A new disruption seems to happen at our school every year at about this time, and it seems to be a Grade 7 phenomenon. For whatever reason this is the age at which our students acquire an iPod Touch, and by this time of the year enough of them have one that it starts to get disruptive in the classroom. It’s a perfect storm: a portable device that allows access to the internet, applications and enough memory to store just about anything; and the onset of puberty which leads to increased experimentation and consequence free thinking.
Last year we successfully navigated this hiccup by meeting with all the middle and high school students and engaging in a conversation about their use of their iTouch at school, some of the topics we covered were: how it is a privilege not a right (not sure I still believe that any more); how it can be distracting and affect their school performance, and how it can also be an amazing learning tool; our expectations for how the iTouch will be used at school (no video games, a teacher can check apps at any time); and the consequences if they continue to misuse this tool.
This year I am thinking bigger. We will still have to have some variation of the conversation above with the students, but I am hoping our school response can be more nuanced and pro-active. In particular I want to engage the teachers in a conversation about how we see the iTouch fitting into our classrooms and develop some kind of plan for how we are going to take advantage of this technology and not just manage it. Currently it mostly functions as an entertainment tool that is allowed to come out at recess and break. A recent poll of my Grade 7 class revealed that over 60% of them have an iTouch, and this number is sure to grow. Surely we should be leveraging this technology, not fighting it.
The question that I am trying to answer right now is, what knowledge do teachers need to have in order to engage constuctively in a conversation about new technologies and their place in our school? Right now I am thinking about the iTouch, but I think this thought process is important for any visioning regarding technology use in a school.
The first thing that comes to mind is that very few teachers at my school understand what an iTouch is or what it can do. Understandably, viewed from this position this can be a very scary piece of technology. Part of the solution to this is to give them some time with an iTouch; I’m imagining having a few in our library pre-loaded with useful applications. There is also this useful k12 online presentation: The iPod Touch in the Classroom, and accompanying documentation. Particularly in light of the recent iPad unveiling and the possibility of them showing up in schools, i believe teachers really do need to understand this new kind of operating system and how much can be done with the right Apps.
The other piece that I found the other day is this wonderful Technology Integration Matrix from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology. I can imagine a staff pro-d session in which teachers look at this matrix and decide which parts of it they are comfortable with and make a plan for how they will get there. I think Sue H models the right approach to this grid when she says:
Personally, I don’t see this table as presenting a progression of goals from less to more valid or more ideal, but rather as a patchwork quilt of possibilities.
So, I am imagining teacher pro-d that starts with an introduction to the iTouch, moves into a discussion about all the possible ways technology could be integrated into the classroom, and finishes with a discussion about how we as a school are going to move forward with a pro-active plan for integrating technologies like the iTouch in a thoughtful way that maximizes their potential and minimizes the disruptions.
What have I missed?
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