Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moving Towards Tech Integration and Students as Contributors of Content

We are making progress. In the past, my colleague and I wrote a semester tech plan and brought it to the staff. Most teachers approved it as written. A few would ask us to work on other projects with them.

This term, I am meeting with each of my teachers to create a semester plan. In most cases, this isn't the deep, rich collaboration I envision since my class provides them with prep time, but it is a good start given time constraints. It means I no longer have every class in a grade level on approximately the same lesson. I'm looking at 15 potentially unrelated preps a week, but since I was a classroom teacher for 11 years, I'm used to far more preps a week than that.

None of this would be possible without the teachers being willing to work with me. They each either gave up a prep time or met with me after school. This may not sound like much, but our school is a fast-paced place and they are all involved in many projects, meetings and conferences beyond their regular planning for lessons and assessing their students. With so many tasks competing for their time, I am appreciative of their generosity.

I'm happy that what I'm doing with the students is more closely integrated with the classroom curriculum, and that this process allows me to help the teachers see ways to teach with technology. In some of our plans, they will book time beyond my class to work on the projects. Other teachers will team teach with me some of the time. For other classes, the entire plan is contained in my weekly class.

Ideally, I want to move towards the type of integration and collaboration that Kim Cofino blogged about here>and here. That change requires a different staffing model. My principal has made a staffing request for next year, but their are many competing requests so we will have to wait and see if it is funded for next year.

As happy as I am with the progress made, I keep mulling over the words of one of my teachers. As we finished the semester plan, she lamented that it wasn't very Web 2.0. She attended the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai last year and embraced the need for teaching 21st century skills instead of the old consumer model of information.

She's right. While many of the semester plans do allow students to create content, show their learning in new ways that involve higher-order thinking, there is not much connection with the rest of the world. Except for a few YouTube videos and VoiceThreads, there isn't much in these plans that connect our students with the world outside of our school. Does there need to be in an international school where the children are sitting in class each day with other international children? Does there need to be at the elementary level where so much of what we do with technology is still new to them?

My first response is, "Of course!" However, I need to think more about the whys and hows. If you are using Web 2.0 tools to connect your elementary students with the larger community, what drives you? Why do you personally think it is import? I'd love to hear what you have to say.