Note: If you’re reading this tonight, May 12, you’ll notice there aren’t any links to the posts or people I reference. It’s late and WordPress on the iPad’s still a bit limited. I’ll add them in tomorrow. Promise.

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Recently in this space, I’ve written about a project going on in our district called the Digital Learning Collaborative (DLC). It’s our attempt to give teachers the time and support they need to effectively insert technology into their classroom in meaningful ways. In year one, we’ve worked with folks to help them develop personal professional proficiency with a variety of digital tools including laptops, document cameras, web tools and more. In addition, we spent a great deal of time helping teachers become reflective and collaborative practitioners, with the knowledge that we’d be asking them to apply those skills to an action research project in year two.

And here we are at the end of year one. I can truly say that it’s been a wonderful experience this year, and I’m looking forward to watching and listening as our cohort of DLC participants go through the process of exploring questions around their wonderings.

But, it seems a bit unfair to set them off on this process without working through a bit of it ourselves. Bud’s shared his thoughts about where he’ll be doing some thinking on his blog. What follows is my attempt to do the same.

I’ve always been interested in the balance between teacher and student work in the classroom and the types of experiences technology enables. I’m a constructivist at heart and often wonder how much of the time teachers spend creating and using technology supports for their lessons is worth it. That sounds bit harsher than I probably intend, but what I’m suspecting is that the hours I see spent by teachers on creating interactive activities, PowerPoints, and the like are less effective in impacting student achievement than the hours spent allowing students to get their hands on the tools to construct and display their own meanings.

I want to spend some time paying attention to the ways that both teachers and students interact with technology in the classroom. Who’s in the driver’s seat when tech is part of a lesson? To what end is the tech being used? What types of activities is the tech supporting? And what’s the outcome in terms of student learning?

A secondary interest (I’m allowed to wonder about many things, right?) is in how teachers make instructional decisions related to the tech they choose (or don’t choose) to make part of a lesson.  I dabbled a bit with friend and creative thinker Tom Woodward a bit last year on the concept through a project called Iron Teacher. I want to get back to thinking with teachers about the processes that are behind creating engaging lessons.

The good news is that we’ll have a group of teachers making use of technology in lots of different ways next year. Plus, they’ll be sharing publicly what they’re up to. I hope to do a bit of aggregating and collecting of their reflections as well as that of their students. I’m interested in what they have to say. Mostly, I’m interested in using their experiences to help understand what and how classroom tech makes a difference in student engagement and learning. Is showing a video enough? Is making a video with students too much? What helps teachers decide which and when each is the right fit?

My own teacher research project is going to be a lot less quantifiable than I’m used to. I spent many years as a math teacher and for me the data is in the numbers. I’m quite comfortable in using data to tell a story. The concept of story as data will be a new experience for me, but it’ll be a good one. I hope you’ll check in from time to time to let me know what you think about my thinking.

And while you’re at it, check in on our teachers now and then too. We’ll be setting up a collective space on our district blog server (most likely in the Instructional Technology blog)  for all of us to share. I know they’ll appreciate the feedback as much as I will.

2 Responses to “Teacher Research. I’m Learning.”
  1. Ed McGovern says:

    Great post, and thank you for sharing so much of what your district is doing with technology. The quote below is something that I have been thinking about for a while now, but have not been able to articulate as simple as you. I think that it is the underlying reason I have been thinking so much about how to change my classroom practice and have the kids do more ‘creating’. Thanks for giving voice to what was in my head.

    “I’ve always been interested in the balance between teacher and student work in the classroom and the types of experiences technology enables. I’m a constructivist at heart and often wonder how much of the time teachers spend creating and using technology supports for their lessons is worth it. That sounds bit harsher than I probably intend, but what I’m suspecting is that the hours I see spent by teachers on creating interactive activities, PowerPoints, and the like are less effective in impacting student achievement than the hours spent allowing students to get their hands on the tools to construct and display their own meanings.”

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