Transformations

Transform v.
a: to change in composition or structure b : to change the outward form or appearance of c : to change in character or condition – Merriam Webster free online dictionary

All summer I have been wrestling with the concept of “transformational” use of technology. Clearly “transformational” use of technology is better- but what does it mean? What conditions bring this about? Why is it better?

I believe I now understand- having watched three important transformations during the opening day of Arts Educator 2.0 professional development for Arts Educators.

The first transformation was a physical one- the room itself was transformed from a crowded conference room with tables facing front to a veritable feast for the eyes and ears… a Digital Playground. The Arts Educator 2.0 project opening day began with a Digital Playground for our teachers. The idea was a simple one, borrowed from the recent International Society for Technology in Education Arts Educator Digital Arts playground in Denver in June, and like many simple ideas, it turned out to be quite profound.

It started with a concept- what if teachers were allowed to experience possible technologies for their classroom in a non-threatening “playground” allowing persons to self select exactly what they wished to play with? Even better- what if teachers from our Arts 2.0 Collaborative Inquiry groups who had already made use of these technologies were on hand to answer questions, offer tips and share their student work?

Over the summer months all of the facilitators suggested teachers who had made use of technology introduced by the program in their classrooms. Each of these educators were contacted and asked if they were willing to share the ways in which they used technology in a live, hands on event. Three vendors of educational technology also came to demonstrate: SMART systems, Promethean boards and Aver Media document cameras and student response pens.

The teachers from our project set up the rest- providing cameras, document cameras, Zoom Q-3 recording devices, Vados, Flip cameras, tri-pods, iPods, animation stations and netbooks with slideshows running samples of their student work. The displays were spread throughout our meeting space – transforming the room into a hands on laboratory by teachers and for teachers. (and it happened faster than a speeding bullet – wait, am I dating myself with this reference to Superman?)

Our teachers were the second transformation. They were transformed from sitting in chairs listening to a speaker to completely taking over the event- sharing ideas, providing training for folks who stopped by their displays and crafting their own professional development as they alternated between demonstrating and roaming the displays. Mara Linaberger and Camille Dempsy both spoke eloquently in their posts this week of the scaffolded learning inherent in this project which made the Digital Playground possible.

I saw the effects of this scaffolding, not only in the Digital Playground, but also in my Collaborative Inquiry group. When the iPads were given out, the teachers in my Collaborative Inquiry group didn’t even comment on the plain brown box minus instructions. They simply got to work plugging in their iPads, syncing them with iTunes, asking each other questions and supporting each other – discovering how to share photos, download aps, take notes, etc.

But I promised you three transformations…
One of the goals of this project has been to help teachers embrace and use technology in their arts classrooms- not as a gimmick, a toy or an add-on, but in transformational ways. All summer as I worked with my iPad trying to envision its use in a classroom I was mindful of this idea. How and in what ways can one iPad transform twenty five or thirty students? Can this really make a difference?

Rolling this over in my mind, I realized that I had already seen this transformation- without even realizing it.

My colleague Camille Dempsey- also blogging for Arts Educator- has often mentioned her interest in the TPCK or TPACK model (http://tpack.org/tpck/index.php?title=Main_Page) for understanding how and why teachers adopt technology. The TPACK model is interested in looking not at the use of technology in a content area, but at the intersection of technology, pedagogy and content- this is the point at which transformational use of technology occurs. Here it was in action- I was watching that point on the model come into being – the intersection of technology, pedagogy and content- as the teachers shared their knowledge with each other. Herein lies the answer- this process of intersecting circles.

Watching the Digital Arts Playground, especially followed by the enthusiastic unboxing of the iPads, I believe I now understand. I have no doubt that my Collaborative Inquiry group will embrace the iPad and discover transformational uses of this technology in their classrooms. Transform one teacher and you transform their students, because you light a fire. Once a fire is lit- it is difficult to stop, and fire transforms….

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About Cory Wilkerson

Cory is a Free Lance Arts Education Consultant working with Arts Ed 2.0 and Project Manager for State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education.
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One Response to Transformations

  1. Yes it was an amazing day! I love your use of the idea of the fire as a vehicle of transformation. It made me think of the ancient image of the phoenix – a bird transformed to ashes by fire, rising up from the ash as something entirely new. Here’s to the potential phoenix in us all!

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