ISTE Day 3 Reflections Part 2: Leading Effective Technology Integration in Schools - Jo Williamson and Hoke Wilcox

The ticketed workshop in the afternoon was a 6-hour one, so expectations were high since I would not be able to attend several sessions during this time.  The topic was an important one, though.  "Leading Effective Technology Integration in Schools" was led by Jo Williamson and assisted by Hoke Wilcox, and I looked forward to being in a room with people interested in improving how teachers are trained to use technology.  We opened the discussion with some brief introductions followed by polling and discussion on the prompt, “What kinds of technology uses would you like to see in classrooms and why?”  I suggested to my group something to the extent of the answer of “Anything that matches a teacher’s curriculum, is “invisible”, and engages and motivates students.”  The use of the PollEverywhere site was a nice bonus, as I was unaware of the application, and I will begin using it regularly as a replacement to clickers when hardware (i.e. computers or netbooks) is available.


More points came out and some themes that I picked out included student personalization, authentic/real world connections, and pulling students in as opposed to pushing content out to them.   I often come back to the motto of my first teaching job, Roycemore School, which was, “Inspiring Excellence, Celebrating Individuality.”  I think we often struggle with the individualization piece in education, especially in larger, public school systems.  Relationship building is an obvious and important component.   In addition, I think that curriculum can be more individualized (not just through differentiation), and I feel that technology can help make this outcome more accessible. 

The workshop then turned to “How do we get students engaged?”  We watched and discussed three case studies: 

Mabry Film Festival:  students created short films on their own chosen topics
The Horny Toad Project: students engage in scientific collaborations with farmers and university researchers
Dollars and Sense: students at Ariel Community Academy use real money and create stock portfolios

Although we focused mostly on student engagement and authenticity of the assigned project, we also began weaving technology use into the discussion by analyzing whether the technology incorporated in each project was essential and if it aided instruction.  A relevant and important topic was explored in that high tech and active learning can be the intended goal, but most of our schools are either stuck in low tech and/or passive learning.  Ms. Williamson included a nice quote related to our roles as teacher trainers: “Enable the people to do the worthwhile things they want to do, but may be unable to to do themselves.“

After an abbreviated break, we began more substantial work related to the reason why I chose this workshop, though in the end, I felt the lead-up to this portion was important and worthwhile.  Ms. Williamson briefly introduced a framework (LoTi), that reminded me a lot of the Technology Integration Matrix that I reviewed late in the year as a possible technology framework for ETHS.  She also instructed us on how to use the H.E.A.T. index to determine effective lessons/projects.  Once you get past the catchy acronym, the index is an effective way to quickly remember and remind coaches to look for higher order thinking, engagement, authenticity, and technology.  I found the index to be a nice adhesive for a lot of the work that we had just done in the first 4 hours of the workshop. 

Applying the HEAT index to the three videos, we were able to practice looking at what may seem like very solid projects on many fronts, and finding ways to improve them.  This was the coaching piece that I was looking for, and it gave me some ideas of how to better structure the way I interact with teachers when integrating technology during the upcoming year and in future years. 

After the coaching practice, we spent 20 minutes creating lessons with LoTi and HEAT in mind.  Although I appreciated the opportunity to design, and all groups did an admirable job of producing something in such a short amount of time, there was simply no way we could get truly meaningful results in such a short amount of time.  We probably could have spent more time practicing coaching and/or working with effective use of the framework and index.

Closing out the workshop, Mr. Wilcox led us through the PLIGG (an open source content management system) that he developed.  Similar to DIGG, the Next Steps Project was designed with the hope of gathering ready-made projects and cool tools that would help teachers integrate technology in instruction.  One of my biggest complaints about social networking sites and tagging resource tools is that they quickly become too large, overwhelming, and disorganized.  Depending on how effective the refined selection criteria (next step projects, vs. cool tools) turns out to be and the level of interest generated by the presenters, this project certainly has potential to become an important resource for all teachers.  

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