Beginning with the end
There… glad I got that out of the way. There ended the longest blogless period I’ve had in about three years. Not that I’ve ever been that prolific. In fact, I’m pretty satisfied if I get time to write one post a week. I use Twitter for the smalltalk. Blogging, for me, is about really exploring ideas from one perspective or another. However, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that my last post was April 17th. All that being said, it’s time to get back to the synthesis of thought that I only find through this approach.
For the handful of folks who read this blog, you won’t likely find much to chew on after this one, but at least I’ll get a few things off my chest and get back in the game. I’ve been in a bit of a transitional period at school (yeah- both technically and mentally). It might help to toss out a little historical perspective on my responsibilities since I became an educator.
Here’s my career timeline in a really small nutshell:
- 1992: teacher: 7th grade science & odyssey (multidisciplinary gifted program) also assistant wrestling coach
- 1995: teacher: 9-12 general biology, honors zoology, honors botany, science investigations (independent research program under gifted ed.)
- 1999: started Marine Biology program for upperclassmen in all three public schools.
- 2004: moved to another SJSD high school to take head wrestling position with superstar brother as assistant.
- 2007: began life as the generalist instructional coach for my building. taught one period of Honors Zoology concurrently.
- 2009: @erinlynnnash took the reigns of Zoology so I could switch to a Dual-Credit course with MWSU called Principles of Biology. also moved toward a focus of technology integration within my building… a natural fit for me within our IC model. (my 18th & last year as a wrestling coach)
- 2011: move to a new district-level position, “Academic Technology Instructional Specialist” within the Curriculum & Instruction office of the SJSD. this is a smart re-framing of resources for the future. I will also continue as instructor of our Marine Biology program.
That makes it pretty apparent that next year will be my first year unattached to an actual building. While I’m a bit misty-eyed at that prospect, I’m also looking forward to the possibilities within this switch. The pool of smart, energetic professionals I get to collaborate with just went from from about 70 to around 900. Fear meet Excitement. I think you’ll enjoy one another.
This little blogging project began as one small part of my firsthand attempts at understanding the wider ecosystem of the participatory web. Specifically, what might this realm offer the student (or teacher) in seeking understanding and making sense of the world in which they are faced? Because really… at its heart, this is what education at this level should be. Of course this is my opinion, but making sense of a very complex and changing world is what education in 2010 should be. No? I knew what I had been doing within my own classroom. As an instructional coach, I got to see firsthand what was going on in other classrooms. However, if I were going to help lead a school toward change in this direction, I had better get a broader view.
In this time, I have explored more cutting edge tools than I could ever highlight on this blog. I immersed myself in the participatory web as much as seemed humanly possible. I have made more national and even global connections than I ever thought possible. Within the past year, I have begun to shake things down to what really works for me, all the while trying to stay abreast of the rest. If we all learned the same way, this wouldn’t even be a challenge, right?
During the past few years, I sat side-by-side with colleagues as they willingly dove head-first into the realm of anytime, anywhere learning via digital technology. I have led professional development events at my school to bring all teachers into the fray. I have led classrooms that, bless their hearts, have embraced the still-experimental nature of these tools of communication. In chatting with my wife and teaching partner about the past few years, the role of reflective and authentic learning instantly came to the forefront of her mind. Those two elements have truly been our focus. I always wonder how that would have worked without such a prior grounding in instructional practice & action research. Probably far less famously I suspect. Of course, any time I ponder the convergence of the elements of pedagogy, content, and technology, I think of Dr. Punya Mishra and the TPACK framework he lined out with Dr. Matt Koehler at MSU. I no longer make educational decisions of any sort without without running them through this filter.
As a baby step in engaging the whole of our local educational community, Dr. Jaime Dial and I created the Saint Joseph Digital Express as an adaptable structure for communication into the future. Check it out. This network was largely tossed out this past year as a potential learning sphere and will likely serve us well as we move into a more focused future on this front. I’m also excited to have Will Richardson as a consultant and PD facilitator for the coming year. He was my suggestion for getting things started and kick-starting the conversation. Will will be working with local administrators, instructional coaches, and curriculum coaches to help us hone a mission for 21st Century instruction. Will sets the tone well and sees the big picture of many of these current shifts that have potential to impact the world of education. From my experience, he is an excellent facilitator and does a really super job framing tough issues and leading large groups in thought concerning these issues. This work will certainly be translated down to the building level of the SJSD in various ways within the following year and as we move forward.
Might individual buildings move in different ways toward these new ideas? You better believe it. As our Curriculum & Instruction department in the SJSD believes, each child moves toward learning in different ways, so we believe in different learning communities moving in subtly different ways to tackle the issues of 2010 and beyond. We have powerful instructional leaders in our building principals who will take this new learning and apply it as it fits to our schools. Through our school improvement process and commitment to focused professional development in support of these plans, we all have made serious moves in positive directions in the past five years.
It’s hard to be perfectly patient and excitedly enlivened all at the same time. Perhaps more than ever I’m happy to be a part of this district at this time. I’m happy to be a part of a public school district that keeps its eye on the ball with regard to instruction… all the while fueling the innovation needed to stay relevant and authentic for today and into the future.
To my knowledge, in our district the word “technology” has never been included in any job title to date outside of our own Troester Media Center. TMC is the physical brain of our Internet nervous system with all the associated services. We have long enjoyed a powerful IT infrastructure with the foresight to deliver potential to each classroom and to deliver it fast. We have owned our own gigabit fiber optic network joining more than 20 buildings since 1995. Yes, I said it… fiber. I’ve had nothing to do with any of those moves. You can look above to see what I was busy with at that time. And yet, I was always thankful for each new thing I was allowed to do during that time because of this technology.
Many changes have taken place regarding the world of digital communications since 1995. Shoot- many things have changed in the past year. We are a district currently possessing more kit than 90% of public or private schools I have seen. We have a K-12 instructional model that increasingly gives credence to a constructivist approach. What we need now is to connect our gear with our mission. We’ve had “T” in one silo and the “P” and “C” in another across town. I believe we are well ready to aim toward true TPACK integration. For so many years technology was used in large part to facilitate management and operations as well as a rather teacher-directed approach to learning.
Integration vs. transformation
However, in 2010, and for some time now, we’ve needed more. Our kids need more. They deserve to emerge from their school experiences tech-savvy and ready to take on the world like modern learners. Delivering that requires a bridge connecting smart people who’ve been wanting the best for our kids for some time- while speaking significantly different languages. To do that we need well-supported tech-savvy teachers. I’m looking forward to doing what I can to fulfill at least some small part of this effort into the future, for these challenges are certainly worthy. Sliding the title “technology” into any position within C & I is a significant move. Significant in that it recognizes the importance of modern technology in making learning authentic in a world where information and communication comes increasingly digitally-flavored. I would love to establish myself as a strong link between the world of slick gadgets and the world of differentiated, student-owned learning. Instructionally, we are in a really good place- particularly for a public school system. Technologically, we have some of the best of the best. The time is ripe for a marriage made in TPACK heaven.
While I’m leaving day-to-day contact with some really smart friends and colleagues… I’m looking forward to working with another set of really smart colleagues and increasing friends. One final thing is for sure- I’m certainly glad I’ve spent the effort to cultivate a rich and varied personal learning network over the past few years. Of course I’m going to need it. I cannot imagine consulting on such a broad range of topics without all of you. You might want to keep Skype running…
*”Push the button” by INoxKrow on Flickr
*”Moar Cute Duck Bum” by Duncan Rawlinson
*”Integration” by certified su on Flickr
*”go” by A_of_DooM on Flickr.