Archives for the month of: June, 2012

About 26 minutes into his weekly podcast with Audrey Watters, Steve Hargadon asks the astute question: Are there times when we’re tricked into thinking that technology is going to solve problems that are not easy to solve? As much as we want to believe, the perfect tech tool is not going to be developed that will solve all of our education problems. Why not?

Because changing teacher practice is hard work; changing practice on a school level is even more difficult.  Education companies that promise to solve all student achievement problems without consistent change in practice truly don’t understand what it takes to transform a school.  Fundamentally, they don’t understand what makes great teaching.  If the public believes that technology can bypass a teacher or make learning “teacher-proof,” then we’re devaluing the incredibly difficult craft of teaching and of leading a school.

It takes years to become a good teacher, even more years to become a great teacher.  Every classroom is different, every child is different. Teachers must plan for and adapt to the changing needs of students, often on the spot when a lesson takes an unexpected turn. Technology cannot replace this accumulated wisdom.

So, What Can We Expect Technology to Solve?

Technology can offer solutions to time-intensive processes that are less about teaching and more about administrative tasks. Technology can provide easier access to a wider range of resources, including human resources. Data that can be used to drive instruction can be collected and displayed more efficiently with tech tools. Technology can provide tools to help facilitate tasks.

While I was turning over these ideas in my head, the podcast conversation turned to innovative approaches to professional development, my deep passion. Steve Hargadon shared that he loves the idea of teachers filming themselves, but recognized that this could only really work well in a focused community, such as a school, that would provide safety and the time to do this. (Our research shows this to be true; in fact, most teachers are very uncomfortable with seeing themselves on camera.)

As I was nodding my head in agreement, Audrey advocated for technology to help shift professional development from lecture style to more hands-on, and then—pleasantly surprising– she mentioned LessonCast as one edtech company innovating professional learning.  She nailed our belief that professional learning must be consistent, job-embedded, tied to clear initiatives, and chunked so as not to become overwhelming.

Audrey also shared one of our secret learnings: the process of creating a lessoncast is a form of professional development in itself because what makes great teachers and great instructional leaders includes time for thoughtful reflection and collaboration.  Creating a lessoncast fosters reflection, and sharing a lessoncast provides a compact focus for collaboration with meaningful conversations about how strategies can be adapted for the specific needs of each set of students.

Technology becomes transformative , not when it replaces the work and the relationship building, but when it facilitates what we already know to be good practice.

Following on the heels of Audrey Watters’ public posting, I too decided to make my response to Alice Bell’s edublogger survey.

Blog URL: and

What do you blog about?  I enjoy blogging about education issues, including discussions about reform movements, issues facing teachers and administrators, the importance of STEM education, the need to redesign professional development to make it more job-embedded and tied to improving student outcomes, a need to shift to a transdisciplinary approach to learning, and perhaps most often, the importance of educators being at the font line of developing educational technologies that support our work with students.

Are you paid to blog? No, I blog because I enjoy it, and feel that more educators need to participate in the larger conversations about education. It also ensures that I take the time to reflect on

What do you do professionally (other than blog)? I work in the central office of a large school district, primarily working on literacy across the content areas. I am also the community developer for LessonCast Learning.

How long have you been blogging at this site? I started blogging less than a year ago, and wonder why I did not blog previous to that. Blogging has lifted me into a different world, one that is more expansive.

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?) I used to write in more print forms, but not for years.

Can you remember why you started blogging? I felt teachers didn’t have a voice in the education reform conversations, and wanted to share what I was learning over the past year. There was a moment when I was listening to non-educators at the forefront of educational reform and I realized the issue was not that many of these groups did not know how to scale good teaching—they actually did not recognize what makes good teaching. I wanted to add authenticity to the conversation.

What keeps you blogging?  Articles, events or conversations will people will trigger ideas. I also often blog about events and conferences I attend as a way to reflect and share what I’m learning.  Now that I am no longer in the classroom directly, blogging helps feed my need to share

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How? Generally over a thousand people access my blog, but not sure how many read each entry. I often assume far fewer people are reading my blogs than really are, so I am continually surprised when someone will make a comment about a blog that makes me realize he or she has been silently following me. Of course, there are my loyal followers, who I appreciate!

What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog? The first few folks who interacted with my blogs were colleagues interested in similar issues, people I knew from face-to-face relationships. Over time I have come to interact with many people I have met through social media. At a recent ASCD conference, I was able to meet in person people I met through my blogs, which was wonderful.

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology) My blogging community involves largely two groups—those in the edtech community and those on the front lines of education. My goal is to have more people from both groups talking to one another.

If so, what does that community give you?  My online community continues to challenge my thinking, provides me access to immediate information about relevant issues, and sustains me when I grow disheartened.

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? As a less structured form, blogging allows flexibility to respond more formally and more informally, depending on the subject. When I am tweeting at a conference, for example, sometimes I want to respond more thoughtfully in a longer post. Blogging makes that possible, and then I can tweet it out. A blog can begin a conversation among folks invested in similar issues. Because it’s a more immediate form, there isn’t the same pressure to make sure it’s perfect and has gone through multiple revisions before publication, which means the conversations can be more timely.

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)  Though rarely mention that I blog when at work, many of my colleagues, friends and family know that I do because I post links on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked? I am proud that I encouraged several principal friends of mine to blog as well!