There is little more frustrating to me than wasted time out of my classroom. I love to go to a conference or PD day that is worthwhile, inspiring and leads me to a new revelation for my teaching.
I am on the Math Curriculum Review Team at my intermediate school district. Much of the time spent at those meetings is worthwhile, and I have gained much by my involvement in the group. Yesterday was not one of those days I left the meeting feeling positive.
We started the day with this problem, the Ron Castleman problem. In and of itself, the problem and the process was a worthwhile one. First we worked out our own solutions to the problem, a simple percent problem. We were instructed to try to come up with more than one solution to the problem, including using diagrams. Then we shared with a partner, and then shared with the large group.
We were then given an article discussing this problem in great detail. (I would give the link to the work we read but unfortunately, there was no reference on the handout. It simply says "Chapter 5, Linking Fractions, Decimals and Percents Using an Area Model".) We were given highlighters to mark things that struck us as particularly enlightening, or that we had questions about. The article was worthwhile, and I highlighted many interesting quotes I hoped to discuss further.
Then we were told we were going to blog about this article. We were instructed how to get to our newly created MCRT blog space. We then began posting our comments. This is where the activity really started downhill. The person in charge had not explored the blogging experience completely, so in essence, all we did was write a comment, which then had to be approved before it was posted. By the time she got our comments posted, we had moved on to another task in our meeting.
What could have been a wonder exploration of using a blog for discussion, was simply a busy work task. The article we read is not posted there, there is a simple list of our first names and our brief comment. Yes we posted to a blog, but did we learn about how blogging can be used in our classrooms? Did we learn how blogging could be used in our own group to further conversation? Do you really think any of those 20+ people are going to go back to our comments and read them, and further comment?
This was one of those instances of using technology for the sake of using technology. There was nothing gained from the experience. A conversation in the room would have been more productive.
Perhaps the most ironic part of the day? Next door the local superintendents were in a meeting learning about the new technologies coming down the pike. I spoke briefly with one of my former superintendents who now works in a neighboring district. He was excited to share some of the cutting edge things he was learning about: blogs, wikis, zoomerang, myspace....