I visited a school today that was once a high school, but has been transformed into a K-8. I found one of our laptop carts in the media center, all dusty and pushed to the side in a corner. I moved it into one of our ESL classrooms, since the other classroom lacked space, and the teacher pretty much said in so many words, “What do I do with this?” I smiled and thought to myself, “What am I doing?” Why am I putting a cart full of 15 wireless laptops into a classroom when the teacher doesn’t really appear to want it? I mean, some teachers would DIE to have laptops in their classroom, but some teachers could care less and don’t understand the value of having this technology at their fingertips.
A lot of the technology that was purchased by this department was purchased before I started. One of my responsibilities in this department is to keep a technology budget and order equipment that can be used in the ESL classroom with ELLs. My philosophy is – Don’t just order technology because the school’s numbers increased and gained a new teacher. I want the teacher to tell me WHY he or she needs the technology and what he or she is going to DO with it! Most importantly, I want to know how the students will use it! Not a week goes by where I don’t run into a teacher who is afraid to let kids touch the technology. My new plan is to stop ordering new laptop carts, iPads, document cameras, video cameras, etc. until I implement a proposal system. I am going to ask my teachers to submit proposals explaining why he or she wants and/or needs new equipment and how he or she plans to use that equipment. I would like to go even further and ask teachers to agree to share student-created projects, helping to document how the new equipment is being used.
Sometimes teachers need help coming up with a proposal or plan and I think that is also a responsibility of mine. Sometimes teachers don’t know what the technology can do and cannot proceed with a proposal. I have a lot of respect for the teachers who admit that they aren’t sure what to do with the technology, but many of them want to learn and would like to do so before being thrown into a 1:1 classroom. We offer a LOT of PD from Discovery Education to free web tools and so on. But I don’t think that’s enough. PD is great, but a lot of time teachers have trouble applying what was learned in a full day workshop once they go back to the classroom. As tech integration specialists, we need to do more than traditional PD. As much as possible, and maybe with only a handful of teachers each year, we need to PLAN – MODEL – OBSERVE – COACH. This means going into the classroom and working with teachers during their planning times; getting up in front of the class and working with students on lessons and projects; letting go of the reins and observing the teacher and then coaching him or her by offering praise and constructive feedback. Yes, time is an issue, and I work with over 250 ESL teachers, but my plan is to select a group of teachers that want to know more about technology integration and have made it one of their annual goals for this school year. PD is great, but we must not forget that it involves planning, modeling, observing and coaching!