fixing our school system. Schools are throwing money at something that is for the most part to time consuming and to complicated for a regular classroom teacher. We should be focusing on classroom practice, yet is seems teachers are just expected to know how to do that.
I have something to confess. I do use Class Dojo with my high school classes. I even teach higher levels of juniors and seniors. Does Class Dojo come off a little kiddie? Yes. Is it a little ridiculous for high school kids? Yes. It's the purpose behind it that makes it work, and really all you have to do is explain that to students. They do get it, and among other things high school kids are still kids. They watch Disney movies, and you would be surprised how many still want to play with the avatar.
Class Dojo at its core is a behavior management system. It allows you to award points for positive behavior, and you can give negative points for negative behavior. This system at its core is still very valuable for high school. You as a teacher need to figure out some incentives in order to let students cash out positive points. Students still want that incentive, and if you do it the right way, they will strive for it.
Where Class Dojo is a must for high school teacher is the communication part of it. First, it allows students to receive receive a code in order to see their progress. Students can get feedback both positive and negative without having to stop instructional time. To me, that is an incredibly valuable tool. The overall best part about Class Dojo though is, that you can give PARENTS a code to see their child's behavior in real time. You can even message them from the Class Dojo app if they connect. To me, that is well worth any this is stupid comments from high school students. If little Johnny is going home and telling his mom he is awesome, you now have proof if he is not. The fact that you can now message directly from it makes it even better. You can contact the parent straight from the app instead of having to wait for a time to get on your email and look up that parents phone number.
Will there be some pushback from your high school kids? There very well could be, but I have found most accept it easily if your present it with the purpose in mind. I even acknowledge that is looks a little childish. What really makes me laugh though, is that many of those kids who claim Class Dojo is childish are the ones who are checking their profiles the most. It's also really funny to watch my higher level juniors play with the avatar. Most really love it. You can even look at most of the avatars when they are finished and say that makes since for that students personality.
Class Dojo is like any app or device, it works when you make it work. Technology will always depend on the process of implementing it. When you present it to high school kids, focus on the purpose. If you get the it's childish pushback, acknowledge it. Above all, I know Class Dojo is listening to the pushback of it's childish for high school. Liam (one of the co-founders) told me personally that they have new features coming to answer that. To me, that's the sign of an ed tech company I love, one who listens to their base users!
I recently applied and interviewed for an education technology position in my own district. I did not get it. This was a job I thought I wanted badly. Thankfully, I have seen the light. This position was not for me. I think I would be incredibly frustrated in that spot. I also would have to worry about job security. I can't do that. I got to keep making the money so I can raise my family.
The more I take a look at my district, I realize I need to be a place that is progressive, a place that wants me, and a place that does things for the right reasons. My district is not that. I really believe the reason I was not hired was because I am different. They plain and simple did not think I would fit in with their group, and you know what they were right. They think Microsoft Office in the cloud and Blackboard are progressive. They are not. If I am going to move to ed tech, I want to go some place that thinks bigger. I want to go somewhere that is teaching teachers how to build their own learning environments and doing things like deploying Google Apps. I want some place that wants to include their innovative leaders, and a place that actually listens to them to make decisions.
Really, the decision of my district to go with someone else is motivation. I am more motivated than ever to make my school the greatest tech school in the country. I am also going to continue spreading the good news of ed tech through this site and presentations all over the Southeast. The Google Teacher Academy and Apple Distinguished Educators are now a priority.
I will be just fine. It's time to build from within. I love where I am currently, and I am going to start working on my administrative degree. I really believe things are working the way they are to make me a front line change agent. If I keep going, I will be able to help make the change that my district and many others so desperately need.