Thoughts as a result of Wesley Fryer's video "Strive to Engage not Enthrall" PD video.

With our laptop program we have teachers that want to have technology available and accessible, so they select to have classroom discipline and do manage and observe the students. This is a big emphasis out our middle school. I have had 3 Internet browsing violations from those students in 3.5 years compared to the high school; I may have that in a month. I feel that the reason our middle school teachers do a good job is that they do get up and observe students, interact with them while they keep the students engaged and not enthralled (as discussed by Wesley Fryer in his “Strive to Engage not Enthrall” professional development video). I do have some high school teachers that see a student doing something that is inappropriate and they will take the laptop away and turn the student in to the office. Whereas some teachers just sit in front of the room or want a software application that would permit them to sit in front of the class and just watch student screens. I even have a small number of teachers feel that the best way to manage student use of laptops is to not open it. Those are the teachers that will never change their teaching style to use differentiated learning. Those are the teachers that enthrall (another point raised by Wesley Fryer in the same PD video mentioned earlier).
As a teacher for 11 years, before taking over the role of Director of Technology, those requests for observation software drives me nuts. Get up and interact with the students. Engage them, get them thinking, and challenge them to find optional solutions to an open ended question. Yes, now I am on my soap box as a person that believes in the implementation of technology that takes old concepts and can be taught in new ways or even permits the experimentation with new things to learn. (Points raised by Jon Utecht’s blog). It is those teachers that I personally hold in high regard to this profession. They are the ones willing to change and accommodate the differentiated learners we have in all of our schools and classrooms.
To touch on the point regarding students with computers and Internet access, I have started the last two school years in Lyons teaming up with Kevin Honeycutt. We both conduct presentations for community members as well as requiring parents/students to attend before receiving their laptops. This time permits us to explain to the parents why school districts are required to filter and how we filter. I too explain that when the laptops go home, it is now the parent's responsibility to interact and engage conversation with their child and how the laptop is to be used at home. These meetings have been successful in some areas and will continue to go on deaf ears in other areas. But the point is that schools are to educate the student. Yes, discipline and responsibility is part of that too but the parents need to be a key ingredient in developing their child's ability to behave and follow policies.

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Comment by Wesley Fryer on March 24, 2008 at 12:48am
Dean: Have we met before? I would love to visit with you more about your experiences at Lyons. The situations you describe here are certainly challenging, and I know touch on the question you posted tonight on my blog with regard to fatigue we feel in working with teachers who don't want to change their teaching methods. I guess the only thing I'd add to the comments I've already shared is that administrative leadership is a HUGE key. Without the principal expecting teachers to teach differently, my experience tells me most don't and won't. So the school change agenda has to be focused to a large extent not only on empowering students, but also changing administrative perceptions of teaching and learning so principals EXPECT engagement and not "enthralled students" when they conduct regular classroom walkthroughs.

Posts like this one and conversations like this make me want to be a school principal. Goodness knows we need more principals with a passion for engaged learning, rather than traditional "sit and get" learning, with or without technology.

Will you be in Hays in a couple of weeks for their mobility conference? Kevin H will be there. If you are going let's get together for sure.
Comment by Dean Mantz on March 24, 2008 at 8:27am
Wesley, when is the mobility conference that Cyndi Danner-Kuhn is hosting? Kevin mentioned it to me the other day at the MACE Conference.

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