As I work with teachers and students who do not have easy access to equipment, nor, in some cases, access to an instructional coach with digital tools on their toolbelt, I am experiencing a reality check. These experiences force me to analyze any recommendations I make, because I'm not always preaching to the choir. In fact, I think it's good to be down in the congregation. I think it's making me a better mentor. It, once again, reminds me that up-front planning (the Before), being present for the actual experience (the During), and the all-important debrief and feedback at the end (the After) are all needed to transform what is happening in education.
Recently, I've been analyzing tools for their use in and as follow-up to professional development experiences. As I looked at one today, I really questioned why it is being used in classrooms around the world. So, I reached out to my coach friends and asked them to convince me. They tried, and, to an extent, succeeded. However, the most important response came from a coach who valued the process more than the end product. She talked about all of the decision-making and real-world skills that a student uses when creating with a digital tool with the intent of publishing online. There were issues to contend with, such as: copyright, layout, and compatibility. When working in a digital world, these are authentic skills to practice. So, this reminded me to look at student work and ask: "What did it take to get to this point?"
Prior to recommending a tool to be used by students or as part of a professional development experience, I have to ask myself:
- Does this tool stretch their higher order thinking muscles?
- Does using this tool make the experience more authentic?
- Are those using the tool going home more tired than I am, as their teacher/facilitator, because they are thinking hard about the content and working with the content?