I remember the good old days of education back in the 80’s. There was nothing like getting that worksheet hot of the ditto machine. The purple hue of the print made my little first grade heart rejoice in exaltation. Something about purple print just made those dark gray worksheets pulled out of my math workbook seem somehow just….meh! But the ditto worksheet had more than just purple print. It had an aroma that I wish someone would turn into a scented candle. That smell should be immortalized for future generations to enjoy. I’ll move on from nostalgia to get to my point. The ditto machine was a technological evolution from the workbook. No longer did a teacher need to rely on a company for content. The teacher could now create and curate content for the students in a way that he/she hadn’t been able to do before. I’m sure the teachers of the time were thrilled especially when they found out that curation could come in the form of lamination. They could laminate that content and use it over and over and over and over. Lamination is a forever thing! But did things really change?
Looking through the eyes of an educator and not a 1st grader, I can see that regardless of my fond memories of ditto worksheets, even though they were created by the teacher, they too were…just meh! Last school year our district started to explore different learning management systems (LMS) to go along with our transition into a more 1:1 setting - we decided on Canvas. A new way for us to create and curate. Sound familiar? I have to say as a district leader I was reluctant. Not because of fear of technology or the amount of work it requires to be put into implementing and growing in this area. I was reluctant because I could see the potential for an LMS to become like a ditto machine & laminator. A digital laminator- to curate content to be used over and over and over and over with no thought to instruction. I found a quote by David Geurin that summed up my thoughts and feelings exactly. He wrote,
If you change the technology but don’t change the lesson…nothing really changes.
For me his quote hit home and has become part of the filter through which I viewed our district’s continual digital evolution. So we have changed the technology in our district but have we really changed what’s most important? Yes, we have started to change what’s important not just for today’s learners but we are helping everyone in our district to be responsible for their own learning and together we are all become future oriented learners.
We have made a shift and I can offer you many examples of that shift; however, I’m going to just offer up what I believe is the biggest shift in our mindsets in terms of technology. Our conversations and learning have become less about the how to use Canvas or why Twitter chats or how to use an app or even should we be making a digital shift. Our conversations have changed to how can we get our students to think like an engineer, doctor, lawyer, artist, entrepreneur, or that profession in the future that we don’t yet know about and then we talk about what is the tool our students can use to find what they need so that they can create and show the world what they can do. I’m confident that as long as we keep the conversation about the mindset of instruction, I don’t believe anyone in the future will write about their found memories of an LMS being a digital laminator like I wrote about my found memories of those aromatic purple worksheets. So in parting I leave you this thought: Someday that learning management system or that ipad will go the way of the ditto so don’t forget that what we do is really about how to create and curate relevant instruction.
Corey Hartley is a lifelong Hoosier, Marine, educator, husband, and father. After many glorious days in his beloved Corps, he returned to Indiana to become a teacher. Dr. Hartley attended Ball State where he earned a doctorate degree in education. He has served many roles in education: Elementary teacher, assistant principal, principal and currently Director of Elementary Education. He is the one wearing a tie in the picture.