Thursday, December 8, 2011

Organic Technology?

At my school, we love the word "organic."  We love it so much, we even bought our own composting equipment and our students know how to sort their waste into "trash," "recycling," and "compost."

But I'm really more interested in our more frequent reference to organic change.  We believe that change should emerge "organically" (unless, of course, it is mandated), and that when the time is right and the people are willing, we will embrace the opportunities we are so blessed to have, like ipads for all students (and the teachers who work with them) in grades JK-4.  One can become numb to a word like "organic" because it feels too much like a fantasy, too obscured by visions of hippies and peace signs.  But I believe, much like Maria Montessori did, that if we provide people with the right materials, the best space in which to use them, and talented teachers to guide them, the organic process of coming to choose technology as a valuable resource in the classroom can and does happen.

Over the past week I have experienced this organic transformation. It began with a conversation with an amazing teacher who wanted to let her kids use their bubbling energy and creativity to create iMovies about the rock cycle.  It continued with an incredibly supportive technology integration specialist.  Then it traveled to the passionate science teacher and several other adults around the building who were willing to serve as expert geologists.  We knew we had found an amazing way to create a truly interdisciplinary performance assessment--we could naturally (organically, even) include science, language arts, and technology skills and content.

As we began to work through the plans we realized it would be easier to use Googledocs to create the unit plan since there would be four teachers (science, tech, homeroom, and coach) working on it.  We later decided that when students interviewed their primary source experts, they should record the interviews using the Voicethread app.  So, in the space of a few days, we found ourselves dripping in technology--not for technology's sake but because it would enhance teacher and student productivity.  The lessons begin next week and we can't wait to see what the students will create.  Watch for some of their projects here in the coming weeks. 

In a recent blog post, Troy Hicks lamented the negativity he felt when he and his colleagues presented their session on teaching digital literacy at this year's NCTE convention in Chicago.  He felt disheartened by teachers' concerns such as "I don’t have the time and the energy.  When do I have time to learn how to do this myself?  I am afraid the students know more than me. Where do I even begin?  I am teaching to my strengths – that doesn’t include this.  We can no longer talk with one another.  Why spend time on a tech project when we need to spend time on the paper…" 

Troy--don't give up.  We hear you.  We are getting there, little by little, one classroom discovery at a time.

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