Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Shiny Pretty

We Americans like our bling.  Even those of us in the staid Mid-West fall into the trap (right now seems to surround women’s handbags with enough glitz on them to signal space).  And while shiny, pretty isn’t so bad on evening wear, it is not a criterion for purchasing classroom technology… EVER.

I follow several chats, message boards and blogs emerging from educators of all walks.  This week has been particularly frustrating as several posts for e-book suggestions/curriculum/lesson plans/integration specialists/AUPs have gone out specifically mentioning a shiny pretty already purchased - looking for some kind of way to be used in teaching and learning.  My favorite post of the week being (and I am paraphrasing so as to not offend) “We bought hundreds of X device and are now looking for a digital curriculum. Anyone have suggestions?”  The device (noun) was the motivator… now the curriculum side (verbs) kicked in.  That’s backwards people.  The shiny pretty should never be the primary motivator.

To help with this idea… let me introduce you to a very simplified discernment process (remember – Jesuit educator here)…

Reflect on why you are considering a change. 

Brainstorm current practices that are not effective.  Brainstorm influences that are encouraging, guiding, forcing the re-assessment of technology resources.

In our situation, demand for information access and research, writing, presentation, data visualization, and communication experiences greatly outpaced access.  We collected all the “complaints” and realized student and teacher needs could be met with more computer access.  This took about 6 months.

Gather data on various solutions to meet change.

Go into serious research mode.  Since we are talking technology here – this is a twofold process.

  • Research your verbs – what is best practice for meeting the challenges discovered above? Gather data from teachers and students as to the real gaps in learning.  Suggested actions are surveys, focus groups, testing data and classroom walk-throughs.
  • Research your nouns – pilot multiple devices, talk to colleagues with direct experience with the tool.  Suggested actions for this are pilot programs, Tech Petting Zoos, focus groups with hand’s on device trials.

We took over a year and a half in research, testing, Tech Petting Zoos and small pilots of opening up resources before moving to…

Make a decision

Announce to constituent groups the leading decision.  Leave time for discussion and questions.  Live publically with the decision for a few months to see what might arise. 

Our voluntary BYOT program began in the Fall of 2011.  We announced our 1:1 BYOT program in February after five months of pilot and 7 months before full implementation to allow for discussion, education, more Tech Petting Zoos and Boot Camps.

Go forward in confidence

Or at least with the confidence you didn't make your decision based on the latest shiny pretty to hit the consumer market.  You made the decision thoughtfully, with the best research and experience available to meet the learning needs of students.  And that's not too bad...  

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