Focusing on What Works!

The Thin Book Of Appreciative Inquiry by Sue Annis Hammond is just that, a very thin book (59 pages) that explains and describes the process of appreciative inquiry. Hammond describes Appreciative Inquiry this way,
The major assumption of Appreciative Inquiry is that in every organization something works and change can be managed through the identification of what works, and the analysis of how to do more of what works. (page 3)
I was first introduced to the ideas of Appreciative Inquiry by Gene Thompson-Grove, the head of Professional Development for the Public Schools of Brookline (my former employer). Recently, I've been reflecting on Hammond's 8 Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry and how they relate to my work as an Instructional Technology Specialist.

8 Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry (pages 20-21):
1. "In every society, organization, or group something works."
In a society that is always trying to solve problems, we often miss seeing what works. Those of us who evangelize educational technology in our schools, often complain that teachers aren't doing enough to integrate technology into their curriculum. Yet, there are many teachers and students in our schools who are doing great things. The first thing to do is to ask the questions - What is working?

2. "What we focus on becomes our reality."
If we focus on all of the ways that our schools are NOT preparing students for the 21st century then that will become our reality. In turn, if we take a look at all the ways we are preparing students to succeed in the future, we can use those positive models to inspire others to do the same. It is a much more pleasant reality.

3. "Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities."
Our own perception of what is real might be very different than a colleague's perspective. OK, this one is a little too zen for me. I welcome your thoughts here.

4. "The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way."
Just asking the question makes a difference. Think about the difference you could make by asking what IS working, rather than what is NOT working.

5. "People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known)."
We can't and shouldn't expect teachers to abandon everything they know and do well in order to bring technology to their teaching. Technology is a tool that only works when it is placed in the hands of a thoughtful practitioner.

6. "If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past."
This brings it back to the positive. If we are going to keep doing what we have always been doing, let's make sure what we are doing is working.

7. "It is important to value differences."
Different opinions, different approaches, different perspectives all add value to an organization.

8. "The language we use creates our reality."
You are what you eat - OK I'm just checking to see if you are still paying attention. Choose your words carefully.

I'm going to try to carry these 8 assumptions with me into my work (and my life).

I have been writing in this blog for quite a while. Lately I feel like the things I wrote back then are still relevant today (despite the fast pace of change).  Some of you may remember these. I think they are worth re-reading. This one is from November 2007. 

Edcamp Boston Revelations and Reflections

Thanks to Lillie Marshall for this great Picture!
Yesterday I was privileged to help organize, along with Dan Callahan, Laura D'elia, Tracy Sokalosky and Karen Janowski,  the second annual edCamp Boston. It was a great day! We had a record attendance of over 200 educators and, by all accounts, it was a great success. Here are some of the things I took away with me.

About Edcamps:
This is my second time organizing edcamp Boston, but over the last few years I have organized 5 other unconferences. What strikes me the most about organizing these events is how easy it is to do. The sponsorship and food parts take work, but other than that, you build a schedule and the participants do the work. Really! I know many of us say this, but it really is true. Once the conference gets going, there isn't much that we have to do.

Glenn and Matt teach us about Edmodo
My favorite example of this was the Edmodo session yesterday where the presenter didn't show up. Everyone in the room looked at me. I am an organizer and I got to rock the awesome red organizer shirt, but I don't know anything about Edmodo. So I did what we edcamp organizers do best, I turned the question back to the room. Does anyone here know something about Edmodo. And two wonderful participants stepped up, Glenn Blakely and Matt Cronin,  and did a great job of explaining this tool. Which by the way I'm going to try with my 7th graders tomorrow.

I also discovered a new way to learn at an unconference. Rather than posting a session about something I know about and want to share, I posted sessions about something I want to learn about and discuss. I turned edcampBoston into edcampLiz. Fortunately for me, there were lots of smart folks there who could teach me what I wanted to learn.

Which right now is about iPads. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I am pretty obsessed with iPads right now. I want to thank everyone at the conference who helped push my learning and thinking on this topic. Here is what I came away with.

