Friday, December 13, 2013

Thinking about Design

As my friend Ania Zielinska has said...when you 'integrate' something, you may be 'disintegrating' it: in this case, meaning....infusing tech into the curriculum might lead to big pieces of it being owned by no one, and getting lost by the wayside.

That's what has happened with some components of tech learning at our school: in the mechanics and pedagogy of integrating 1:1 into the classrooms, we've lost programming, game design, etc. Courses we once taught, but now we don't have a department that 'owns' them so they (and the skills they endorse) aren't being reinforced or taught.

But now that everyone has a laptop and the teachers are settling into their groove, students are starting to look for these offerings again. So a month or so ago, I started making movements in the HS about creating a Tech Curriculum.

I wrote a plan for a range of Technology courses. I say "range" because it felt to me that things like Programming fell into one end of some sort of spectrum, while things like Robotics fell at the other end, and I wanted to offer a selection that would appeal to a wide variety of students.

I've recently grown to understand my instincts: Sylvia Martinez, who is a Maker proseletyzer, mentioned that Programming is the 'Rosetta Stone' for all other forms of technology use, while more applied technology use (like robotics and game design) are in the arena of "Physical Computing"... a form of 'design tech' where technology plays a crucial, but non-central, role in the process of designing something. So thanks to her for validating my instincts and giving me some terms to define those endpoints. But most important to me was that term "design tech" as referring to a project where technology was necessary for success, and also the term "design cycle" which is a crucial part of the process...where you create, test, modify and improve in a cyclical, reiterative cycle.

In my musings about the future of technology in schools, it grew on me that there would be a decreasing pool of schools who needed support and guidance in rolling out a 1:1 program, and an increasing pool if teachers who were empowered to find and leverage tech tools in their curricula. So the future role of ICT Facilitators like myself was going to change.

But how?

I'm now thinking that the tech facilitator role is going to become more and more responsible for finding powerful ways to teach those pieces of tech that are not being addressed in the mainstream classrooms....things like Programming, spreadsheet use, data gathering and analysis, etc. Certainly some aspects of that are addressed in some classes (data analysis in science, for example), but not at a very high level and not at the expense of the science curriculum.

And 'design tech' courses like Robotics might be just the type of experience that will do the trick. Courses that put the kids into situations where they need to learn programming or coding to achieve success are powerful motivators, so I want to better understand this 'design cycle' and how it works.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Far Behind

OK, it's time for my annual "Wow, so much has happened since I last posted" post.

My last series of posts were geared towards recovering from Google canceling Reader, and trying to get the designers of Feedly to install some functions that Reader had...specifically the ability to subscribe to a post with a single button, and the ability to bundle a group of feeds together and share them easily.

The results were mixed: they DID create the first's now very simple to subscribe to a blog and put that subscription into a folder with a single button, and I'd like to think that my communication with them had a role in this, but I'm not really sure.

Especially because there seems to have been very little motion in the second arena; there is still no 'bundling' function in Feedly, and that seriously is impacting how I can use Feedly to monitor my student blogs.

HOWEVER, something else happened in the meantime along this front.

In his blog, an associate (I use that term very loosely...he probably doesn't really know me from Adam) Jeff Utecht posted about the upside of Reader going away. I stated in his comments about my hopes that they replicate the bundling functionality, and talked about my conversations with Arthur via this blog. My comment was read by Wes Fryer, a high-profile blogger in Educational Technologies, and he reposted my blog post as a model for what support for blogging in HS should look like,

Suddenly, the number of hits on this blog skyrocketed! Instead of the 20-30 views a month that it usually gets, I started getting 1000+ hits per day! Woo HOO.

However, that generated something unusual. Up until that day, the purpose of this blog was to serve as an historical record for other schools who are moving to a 1:1 environment. I wanted to archive our experiences and learning curve so others could benefit from them. What it was NOT was a soapbox where I could post my ideas on the future trends in Ed Tech, or give my points of view on diverse topics. There are already plenty of blogs like that out there, and I'm not entirely sure what purpose they serve.

As a result, the spike in readership didn't last all that long. After a few months, the number of hits has gone down to a more reasonable level (I really don't think I have enough to say to keep five or six thousand people interested), and the 'performance anxiety' that this created has subsided.

So anyway....that explains why I haven't posted in awhile. Keep watching over the next week or so and I'll catch up on our Year 4 rollover, and my ideas on the Future of Ed Tech (lol....seriously). I also will share some thoughts on my upcoming Gap Year....stay tuned. :-)