Playdate Austin 2014: Student-led PD

If you have ever asked the question, “What does that Instructional Technology Specialist actually do all day?” then you are not alone. While attending SXSWEDU this year, I made friends with two folks from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. When I asked what they did, they said they we Instructional Tech Specialists. And then they stopped talking. I though maybe this was perhaps Danish stoicism at play, but we Southerners can’t let that be the end of the conversation now can we, y’all? I asked a few more questions and a conversation erupted on the nature of our jobs, misconceptions of technology usage, cultural comparisons of technology integration, etc. The more I try to give the elevator pitch of what I do, my team has narrowed it down to a simply stated, “We try and put ourselves out of a job.” It actually happened for the first time this weekend at Playdate Austin 2014.

Our entire super team is within a year out of the classroom, so becoming strategists who support teachers in their integration of technology took some foundational turns in the last year. We found very quickly that a majority of teachers hold the following misconceptions about technology integration.

Misconception #1 Innovation always includes a device

Misconception #2 Technology integration is sparkly and fun, but not connected to student achievement

Misconception #3 You have be tech savvy to innovate.

Misconception #4 Teachers don’t have time because they are too busy being teachers.

Addressing these misconceptions led us to do what we believe teachers should always do in their professional practice. Try something new! We realized that we could spend ages battling the monolith that is called “Educational Bureaucracy” or we could begin with the end in mind.

If the ultimate goal is to see students creating, presenting, utilizing 21st century tools, collaborating, accessing the world as their audience, or walking off the stage with a diploma and a portfolio of experience then why not skip teachers and meet that goal first. We hypothesized that teachers have the same hearts for student success as we do and that they had become jaded by “the machine.” What if teachers learned from students and we didn’t rely teachers to have to learn these tools? We predicted that teachers would be begging for support as they innovated their classrooms once students, not instructional technologists, showed their stuff. Y’all, it works like a charm.

@ManorHS innovative student leaders working with staff

@ManorHS innovative student leaders working with staff

Playdate Austin was so successful that this entry is only meant to share why student led professional development works so well for us. There is just too much good to post in 1 blog. But a teaser for Part 2 of this Playdate Austin 2014 review was my absolute favorite moment from last Saturday.

During our demo slam where teachers shared their learning with the student presenters, an elementary school teacher happened to visit a playroom where a high school student was presenting. The high schooler had been her student in the 1st grade! As they reunited, she shared to the crowd how proud she was of the growth this student had made and invited her to come teach her tech tool to her 1st grade class. My colleague assigned to that particular school chuckled and shouted, “Hey! that’s my job!” There it is…our mission is far from accomplished, but can you imagine the shift we would see in education when we empower student voices as agents of change and innovation in our classrooms? It’s no longer a theory, it’s being done right here in Manor ISD and it’s catching on…

Check out the full recap here.