About iPads and...

Professional Development: 
I got a lot of suggestions about how to roll iPads out to my faculty. My favorite suggestion came from Sarah Edson. She suggested assigning my faculty some games to play on the iPad. I love the idea. I think I'm going to ask folks to sign up for either Words with Friends or, my new obsession, Draw Something. We will share our usernames and I will encourage folks to play at least one game with one other colleague over the summer. Not only will this teach iPad skills, but it is a good team building and connecting tool as well.

I got some great App suggestions yesterday. By far my favorite is Reflection, a Mac App which acts like an Apple TV, allowing you to mirror your iPad on your laptop. You can try it for free for 20 minutes, or pay 14.00 to use it. I followed up about a site license and they offered me 60 licenses at $8 each. That is a lot cheaper than an Apple TV and it works (We have been having difficulty getting the Apple TV to work at my school.)!

Another great suggestion is the website, iPad as... put together by Tom Daccord and his edtechteacher team. They have compiled a list of Apps based on learning goals. Each App has a nice description. A wonderful resource for tools.

Other Apps I walked away with include Zite, a tool for aggregating all of your news feeds into categories, Pocket, a tool for saving websites to read later, and Logmein, a free tool to use your iPad as a wireless remote for your laptop.

Finally, and thanks if you are still reading this far into my post, I created an iPad Google Group to continue the conversation. If you are interested in discussing iPads, please join and share your thoughts and questions.

And of course I welcome your comments here. If you have rolled out iPads to your faculty and students, I would love to hear your suggestions on what are some good approaches for doing this.
Thanks in adavance!

Arguments for the iPad in Education

As we continue to explore the possibility of becoming a 1:1 iPad school, I am starting to put together my arguments in favor of this adoption. Here are some of my thoughts so far. I would welcome your feedback on this document!

Why 1 to 1?
In a digital world where information on a multitude of subjects is both abundant and immediately available, students today must learn to effectively access, analyze, synthesize and integrate this information on a regular basis. By providing our students with immediate access to a digital tool, such as a laptop or a tablet, we provide them with the world at their finger-tips (literally). In a time when the ability to discover an answer is more important than the ability to memorize and regurgitate the answer, we must make those answers readily available to both our students and faculty. If we want a pedagogical shift, 1:1 access to a digital tool will help both to facilitate and to force this change to happen.

Why the iPad (and not a laptop)?
There are many reasons that the iPad makes the most sense as the best tool for our 1 to 1 transition. The low screen profile makes a huge difference in a Harkness/discussion classroom, retaining the intimacy of the classroom conversation without the distraction of a laptop screen. The portability and tablet format allow the iPad to double as an e-reader for textbooks. This will lighten student backpacks and lower their textbook costs. Finally, in addition to internet access, iPad education Apps provide new and engaging ways for students to learn and understand complex concepts.

Why the iPad (and not a different tablet or a bring your own device model)?
Given that we are an Apple school, the iPad makes the most sense for us as an institution. Our faculty are comfortable with the MacOS and many already use iPhones and iPods. Maintaining a single platform for all students will make for the smoothest transition to 1 to 1 by giving all students access to the same tools, books and Apps.

What about the iPad 3 (or 4 or 5...)?
At this time the additional features of the iPad3 are not meaningful enough for us to upgrade and the new lower price of the iPad2 make it even more attractive and accessible to us. As newer models of the iPad are released, we will have to consider the lowest version when we make our App and book choices. If we look at the iPhone as a model, as each new iPhone was released, the newest Apps and Operating system continued to function on older models. Just as we replace our faculty laptops every 3 years, we will need to consider a replacement schedule for our iPads. Students should be able to make it through grades 7-12 with no more than 2 iPad purchases.

Will students and faculty continue to need access to a laptop or desktop computer?At this time faculty will definitely continue to need laptops or desktops for word processing, printing and more complex computing tasks. For some students the iPad may be sufficient for their needs, but many will continue to need access to a computer.

Photo Credit: A Bit of How I Study on Flickr by wwward0
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