I asked 3 questions of the educators in charge of their district’s upcoming 1:1 student computing initiative. They worked in small groups and used editable Google spreadsheets to record their responses…
- If our 1:1 initiative is wildly successful, what will we see? We tried to create vivid, concrete images that were emotionally resonant, thus helping with meaning-making. We took our answers and lumped them into ad hoc categories on a separate Google document (e.g., student independence and self-direction, student interaction and collaboration, learning cultures and processes, digital citizenship and information literacy, management and support). We now had a basic picture of desired awesomeness.
- What will we need to do to ensure our envisioned successes? We focused on the success enablers that will lead to the positive outcomes and desired results that we identified in Step 1. [Not shown in results: We also put those into an effort-impact matrix to see which ones were easy wins or were more difficult but worth the hard effort (and which ones weren’t).]
- Why will our 1:1 initiative fail? Instead of doing a postmortem afterward, we did a premortem up front to identify reasons that the initiative will fail. We wanted to identify the success blockers that will get in the way of what we envisioned in Step 1.
We then took the responses in Steps 2 and 3 and organized them by Bolman and Deal’s leadership frames. This helped us identify main themes, see patterns, and think about necessary action steps across the spectrum. See our final results.
See the documents that we used to facilitate our work
Tips: Two to three sentences for each response – not single words or short phrases – to facilitate depth of understanding and conversation. After each step, have them look at the other groups’ responses and discuss, first in their small group and then as a large group. Have a separate notes document ready to capture thoughts that emerge from those large group discussions. Working through the three spreadsheets takes 2 to 3 hours; this doesn’t include writing up the final results.
- Visioning spreadsheet
- Tip: Have them look at another group’s responses and highlight the 2 or 3 that are the most emotionally resonant.
- Success enablers spreadsheet
- Tip: Only put numbers in the matrix below the list, not the whole text of each response.
- Success blockers spreadsheet
- Tip: Have them look at another group’s responses and highlight the 2 or 3 most important ones on the list.
- Final results
Tim Holt says:
[George] Couros had a really nice statement in his article “… Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?”
Great point. Tech should be at the point of instruction. He left off a word however: GREAT.
GREAT Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil…
Not “adequate”, not “ok,” not “mediocre,” not “the cheapest we could buy,” not “good enough,” not “hand me down,” not “hobbled.”
The technology we provide students should be the best we can provide.
Miguel Guhlin uses the “90% of all tasks can be completed” argument here as a way of implying that good enough is good enough. (He cites a study in the article.)
Again, a terrible argument.
This idea of providing something that ALMOST can do the job is laughable. It is like giving a kid a donkey to run the Kentucky Derby. Okay kid, that donkey will actually make it around the track just like the thoroughbreds can. Never you mind that the race will be over for 30 minutes by the time you finish. The donkey is good enough for your needs.
Here kid, we are giving you a 1975 Chevy Vega to run the Daytona 500. Good luck. It is LIKE a Nascar car, heck, it is 90% of everything that a Nascar car is: It has an engine, it has four wheels, it has a seat a speedometer, a stick shift … Heck, it does 90% of what a Nascar car can do. Be happy.
The kids coming from low SES are the farthest behind. To give them something that is already hobbled is insulting. Here kid, you are behind already, here is something that will make you farther behind, But be glad, because you can do 90%!
I greatly appreciate Tim’s digital equity concerns and passion. We should indeed strive to provide the same for our children that we use as adults if we want their technology usage to be as authentic as possible. I’m struck by his observation that adult educators typically aren’t using cheap computers to do their day-to-day work but we seem to think it’s okay for kids:
Here is the deal: If cheap is the way to go and it is preparing kids for college and the workforce, then everybody in a school district that is IN THE WORKFORCE, every administrator, every clerk, every secretary, and every accountant at every campus all the way up to the district superintendent should be willing to use the cheap devices.
Let’s see the district architects use them.
Let’s see researchers use them.
Let’s see the accountants use them.
Let’s see the principals use them.
Let’s see the IT staff use them to run the servers.
If it is good enough for the least among us, then it should be good enough for the most advanced of us. I wonder how many upper administration would move to cheap devices if they had to use them 100% of the time to do 90% of the work?
All that said, I’m having a hard time reconciling digital equity concerns with the realities of funding during this time of mindset and paradigm shifts. I want the best for kids too, but I’d rather have 90% for them than nothing. Tim might agree with me on that point. However, he’s not framing this as a choice between 90% and 0% but rather as a choice between 90% and 100%, with iPads closing the final gap at a price point similar to Chromebooks. I think that both devices have their limitations. If you forced me to choose personally (I have both), I’d rather have an iPad than a Chromebook, primarily because of its apps and ease of taking photos/videos. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to pillory schools that make the opposite choice as they go for 90% instead of 0%.
