‘Messing Around’ More

This post is a result of my work in my COETAIL course and is cross-posted from my blog over there.

Over the weekend, a lot of my tweeps were at 21c Learning Hong Kong. If I were going, one of the main reasons I would have done so would have been to see Punya Mishra from MSU. He is a driving force behind TPACK. During Mishra’s keynote, Jabiz tweeted:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/intrepidteacher/statuses/170433850911105024″]

This immediately reminded me of Messing Around. In their whitepaper, authors boyd, Ito, et al. write the following:

When messing around, young people teachers begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding. [p. 20]


It is important to recognize, however, that this more exploratory mode of messing around is an important space of experimental forms of learning that open up new possibilities and engagements. [p. 23]


we see [messing around] as a necessary part of self-directed exploration in order to experiment with something that might eventually become a longer-term, abiding interest in creative production. One side effect of this exploration is that youth teachers also learn computer skills they might not have developed otherwise. [p. 25]

(Obviously, the strikethroughs are my edits!)

In my role as technology facilitator, I spend a lot of time with teachers, either in a one-on-one, small group, or workshop setting.  While there is an obvious willingness to learn something new, that desire to ‘mess around’ is usually missing from the teachers. There’s a huge list of legitimate reasons why this is the case: lack of time, too much marking, planning, other  meetings, to name a few. I get that. But as teachers, we must be willing to the behaviors that we want to see most in our students: curiosity, self-reliance, inquiry, stick-to-it-tiveness. To me, that is what ‘messing around’ is all about.

As teachers, we all have expertise. We know our content areas (Content Knowledge) and have been trained (or have learned on the job!) in teaching pedagogy (Pedagogical Knowledge). Historically, the best teachers have been the ones who lived inside the intersection of those two realms of knowledge.

With the increased pervasiveness, ubiquity and infusion of technology, there is a third realm that defines the best teachers: Technological Knowledge. The TPACK model of technology integration helps teachers think about the intersection of these the knowledge areas when developing and delivering meaningful learning experiences for students. I believe that it is only through ‘messing around’ and discovering new possibilities within the context of one’s own Content and Pedagogical Knowledge can teachers begin to truly harness the transformative power of technology in learning.

How much ‘messing around’ do you do? When do you find the time? What keeps you from doing it more?

Image Credits:

It’s All Connected

A few weeks ago, we had an in-house PD day here at UNIS. At the beginning of September, the staff were surveyed on which of the whole-school goals they would like this day to focus on. The big winner (surprise!) was technology, followed by coaching and professional learning communities.

I spent a lot of time working with our Curriculum and Professional Development Coordinator on the plan for the day. We decided it would be an excellent way to introduce the entire staff to the Technology and Learning Plan that was developed (I was on the task force) last year. This plan consists of three goals: one based on the NETS for Students, one based on the NETS for teachers, and one focusing on our technology infrastructure.

Our goals for the day were:

  • To learn more about the school’s vision regarding technology;
  • To learn from each other about technology use;
  • To think about goals for teachers and students regarding technology use;
  • To facilitate discussion across the school divisions

So what did we do? I stole a page from Learning 2.010! Teachers were carefully grouped based on division, subject/grade level, gender, and comfortability with technology. After the MSHS principal introduced the Tech and Learning Plan, each group was assigned a strand related to one of the NETS-inspired goals. They discussed what they felt that strand meant to them as a way to generate some ideas. Then, they were given until after lunch (about 2 hours) to come up with some sort of presentation to the entire staff that introduced their strand.

Along the way, we modeled some different technology tools that could be used in the classroom. We used a wiki as a means of distributing information. We used Wallwisher as a parking lot for questions and concerns that weren’t directly related to the discussion. We used surveys on our SharePoint portal to quickly gather information from the group. We used Wordle to display our staff’s response to the prompt “How do you feel about technology?”

