Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The importance of the last year

I have been blogging since 2009 and today I looked back over the 800 or so blog posts I've written in those years and discovered an interesting thing: in every one of these years I've written more blog posts in January of those years than in any other month - last year, for example, I wrote 46 posts in January, so on average I was writing more than one post per day.  I started to think about why this was.  Was it a new year and so I was fired with enthusiasm to read and learn and share that understanding with others?  Or was it something darker, the knowledge that as the resignation date had passed at school that I would be staying yet another school year in a situation that wasn't fulfilling and so writing became cathartic, a way of releasing all the good things that I was thinking about and wanting to share with a global audience that seemed more appreciative of these ideas than some of the people I worked with on a daily basis?  I think there is some truth in both of these but last year I think it was a combination of the two. I knew I was leaving as I'd already signed a contract with another school, and I felt a sense of urgency as I knew there was a lot to do before I actually left.

Over the past semester in my new school I've been contacted by countless old colleagues who have asked for advice and support for continuing to use technology with their students.  They have told me how hard it is this year and refer to the years that I worked with them as the "golden age" of tech integration.  I am disappointed when I hear some of these teachers saying their skills have gone backwards over the past few months, especially when I worked so hard in the last 6 months I was at the school to support them and make them and their students completely independent users of technology.  Recently I have been asking myself why this happened, in contrast to the way that tech integration actually continued to move forwards at other schools after I'd left.  I have to say that I regard this with a profound sense of personal failure, which disturbs me, and yet I know at the same time that it's important to analyze why something failed in order to learn from it and do things differently in the future.  This is what I have come up with:  I tried to squash a 4 year plan into a 3 year plan which meant that teachers were not yet ready to go it alone.  I would go further and say that for the first 2 years of the 4 year plan we were right on track.  I spent a year modeling good tech integration, and a year continuing to work on this being helped by the teachers.  Everything went really well and on the SAMR model I would say that in year 2 we  moved from using technology as a substitute to using technology to modify and redefine the tasks students were doing.  This involved extensive planning  and a careful look at the curriculum, which was easy since I attended all the PYP planning sessions.  At the end of those 2 years I felt really proud of how much we had all moved forward.  The last stages of the plan, leading to a transformation in the way that technology was used and viewed would ideally have taken a further 2 years, yet by necessity this was crammed into just one year.  In previous schools I'd used this time to have the teachers lead their own technology integration, first with support from me, and then with  me standing back and coaching.  Even though coaching was my personal goal last year, the process of moving from a tech integration specialist to coach was, in hindsight, too condensed, so at the end of the year it seems some teachers were not really secure in their practice, and so without support could not do the things that they had been doing before, let alone have the confidence to move forward independently.  What I've come to realize is that the final year of the plan, the year that actually involved me doing the least teaching and the most coaching of teachers, is actually the most vital year of all, which is something I didn't expect.  I also think that three years is not an ideal time to move on after making changes, and yet for me I feel I've moved on in such a positive way at the right time, to the right place, to the right job and of course these things were only possible by moving this year. But I have learnt a lesson from this, and that lesson is about the importance of the last year and in spending that time getting teachers to take on the leadership of technology before I actually leave. 

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