It’s hard to believe, but our focused three-day conversation with Adam Garry and Meg Ormiston—authors of Teaching the iGeneration and Creating a Digital Rich Classroom respectively—is quickly coming to an end.

The end result is a conversation that will challenge your thinking!  Take a few minutes exploring the summaries from the first and second days of our conversation and then poke through our thread online.

You might also be interested in the comments that I found most interesting today:

On slide 2, Dan Greenberg—who has started a ton of interesting strands in this conversation—talks about all of the devices that today’s students typically own but that we don’t allow them to use in our schools.

Dan’s point was echoed on slide 4 by Renee Moore, who works in a system that struggles to meet the hardware needs of its schools.  Easing restrictions prohibiting students from using their own tools in schools, Renee believes, might just help schools integrate technology in tough budget times.

For me, Dan and Renee’s points resonate:  As mobile devices—cell phones, iPods, iTouches—become more and more widely available, shouldn’t we find ways to incorporate those tools into the work we’re doing with students?

What message do we send to students about our respect for their learning styles when we ban the devices that they’ve adopted from our buildings?

Also, how do we start conversations that might just convince skeptics that the tools our kids have embraced have learning potential in the classroom?
On slide 5, Dan Greenberg and Matt Townsely work together to make the distinction between “the effective use of digital tools” and “the use of technology in the classroom.”

While that may seem like a subtle semantic distinction, it’s actually a huge shift in thinking, isn’t it?  I wonder how many teachers, administrators and district level leaders can really tell the difference.

My guess is that in the majority schools, using technology in the classroom—whether or not that use is effective—is celebrated and given priority simply because so few people can define just what “effective use” looks like in action.

Maybe that’s the first step that school leaders need to begin taking.  Providing opportunities for teachers to see progressive lessons in action and then spotlighting the differences with traditional practices could build systemic awareness of responsible instruction.

Also on slide 5, Mark Clemente—a good friend and TLN colleague who is working as a teacher on loan with the National Institute of Aerospace this year—wondered about the consequences of our desire to have control in our classrooms when he wrote:

When a tech lesson fails, (the common perception is that) control has been lost and the teacher has demonstrated that they don’t know it all.  I don’t agree with either idea but I think it is still a prevalent mindset in K12 education.

Interesting point, isn’t it?  For whatever reason, the “we’ve-got-to-be-in-charge-all-the-time” mindset still has a firm grip on our collective teaching minds.

What would it take for teachers to feel comfortable with the “loss of control” that defines the best student-centered classrooms?  What’s keeping us from feeling comfortable in situations where we’re not in charge?

Eric Townsely—a middle school principal from Iowa—introduced us to something he calls the “umbrella effect” on slide 7.

As Eric explains it, that’s the tendency in most schools for teachers to expect that once one teacher gets a new tool—an IWB, a set of student responders, laptops and data projectors—ALL teachers will be given the same tools.

While I think there’s real value in the argument that providing technology is the first step towards seeing our teachers use digital tools to create new learning opportunities, I wonder if school and/or district-wide rollouts leave us limited.

Shouldn’t we hold back some of our tech budgets, spending that cash on high quality PD and/or release time for teachers to document their work with digital solutions instead of providing everyone with the same hardware or software solutions?

Would we have a greater impact if we invested strategically in a handful of teachers in our district or school and used them as models of what could be?

Interesting stuff, huh?  And questions that any school working towards teaching for tomorrow are going to have to wrestle with at some point or another!

Now, our conversation is officially over, but I’ll leave it open for commenting until the end of the day tomorrow.  That way, you can sneak in to leave any final thoughts that you want to share.  Meg and Adam will be stopping by once more as well, so if you’ve got specific questions for them, get ‘em up quick!

Hope this all makes sense to you—and thank you for being a part of my professional growth.  I love listening to and learning from y’all.

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