Grow your own – rooting learning in technology

I love my garden and as soon as I saw the tree on Jeff’s post I knew I would like what he had to say.  I am always using the word “organic” to describe the development of my thinking;  I am not the kind of person who sits down beginning of any task able to foresee all the possible ways that my teaching (gardening, cooking, travelling etc.) will go. I sit down with my raw ingredients/materials: the class, the curriculum and the school facilities, and I consider my end goal: an essay, an exam, a bit of fun.  On the way along I try to find the best approach for the job; increasingly that approach includes technology.

As a child I remember filling the car with camping equipment and getting to the end of the road and dad would ask “right or left” this would go on until we decided which way we were headed: would it be west to Wales? would it be south to Devon or Cornwall?  or would it be north to the Lake District?  If we headed north and the roads were good we might pass The Lakes and head to Scotland. If the Motorways were jammed we might stop at the Peak District.  This flexible yet pragmatic approach must inform our educational planning, but it only works if your car is first packed with the correct kit.

Integrating, embedding or whatever we are going to call it (I think I might coin the phrase rooting), technology has to be in at the grass roots of planning or to extend the analogy further, packing the car with the right equipment.  In the visioning stages of planning we must be aspirational in what we want the students to achieve and then find the best ways of achieving that.  This might be an ipad but equally it might be a pack of post it notes.

TPACK-newWhen Lee Shulman first talked about the “intersection of content and pedagogy” people may have realised the old adage “those who can do, those who can’t teach”, was a condescending oversimplification.  In fact it should read “those who can do, those who can do two (or more) things simultaneously, teach.  However it seems that this intersection has become spaghetti junction (for those who are from the UK this is a notoriously difficult junction near Birmingham renowned for the overwhelming number of roads to choose from – Robert Frost would have been stuck there for days!).

By Original - Highways Agency [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons .

By Original – Highways Agency [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons .

Adding Technology to the Pedagogy and Content knowledge (TPACK) means the teacher is now truly expected to become a master of multitasking.  Once we have acknowledged that these three knowledge’s must combine in good teaching, it is important to see how that might look.

I think I understand that Dr. Ruben Puentedura, did not intend that all you do with technology should be at the redefinition level, otherwise we would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I suggest that within any given scheme or project, there would/should be a place for technology at augmentation, modification and redefinition levels.

Say, for example, I am inventing from scratch a poetry scheme, technology would be part of this at all levels of tech integration – Gail Desler offers some great ideas and links in her blog post.

For me I often often find myself offering student’s choice at the substitution level.  If it really adds no functional change then students should be allowed to submit works in the manner they feel most comfortable.  An illustrated poetry anthology, of their own poetry or collected poetry that they like, could equally be done by hand or using word processing.

Augmentation may often take the form of replacing thesauruses and encyclopaedias with researching tools and as poets and poetry.  Sites such Poemhunter, BBC bite-sized and Good Reads make it easy for students to access accurate and focussed information; here functionality is added due to vaster resources being available and the fun factor associated with poetry generators like Poetry Idea Engine.  It might also include using word or other text manipulation programmes to assist in the drafting, editing and reorganisation of their own poetry.

At the Modification level it would be appropriate to introduce collaborative work using google apps, wikiprojects and threads either writing poetry collaboratively, commenting on others poetry or annotating existing poetry with discussions and questions.  In addition, technology allows us to modify our poetry modules by including watching Slam Poetry and listening to great poets reading their own poetry, otherwise impossible.

As always I find it hardest to be clear when something is really Redefinition but I think (if I understand it correctly) that multi-modal approaches to poetry would be redefinition.  Audio and visual combination is possible in voicethread (which helps students to look at chunks of the poem, identifying and visualising key images and changes in tone/pace) and , blabberize (particularly when considering the voice in the poem)  A new idea which I have not trialled as part of a unit – watch this space – is phoetry (the combination of the creative visual art of photography with the creative verbal art of poetry, see below).  

Photo Credit: Lex Photographic via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lex Photographic via Compfight cc

  Similarly, the use wider audiences for poetry with blogs and quadblogging is redefining the way students can be given feedback on their work, with real life audiences and in a way very familiar to them.

So, in summary, when our car is packed with all the correct equipment, there is no end to the way we can redefine the educational journey, if technology (and post-it notes) is rooted in our planning.

One comment to “Grow your own – rooting learning in technology”
One comment to “Grow your own – rooting learning in technology”
  1. Hi Jo,
    I just love have you so effortlessly express your thoughts in words. I like your analogy of growing your garden. Having all the tools to design learning experiences at our finger tips can be so exciting and challenging. As you pointed out its like we are the gardner responsible for the gardens we are growing. As a curriculum coordinator you’ve probably gathered I’m a bit weird like that. Adding technology is just adding another tool in our kit to help us design learning. Well not just any tool, a tool that is changing how we go about our craft. The TPACK model really puts it into perspective. Working technology and our practices into developing
    content makes for greater more effective and engaging learning opportunities for our students.

    I hope you and the family are well. Life is crazy busy in SFS at this time of year as you can imagine and then add the COETAIL final project by May 17 and you begin to get the picture. All the best to you and your family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *