Tim Wilson writing at the EdTech Insider tells the story of how Google Maps was being used in one classroom he visited. His observation wasn’t about the technology itself (although Google Maps is really cool!), but in how "always on" access to technology was changing how that teacher taught and her kids were learning.
No one would march their students down to the computer lab for a 10-minute Google Maps experience. Having the technology in the classroom, ready to use at a moment’s notice, makes it possible to blur the line between learning about technology and learning with technology. I get excited when I consider the kinds of questions that these students can ask and answer on their own with the Google Maps site alone.
In the overly large school district in which I work, we have poured millions into "instructional technology"* over the past five or so years. Yet we still only have pockets of the kind of "learning with technology" that Tim saw in this classroom. There are lots of reasons but one of the most important is that administrators don’t expect to see it and probably wouldn’t know what they were looking for anyway.
We do a lot of training on weaving technology into teaching and learning. We do none, however, for administrators on what that should look like. As a result many of our high school principals believe a Powerpoint slide show running in the classroom is solid evidence of technology integration. Too many of our elementary principals still use the amount of time students spend in the computer lab as one of the criteria for evaluating their teachers.
Principals and others who observe in the classroom (Superinendents as well!) need to be trained to know what good use of instructional technology looks like. It’s not likely to be something they would know from their own teaching experience. Unfortunately, if they did know, they would find that we are a long way from computers and networks being powerful learning tools that can be seamlessly used as needed in every classroom as it was in the one Tim visited.
* I question how much of it could really be called "instructional" – but that’s another rant.