Checking in on the Journey to C21 Learner – Develop Proficiency with the tools of technology

The inspiration for this post was one written by Corinne Campbell written with the same name. I read the post just prior to boarding the plane in Melbourne, returning from the ELH School Tech conference, and I was struck by the honesty and openness with which Corrine was able to reflect on her journey. It’s a post structure that resonated with me then and now as I am starting out on my journey towards becoming conscious of what  I need to do to be an effective educator now and into my future. If you haven’t had the chance to read Corinne’s post above, then I strongly recommend that you do.

Corinne highlighted Dr Alec Couros summary of 21st Century skills below

“21st Century Readers/Writers Must…

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information.
  • Create, critique and analyse multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by those complex environments

NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment (2007)”

So how am I travelling against these as both a teacher and a leader. I thought these would initially be quite short, but they’re not so I’ll split them into individual posts.

Develop Proficiency with the tools of technology

I’ve always been someone who used technology, but to be honest my technology use was mostly personal and task focussed. In fact I can remember having to participate in an Learner Management System (LMS) discussion forum at University, and I could not have found it less engaging.

However, over the last two years I have been working at a school that encourages its teachers to use technology to support student learning, and gives us the systems (Hardware, software and network) that takes away the excuse not to try. But, to be honest, I didn’t know where to start. So ike so many of my peers, I trawled through TED, Google, YouTube, TES etc… but as an individual to see what I could find. Whilst I was able to get some improved outcomes, particularly in my SOSE units, I was really functioning at the Substitution level of SAMR – Generally substituting the textbook pre-reading with a YouTube, Vimeo clip, but the assignments were still paper based and classroom focussed.

In 2012, I was fortunate enough to participate in an ideasLAB trial. Whilst I didn’t recognise it at the time, the 10 week program challenged my thinking about the role purpose and pedagogy of technology use in the classroom and was truly transformational in my approach to teaching in a connected environment. As a result of the this trial, I committed to using the edmodo across all of my classes, this led me to using Dropbox and survey monkey with students.

By the start of 2013, I was comfortable with using all of those tools, but I noticed that all of my focus was on facilitating better ways for me to support my students learning… At the ELHST 2013 conference, it finally clicked that I could use technology to collaborate, support and grow my own professional learning in a way that I had never imagined. In the last two months, I’ve posted 530 tweets, started students blogging on edublogs  used google docs to feedback on student work and collaboratively plan a unit that I team teach with another teacher. In our research project class, we are using Instagrok and Pearl Trees to record information, and exporting outcomes using infographics. The students are (mostly) keeping their reflective journals and records of evidence on their EduBlog, creating survey’s with survey monkey/google forms and co-authoring documents on google docs. Every one of these ideas have come from a tweet or blog post from another educator, and I thank you all for sharing.

Reflecting on my journey towards becoming an effective 21st century teacher and learner, I am drawn back to George Couros’ excellent “Leading innovative change series”  (Again, if you haven’t had a chance to read this, I highly recommend that you do!) and the following quote:

“What I also noticed was that with the staff that did embrace everything that was being shared, they were only scratching the surface of what could actually be accomplished.  Our practice was becoming of the “garden variety” nature; knowledgeable in all, but masters of none.”

I think that this quote definitely identifies where I am at with my teaching at the moment. I have no doubt that the “Garden Variety” approach has had a positive effect on the learning outcomes for the students (The google forms survey we conducted highlights this as on e of the strengths of the program), however, my limited knowledge has meant that I have only been able to scratch the surface in terms of what could actually be accomplished through a few key tools. George Couros highlights Bernajean Porter’s work  on moving from literate, to adaptive, to transformative. For me to really make a difference for my own professional learning , and for the students in my care, I need to maintain a broad knowledge of a range of tools, but develop a deep knowledge in a few in order to design truly transformative learning experiences for both my students and myself. One of my goals in preparation for 2014 curriculum delivery is to do just that…choose three key strategies to focus on for three years…watch this space!

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