Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ISTE 2016 - Are You Using Tech as Your Superpower?

From the 3 C's (Conversion, Curriculum, Collaboration), to digital playgrounds, from flying pigs to virtual reality, ISTE 2016 Denver was a conference not to be missed! There are many ways that I can make tech my "superpower."  (If you did miss ISTE 2016, please see this crowdsourcing sheet compiled by Tzvi Pittinsky (@TechRav) and other colleagues of mine. You will find notes and resources from over 50 sessions that people attended.) This year, I was fortunate to be a SMART Technologies Trade Show Teacher. Because of this opportunity, I spent more time in the Expo Hall than in various sessions. I spent a lot of my time on the giving end; whether it was networking with various educators on the use of EdTech in their classrooms or providing feedback to vendors whom I have a positive relationship with. I also met with a variety of vendors about the development of new technologies. Because I spent a lot of time in the Expo Hall, it was very easy to get caught up in the new fads and trends that are on display. I had to stop myself a moment and think to myself, "What is the purpose of these new tools? How are they going to affect my students' learning? Why should I buy them?" Going into the new school year, we need to remember that education comes first. After all, all of us superheroes need a plan, right?

Created by Bill Ferriter

This past year, I participated in a school leadership program.  One of the first things I learned about was "The Golden Circle: How Great Leaders Inspire Action."  Developed by Simon Sinek of the TED Talks, the "Golden Circle" focuses on first thinking about WHY we do things, followed by HOW and WHAT we do.  So how does this translate into use of EdTech?  As I mentioned above, it's very easy to get lost and caught up in all of the excitement of the newest tools or trends.  What we need to think about is WHY are we using the new tools or trends in our classrooms.  Why are you using Virtual Reality?  Why are you creating a Makerspace?  Is this something that is aligned to your 20/20 vision of Educational Technology integration?  Is this something that is going to extend student learning academically, socially, or emotionally?  It's a good idea to think about why you are implementing new technologies in your school and create a plan before you actually do so.  It seems like common sense, doesn't it?  Too often, administrators purchase technologies with government funding without a proper vision at hand.  Don't let that happen to you.  

I have recently accepted the position as Director of Educational Technology at a school for students with special needs. Part of me feels that there will be a huge learning curve as I am not a Special Needs teacher. On the other hand, if I focus on the "WHY" and a proper vision, my job will be that much easier. Putting education first before the technology software and hardware will make a huge difference.  In the past, I have found the websites teacherswithapps developed by Special Ed Teacher Jayne Clare and A4CWSN (Apps 4 Children With Special Needs) developed by parent Gary James extremely helpful.  They review many apps with a "fine tooth comb."  If an app on their websites receives a good rating, I know it's one of high quality.

Are you, your school, or your district in the process of designing a digital curriculum?  When I mentioned the 3 C's above, I was referring to Conversion (to mobile devices), Curriculum, and Collaboration which are components to choosing digital content and curriculum.  At ISTE, I had the honor and privilege of participating in a panel focused on the 3C's led by Dr. Kecia Ray of the Center for Digital Education (CDE) and ISTE Board Chair in partnership with Samsung Education.  During the panel, district leaders discussed ways that they are using the 3 C's in their schools in order to extend student learning. Technology should be used as a tool to engage, enhance, and extend student learning.  If there's no place for technology in the instruction, one should not feel pressured to use it.  I would recommend visiting CDE's website where you can access many high quality resources, including but not limited to: Succeeding With Education Transformation (which focuses on the 3 C's), Guide to Choosing Digital Content and Curriculum, and ISTE 2016: 5 Takeaways for EdTech Leaders.  

The above resources are merely a place to start....there are plenty more available.  I hope you find them useful as I have.

Remember - "Technology will not replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational,"says George Couros. So how will YOU be using tech as your superpower this coming school year?