The presentation tools were varied; groups went with what they were most comfortable with – natural differentiation! There were movies, powerpoint presentations, a Prezi. One group tried to use SongSmith to emulate We’re All Connected; lot’s of groups used humor. The two Tech Facilitators (myself and my ES counterpart) were available to help troubleshoot but mostly groups just got on with it!

After lunch, we watched all the presentations and voted for the top two. We had created a very simple rubric (we are an IB World School, after all!) prior to the creation time to help guide the groups.  Not everybody was thrilled with the idea of a competition, but I really wanted to encourage groups to put in that extra effort!

During Learning 2.010 I was really struck by the enormous stress that we felt when trying to finish our group artifact. It made me really empathize with our students as we ask them to do this all the time without truly (I believe) thinking about what it puts them through. I hope this day helped to reinforce that with our teachers as well as highlight the amount of time these types of rewarding products take up.

Overall, I am very impressed with how these 100+ teachers tackled the day. It was extremely difficult trying to find a format that would suit the enormously varied needs of this large group of individuals in a way that they would find interesting, engaging and useful. We certainly asked the staff to be risk takers and to go outside of their comfort zones. They did so and then some!

Next up: Unconferences!

Some selected feedback:

“I really felt as though we each came away with SOMETHING interesting – even if it was not something practical to use for our own teaching, it may just have been a greater understanding of some things that go on elsewhere in the school, which also contributes to developing a whole school ethos.”

“I found the actual task and the working with teachers that I normally do not work with, very satisfying and I learned a great deal from them. Finding out things by ourselves was a great mirroring of how we should teach.”

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to actually ‘work’ to make our learning happen.”

“I would prefer to learn about technology through direct instruction.”

“I found the presentation method very interesting, especially in observing the behaviors of myself and everybody in the group, how the decision were taken.”

“It really got us all involved and not only discussing technology but we were teaching each other new technologies that we used.”

“I liked the fact that it ‘demystifyed’ the use of technology in class and made it clear that it can be used, with basic knowledge, as long as you are ready to use your imagination and you’re are open to make use of others (students included) knowledge and imagination.”

“I thought the idea of familiarizing everyone with the school’s technology goals in smaller, mixed groups, and then using a technological presentation to give feedback was great.”

Classroom Walkthroughs for Tech Integration

One of the main focuses of Coaching Heavy is gathering and analyzing data regarding your work to make decisions about your effectiveness and how to proceed.

As a Technology Coach (not my official job title but this is what I’m lobbying for), I’m not sure what sort of data I can be gathering and/or analyzing. There are no test scores or formative/summative assessment data to collect. We, as a school, have not systematically implemented any sort of standards or performance indicators – a la the ISTE NETS or the AASL Standards – yet.

How does one measure the level of technology integration in a classroom? How does one measure the impact of that integration on student learning?

Towards the end of the last academic year, we were fortunate enough to have Bambi Betts on campus for a series of workshops with administrators and department heads related to improving teaching and learning. One of her recommendations was to implement classroom walkthroughs – short, frequent visits to various classrooms with a specific objective in mind to gauge the climate of the school and to get the ‘big picture’ of what is happening.

I think this is my way forward. Actually, I have already conducted a few. But I have a some problems:

  1. Other than the few hours that I spent with Ms. Betts, I don’t have any sort of training on how to actually conduct these walkthroughs. Sure, I’ve done my internet research but it’s not the same.
  2. I don’t feel (yet) like I have an all-access pass to classrooms. I feel like I’m invading or over-stepping my mandate. I’m pretty sure this is not the case, but that’s how I’m feeling at the moment.
  3. Most importantly, I’m not sure what I should be looking for during these walkthroughs. I can’t find an example of a tech-based walkthrough form. Without specific standards at our school – for teachers or students – how can I make an objective observation? (My initial form includes a description of activities that I observe, the skills required by students and teachers and any classroom management observations. I then plan on matching what I saw with the NETS for Students and Teachers after the observation.)

Do you have any advice as I look to implement this on a consistent basis? Any ideas for observational data that I can collect during these brief visits?