Digital Worksheet Rant Is Hurting Progress

If you’re reading this blog, I can bet you’re like me. You love technology. You love teaching. You want to change the way we do things in education. You might even share all of the hard work you’ve done to pave the path to the future of Learning in the 21st Century. You’re an IT Director, Superintendent, School Administrator, Tech Coach, or the Teacher Tech Leader in your building. You are constantly trying to push your colleagues out of the comfort-zone to the much more enjoyable and satisfying DMZ/Area 51/Bermuda Triangle/Whateveryoucallit and some of your colleagues are actually following you to take some risks. You setup some time to show them the ropes; introduce the technology, give them some time to play, and maybe even co-teach some lessons with them. Your colleague even jumps on Twitter because you said it was the best PD they’d ever get.

A few weeks go by and you notice your colleague is no longer pulling out the technology. The iPad cart, Apple TV and projector are collecting dust. But why?

Pushing EdTech Resistors to Take Risks… Then Bashing…

So I’m probably not the best story teller due to the fact that the last fiction novel I read was back in high school, but you get the point. Why do we push our colleagues to jump into the 21st Century with us and then bash when they aren’t utilizing the technology to its’ full potential? Don’t get me wrong, because I am just as guilty as the next techie.

Here are just a few examples:
Quick disclaimer: I have a huge respect for the following Tweeps listed below and by no means have selected these to suggest they are not great for promoting educational technology. Simply driving home the point.

I’m not going to let myself off the hook here, either:

I Agree With Each Tweet…

… but I think we need to focus on how we spread the word. I suggested to Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd) that using iPads for worksheets would be an ideal point of entry for a teacher new to technology and who needed to get their feet wet.

Once teachers have gained some confidence using the technology, I think it would be natural to provide other options for them to leverage the technology and help them progress up the SAMR Model. Carl Hooker seems to agree:

What is a Worksheet, Anyway?

Math Task TemplateAre we really talking about avoiding the use of paper / digital paper in classrooms or are we really trying to say that teaching involves a community of learners and a combination of effective instructional strategies? For example, with students taking an applied math class, my lessons are much more scaffolded than when I work with students taking an academic math class. However, I typically provide what I call a math task template as a guide to what we might be exploring that day. A bit old fashioned, but when it comes to leaners that have difficulty self-motivating and have not had a positive experience learning math in the past, it has proven to be effective. See the image to the right for an example of what one of these “digital worksheets” would look like. Note that images may be taken by the student, if it is an activity we are completing in the class.

I’d assume that eventually, no matter how awesome a math teacher we are, we will eventually need the students to do some written algebraic work. These math templates would serve the purpose and also eliminate a lot of the time required for students to “copy” useless details from the board/projector/chart paper.

Rethinking How We Push Digital Learning Forward

I know that I’m going to try and avoid knocking those who aren’t at the same stage of the SAMR Model as I may be. If we want to be effective educational technology leaders and help others leverage the great tools available to their students, we need to help them build confidence that what they are doing is a step in the right direction. There are many colleagues who would consider me a “tech-guru,” but there are still times when I question the direction I’m going and feel deflated if the hard work I’m doing is being scrutinized by others.

Let’s celebrate people making a move in the right direction and find ways to promote the lifelong journey of redefining what it means to learn in the 21st Century.



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About Kyle Pearce

I’m Kyle Pearce and I am a former high school math teacher. I’m now the K-12 Mathematics Consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, where I uncover creative ways to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in mathematics. Read more.

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