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No More Technology (or Library) Initiatives, Please.

I ran across this great post by Nancy White the other day in which she questions the practice of referring to learning initiatives by the technology they include - like 1:1 or BYOD initiatives, as opposed to individualized learning initiatives, etc.  In her post she wonders...

"If we call an initiative by the name of the strategy, rather than the results we hope to see, will we actually achieve the end goal?"

A valid question.  But I couldn't help but wonder another question of my own...

"If we call the initiative by the name of the strategy, rather than the results we hope to see, is it because we haven't spent enough time thinking about about the results or, in some cases, even identifying desired outcomes for kids?"

Like Nancy, I've come to believe that this important.  First, naming our work more accurately solves the problem of compartmentalizing it. Not long ago a wonderful NC librarian (who shall remain nameless here because I've not asked her permission to share this story) asked me how she could become a technological leader in her school without "stepping on the toes" of the instructional technology facilitator that she works with.  My response was something along the lines of "kids are more important than toes, so you do what's best for the former and forget about the latter", (which is true, by the way), but the reality is that if we thought about, (and therefore identified), technology for what it really is, a tool for facilitating learning, then we'd eliminate situations in which a) we are afraid to step on toes because technology is "someone else's job" or b) we fail to teach in ways that prepare today's students for the world of tomorrow because technology is, again, "someone else's job." Plus, identifying our work by the learning goal or desired outcome gives us flexibility to reinvent the strategies we use to achieve those goals mid game.  If we start an eBook initiative, (something I receive questions about almost daily), but then find we can't locate the titles we need in digital form or we realize that the eReaders aren't being used because many students do not have broadband access at home or we find that our kids just prefer print over digital for pleasure reading, our "eBook initiative" is likely to fail - even if, in the end, we do actually put books in students' hands and they read more and achieve more as a result.  Whereas, if we lead our school in a literacy initiative in which eBooks are just one of many tools used to achieve the goal of increased literacy within our school community, our strategies can change because we're focused on the thing that really matters: our kids.

Listen, I get it. Things change fast.  And it's hard to keep up.  And obviously what we call a thing is less important than what we do with the time and resources we have.  But the next time you're asked to participate in an initiative or roll out or program that is named for an inanimate object or a room in the building, I'd encourage you to take it as a cue to ask some questions like...

  • What do we want kids to be able to do at the end of this?

  • How will we know if this has been successful?

  • What will do do if it's not?

The answers to these questions are not only important in helping us identify more accurate names for the work we do, but they will also help us keep our eyes on the prize.  I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be involved with an initiative whose success is measured by how much a child grows or how much they report loving to learn or how many other learners they are able to connect with or how well they're able to to communicate or collaborate or by the kinds of things they're able to create or by the kinds of authentic problems they're able to solve versus those that are deemed successful simply by virtue of the number of devices we bought and checked out.  In the end, we all shoot for the bar that's been raised for us (and our students do the same).  By refocusing these initiatives on the learning goal and renaming them with the weight of what we want for children as a result, not only do we set a higher bar for ourselves and for our kids, but we also free ourselves up to do whatever it takes to reach what is hopefully a far more important and more worthy goal.  PS:  From the shameless promotion department: I've been feeling lately like the My Presentations page (at the top of this blog) was becoming unwieldily, so... after some experimenting, I think I may have finally tamed the savage beast! For the moment, anyway, I'm happy with the results. And, for the moment anyway, it's pretty up to date!  If you've got nothing better to do... please take a look


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