I was given the opportunity recently to preview a proof of a new book, Navigating the Toggled Term by Matthew Rhoads. Dr. Matt is also one of the lead authors of Amplifying Learning: A Global Collaborative, a book for which I am contributing the chapter on assessment and feedback.
Navigating the Toggled Term is a book for teachers who, having survived pandemic-era teaching, have concluded that educational technology is not just here to stay, but that it will play a central role in the transformation of education. Accordingly, Dr. Matt presents himself as an EdTech optimist from the first page, but is careful to acknowledge throughout the book the tendency of schools to over-fetishize technology at the expense of learning. When selecting an EdTech tool, for example, Dr. Matt encourages teachers to invoke Occam’s Razor (“Think Less is More”) rather than trying to digitize everything with flashy tools, a common pitfall I’ve seen in my own work in EdTech. Teachers are also encouraged to see EdTech as a means towards augmenting research-validated instructional strategies, such as activating prior knowledge, scaffolding content, and formative assessment, rather than as an end in itself. Time and time again, Dr. Matt circles back to what becomes a consistent theme of the book: Let instruction drive your choices with technology integration.
As I read the book, I found myself appreciating the teacher vignettes that were included in each chapter. As a Director of Educational Technology, I’ve yet to crack the code for how to best draw out teachers’ thinking behind their technology choices so that it is visible to others. It’s been my experience that teachers are often too busy, or without the headspace, to pause and discuss why they chose to use a particular technology, or how they adapted a tool to fit the current trajectory of their unit. I imagine that this book could serve as a resource to teachers who thirst for professional conversations around technology and instruction, particularly teachers who work in schools without the structures necessary for ongoing reflection on one’s pedagogy. The vignettes simulate the professional dialogue that all schools should strive to cultivate within their learning communities, and will likely help to fill a void for teachers who work in schools that do not give technology-enhanced pedagogy its due weight.
The final two chapters of the book deal with topics that I’ve begun to emphasize in my work; Professional Engagement (Chapter 11) and Self-Care (Chapter 12); which I see as intertwined. Dr. Matt encourages teachers throughout the book, as well as in Chapter 11, to get involved in professional discussions on social media and to build networks so that we can actually learn something from this bizarre experience. For me, Twitter has been a lifeline that I will continue to leverage moving forward because it forces me to confront ideas that I wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to. Had I limited myself to the silos of whatever school I currently worked at, I would never have “met” Dr. Matt, I wouldn’t have received a proof of his first book, and I wouldn’t be writing a chapter for his next one. Who knows, maybe if he’d never “met” me, he wouldn’t have taken an interest in cognitive load theory, which I ended up discussing with him in a podcast. While social media has its benefits, a major risk you take is that you can allow it to consume you. Recently I’ve had to lay down some strict boundaries around the use of social media to focus on achieving a more reasonable work-life balance. Chapter 12 encourages teachers to let go of perfectionism, take a moment to breathe and smile about this wonderfully odd work we do, and to leave school work at school on occasion to focus on home life.
For teachers looking to reflect and prepare for the next stage in this unforeseen journey, check out Navigating the Toggled Term on Amazon and support a teacher.
Zach Groshell @mrzachg
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