Technology Integration and Baseball

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I recently sat down with my boss to reflect on the past year.  For those of you who don't know, I am an eLearning Coach in a school district in Southern Indiana.  I spend most of my days helping teachers integrate technology into their lesson plans.  This is our districts first year of being 1:1 in grades 6-12.  We were already 1:1 in the high schools the past two years but added the middle school students this year.  Like anything knew, we had our ups and downs throughout the year but overall it has been a great year.

When we were done reflecting on the past, we began to talk about the future.  What is next year going to look like?  I talked about the need to really begin to shift the way we do education.  I talked about how we spent most of this year just getting comfortable with the tools of the trade.  Now that we were all comfortable with the tools we had and felt more comfortable learning new tools, it is time to start leveraging technology to change how we teach.

My boss and I talked about how many school districts have fumbled through a similar process as they've integrated more and more technology into their schools.  He wondered aloud about schools that tried to do both, learn the tools and transform education at the same time.  Our discussion lead me to this analogy about the stages of technology integration.

Stage 1: Coach Pitch/T-Ball
Have you ever been to a coach pitch baseball game?  They are a lot of fun to watch.  Not because Albert Pujos is at the plate or Justin Verlander is on the mound.  They are fun because the kids are having so much fun with the new and there is little to no pressure.  Well, at least their shouldn't be.  This is the time for kids to learn the tools of baseball.  All I'm worried about are the basics. Can you swing a bat, run, catch, and throw?  The same thing is true with tech integration.  Do you know how the new tool works?  Can you turn it on, explain how to use it students?  In coach pitch, ever kid is suppose to be set up for success.  I really felt like that is what I tried to do this year.  I tried to set up every teacher in my building for success.

Stage 2: Little League/Babe Ruth League/High School/College/Minor League
I lump all of these together because this is that major transition time that continues from the initial entrance to baseball to the big leagues.  As kids get older, the coaching changes.  The conversation moves from swing, run, catch and throw, to batting stance, base stealing, when to dive and when to let it bounce, and when to throw to cut-off man or to come home with it.  The conversation shifts from the tools that are being used to how those tools are being applied.  Each year following that initial time of technology integration should be met with less talk about the tools themselves and more talk about how they tools can be used.  This should always be the endgame when it comes to technology integration.  If the tools we use in our classroom are only there to provide a little bit of flair to the lesson, then we are at a risk of those tools becoming a distraction.

This is an important stage because it really begins to separate people.  This is about dedication on everyone's part.  Are we as educators satisfied with our just knowing how the tools work or are we willing to push ourselves to change the way we teach?

Stage 3: Major League
Most people will stay somewhere in that spectrum of stage 2 the majority of their careers and their is nothing wrong with that.  The major leaguers are the ones who are the innovators that all of us in the lower stages try to imitate and emulate.  I still remember standing in the batters box as a young kid trying to swing the bat like Frank Thomas or having fun playing softball with the bat over my head like Julio Franco.

We need major leaguers that push us and inspire us to do more with technology in our classrooms.  By "more with technology" I don't mean we need more technology but we need to do more with the technology we have. We need to move beyond just knowing the tools but we need to pick the right tool for the job.  You don't pay baseball with a tennis racket.  It's not the best tool for the job.  If it was, you'd see Derek Jeter using one the next time he stepped up to the plate.

Many teachers have a fear of integrating technology.  They fear the students will know more than they do, and they will which isn't a bad thing.  They fear they will make a mistake, which they will but we all do.  I think one of the biggest things I can do as a coach is listen to teachers and their concerns, and help them see what stage of implementation they are at.  Once you know where you are at, and where you want to go, then the journey doesn't seem so bad.

Also, I must say, I love analogies.  I use them all the time when explaining things to people.  I used them when I was in the classroom and I use them now as an eLearning Coach.  I think I need AA (Analogy Anonymous)

Just for fun, here is a clip from Community explaining what an analogy is: