Last semester I examined the ISTE Teacher Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. This semester I will start my exploration of the ISTE Coaching Standards, paying particular attention to the third standard, Digital Age Learning Environments. As I analyze various resources in the coming weeks, I will be viewing them from the lens of how to formulate an action plan to implement Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in a school I’m consulting with. As it stands, the school I’m examining currently employs a rather disjointed collection of tools to complete any number of tasks; Blackboard for grading, Edmodo for posting assignments, Outlook email for submitting work, LibGuides for content curation, Padlet for collaborating, the list goes on.
While all of these tools serve an excellent purpose, how are they working together to create a well-rounded, transformative experience for our students? Tech coach, Josiah Hodgett from the Shell Lake School District writes, “GAFE is a technology tool that can help you to both inform and instruct. Coming from a theory like TPACK [Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge] – it’s time to look at the interplay of Tech – Pedagogy – Content and determine how they impact each other in the context of YOUR classroom” (2014). How are these elements; the technology, the content and the pedagogy, working together to provide students with meaningful, driven learning opportunities? Mishra and Koehler remind us of Vygotsky and Dewey and their focus on the critical importance of interplay within the classroom (2003). Shulman asks how content and pedagogy are related, we can then ask ourselves how they are not only related but so deeply and critically intertwined (1986). How does the content influence the pedagogy, how does the pedagogy influence the technology, how does the technology influence the content? How are all of those elements working together to create cohesion and understanding? Are the tools helping or hindering that cohesion?
As I write these words and reflect on the work of others, I can’t help but wonder if I’m too focused on the tool. Do I want GAFE to become a part of the school community so intensely that I am blindly walking the yellow brick road towards a gilded tool that does not, in and of itself, have anything to do with my students’ learning and understanding? Polin and Moe warn us that “tools alone are not a sufficient plan for implementation and results,” yet the “focus has remained on tools rather than pedagogies” (2015). How do I keep myself from falling into that trap? Or, rather, how do I dig myself out of that hole? How do I shift the focus from the tool (GAFE) to the philosophy behind how the tool could transform and leverage the learning happening inside the classroom? In an effort to shift my focus from the “how” to the “why,” I discovered educator, Marcie Lewis’ examination of how GAFE can support TPACK:
- Lewis noted that GAFE provides teachers a common language that can help to support their technical knowledge. She goes on to say that “with greater technological knowledge, teachers are better able to see where technology can be selected to work together with their pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge” (2015).
- Lewis states that GAFE helps to bring together both the product of learning, as well as the process of learning: “The [teacher’s] role can shift to being a facilitator and guider of the learning process, rather than the keeper of knowledge (pedagogical knowledge)” (2015).
- Finally, Lewis has observed that the “sweet spot in TPACK is reached when the focus is not on the technology but on the harmonious blending of the technology, the content, and the pedagogy” (2015). This happens when students are fluent in the tools they are using, shifting the focus away from the technology and back to the actual learning.
These initial ideas are enough to help me start to see a bit of light in the hole, a glimmer into refocusing on the “why” instead of the “how.” If I can successfully answer the “why” and eventually reach the point of implementation, I know I’ll be doing it for the right reasons. Reasons that might have a chance of withstanding the tech tool graveyards of unanswered questions, quick decisions and “hows” instead of “whys.”
Hodgett, J. (2014, April 16). GAFE Training [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://lakerstechcoach.blogspot.com/2014/04/gafe-training.html
Lewis, M. (2015, April 12). Why can GAFE be so powerful? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://marcielewis.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/why-can-gafe-be-so-powerful/
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2003). Not “what” but “how”: Becoming design-wise about educational technology. What teachers should know about technology: Perspectives and practices, 122.
Polin, L., & Moe, R. (2015, in publication) Situating TPACK in mediated practice. In K. Graziano & S. Bryners-Bogey’s Handbook for Educational Technology Teaching.
Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational researcher, 4-14.