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October 25, 2011 / Sarah Ludwig

Imbalancing Act

It’s so insane that it’s almost November. My autumn is finally slowing down a bit after an absolutely crazy September and October, so maybe I should take a few minutes to catch up here.

For a little while I toyed with the idea of literally just posting all the stuff I’ve done the past two months, but that’s really self-congratulatory and, frankly, a bit of a turn-off. For you…. and for me. In fact, I just edited my CV on this blog to make it a bit less HERE IS EVERYTHING I’VE EVER DONE. The fact is, it’s only sort of an accomplishment to be busy. It’s great that people want my help and trust me, but on the other hand, it means I’m running from one place to another in a highly reactionary way. One thing that still troubles me is that I feel like sometimes we just throw out ideas to see what sticks, instead of thinking about the skills we want our students to have. Now, when you’re working at a fairly traditional school with a fairly traditional faculty, the fact that people want to try new things at all is an achievement. But the other day I was reading over Edutopia’s list of skills that elementary students should have, and I felt this spasm of panic — because when our students build these skills, they’re doing it incidentally. The teachers and I try to create projects that support the curriculum, and we try to vary the tools that students use, but there’s very few conversations taking place about the value of these tech skills. So, I need to find a way to address that in a way that’s not overwhelming to our faculty… which is daunting, considering it overwhelms me.

I created a planning worksheet over the summer for the very purpose of encouraging these conversations and I have yet to employ it. Mostly because I’ve been out straight, but also because we’re adjusting to a new model of integrating technology in the Lower School, a model which places far more onus on the classroom teacher. It’s been a bumpy ride, with moments of great success. As things normalize, we’ll be able to develop projects more thoughtfully, but in the meantime, much of my job is cheerleading the teachers as we all adjust to our new reality.

I guess this brings me back to the great debate about how to integrate technology — should it be done in support of the curriculum, or should certain skills be taught in isolation? Are some skills important regardless of what students are learning in the classroom? Should technology be treated like any other subject, or should it be woven into the other subjects? I’m still trying to figure all this out. I do believe that, whenever possible, technology skills should be reinforced in the classroom. I believe that students learn best when there is a way for them to apply what they have learned, and when the skills have context. But I do struggle with the lack of a technology curriculum that I have control over. It means that one of my major responsibilities is trying to influence others — which can be very hard, and feel weird. There’s a delicate balance between letting teachers take the lead (because they need to be responsible for bringing technology into the classroom) and trying to suggest that teachers employ certain technology. It’s a balance I have not yet achieved.

I do know that nothing but good can come of our school’s recent full-on technology explosion. Some teachers will quickly find tools that they love, some will stumble with tools that aren’t quite right, and sooner or later, everyone will find their own comfort zone. I will keep trying to forge my way through these thorny issues, and by the end of the year, we will have made great progress.

I’ll try not to go 4 months without blogging again.

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4 Comments

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  1. Lorri Carroll / Oct 25 2011 7:01 pm

    Yes… it’s been bumpy and we are bound to hit some more bumps along the way. You’ve captured our constant struggle in a nutshell, but you should be very proud of your “influence” on others. People respect your ideas and know that you are keeping the students (and the skills they need) at the forefront!

    And thanks for the nudge to blog again… make sure I get to it after comments are due next week! 😉

  2. Lorri Carroll / Oct 25 2011 7:03 pm

    OH YEAH— and who knew that my cheerleading experience in HS would be put to such good use later in life?

    • sarahludwig / Oct 25 2011 7:08 pm

      If only I hadn’t given up on being a cheerleader after only two days (I couldn’t jump)!

      And thank you–I feel overwhelmingly proud of all we’ve done this year, and it’s only October! It’s good to have a little breathing room this week to think about some of these things…

  3. Jordan Funke (@jordanfunke) / Nov 5 2011 8:00 pm

    Well said. I also struggle with trying to teach the transferrable tech skills and teachers not giving me the time to do it right. I know how to be a good teacher, but am not given the time to do good lessons. The curriculum and the skills are equally important. In my personal opinion the skills are more important because you use them to learn whatever you need, but state standardized tests require some content knowledge. I’d love to see the planning sheet you developed over the summer.

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