A Tale of Two Cities

Palm Springs and San Antonio.  Two warm escapes from the Northern California rain.  Each hosted some of my favorite teaching conferences: CUE (Computer Using Educators) and NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics).  I am able to go to each every few years.  This year I brought a small team to CUE.  However thanks to to Twitter, I did a decent job of learning from many of this year’s NCTM workshops.

I tweeted a thought last night which I regretted sharing nearly immediately afterwards.  At risk of sticking my foot in my mouth even more, I’m sharing it here.

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Soon after sending this, I realized that while my intent was to think more deeply about my own role in the EdTech community, my tweet unintentionally came off sounding like a criticism of CUE.  So, to both clear the record and ensure that I can sleep better tonight, let me be clear: I admire and respect the work of both organizations and have learned a ton from each.

At CUE I fell in love with George Couros Greg Montague, my techy neighbors in East Bay Cue  and many of the fabulous teachers whose presentations I attended.   I re-fell-in-love with Jo Boaler  and was filled with gratitude that I could spend the week with my Berkeley colleagues in Instructional Technology and Professional Development.

I have plans for our entire Instructional Technology Department to read & reflect on this inspirational gem of a book during our department meetings.

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However, now that conference season (for us math & tech folks) is paused, I am doing a lot of reflecting on my role as someone who spends nearly all my working hours planning for or leading professional development in instructional technology.  For me, it’s year 4 out of the classroom.  Year 4 in the Instructional Technology world.  And to respond to my own tweet, I do believe that too often, Instructional Technology PD becomes a list of tools and tricks without allowing time for deep thinking about pedagogy.

Much of my first three years in this work were spent doing just this: teaching tools. Why? To reluctant teachers I replied, “Because they’re cool, engaging, exciting…” It is only this year, year 4, where my own focus has dramatically shifted.

Few teachers have time for technology when it’s seen as a separate subject.  I now collaborate with my department to think about the integration of instructional technology around district-wide themes.  While we used to exclusively focus on doing model lessons in classrooms and PD around teaching how to use a tool such as Google Slides, Plickers, Screencastify or how to use Desmos, we now focus on integrating technology in support of our four K-8 district-wide equity strategies: High Help/High Perfectionism; Opting-In; Bringing Multiple Perspectives into the Classroom; and Bringing Students Lives into the Classroom.  The TSAs and I are working with teachers to plan units where we specifically think about how to leverage technology to support students whose needs are not currently being met.  And in doing so, slowly, we’re supporting changes in teachers’ pedagogy.  I feel incredibly lucky to have other administrators who share these values and regular time tScreen Shot 2017-04-10 at 8.02.26 PMo connect with the TSAs from all the content-areas.  Together we’re reflecting on our role as coaches using Elena Aguilar’s work as our guide.  At his CUE keynote, George Couros remarked, “Every single one of you in this room can make me better at my job,”  Now, more than ever, I feel this way about both the EdTech and Math online worlds that I inhabit as often as I can.  So though you won’t ever find me leading a workshop on the Top 20 MathEd Tech Tools, my journey straddling these two worlds continues.  My response to ‘Why?’ has changed and continues to evolve.  “Equity,” is always part of my response.  Not equity of access, but equity of experiences and opportunities.  I leave you with this touching video, again, part of Couros’ keynote, as a reminder that teachers and students, using technology strategically, in support of equity, has transformational potential.

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2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Allison, love this reflection. I never went to CUE, but I was inspired by my one NCTM visit. Do you know of any similar conferences on the East Coast?

    • NCTM is in DC next year….it moves around. Also there are regional math conferences (smaller but still great) in the east. And CUE has regional ones too as we have an East Bay Cur 1-day conference each February.

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