This afternoon, I facilitated a breakout session for our district's "technology showcase." We've been using a "pick your two favorite 60 minute sessions led by a colleague who volunteers once per year to show off the cool technology stuff in his/her classroom" format for several years now. In the past I've led sessions on Web 2.0 apps and most recently last year an introduction to Moodle. Aside from the English teacher next door who has gone completely paperless this year with Moodle, I have not seen a whole lot of "change" in the sessions I've led or led by others either. In fact, a few colleagues have even suggested that this format, while exciting initially, may have run its course. Many of the sessions (my own as well) have been very "tool-centered" in the past, so a colleague encouraged me to change things up and lead a more philosophical discussion on the proper role of technology in education and the steps we might take locally to move in this direction. The program for the afternoon listed my session description as follows:

TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION – Matt Townsley – 1:00 PM, Room 409

Always? Never? Why? Come join us for a philosophical discussion on issues related to the use of technology (or not) in your classroom. You will leave this session with a refined outlook on the purpose and relationship between technology, pedagogy and content.

Here are the slides I used. The slides were not intended to speak for themselves as I created them in quasi-zen style, so I'll add some commentary below to illustrate the points I was trying to make.

Slide 1: Put your thinking caps on today. You're going to need them!

Slide 2: Disclaimer: Today's presentation is being recorded.

Slide 3: What is technology? Computers? Overhead projectors? Pencils? Microscopes? (Discuss)

Slide 4: Scenario about George: "George knows how to open Word documents and take attendance online using PowerSchool. He wants to transfer his lecture notes to PowerPoint instead of using the overhead. He also wants his social studies students to create web pages for their final projects rather than doing a research paper. He wonders if this will make a difference in how much his students learn or will enjoy his class." (Discuss whether or not George benefits from days like today's technology showcase; Is George using technology to change the way he teaches? Are George's students benefiting by his use of technology? How can we help George continue this path of using technology to help his students better learn?)

Slide 5: Scenario about Joyce: "Joyce is a teacher who knows quite a bit about technology. She has a Facebook page, a Twitter account and live blogs at her own kids' sporting events. She wants to use these tools in her classroom. She has even gone to a few workshops such as "Blogs in the classroom" and "How to create better wikis." Joyce is always looking at new cool "tools" and wondering how to use them in her classroom." (Discuss how Joyce differs from George. Are her students necessarily learning more/better? Does Joyce benefit from days like today's technology showcase? What does our district do to support teachers like Joyce?)

Slide 6: Stork. What if we've been doing it "wrong"? What if we've been using forks when we need spoons? What if we've been looking at the "tool" too much and not enough at the desired learning outcomes? Some call this "technocentric" planning. Remember the stork in this slide.

Slide 7: Technology in education is a double-edged sword. Cuban hits on the "George's" in our school who use technology to continue doing what they've always done. Mishra & Koehler allude to the Joyce's who need to connect their technology tools with their teaching strategies and desired learning outcomes.

Slide 8: Our district (and perhaps many others, too) has a problem. We have teaching PD (i.e. differentiation, co-teaching, 6+1 traits of writing). We have technology days (like today). We also have curriculum team time where we focus on materials, standards and benchmarks. When do we we have explicit conversations about those areas together?

Slide 9: Solution: We need to be in the middle of this Venn diagram. Discussed example of using Geometer's Sketchpad to match teaching strategy (student-centered "construct a concept" pedagogy) with content (know sum of triangles at a deep enough level to realize it works for any and all Euclidean triangles) with technology (Geometer's Sketchpad allows students to create and manipulate an infinite number of triangles in several minutes so that they can generalize the concept through discovery; this is in contrast to "old" technology of compass and protractor which has potential to lead to miscalculations and student misconceptions). Some of us have bigger technology circles (i.e. Joyce). Some of us don't (i.e. George). Some of us may need to enlarge our teaching circle by looking at new strategies. Some of us may need a more in-depth understanding of our content areas. The key is creativity, per Mishra. We must be able to creatively think about our content and teaching strategies and then how to use software and hardware that is not often created for educational use, in our classrooms. Per other scholars, we need to look at the activity types and strategies that "work" in our disciplines and match them up with the available technology tools.
Slide 10: How do we get there? Prensky proposed a framework several years ago. (Discuss: How do we help dabblers such as George move up? How do we help teachers like Joyce do new things with their technology knowledge?)

Ending comment:
It's not about technology. It's about learning.
Kudos to fellow edu-blogger, Russ Goerend, for an encouraging phone call yesterday as I was putting the final touches on these slides.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments area below.