Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reflection on Eric Scheninger's Visit

Eric Scheninger (@NMHS_Principal), a frequent colleague and collaborator of Van Meter High School principal Deron Durflinger (and many others in Iowa), recently made a visit to Iowa State's CASTLE program and several central Iowa schools.  He liked what he saw.  Here's his reflection from his visit.  Definitely worth a read, since it gives us a view from outside of the work that is happening in the state.

A few of my thoughts:
• Eric is a proponent of constructivist education steeped in technology integration, so the benefits he saw are not surprising.  Still, it is reinforcing for Van Meter, South Hamilton, and United to hear that it is obvious to outside observers the enthusiasm and enjoyment with the learning process that their students have.

• The "parental-acceptance-curve" is a poignant observation that future Iowa 1:1 schools will grapple with... parents being a bit leery before roll-out.

• Obviously, Eric's visit was limited in time.  While it is one thing to observe creativity on display in student reactions and enthusiasm, it is another to quantify it against other schools.  The big question that remains is how students are achieving in 1:1 schools.  Are students actually learning more?  Is the constructivist theory of education bringing about higher gains, or is it a bunch of sound and fury?  If I'm a school weighing this decision, this question has to be at the center of my decision, and we need that data.  The data on higher attendance and fewer referrals are steps in the right direction.

• Eric hit the nail on the head with his observation about needing more professional development.  The AEAs were a bit blindsided by the explosion in 1:1 environments and are scrambling to catch up.  Most distressing to me: Over a majority of the AEA Ed Tech consultants who are training Iowa 1:1 teachers have never actually taught in a 1:1 classroom.  Good news, though.  The INTEL Elements courses will help provide system professional development in this area.

• One concern for me is that Eric highlighted certain student work--creating original music for their presentations, developing Wordles, putting in slide transitions, and using Paintbrush.  At first glance, I don't see how any of these actually lead to mastery of objectives.  They are the equivalence of making your posterboard look really pretty.  And undoubtedly, they are time-consuming, taking time away from student analysis, conversation, and direct focus on the end outcomes.  This is a chief criticism of technology integration by critics such as Dan Willingham, Robert Pondiscio or Jay Matthews, and something that our 1:1 schools need to be conscious of.

• One other bright spot in this reflection is Eric sees most teachers thriving in this type of teaching environment.  From my conversations with Deron and Van Meter superintendent John Carver, this is not always easy.  While it can appear schools like these 3 are fully embracing the mantle of change, there is a lot of background working with staff and community to help them with this second-order change.  Not every teacher was originally excited about the move to 1:1, so this shows the work that school leaders have put in.

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