ISTE2014 and Collaboration

After a week in Atlanta for FUSE14 and ISTE2014, my head is spinning. It was an extraordinary experience, and I learned so much that it’s going to take months to sort it all out. Most of all, it was a invigorating and inspiring to spend quality time in person with so many amazing people (thanks +Dominique Dynes for the picture below!).

Last year in San Antonio, I spent a fair amount of time reading the ISTE Tweet stream, which helped me to learn what others were doing at the conference. This year, however, I spent the majority of my time presenting and talking with people in person, including meeting a number of Twitter friends for the first time. While I regret not being able to follow ISTE on Twitter as closely as I’d have liked, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had, since this is what ISTE is all about.

So much happened in Atlanta, but I’ll share some brief highlights:

  • Our #brewcue was very successful, and the Google events were awesome, where we were able to reunite some of our GTACHI colleagues. It’s amazing to see what we’ve all been doing in the past year, and I’m beyond honored to be part of such an illustrious group. The Instructure party was also quite heavily attended, and I enjoyed meeting other independent school folks at our #isteisen dinner, where I got to catch up with an old friend and colleague +Jennifer Carey. The #isteball baseball game was a lot of fun, too. All in all, there was plenty of great socializing in Atlanta.
  • HackEd was again fantastic. I had the opportunity to lead a session on design thinking, following up on FUSE, and we had some good conversation about bringing DT into the classroom.
  • At the GlobalEd Day “min-conference,” +Melissa Strong and I led a discussion on world language study and globalization. We learned what others are doing at their schools to make their language programs more global, which gave us some ideas of our own to try out.
  • I’ve been experimenting with gamification in our Latin program, and so I was geeked to chat with +Michael Matera about some of my ideas. He gave me some extremely helpful feedback that I’m very excited to test next fall, and I look forward to continued collaboration with him.
  • +Zee Poerio invited me to join her poster session on using technology in Latin classrooms, focusing on the project-based learning approaches we’ve been taking. We had fun sharing some of the projects we’ve been working on with our students and hopefully offered an attractive plug for the study of Latin.
  • +Isis Stephanie Cerda and I gave a session on using Google’s Fusion Tables in the design thinking process at the Google Playground. This session was particularly interesting, in that it generated a number of questions about how we collaborate that I think are worth exploring in more detail.
The State of Collaboration

Given that ISTE is all about bringing people together, Stephanie and I decided to send out a brief survey on collaboration to collect data that we’d use in our Fusion Tables session. In particular, we collected standard demographics like gender, role, experience, etc., followed by research questions on collaboration. Using a 4-point scale to prevent selection of an unhelpful “no opinion” middle response, we asked respondents to rate their agreement with the following statements, with 1 representing “strongly disagree” up to 4 “strongly agree”:

    • I collaborate with others in my organization.
    • I collaborate with others outside of my organization.
    • I participate in regular PD activities.
    • I organize regular PD activities.

With the collected data, we demonstrated how Fusion Tables can be used for quick analyses in our session (cf. the overall Collaboration by Experience results below). All told, 90 people submitted a survey (we thank them all!), and the data are summarized in this Fusion Table (feel free to copy).

A few caveats: We pushed out the survey on Twitter at a ISTE and must acknowledge that the sample size is both small and certainly skewed toward the more collaboration-friendly; but our numbers are nonetheless interesting. And we must remember that correlation does not imply causation, so any apparent relationships in the data will need to be investigated further, before conclusions can be drawn. With that in mind, here’s a summary of our findings:

  • It is certainly significant that 60 of the 90 respondents were female. Any comparisons between males and females must thus be taken with caution.
  • Not one male response had more that 20 years of experience in the current role!
  • Participation in PD is relatively stable across experience levels (i.e., no one experience group participates with greater frequency).
  • Overall, there seems to be an apparent correlation with experience and organizing PD: the more experience one has, the less PD she organizes. Those with 0-5 years of experience report an average response of 3.77, while 21+ stands at 2.67. That’s a huge drop.
  • Female administrators (3.92) and tech specialists (3.78) organize significantly more PD than respective male counterparts (3.4 and 3.5, respectively), but male teachers (3.15) organize more PD than female teachers (2.71). Female teachers with 21+ years of experience only report a 2 for organizing PD.
  • The less and most experienced administrators and tech specialists organize PD more often than those in the 6-10 year range.
  • Less experienced educators collaborate more inside of their organization, and more experienced educators collaborate more outside. This phenomenon is more pronounced with males (a statistical by-product?). 

Even in an informal survey of this sort, we can ask some potentially powerful questions about the data we collected and dig deeper into problems that we may not have known existed. Among a number of interesting questions, we can ask why the more experienced teachers are not leading as many PD opportunities as others. I’ve witnessed veteran teachers who believe they have less “value” than their younger colleagues who are more tech savvy, but this simply isn’t true. Now knowing this, how might we encourage educators with more experience to share their experience inside and outside their communities? How might we learn to better appreciate the diverse value that everyone brings into our communities? To gain a better understanding of the problem and begin to work toward solutions, we should next talk with more experienced teachers about their thoughts on PD.

It could be quite interesting to repeat this process in a Twitter chat sometime. If we pushed out a survey, ideally asking students questions, and gave our communities a week to respond, we could spend the discussion time analyzing the results and generating more questions for investigation. Any takers?

So much for ISTE2014. Atlanta was a fabulous host, full of friendly people and great food. I enjoyed talking with you all, and I can’t wait to do it again. And in the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to kicking around these ideas.