Creating Fire

Tonight we launched our Digital Discovery Series.  This is a three-part series that focuses on helping leaders understand their role in moving student learning forward in a digital age. Our three key themes are Using Mobile Devices, 21st Century Learning and Social Media. We had 220 educators in the room.

What did the evening look like? Our Superintendent Mike McKay gave an opening address and then Bryan Hughes, a Teacher-Librarian and Apple Distinguished Educator kicked off the series. He focused on showing us what you could do with an iPad.  For my part, the messaging included this quote from Gord Holden. It’s a long quote but it resonated for me.

 Technology IS just a tool, like a stick. Many new technological developments made sticks more effective as a weapon (barbs, bows, attachments, etc, but as long as the stick was still being used to harm other people, I would argue that there was nothing truly transformational about the technology. But when sticks became a way to create fire, THAT was innovative and progressive. I would argue the same could be said of modern technology. Replacing the product of the printing press with an ebook is arguably more effective, but not transformational. I fear that a LOT of effort and satisfaction is being gained by taking words, reformatting them into a digital space, and thinking the job has been done. Please, at best one is taking a club and making it into a mace. There is nothing transformational about this, so please stop using this word until it is applicable. The use of words is of course valuable as a means of transmitting knowledge that cannot be gained otherwise. Methodology-wise, it is the poor cousin though to what might otherwise be learned through experiencing. Granted, there are numerous situations where this might be the only reasonable avenue, but folks, with today’s technology, much of what we want students to learn can be experienced by them virtually. To turn away from this, to dismiss it, to let one’s fear of this become a paralysis that prevents pursuing the possibilities is to abrogate our responsibility to exploit the best possible means of supporting student learning. Behind this door are miracles waiting to happen, open the doors of education while the students are still willing to knock on it. Until you do, technology will remain a tool, but not a progressive or transformational one.

During dinner the table groups focused on discussing the two questions: What does technology look like in your school? How might you use technology as a lever to transform instruction and impact student learning? If you want to see how the evening went, you can refer to our district’s twitter hashtag #sd36learn. A table of secondary school principals tweeted this: @sheilamoris: Table 4 says best workshop in 10 years! Digital discovery series #sd36learn

Sharon Cohen, our Deputy Superintendent, brought the evening to a thoughtful close. She challenged us to think about what one thing, with one colleague, we might be able to do within one week, to stretch our digital learning. Many people at the tables made a commitment to do that. We look forward to the learning that will take place before our next session. And as people walked out the door, we handed them a QR code and instructions for what to do with it. You can find it here:

Have fun!

6 responses to “Creating Fire

  1. Super excited to read with Elisa. I’m glad the evening was such a success and I hope it sparks conversations in staff rooms throughout our district. I’m certainly eager to talk with my admin tomorrow. Exciting times are upon us if we can utilize this fire. Anything IS possible!

  2. Elisa,

    It was a great event! The turn out and interest was phenomenal! The buzz in the room was energizing. I am still so excited about the night and can’t stop reading through our hashtag #sd36learn. There are so many great apps that were recommended.

    This type of series for administrators is so important in order for 21st Century Learning to move forward. While it is just a start, it is a good one!

    I can’t wait to get together to plan our next event! What fun!

    Thanks for all your hard work in this area, Elisa,

  3. Pingback: Powerful Digital Discovery | It's All About Learning

  4. I’m honoured that my comments may have have sparked some interest. Just returned from Madrid where the Finnish contingent made it clear that the use of virtual worlds for immersive learning is where they are headed. They are spending millions developing their own platform. It’s a beautiful resource, but years away from doing what can already be done with what’s available already. If the district is interested, I would be delighted to take a group on a tour of the virtual worlds my students and I are creating and using to empower their learning. Let me know here who to contact. Regards, Gord.

  5. OK. Perhaps someone would like to see what’s happening “out there” by visiting a Ning. Here’s one where some giants in education compare notes.

  6. Pingback: The Digital Foundations of Teaching & Learning | innovative learning designs

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