Looking back at my Middle School classes, I have vague memories of an elective entitled “computer class”, that totaled one period a week, two heads per PC. Back in 1994, that was how a small private school in Southern Brazil went about the technology trend. Twenty years later, an exciting revolution has set its foot in education, what with 1:1 iPad and laptop programs and other outstanding initiatives, but the fundamental notion of cross-curricular “integration” still needs an extra push. It all starts with the magic initials P and D, for professional development, and expands with the notion of Minds, with a capital M, coined by author James Paul Gee.
A Mind is a well-integrated network of humans as reciprocal tools for each other plus a non-human tool. “A Mind is what you get when you plug minds and tools together in the right way,” complements Gee (2013, Inclusive We). The need for PD + Minds is the most important observation I made upon conducting a survey about technology integration in my community of practice.
Upon designing my survey, I decided to gear it towards my communities outside of my own school. The truth is that I anticipated a selection bias due to the fact we are a one-to-one Apple school, where technology integration is not only present, but a requisite of the curriculum. Hence, my first collection was shared with my social network in order to observe trends from other international and local schools from around the world, including my former circles in Brazil.
To answer my curiosity in that regard, my first question served to distinguish these educators’ school settings. The total sample accounted for forty individuals, of which over 80% are employed at international schools, 10% at public local schools and 7.5% at private local schools. When asked about the age groups they work with, the data resulted in fairly similar numbers between lower, middle and high schools, but contrasted visibly in regard to higher education. Furthermore, with regard to the respondents’ perception of technology integration in their classrooms, 85% rate it as excellent, while only 5% checked the “insufficient” option. This was a positive surprise.
Question number four was directed at participants who consider themselves active integrators. It concerned the purposes involved in the use of tech tools. The options I offered ranged from planning and collaboration to communication and feedback. I found out that blogging, which could support Minds, has been a resource for a little over 50% of the participants. A staggering 95%, between the three school settings, supported the option of content delivery while, interestingly, only 25% use technology to network with fellow teachers. To my surprise, 60% of the participants use tech tools for feedback (in the shape of surveys) in their classrooms. Because most of the professional development I’ve had recently mentions feedback as a fundamental tool in education, one that can lead to true empowerment, I wonder how long it will take for this idea to spread to other classrooms around the world.
Those participants who currently consider their integration skills insufficient replied to the next question, on how to change their current situation. They are unanimous in that more training is needed. That is where my next question, about technology-focused professional development, comes in. 60% of the participants agree that screencasts for education and in-classroom coaching are appropriate alternatives, which could not only enhance their performance, but the students’. Several teachers mentioned the empowering effect of flipped classrooms. Interestingly, another 42% think they could make a go of teacher study groups, which “either online or in person, are helpful for problem-solving and brainstorming”, as one person commented.
The data generated by this survey, which can be seen below, led me to believe that most teachers, although coming from different backgrounds and school settings, have the best intentions about technology integration; a remarkable portion of my sample even demonstrates the necessary skills and commitment. School administrators, however, can’t take this revolution for granted. They need to inspire. Investing in proper professional development, which could, in turn, boost confidence and motivation and lead teachers to embrace “Minds” more open heartedly, is one way to go about it.
Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Featured Image: Linked Data, CC SA By Elco van Staveren.