Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dreams to Reality: Reflection

Am I Dreaming?

Integrating technology effectively is not a pipe dream, a hope or a wish that is impossible to achieve. It is within the grasp of each classroom, each school, each district, and it is an imperative. So what do we do? Where do we start? I think sometimes that is the problem, the starting, and then the building momentum. It seems overwhelming. After all, the number of things to factor in, and reflect on, is huge.  There is no denying that really.  Everything from the policies and procedures, to the infrastructure, there are thousands of things that need to be considered, and I think the fact that it is such a daunting task sometimes causes us to abandon innovation before we ever really start.  

There are of course places all over the world that have risen to the occasion.  There are places where amazing things are happening in terms of student learning. What do these places have in common? Here is a hint, it's not all about demographics and economics. I don't mean to be dismissive of very real obstacles, they do exist. But the reality is, even those school districts faced with incredible obstacles, can also be incredibly innovative, and produce incredible results (necessity is the mother of invention?).  It seems to me that what it boils down to is leadership and vision. Are there other key factors necessary to successfully integrating technology? Certainly, but without these two where are we really?

Sometimes it feels like a school or district's vision is really just an outline of a good intention. We set goals based on this intention, and we want to achieve them, but we don't. Quite frankly, the road to nowhere is paved with good intentions. We need leaders at all levels that will commit to the hard work of turning good intentions into actions, and actions into the reality that will truly prepare students for "college and careers."It is not impossible and it is extremely necessary.

A Case in Point...
If you want a glimpse at what this could look like sit down with Tom Murray from Quakertown Community School District in Buck County, Pennsylvania. I'm not going to pretend that they have some kind of silver bullet, or some kind of techno utopia there, but what they do have is pretty darn impressive. 

I had the opportunity to listen to Tom's keynote today at the CNYRIC ITD Talks.  I've followed Tom on Twitter, have participated in a number of the chats that he has moderated or co-moderated, read some of his contributions to electronic journals, and so I thought I had a general sense of what his keynote would be. Well, I was blown away. You see the learning environment Tom described I almost doubted could exist. A cyber school environment, BYOD, 1:1 implementation and blended learning, not in isolation, but woven together into an amazing tapestry to provide truly fluid, differentiated and personalized learning for students. It is clear that Quakertown Community School District's litmus test is "what is best for students and student learning." Their attitude and posture are clear, it is articulated in their vision statements, but more importantly is evidenced by their actions. Effective technology integration is not a pipe dream, a hope or a wish that is impossible to achieve, because it is fully alive in Buck's County, Pennsylvania.

Find out more about their 21st Century Learning Initiative .