Technology Enhanced Teaching: Getting the Why Before the What

Recently I had the pleasure of presenting two workshops at the GVTA’s Tapestry Conference, an annual professional development day for the Southern Vancouver Island school districts of Victoria, Saanich, and Sooke. The conference is great for a number of reasons. With over 35 workshops offered it has something for everyone. Further, it’s hosted at my own school, Esquiamlt High School, so I am able to present in my own classroom with my own tools. And last, it brings together so many amazing and inspiring educators, over 450, under one roof with a common purpose, to better meet the needs of our students. It’s the perfect combination that results in a must attend event. My morning session was Student Blogging: A Portfolio of Learning. I shared why all of my English classes blog from the start of the semester until the end, a few student exemplars of their blogging, some blogging 101 tips, and the nuts and bolts of the WordPress Dashboard. It was a fantastic session that was a joy to host.

Blogging Tapestry from Trevor MacKenzie on Vimeo. My afternoon session was Technology Enhanced Teaching: the iPad Classroom. I shared why I have chosen to use iPads in my practice, my philosophy on where to invest money in turns of apps and accessories, and one dream app that is not only cross disciplinary, but also transformative in terms of helping students personalize their learning. It was equally inspiring as the morning and exciting to help colleagues get acquainted with their devices.
Technology Enhanced Teaching: iPads in the Classroom from Trevor MacKenzie on Vimeo. As you can see I began both workshops the same way: I spent time helping educators understand the why before the how or what. What I mean by this is that I shared the pedagogical purpose behind why I have decided to utilize these particular tools to help better meet the needs of my students. School districts across the province (and world wide for that matter) are investing vast amounts of already shrinking budgets to tech tools and hardware. My philosophy has always been that these tech tools are just that, a few of the tools in my teaching tool-belt. Without other crucial pieces (nurturing relationships, an inquiry-based learning approach, and fostering student optimism all come to mind) the many opportunities technologies offer could easily be wasted. I was a great teacher before I adopted some of the tools I currently use. I still am a great teacher. The difference now is that students are better able to personalize their learning and share their work with the real world. This translates to a genuine connection to their time at school and their studies, as well as authentic connections to their audience.

Dave Shortreed, Coordinator of Ed Tech in GVSD61, @mr_shortreed

Dave Shortreed, Coordinator of Ed Tech in GVSD61, @mr_shortreed

I recently came across a great Q&A between Howard Rheingold and Alec Couros that drives this point home quite well. When asked about Alec’s work with networks in education and the role web tools play in helping build these networks, Alec urges teachers to build relationships that go beyond the web tool being used. The focus should be that you have built a relationship where you are willing to find another tool to connect with that person after the tool has long become extinct. This made me think of MSN Messenger and which of the “friends” I still connect with to this day even though my use of Messenger ended over a decade ago. Couros states that “the tools will come and go but the idea that the relationships matter more than anything is incredibly important. […] The question we should be asking, around all the networks and implementations of software that we put in, is that we need to focus on what we think will endure.” I just love this message so much. That the web tool will die and a new one will pop up, but the human connection will endure, is, above all else, why we teach. This is my ultimate focus when using tech tools in my practice. The relationships I build with my students are meaningful and long-lasting and this is an essential foundation for the inspiring and nurturing learning environment we create.

I have been playing more and more with how I can use time-lapse web tools as a means to capture learning. Below are two examples of this at work from my sessions at the Tapestry Conference.
Student Blogging: A Portfolio of Student Learning from Trevor MacKenzie on Vimeo.
Technology Enhanced Teaching: the iPad Classroom from Trevor MacKenzie on Vimeo.

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