We frequently consult with school districts that have recently licensed TIM Tools. Generally, we suggest that they start by administering the Technology Uses and Perceptions Survey (TUPS) to collect baseline data. This is especially important for districts that are trying to clarify their goals or develop their tech plan. The TUPS will give them valuable information about technology needs and where their teachers currently are with their use and perceptions of technology.

The second tool we usually talk about is the lesson observation tool known as the TIM-O. The Technology Integration Matrix Observation Tool directs an observer through a series of questions about a particular lesson leading to a TIM “profile” for that lesson. An experienced observer has the option to forgo the questions and directly enter a profile. We talk about how the TIM-O is used and then move on to the next tool—often the TIM-C coaching tool. Sometimes before we move on, we mention that, “Oh, by the way, there are two additional versions of the TIM-O. One is for lesson plans and one for teacher reflections. It’s essentially the same tool, but the data for each of the three tools is kept separate in the TIM Tools system.”

I recently got to thinking that we perhaps are overlooking a sequence of introducing the Tools that may make for a smoother implementation. I’ll get back to that thought in a moment, but let’s first consider some misconceptions teachers may have when they hear through the very efficient school rumor mill that there’s some new-fangled observation thing coming down the pike. Human nature being what it is, it wouldn’t be surprising for teachers to jump to the following conclusions:

1. They’re grading me!

False. The unit of observation with the TIM-O is always the lesson, not the teacher. An experienced teacher will present lessons with a range of technology integration levels depending on the curriculum demands, the available technology, and student readiness and needs. The TIM-O is simply identifying the technology integration level (on five different characteristics) for one observed lesson. Far from being a “grade,” the profile generated by an observation becomes a topic of conversation between the teacher and administrator/coach/colleague about how the lesson could have more fully integrated technology. Unless an observation leads to the very unlikely profile of Transformation Level across all five characteristics, a profile can suggest specific tweaks to a lesson to more effectively integrate tech. The goal is continuous improvement, not a grade.

2. The principal is here to see how I’m using technology!

Mostly untrue. The observer is there primarily to see how the students are using technology—what choices they have, what higher-order thinking skills they are exercising. Other than at the lowest Entry level, the observer is not looking at how the teacher is using technology at all.

3. I have no clue what the observer is even looking for!

Maybe true. We’d hope that a district would explain the process before implementing the TIM-O. We even have a short presentation introducing the TIM-O to teachers, Technology Supporting Teaching: The Technology Integration Matrix Observation Tool.


Clearing away the concerns and misconceptions

The idea that popped into my head recently during a conference is to suggest that a district introduce the TIM-O by asking their teachers to pick one of their own lessons and complete a reflection on the lesson using the TIM-R. The TIM-R and the TIM-O are the same tool. The only difference is that the TIM-R is a self-observation.

Since many of the teachers may be new to the Technology Integration Matrix, suggest that they use the question-based option within the TIM-R. That will ask them a branching series of questions about the lesson they are reflecting upon. This gives them the opportunity to see firsthand how the tool works. It even gives them the opportunity to tweak the lesson and run it through the TIM-R a second or third time to see what sort of modifications lead to different profiles.

A teacher who has become familiar with the TIM-R will know exactly what to expect when an observer comes into the room (or online class) to conduct an observation using the TIM-O. The mystery and apprehension have been removed.

A district could even recommend that teachers complete a TIM-R reflection on the very lesson they are planning to use in an upcoming observation. In a post-observation conference the teacher and the observer can compare the resulting profiles and discuss any differences. The whole point of conducting observations is to generate constructive conversations and encourage intentionality in the choices teachers make when planning lessons.

As I said earlier, we haven’t previously recommended introducing the TIM-O by using the TIM-R. If you try that in your school or district, please let us know how it worked. Email us at TIM@fcit.us. We always enjoy hearing from our TIM Tools clients and are happy to schedule videoconferences at any time to check in with how it’s going, answer any questions you have, or suggest additional strategies for using the Tools in your school or district. Interacting with TIM Tools clients around the world is always the best part of our day!

Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh.

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