Sunday, July 19, 2009

Week 2 Reflections

Well, another week has flown by. So many things happened this week, it is hard to remember them all. We started the week with a workshop for principals of the teachers we met in the first week. It was interesting to hear their perspective on things. The principal’s “boot-camp” lasted 2 days. In many ways, I would have liked for us to participate in more than a single session. The principals can do so much to drive technology integration. I hope that we were able to set the seeds with a few of them.

The rest of the week was working with ICT facilitators. As I looked around on the first morning, I noticed that the body language was cold, closed, and skeptical. Despite a day fraught with technological challenges (5 power failures, extremely slow (and sometimes non-existent) Internet connectivity, as well as other glitches) the body language opened up and there was a positive atmosphere. By the end of the week, I really had the sense that we had helped. The facilitators had a better appreciation of the challenges facing educators to integrate ICT in a meaningful way. They also learned about a lot of useful tools. I hope that they will continue to collaborate and share with each other in the weeks and months to come.

We also encouraged them to start building banks of shared lessons created by the educators they work with. I think that doing this would have a very positive impact. Educators will lighten their planning load, and benefit from different ways of thinking about effective integration. Each of the facilitators works with many teachers, sometimes in as many as 35 schools. By working with this group, we have had the potential to affect a large numbers of educators in South Africa. I hope that this will bear some fruit.

As for what I learned this week…

1. The technical difficulties caused me to reflect on how difficult it is to be a novice integrator and have to deal with a lesson not working. A couple of these types of experiences is enough to put any educator off. We preached the need to have a “plan B” ready to launch in case of such problems. The reality is, however, that “plan B” is never what you really wanted – that was “plan A.” In working with laptops that are available when I need them, I realize that, after a little trouble shooting, my “plan B” is often the “no-tech” lesson I had planned next. I then work out the tech issues when the students are not around, and try again another time – maybe even later the same day. I have that flexibility because I can shift the schedule as needed. A teacher with limited lab time does not have this luxury. What I realized is that teachers in my own school do not know how to quickly trouble shoot and move on. I think that I need to be conscious about these moments in my own class and discuss the explicitly with my colleagues.

2. Don’t invest too much time in planning, but plan for the unexpected. The schedule of these workshops, like that in my classroom, is fluid. Things change, and it does not make sense to be too heavily invested in planning something that may not happen. On the other hand, when working in unreliable situations, it is necessary to plan for the unexpected. Plans B and even C make frequent appearances this week. I am still working on juggling this balance between not too much, and having options, but I am more conscious of it.

I am sure I learned a myriad of other things, but these are the two that I am thinking of now. For the moment, I am off to bed. We have a busy week of planning, working with teachers in their classrooms, as well as will the facilitators.

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