Lots of food for thought in Tim’s post…
I’m cleaning out my home office and I found this note I hastily scrawled while traveling somewhere:
Lack of vision + inadequate infrastructure + no training + poor implementation + insufficient ongoing support + refusal to change = tech success!
Does this sound like your wishful school or district? Hope not!
Evan Scherr is launching a new online series called The Thinking Out Loud Show. The guests for Episode 1.1 are Eric Sheninger, Joe Mazza, and myself. The topic is Leadership in Education. We’ll be talking about all types of leadership: administrators, students, teachers, and even parents!
Hope you’ll join us this Thursday at 8pm Eastern. See Evan’s Thinking Out Loud Show page for more info. Happy viewing!
UPDATE: Did you miss the show? The webinar archive is now available!
As a teacher, would you prefer to work in an environment where [your] principal (who is [your] boss) wants feedback on the things that are happening in the school and actively listens? This doesn’t mean [she] always agree[s], but that you know [she] genuinely takes feedback in the workplace and figures out a way to implement some suggestions.
Or would you simply want to do what you were told, because that’s what you should do?
And in a comment to George’s post, Jim Cordery says:
We want people to act/think outside of the box, until those students end up sitting in our rooms. Then, the questioning of things is seen as defiance.
We need less submissiveness. We need more questions. We need more voice. From students. From educators. From citizens. From you.
I’m ready to kick my blog up a notch or two this year. Consider yourself forewarned…
Let’s stop talking about meaningful global empowerment for youth and start doing it (Online Model United Nations wrap-up)
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Lisa Martin, Kristin Rowe, and their students for taking over my blog for the past week. All of the guest posts regarding Online Model United Nations (O-MUN) are linked below.
This is the kind of powerful, global, student-driven learning that is possible if we adults are willing to make it happen. As school leaders, we say that we want meaningful, collaborative, cross-border interactions for our youth. We say that we want to empower students to make a difference in the world. Let’s stop talking about it and start doing it. As the O-MUN movement shows us, our children are willing and able to step up and help us…
- Connected global youth and the Online Model United Nations movement
- The nuts and bolts of online debating
- Palestinian-Israeli citizen calling for peace, making her voice heard through Online Model United Nations
- Online Model United Nations: Raising our voices
- Junior Online Model United Nations: Connecting masters and apprentices
- Why do teachers have an excuse when it comes to technology in the classrooms?
- Making connected learning the norm: What will it take?
But if you go look at the application announcement, it turns out that the student participant on the State Board of Education is a non-voting member. So much for having a real voice… [sigh]
I’m not trying to pick on DE; the non-voting status of the student is encoded in Iowa statute. But it’s worth noting that, along with student councils in schools and student representatives to school boards, these types of positions mostly seem to be a way for us adults to feel good about ourselves for including students. We pat ourselves on the back for ‘listening to student voice’ and point to the token representation to say, “See? We care!” when in actuality it’s just a sop, a meaningless thing given for appeasement instead of truly honoring needs or meeting demands: “Look, you get to sit with us and listen! We might even occasionally let you speak!”
As adults we’re not willing to give students actual decision-making responsibility. We’re not willing to give them power and authority over anything that’s really meaningful. Instead, we give them these artificial input opportunities and then exercise our freedom to completely ignore them – because they’re minors, you know, and don’t really know what’s best for them or the organizations in which they’re embedded – thus patronizing and demeaning the very youth that we’re supposedly honoring.
If we want to give students real voice and real agency, that means providing them with actual decision-making power (e.g., a vote) and something meaningful upon which to decide. What do students learn from tokenistic, inauthentic, powerless participation opportunities?
I challenge us to try this locally. Let’s give a group of students majority voting power over a school’s behavior and discipline policies. Or what courses are offered. Or the daily schedule. Does this scare us to death? If so, what does that say about us?
I became an educational entrepreneur by accident. A humble social studies teacher and Model United Nations (MUN) director by training, I am now working with students in over 50 countries to develop one of the most innovative global ed programs around: Online Model United Nations, or O-MUN for short. Up until 2011 there had never been a fully online version of this popular academic simulation. While precise estimates are unknown, it is likely that close to half a million students – grade 6 through university – engage in MUN each year. Tapping into this enormous community and undertaking the complex task of developing a free and open program for youth around the globe has changed my views on education, technology, and youth forever. And along the way, I have learned a few lessons that are as telling about the state of education and our comfort/discomfort with student-empowering technology as it is about the actual online debates program itself. So a bit of background is in order.
