Today I arrived at a school with a plan to do some solid professional development. My agenda was learner-centered, with the teachers working in small groups and I was to circulate and work with them. The objective was for teachers to fill out a project planning form and then I would help support them as they came up with ideas. This is something I have done close to fifty times and I was so confident it was going to go well that I didn’t even write up the agenda on the board.
As the meeting began, I started with my usual question–what do you need to know? I held up the form, and I had a teacher project it up on the board–but then I realized that this was no ordinary screen, this was a SMART board. It was amazing, really. I sat up in front of the room and clicked on different parts of the screen, giving the teachers a virtual tour–click, click, click. And I talked. And then, I clicked some more. When I ran out of things to say, I asked if anyone had any questions–and then I answered them by clicking on the board to show more stuff.
48 minutes later, not one teacher had their planning form completed.
I missed out on the opportunity to model learner-centered facilitation and I had to reflect on the fact that I somehow became distracted from my own goals. What happened? Then it dawned on me–interactive technology is fun. So fun, in fact, that it kept me frozen to the front of the room for the entire meeting.
Aside from being reminded of the value of public posting of an agenda to keep myself on track, my biggest take-away from the experience was that as educators, we are always susceptible to the resting state of traditional education: teachers doing the talking–and work–instead of the students. As such, the tools we place in the classroom should help support teachers as they make the mindset shift, a change we have to refocus on each and every day, rather than entice teachers to remain at the front of the room.
There are undoubtedly teachers who have found a way to make a Smart board student-centered, but as for me, I will hope to avoid a Smart board in my future–unless I decide to become a weatherman.