Monday, February 6, 2017

Finding the Niche of Your Technology Voice in 2017!

I had a great phone call with Eric Twadell this morning. Eric is the current School Superintendent at Adlai E. Stevenson HSD 125: A public high school district in the state of Illinois and the place I became more fully formed as a professional for 22 years. It had occurred to me over the weekend that this coming June, I will be gone from the district for 10 years. A decade has passed!

We laughed about how it seemed both a short and a long time ago. In some ways, I was just the placeholder (5 years as superintendent) between two great leaders - Rick DuFour of PLC At Work fame  (ten years) and now Eric for ten too. For a brief time, in the late 90's, we all three had the privilege of working together.

What Eric, and the entire faculty and staff at Stevenson have been able to do in the past decade is simply short of amazing. They have raised the roof on the learning for each and every student that graces the halls of the school. Recently, Stevenson was rated the 2017 #1 best public high schoolin America by Niche.

One of the more silent features of that success is the willingness of the faculty and staff to embrace technology in the service of learning. They speak with a voice of wisdom that recognizes their responsibility to learn about technology as an expected aspect of professional growth, and as a student right to learn issue.

When I wrote HEART! I realized I must address the idea of our "voice' as teachers. When we speak, whose voice is it speaking? And, is it a voice filled with deep thought and wisdom?

In part 5 of the book (Ch. 30 to be exact), I reveal five critical elements for our voice of wisdom. The fourth element of wisdom is a lesson I learned very early during my time at Stevenson:

Each and every student has the right to learn with technology…

We viewed the use of technology as just as a way of life at Stevenson. We decided early on that student learning with technology, should not be happenstance. We believed so much in the technology serving student learning voice for our professional work, that it became an integrated and intentional aspect of each teacher and leaders’ professional development plan.  

As adults teaching and leading in the school, we asked the equity voice question: How is it acceptable that students in the same grade level or course could receive an incredible learning experience with technology, while students in the room next store received none? 

Today there is this explosion of technology choices. The impact of social media, from blogs to Snapchat, Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Periscope, and so much more... technology swims like a shark all around us.

And we have three choices: Ignore it, embrace it or understand the technology within the service of learning - moving forward together.

So, at first glimpse, I may seem as a bit of an odd character to be the opening keynote address speaker for the upcoming Teachers Teaching with Technology conference- TI3C in Chicago onMarch 10th.

Sure my background is in mathematics, and yes, I was an early advocate of graphing calculator technology with TI, but maybe what drew the most attention was a claim I made about our failure to teach without technology. I simply stated in 2007:  “To teach without technology in this modern era, should be considered educational malpractice.”

And yet, the whole point of a commitment to technology is to understand its value and its limits. No responsible professional would ignore teaching with technology. Wise professionals understand technology is not an  “OR” proposition.

Technology, according to my middle school teacher colleague and tech guru Bill Ferriter, is one of those “Genius of AND” issues: How can I use of technology and ensure it serves student learning?

Thus the point of the T3IC conference, I suppose. 

Also, no responsible professional would embrace everything about technology. In the best schools there is a healthy skepticism about how to use the technology in a way that serves the reflect, refine and act cycle of student learning, while at the same time ensuring every member of the teacher team understands how to use the technology well, in order to ensure the standards for learning are achieved.

To that end, this Thursday- February 9th at 8 p.m. Eastern, I will address a few elements of my keynote address at the TI3C international conference in our Reaching your potential as an educator and leader webinar for TI. You can register for the webinar here and follow us at the #t3learns twitter hashtag as we get ready for the conference launch on March 10th!

During the webinar I define a word I describe in Heart! I indicate, “Your heartprint is the distinctive impression and marked impact your heart leaves on others —your students and your colleagues, as your career and your school seasons unfold.”

You and I are leaving a technology heartprint too. One way or the other. Which technology choice are you making, today? Ignoring it? Embracing it? Or using it with purpose?

What indeed is the niche of your technology voice?  

Know this, technology runs deep in the voice of wisdom for the teachers at Stevenson. They know no other way.


  1. This is a great bit, Tim -- and you are right that technology always has to serve learning.

    The only nudge that I'd give you is that I don't even want teachers thinking about technology until they've considered learning first and teaching second. Technology shouldn't enter anyone's mind until we know just what we want students to know and be able to do.


    It may seem obvious to guys like you and I and to the folks at Stevenson who have spent decades thinking about learning first, but it's not obvious to far too many teachers who think technology first and then try to wrap it around instruction or learning outcomes.

    Lemme give you an example: As a part of required PD yesterday, I went to a session on coding with Scratch. While I dug it and can see the applications to students as learners --- and while I plan to try to get my daughter in to it as soon as possible so she can have the tinkering experience that goes along with programming and coding -- I don't see a place for it in my science classroom as it currently is structured.

    Sure, I could force it. I could have my kids code a story about soil as a final product or something like that. But it would be forcing it. The products wouldn't be better or different from other things I'm already doing with kids and they would take so long to complete that I would fall behind in teaching the rest of the required curriculum.

    But there will be people who argue things like "Coding is the New Literacy" and run to find a way to make it fit into their classrooms simply because it's hot right now.

    That's the kind of technology first thinking that has become all too common in today's schools and it leaves us chasing our tails instead of moving forward as experts on learning.

    Any of this make sense?

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