The first attempt at online MUN was done while I was a teacher at a private, for-profit online high school. I decided to start a Model UN club as my required extra-curricular activity. Using my Blackboard Collaborate classroom, I quickly realized that I needed a model to show my students. With the help of a co-collaborator, we rounded up a dozen students from around the world to test the viability of this platform. For nineteen hours, wave after wave of students found us, logged in, and tested out the room’s features, and found them to be fun and engaging. Many of the very procedures we use in our program today were discovered and tested in that first open session. I went to sleep that night with my computer on, listening to the chatter of students in Singapore and Malaysia troubleshooting how to vote or submit amendments. I woke the following morning a changed educator. Like a thunderbolt, I knew I had fallen into something potentially huge. With barely-above-average tech skills and a fair amount of MUN experience, I set out on a path to develop an online, global debating program for high school students. Two successful debates later, my online school’s administration and corporate leaders began to catch the online MUN fever too, and that is when trouble started.
The response of my school was to pull the plug on the entire program. I was then entrusted to a minder and told not to publicly speak about the program. Attorneys were called in to assess how this program could be patented and monetized. Figures were bandied about, with a princely $235 subscription fee per student the likely price for access to this online debates program. The program was to be run from behind the school’s enormous firewall, and developed in isolation and away from a larger international student population. People with no experience in MUN were put in charge of developing the program. So with the core values of this program at stake, and marginalized within the school for which I had developed the program, I made a tough decision. I walked away from my job and my expensive online classroom – the great enabler of the program. With no good alternatives in sight, and taking very seriously my non-compete clause, I sat it out for a year and, in September of 2011, relaunched the idea as O-MUN, a not-for-profit global education program offered up to students for free. (O-MUN’s vision can be found here.)
I tell this story in order to set the stage for what happens next. Without resources, we patched together free and open source technology tools to meet our growing needs. Having to innovate as we went along, our operating costs were (and remain) negligible. We won an online Blackboard classroom in a contest hosted by Steve Hargadon. With that one precious room as the cornerstone of our program, we launched O-MUN. There was no institutional backing and very limited ability to connect with a larger audience; in fact, most of the over-25 crowd studiously ignored us during that first year. But we grew because students found us, primarily via our growing community on Facebook. When our debates were small, we wrung our hands, put our heads together, and tried to figure out the next plan of attack. For the students who got actively involved that first year, they worked together to innovate our leadership structure, down to the positions needed and what their job descriptions would be, how to run our Facebook communities, and what worked/didn’t work with Google Docs. Students actively developed our website, our banners and graphics, and our training and moderating programs, so critical for a student-driven organization. No one made students do this. They certainly didn’t do it for grades. This was in the era of pre-digital badges, so they didn’t even get that (they do now, but more on that later). Most would never meet one another face-to-face, but the O-MUN community esprit des corps soared that year, as did the social currency that binds communities together: inside jokes, shared mythology and legend, even a currency and theme song.
In the waning days of 2013, I look back at what has been O-MUN’s true international debut: a partnership with THIMUN, exposure and collaboration with a small but growing number of organizations, and a proliferation of programs driven by the demand and ideas of students around the world, working collaboratively, simply for the sheer love of MUN and their O-MUN community: a middle school and university level program, the first online model International Court of Justice, national programs in places like Taiwan , Singapore, Turkey, and France (and more on the way), a recently-launched French language version of O-MUN, with Arabic planned for 2014. The frosting on the cake has been O-MUN’s travel teams, proving to others as well as ourselves that online activity can translate into real, face-to-face skill development and opening a path for participation that normally would have been denied students without an online avenue to connect with the larger MUN community.
This week members of our community will share how Online Model United Nations has impacted them, professionally and personally, as delegates and as human beings. I believe they are the voices that educational thought leaders, teachers, administrators, and parents need to hear. What is driving O-MUN’s development is far removed from what we often talk about in education circles. It is my hope that the O-MUN story adds a fresh perspective to the global education conversation.
Previously in this series
Lisa Martin is a 20+ year educator who has worked in places as far flung as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, San Diego, and, now, Amman, Jordan. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Online Model United Nations and would love to connect with like-minded educators. You can find her just about everyplace online, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
FYI, over the next week or so I am turning my blog over to Lisa Martin and the students who help her run the Online Model United Nations (O-MUN) program. Many of you may be familiar with the Model UN program and know what a wonderful experience that is for students. Now imagine taking that program and extending it online and across multiple continents and time zones!
The O-MUN story is an incredible tale of perseverance, creativity, and student empowerment. I hope that this guest series will get you thinking about some possibilities and that you’ll interact with Lisa and these amazing students over the next few days.