A great start to the year

Although many of our teachers have been back for a few days, today kicked off the opening events in our district. By all accounts it was a great morning, and the room was electric with the energy of a new school year. In each of the past 4 years there has been an announcement about the changes we have made, or the cool new tools available. I actually covered this in a big email to the staff the other day.

What is striking about today is that it was different because it wasn’t about stuff and nobody talked directly about technology. What happened this morning was remarkable. We had several speakers and the morning culminated with a panel of teachers discussing the work they have done as a PLC. Throughout these discussions there were all kinds of indications to the advances in technology in our district. Statements like: “check our blog for information on this topic” (from the Union President), and “everything you need is available form the website” (from the Educational Foundation), and “we are making great progress in staff development through our many programs, like the Google Apps for Teacher's workshops this summer” (from the Superintendent). No talk of tools, just talk of how our organization works, all things that would have never been mentioned as boring or basic in past years.

I was sitting in the front row thinking “WOW, this is an interesting change”, when we moved into the panel discussion with our teachers. They were incredible in describing their dedication to the craft and to their students. As they talked they dropped in snippets that mentioned how being able to collaborate on Google Docs, or using Google Forms to gather data, or using data analysis software to understand student progress, or how sharing lessons via Google Sites has made what they do possible. Here is an example of an actual exchange:

Teacher in the audience: “How does your team manage time, how do you communicate with other members of the team, and how do you document that you are actually getting work done when you are given time to collaborate as a team?”

Panelist: “That is easy. We just have a member of the team take notes on Google Docs and the whole team can see the notes. People who are on another team that need the information can see the information too. At the same time our department chair can see the work we are getting done”

Here was a key exchange about how the team gets work done, with a process that totally relies on technology, yet nobody talked about how to use the tool, or why, or where to get instructions. They talked about it just like talking about writing on a chalkboard or on a piece of paper. Everyone in the room, the entire district staff, just absorbed and understood that this was how this team gets business done.

All morning there was talk of technology, but it was integrated into the discussion. Technology never stood alone, it was a key component of accomplishing what was do around here. My hope as we go into the school year is that what I saw this morning continues into each of our classrooms. That we don’t work to integrate technology, it just becomes part of the way that we get work (learning) done.


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