Taking a Step Backward

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?

gafe-e1433470938578While 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


4 thoughts on “Taking a Step Backward

  1. I really appreciated your post Becky. You helped me to flesh out my own thinking about GAFE in light of some of our conversations. I am impressed by how clearly you articulated your justifications for the implementation of GAFE. I think the power of seamless tool integration and the ability to easily collaborate are really important. I don’t think you are suggesting that this tool is a replacement for other technologies that might be messier or more segmented. Rather, you see a need and an opportunity for your school to benefit, even if you are still ruminating on this. When I completed my GCP last quarter, I was hard-pressed to find alternatives to GAFE for my students to collaborate. Despite experimentation with numerous other options, I ended providing my students with some generic, teacher-controlled, admin-supported Google Docs and Google Slides for them to collaborate in. It was the simplest, easiest method available both for collaboration and given the familiarity students already had with the tools. I don’t mean to suggest anything more than this one example implies however. I think what is most powerful about your post is your discussion of teacher adoption and professional development. It is astute of you to note that adoption by a school does not mean adoption by the teachers. I am excited to follow your thought process on this.

  2. This reflection blog was a great idea to post the feedback from others and to address concerns about your plan. After rereading your blog for over an hour and reflecting over the various responses, two thoughts kept emerging: professional development and the needs of students.

    My thoughts are whatever technology tool is chosen for a school, I would expect the proper professional development on how and why to use this new technology in my classroom. After intense training, my expectations would be to implement the technology with students. As a professional, I would need to design lessons that determine why and when the technology would be used with students. So my intentions would be to use the new technology to support the learning of students and to provide an enriched learning environment. As a teacher, if training is not available or there is little support, then most likely the technology will not be incorporated in my classroom. I’ve also noticed that for most teachers, they need to “buy” into the new technology or system. Otherwise, it becomes “one more thing” to add to their already filled plates.
    I don’t know if my thoughts will move you forward in your action plan, but this conversation has made me ponder about my own situation. I look forward to reading about your next steps in pursuing the ideal digital learning environment. Thanks for your “think alouds”, Becky.

  3. Becky, I really appreciated your method of using the blog post to respond directly to feedback. Your post was easy to follow and provided space for me to think about it with my own personal perspective. Furthermore, your vulnerability may be enough for me to post my initial thoughts as a blog rather than a closed Google Docs post. Thank you. One of your key statements, “With this in mind, I need to establish an action plan, a very intentional roll-out, accompanied by student and faculty training.” is powerful. You recognize that not only educators need support an training, but ALSO the students. Often I think we can leave them in the dust–not because we are persuaded by the digital native myth–but because they are not a very loud stakeholder. This is a crucial realization. I look forward to learn more about how you will approach that area!

  4. I am thinking about Annie’s note that adoption by the school does not mean adoption by teachers. And that might be the crux of your sticking point, your not-yetness. Determining why GAFE is going to be important, but that needs a lens from which to engage. Is your function going to be driven bottom-up or top-down? That can help frame the Why GAFE question.

    The key is to not be afraid of this process. There is an arbitrary timetable on what you are doing only because you are in a course, but understand that we are here to work with you not against you. Take your time in exploring and musing and considering what you want to do. This week’s readings get a lot at history and multiple perspectives on the use of technology in the classroom, and the critical lenses on which we hang a lot of what we do. Take those in, especially the Seymour Papert article on technocentricism. The critique is 30 years old but still new — that when we look at technology as a solution in and of itself we are doing more than glossing over an issue; we are harming it by putting stressors in places they cannot be supported. Perhaps Papert’s thinking on computational considerations versus technocentric solutions can be a catalyst for helping you understand what it is you endeavor to do. Regardless, from this perspective, you are on track with your thinking.

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