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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Striking the Balance: #MNLI2 Day 2 Reflection

Its Tuesday (or it least it was when I was supposed to write this post) and we are moving into the hard work at the Microsoft NERD Center. Teachers worked to  shape their final products, attended a wonderful keynote by Polly Parker, and got to pick digital text and tool sessions.

I am left with one major take away. Striking a balance is hard.

It has always been our goal at MNLI to be agnostic about the tools and stress the pedagogy, but working with teachers demonstrates how important differentiating technology will be for students.

I came up with my solution. I am not going to teach you how to use a tech tool. Period.

I cannot strike a balance. I have to stress the digital text  side and show you how to transform the classroom.

The Basics

If you want to learn the basics I will show you, but it will be in the context of using digital text and tools to enhance your pedagogical goals.

If you want to learn the basics teach yourself. I have posted videos for all of my sessions on how to use the basic features of the digital tools we will be working with.

Trust me. After doing professional development around technology for the last decade I have come to the conclusion that this is the best solution.

The alternative is me saying, "Now click here" over and over again as I work the room to make sure everyone clicked at the same time. It is not a good use of instructional time.

Play Time

Instead I will offer play time. Experimentation is at the heart of the #MNLI12 experience. You see this in design studio and in the digital text and tool sessions.

So in my DT&T session I offer play time. This is after I share my pedagogical reasons for using a digital text and tool. During play time you can try out the lesson or you can sit and watch the video tutorials.

This approach builds in the level of differentiation necessary for our success. It also frees me up to provide support to participants regardless of their ability. If after watching the one or two minute clips you are still stuck...then I will help. But in the meantime I am going to focus on using the digital text and tool to enhance my pedagogical goal.

 As teachers we should do the same in our classroom. Provide resources to students, whether they are videos, peers, or handouts, that will reinforce basic skills of using technology while as educators we focus on transforming literacy practices.


Tammy Knoff said...

Well, Greg then I think you should pre-qualify who you want at your conferences. Not all of us have the time or the confidence to click away before we meet you - play time is awesome, but if people are having problems, or have brought (or don't own the right device) then it makes no sense. Are you creating new literacies or just helping people who already have them? I'm sort of confused. One of the best things I thought you people did was to offer a non-judgmental approach to learning. Hey, I hate teaching grammar skills to people who don't have them, but isn't it part of my job? What if- in the classroom I was to say if you can't spell or write a complete sentence then I can't help help you?

Sadly, your note took an excellent week and put it into a different context. I'm sorry if you were so burdened by those of us who did not fly at the same warp speed as you - even Sheldon Cooper has learned some empathy.

My suggestion - since you've lost a part of your funding - is to offer a la carte sessions for people who've already have -perhaps- some knowledge but want to sharpen their skills. Icebreakers and better grouping would help as well.

Still, I thank you and the rest of the MNLI12 staff and my district for opening new windows and new paradigms in teaching for me.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.


Tammy Knoff

Greg Mcverry said...


My post was really about how to differentiate the learning rather than not teach the basics. I masked it under a snarky title to draw attention.

Instead of spending the time going over click here procedures I have found it is more effective to show how the tech improves pedagogy.

Then during "play time" participants can review the direct instruction videos and ask for 1:1 help. So I still teach "the basics" its just provided through differentiation.

We are always looking for strategies to figure out how to level the strands. Especially for repeat attendees.

Thanks for your honest feedback.

Tammy Knoff said...

Hi Greg,

Thanks for getting back to me. Isn't it about teach and re-teach? And many of us don't do well with "snarky" titles - like me. Also, since I feel like we have engaged as in Top Gun, what's with yesterday's comment about tushes (I like this word way better than the one you used) in chairs to gain PDPs?

I have to stay that as I looked around at Design Studio Sessions I don't think I've ever seen more hard working and differentiated learners. Perhaps you need to consider more hands-on learning time.

Again, I'm going to say that despite what seems like negative reflections on your part, and the fact that "snarky" doesn't work for me, and would never work for my students, it was the best PD I've attended, and I've let my district know this.

All of us learn at different speeds. If your post was about differentiation you should have made that clear from the beginning. For those of us who are still in the classroom and being evaluated on SGPs we have to meet the students where they're at and take them to the next level - many of my kids don't even know how to use apostrophes - should I stop clicking because of this?

Looking forward to continuing our conversation.

Tammy Knoff

Greg Mcverry said...


First glad to see you were at #edchat yesterday. Stinks about all the Spam.

I am so glad to hear you thought the MNLI was the best PD opportunity ever.

I hear you on the more "play time" or more time for 1:1 training. We will consider adding this feature in the future.

I didn't mean to come off negative (I wish I could go with two title ala Fractured Fairy Tales on Rocky and Bullwinkle) I just believe that instead of me lecturing tool use through direct instruction people will pick it up better through exploratory learning supported by direct instruction videos.

This comes out of years of experience trying to help districts set up learning management systems. In my first attempt I would walk audience through, "now click here...." and I would wait and say "Now add this." Yet no progress was made after weeks.

Then when I created a series of screencast tutorials and as a whole group demonstrated how the tool could be used to support learning I got better results. Mainly because I was able to:

-Get to the "play time" sooner
-Prove Just in Time instruction as people needed help
-Gave teachers the tools to guide their own learning.

So its not that I am saying "I can't help you write a complete sentence". I am saying I want to empower you to learn how to write a complete sentence.

Goose to Maverick, out..Oh wait I don't want to be Goose....