Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Teacher and Learner

I saw a picture on a cell phone this morning that took me off guard. It shows that the mirror image of the word Teach is the word Learn. Hmmm. I’m sure I’ve seen this before, but it’s worth a reminder.

So, in response to that, I reflect on the following question I have heard posed several times recently: “Who should be more tired at the end of the school day – the teacher or the student?” Linking that to the image I saw this morning, who should be more tired – the teacher or the learner?

If you ask kids: "Does learning with technology make you think harder," how will they respond? If the answer is no, then why are we using it? If the teacher is still in front of the room sharing everything THEY know about the subject, then why are we using the technology? What sticks with you from your education? The discoveries that you made, the learning you uncovered, the content you made sense of on your own.

In a traditional classroom, the teacher goes home exhausted. If we are teaching our students 21st century skills, such as problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, innovation, literacy skills, and a healthy dose of critical thinking, then it is the learner who should come home more tired at the end of the day. And homework should prepare them for the hard work of the next day.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I ran into the Principal of a local private school today. Several years ago, I had worked with a class of her 6th graders to teach them how to use PowerPoint. So, I mentioned to her that I would love to come in and work with her teachers this year in a coaching type relationship. She then told me all that this tiny school had accomplished in a relatively short period of time. They regularly use video conferencing with a global partner. Labs are no longer used; instead, there are laptop carts.

Each classroom has a Smart Board. They use them to differentiate instruction and to encourage students who are tactile/kinesthetic learners to get up and interact with the content. My comment was that it was good to see them using the boards interactively. Her response was, "Of course! Otherwise, we may as well just use the LCD projector."

So, tell me, why does she get it and others don't? Why are schools buying tremendous numbers of interactive white boards and forgetting about the interactive piece? Instead, they are being used as very expensive walls or chalk boards. Teaching and learning is not being impacted. Teachers are still up in front of the room, and they are more tired at the end of the day than the students are. Unfortunately, it seems that too often we make the purchase before thinking through how we are going to use it. Professional development and a well thought out plan are the key to transformation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

PA Got it Right!

Yes PA got it right by requiring (and funding) Coaches and Professional Development as part of CFF (and in most cases EETT). However, what the success of the program really comes down to is the Coaches themselves. This CFF Coaching community, and I do not use that word lightly, is amazing. The commitment level from most Coaches is outstanding. As the years progressed, each of them grew. Some of you came into this program with no idea of what the job was all about it. Those coaches in the first year were the bricklayers. With each coaching activity, collaboration day, email on the listserv, networking meeting, and webinar, each of them built the foundation. As new groups of coaches joined the ranks, it became easier to define the role of coach, because there was someone else who came before them – modeling for them through webinars, breakout sessions, birds of a feather, listserv questions, responses, and discussions, social bookmarking, informal conversations at Boot Camp and PETE&C, and IU Meetings.

It is because of the PEOPLE who were named as Coaches that PA got it right. In many cases, administrators understood that and continued the position with local funding – at least until it wasn’t possible anymore. And, there are still some who will continue coaching this year.

I hope this blog will be a place to showcase what PA is accomplishing, as I interview coaches on their experiences as they move FORWARD into the classroom.

No Help From the Economy

By the 4th year, many of our coaches became K-12 coaches. The economy plummeted. Funding dropped off for our first cohort, but over 80% of the districts sustained the position. We were beginning to wonder how long the Mentors would be funded, so a new program was designed that would pass the torch to regional Technology Integration Mentors (TIMs). The concept of regional meetings became systemic. Teacher Collaboration Days, started by a core group of Cohort 1 Coaches and their Intermediate Unit TIM, began being held across the state.

During our final year, the state funded our third cohort of coaches, Mentors, and TIMs. We began to celebrate our accomplishments; the future is now, we cheered. But we also began to wonder, "Where are we headed?"