© 2012 Jill Hobson Frog on a Leaf

Leaping into Transforming Instruction

For many years, I sought the right words to describe my vision for instructional technology. It’s not that I didn’t know what I wanted but being able to clearly and succinctly describe IT was a struggle. And a lesson that I’ve learned from one of my professional mentors and colleagues, Dr. Lissa Pijanowski, is that having a common language is job one for creating systemic change in any area.

So when I was fortunate enough to work with Bernajean Porter and come to a deep understanding of Grappling’s Spectrum of Technology Uses, I knew that I’d found what I’d been looking for all this time.

In Forsyth County Schools, we’ve adopted the language of “Literacy”, “Adapting” and “Transforming” to describe levels of technology use in our classrooms. We have also embedded it in our classroom walk through instrument. We began by working with school-based instructional technology teams (technology integration specialist and media specialist) to increase awareness and understanding of the levels. We looked at student work, conducted technology walk throughs to check for patterns of use (NOT to evaluate individual teachers) and we conducted a year of professional learning to gain a deep understanding of the levels as well as to coach teachers to revamp lesson plans to the transformational level.

During the next year, we continued working with school-based ITS teams on ways to heat up a lesson to the transformational level while adding another set of classes specifically for school leaders.

The goal of the leadership sessions was first and foremost to develop a common understanding of the spectrum of uses. We made sure administrators understood that by understanding “L”, “A” and “T” they would develop a clear picture of what it looks like when technology is used effectively in the classroom. Thus making it possible for them to define a vision for instructional technology uses, to assess the current level of use and to lead educators in changing their instruction.

As a district, we use the following ideas to convey what transformational uses of technology mean:

  • students as information producers, not information consumers
  • higher level thinking
  • open questions
  • students going beyond existing information
  • and of course, learning in ways that are deeper, richer and more meaningful than would be possible without it.
These ideas work in harmony with other instructional and pedagogical principles because the truth is transformational uses of technology really isn’t about the technology; it’s about the instruction and learning.  It’s especially heartening to see the connections to the transition to Common Core Curriculum.  See more about this in the key points for ELA and Math.
Finally, a big “a-ha” for me has been realizing that leaders must communicate that using technology is expected and just any kind of use isn’t really what is needed.  Conversations about criteria for using technology should be embedded where ever instruction is being discussed.

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