When we only see 1/3

Too often technology is an iceberg within our schools. It is easy to focus on the one-third sticking out of the water. The part that is beautiful to look at, that draws us in and makes us go WOW: the Internet, the laptops, the LCD projects, the SmatBoards. Yes from on top of the water it looks amazing. How can all of this stuff not affect learning because it looks so cool!

We often have prospective parents walking through our school and I wonder what they see. There is a teacher computer in every room…some even have laptops. In some classes there are students working on laptops, there are computer labs throughout the school, LCD projectors hanging in most of our classrooms, and if you walk through common areas you’ll usually see a couple of students working on their own personal laptops they’ve brought from home.

However, when we only focus on this top third we end up with articles like this one found in the Washington Post. Once we get past the amazing sights and sounds and we are forces to look below the surf to see if anything really has changed, is when things get complicated.

What we do not do enough of in education is venture below the surface. It’s dark down there, it’s cold, and if you do not have support you will soon find yourself in a state of hypothermia. The only person around your school looking at deep change and the effects that top third can have on education beyond the WOW factor.

Will Richardson asks these questions:

…how do we help schools and districts to begin to reshape their culture around learning in more collaborative, connected environments? How do we get to the point where we’re not just seeing individual teachers and classrooms make the shift, but where we are seeing schools as a whole beginning to shift as well?

We get there by looking at the two-thirds that is under the water. We must start to look at change deeper then the classroom, deeper then the individual teacher.

If we want shift within our schools we need to embed these collaborative, connected environments for learning within the school culture. It has to become “just what we do”.

What do we do in schools? We teach curriculum and the curriculum is part of the culture of our schools. Our curriculum is based on our standards (skills) we want students to learn. If we want the culture to shift within our schools we have to look deep at the curriculum in which we teach and the pedagogy in which we employ to teach it.

When was the last time a subject curriculum was reviewed at your school?

When was the last time a subject curriculum was reviewed at your school with the NET standards for students being a part of the conversation?

If we believe that these standards are what we focus our teaching on, then let us review them with 21st Century Literacy in mind. Every discipline (math, history, language arts, etc) should be reviewed with a copy of the NETS or other adopted standards for technology and 21st century literacy skills being a part of the process.

What we need is a new curriculum. We need to expand our thinking on what skills our students need in math, the knowledge they need in history, and the writing they need to produce in English class.

If we can get these standards embedded into the curriculum it makes jobs like mine a heck of a lot easier. I’m no longer trying to find ways to teach technology standards I’m truly supporting teachers as they teach subject standards. Once we have these standards embedded, we focus the conversations around how to best meet those standards and teach the curriculum, which brings us to pedagogical discussions and therefore changes our culture within the school.

We cannot continue to look at the top one-third and go WOW. We cannot continue to look at the surface were early adopters are struggling to go deeper without support. No, if we want to change the culture of our schools, we need to look deep, in cracks and crevices that we may not feel comfortable looking into. But we need to, ‘cause this iceberg is moving north and as it does it’s going to melt. When that happens, we will find ourselves much like the school in the article above. A cool looking school with no real change from within. No, we must change the culture of our schools; we must look at the bottom two-thirds and start changing at a much deeper level.