Earlier this week I wrote of my desire to implement the use of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in a school I’ve partnered with. As I feverishly typed out my goal of changing the school’s tech climate, I quickly found myself slamming on the brakes and furrowing my brow. I know that I desperately want to be a GAFE school, but I’m not able to article the reasons why. What challenges is the school currently facing that could be solved with the implementation of these tools? What is the pedagogical- and content-driven reasons behind my rationale? And most importantly, why GAFE?
While I’m still in the process of wrestling with those ideas, my (wildly supportive) classmates and professors gave me a great deal of thought-provoking feedback throughout the week. Annie Tremonte, one of my classmates suggested using this blog post as a platform to flush out my ideas and reflect on the feedback I was provided from others. This format is very foreign for me and I encourage you to continue to provide me your additional thoughts and reactions, allowing me to continue to grow my ideas in a very transparent way.
Reflections on the Feedback
“While focusing on the tools isn’t the key point, we do end up having to understand the tool and integrate it well if we want to ‘create a well-rounded, transformative experience.’ Your words here reveal that you are intentionally unpacking the problem at your school–laying the pieces out–and [integrating assigned class readings] to find a better way forward” (Ingersoll, 2015).
This comment from my classmate, Ryan Ingersoll reminded me to step back and actually ask what problems I am facing that I am hoping the implementation of GAFE will address. I mentioned in my last post that the school “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” (Todd, 2015). Does GAFE actually address the problems the school is facing? What are the actual problems?
- Students are always having to learn how to use a new tool, taking away from the intended focus, the content. The focus is meant to be a tool for learning, not the learning of a tool. Polin and Moe state that “the true value of the TPACK [Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge] construct […] lies in its integrative rather than additive approach to instructional use of technology” (2015). The problem is that technology is currently an added feature that requires a shift in focus, rather than an integrated part of the curriculum.
- Teachers find and use tools that work for them and their curriculum, there is very little continuity between classrooms. Even when utilizing a resource like Edublogs, each faculty member uses the tool in a different way. Some use it to post assignments, some use it to provide resources, some use it as a collaborative platform between students, some use it… Very, very little. The problem is that there is no degree of sameness between faculty members. This prohibits the use of a common language and requires students to readjust for each class.
“Our school district has access to Google Apps for Education and I’ve noticed not all educators use the programs. Just a few of us are utilizing the apps or have attended district training. I am sure there are various reasons why educators have not accessed the programs. Maybe there needs to be more training on “how” to effectively use GAFE” (Scott, 2015).
I was struck by this comment from classmate and ELL teacher, Marsha Scott as a precaution when implementing new technology into a school. Even if I were to launch GAFE tomorrow, it does not mean the teachers would use the tools. Without a specific plan and proper training, the best of intentions are often those that get lost in translation. Like so many other educational technology tools, is GAFE just in the midst of a “hype cycle” and soon, it too, will fall to the wayside? (Veletsianos, 2010). With this in mind, I need to establish an action plan, a very intentional roll-out, accompanied by student and faculty training.
“What do these tools offer that you ultimately see as paramount to the TPACK model to meet student learning needs? Student ownership? Self-directed learning? Collaboration? Communication?” (Tremonte, 2015).
Classmate, Annie Tremonte and I have had several conversations about our envy of fellow schools who are currently using GAFE, it might be a the-grass-is-always-greener situation, but we dream nonetheless. Annie posed the aforementioned comments in an effort to help me see my true intentions and goals with the implementation of GAFE. My first experience using GAFE came at the start of this Digital Education Leadership program; from the student side of things (even in various stages of beta), I have been continually impressed by the intuitive nature of the products, the ease of use in collaborating with peers, the ability to access content and conversations on my mobile device, and the reliability of the connection. Looking back on Annie’s questions, while also ruminating on the multitude of ideas that came about this week, my biggest justifications in campaigning for GAFE is the ability to collaborate, the ease in going from one product to another (within the GAFE repertoire) and the intuitive nature of the products.
“How does GAFE directly influence the learning — what are the affordances of GAFE as a practical manifestation of an ideal environment that make it beneficial? Why was it designed in this manner to idealize this belief? When should we use it at its full power?” (Moe, 2015).
These questions, posed to me by my professor, Dr. Rolin Moe, still have me scratching my head a bit. My first step is painting what my ideal learning environment might look like. From there, these questions may illuminate themselves. If I have yet to articulate the ideal learning environment, how can I determine what technologies and pedagogies might augment that setting? The challenge is, I don’t know how… When I think of my ideal learning environment, I am still focused on the tools. The shift that needs to take place in my mind is far more challenging than I anticipated.
One concept, introduced to me by Dr. Moe is the idea of “not-yetness.” First described by George Veletsianos in his book, Emerging Technologies in Distance Education, emerging technologies are “not yet fully understood” and “not yet fully researched” (2010). Authors and researchers, Amy Collier and Jen Ross go on to coin this term, “not-yetness.” Collier and Ross state: “Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not check-listing everything, not tidying everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve” (Collier, 2015). It’s not that I can’t eventually answer my questions or find my way, I just have a bit of the “not-yetnesses.” As I continue to dig deeper, further my understanding and ask more questions, my “not-yetness” might slowly transform into “maybe-soonness.”
Collier, A. (2015, April 9). Not-yetness [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://redpincushion.us/blog/teaching-and-learning/not-yetness/
Collier, A. & Ross, J., in press. Complexity, mess and not-yetness: teaching online with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos, ed. Emerging Technologies in Distance Education, 2nd edition. Athabasca University Press.
Ingersoll, R. (2015, July 12). Re: Answering the “why” before the “how” [Blog comment]. Retrieved from http://beckytoddlibrarian.org/answering-the-why-before-the-how/
Moe, R. (2015, July 11). Re: Answering the “why” before the “how” [Blog comment]. Retrieved from http://beckytoddlibrarian.org/answering-the-why-before-the-how/
Polin, L., & Moe, R. (2015, in publication) Situating TPACK in mediated practice. In K. Graziano & S. Bryners-Bogey’s Handbook for Educational Technology Teaching.
Ross, J. (2015, April 13). ‘Not-yetness’ – research and teaching at the edges of digital education [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://jenrossity.net/blog/?p=12935
Scott, M. (2015, July 11). Re: Answering the “why” before the “how” [Blog comment]. Retrieved from http://beckytoddlibrarian.org/answering-the-why-before-the-how/
Todd, B. (2015, July 11). Answering the “why” before the “how” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://beckytoddlibrarian.org/answering-the-why-before-the-how/
Tremonte, A. (2015, July 11). Re: Answering the “why” before the “how” [Blog comment]. Retrieved from http://beckytoddlibrarian.org/answering-the-why-before-the-how/
Veletsianos, G., 2010. Emerging Technologies in Distance Education, Athabasca University Press. Available at: http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177