On a Tuesday in December 2021, I gathered with Technology Training Integration Specialists (TTIS) for learning walks at Still Elementary School in Cobb County School District in Georgia. I thought I was walking into a 5th grade classroom, but as soon as I crossed the threshold, I was transported to Hogwarts. The desks were out of sight, the floor and walls were decorated with stone made from giant paper rolls, and Harry Potter paraphernalia hung around the room. Students were huddled together in groups on the floor or at tables inside of homemade forts using devices (individually, in pairs, or in small groups) to gather data for a math lesson. Our time was limited to 20 minutes in this classroom, but I wanted to stay all day.
We continued the learning walk in multiple classrooms across grade levels throughout the morning. While other classrooms didn’t have the same decorative flair as Hogwarts, we observed meaningful and impactful teaching practices in every classroom. A common takeaway was the importance of classroom routines around technology. Some classrooms allowed students to use flexible seating (Hogwarts), one classroom had a policy requiring laptops to be on a flat, level surface, and in another classroom students were rotating through a technology station with four desktop computers. Even though the technology integration looked different in each classroom, the evidence of established classroom routines demonstrated the effectiveness of technology as a learning tool, no matter what technology structures were in place. Following the learning walk, one TTIS reflected that they would “encourage my teachers to spend time on procedures so that all students know the expectations and don’t think of technology use as an event but rather as another tool that is available to them during the school day.”
These learning walks have led to a powerful opportunity to nurture teacher growth because TTISs can now clearly define who needs support, what topic needs to be addressed, and the most appropriate format given the topic and audience. After the walk, one TTIS said “I will take the time to meet with teachers and ensure that my support is what is needed, not what I think they need. I also will continue to model various ways to enhance skills that teachers already have that can further engage students.” Another TTIS reflected “Moving forward, I have a stronger frame of reference for the work I will do that supports not only my goal but supports district priorities. I am working toward becoming more intentional in developing trainings based on the things I see as I am present in buildings.”
We walked with the following objectives: Clarify and focus the work that is needed to support teachers and students through goals and engage in discussion of teaching and learning that will lead to thoughtful, data-driven actions. These goals were accomplished through the walk, debrief and follow-up actions. I will be back in Cobb doing more learning walks in March. I look forward to seeing how the learning walk practice grows over time and how observed data informs next steps. Who knows, I might be surprised to step into another fantasy world designed by the wonderful imaginations of students.