Friday, September 21, 2012

Everyday Heroes Joining Up with the Digital Natives

the model
the plan
the production


It’s 4:12 AM. Carrying my travel mug with the second cup of hot coffee in one hand and my slightly-open laptop in the other, cradled so the backlight illuminates the stairs sufficiently that I don’t stumble in the dark, I climb back to my home office; sleep’s abandoned me due to gurgling consonants that’re trying to make meaning at education’s surf-edge.  “Disharmony” and “respect” want to enter the conversation about this convergence of “situated learning” and “infusing technology.”  Maybe we’ll morph into a third or fourth space, but equal or greater chance is that inertia or the huge gravitational pull for “same-old” will prevail. 

At least in the pre-dawn hours, I plead for a radical stance in which we honor the courageous acts I’ve witnessed this week.  I saw everyday heroes who laid down their veteran classroom-teacher authority and launched forward into the vulnerability of tech infusion, into the terrain where a potential gang of elementary school digital natives held the advantage with faster fingers and more fearless risk-taking, with greater familiarity of the iconic screenscape, and superior surveillance skills in the technosphere.  Which of us is the alien lifeform here?

EKD Elementary, the partner school with UMdWritingProject, is strongly engaged in the infusion of technology with the 1-1 iPad initiative.  This engagement is also happening significantly in the spirit of Web2.0 involving participatory learning (Challenges of Participatory Learning) and situated learning (Lave & Wenger). 

In order to have integrity with this activity and spirit, our plans for professional development (PD) need to be in fashion with the rapidly evolving context.  For example, in this first week of rollout, teachers are discovering the enacted capacity of all participants as apps they’ve just found expand the response field; the nature of the educational experience dramatically reforms with each step.  To bring pre-packaged PD (even the fed and state mandates for CCS, the county design for curricula, or the NWP-inspired model) onto this dynamic arena would be a travesty; yet, if we act with integrity to the courage of the teachers, our enactment of PD as co-participant will shatter the norms, will threaten to shake the comfort that we all find in our familiar authority stances, our packageable knowledge, our PD pedagogy, our usual delivery systems, and almost all of our previous experiences. 

To be present to the present when it is so dynamic demands a degree of attention and a kind of consciousness that strain the limits of already fatigued humans.  Acknowledging this stress is crucial so that we place high priority on nurturing the “community of practice.”   We, as leaders, need to affirm that it’s more than enough 1) “simply” to name the evolved living space, 2) to articulate the dynamics propelled by changing roles in the interaction of technology, learning, and curricula, and 3) to endorse our identities in the transformed space. 

We also can actively learn in the manner of the students/co-learners in their science and STEM lessons.  They relish the building of their towers.  They use their iPads to record their experience.  Then they rely on the recorded and recording support of technology to articulate their activity, to theorize their practice, and to construct knowledge.  Similar dynamics characterize other classrooms, but each one is distinguished by the situated learning that is true in the inherent and distinct presents. 

Our professional present deserves equal respect and therefore forms its unique character 1) as we rely on recorded and recording technology in articulating and documenting our practice, 2) as we theorize our practice in making connections with enacted curricula, authentic assessments, and valid standards while forming meaningful words, images, and representations, and 3) as we construct and affirm our situated learning in the nurturing of our community of practice.

Typically our comfort zone supports the initiation and sustenance of effort.  Typically comfort results from the predictability of experience, from stability of environment, and from trust in relationships.  When we enter this world of technology infusion, we’re sacrificing at least the first two of these three contributors to the support needed to risk learning.  We must, therefore, devote more attention to trust in relationships, to nurturing the community of practice.

We can do this by reversing direction: instead of bringing in outside expertise, we can prioritize the situated learning.  To do this, let’s begin with and spend most of the PD session having the teachers represent and articulate their experience.  Representations come from: recorded images, artifacts, student work, re-constructing explanations, rephrasing students’ comments, telling about preparation and in-flight decision making, and especially finding the “ah-ha moments.”  These should be prioritized, not the “problems.”

The teachers work in teams so that each team has persons at different stages of implementation and persons with complementary perspectives.  Our leadership team has persons with specialization in curriculum/standards, in Web2.0, in school organization, and in the broader society.  Each team should include one of those leaders who talk little but attend for insight that can be subsequently used for “theorizing the practice.”   Perhaps ¾ of the PD time is spent in representing and articulating the classroom experiences and the final quarter relates the representations to the renewal of the curriculum, to standards, technology, school organization, and society.  Overall, the entire event should validate the community and the everyday heroes.