Category Archives: edudemic

Defining Paperless 2.0

this article originally appeared on Edudemic. Read the original post here.

images“I’ve gone paperless!”

The transition to the 1:1 classroom regularly goes hand in hand with a call for teachers to go paperless.  The idea is a popular one for schools (and businesses) who can realize quick savings from reduced paper costs and offset the cost of the new devices. It can also be popular with teachers for a variety of conveniences when distributing and collecting materials.  But what about learning? Is moving to paperless a step forward or a high tech way of doing exactly what we have always done albeit electronically?

 

Defining Paperless 1.0

In the initial stages of a 1:1, teachers begin to convert already existing materials into electronic copies. Copies become PDF’s or Google Docs. In most cases, these materials do not differ from what they were on paper. These digital resources are easier to share, and when used with an LMS system or an understanding of Google Docs, can be easy to collect. This simple substitution can initially be a comfort to teachers and students. It connects them to patterns that they recognize and can build an understanding of devices in a context that is familiar: “Pass out materials, collect when completed.”  Once comfortable, many teachers move on to replicate other past products; the electronic poster, a dynamic graphic organizer, interactive timelines. While these electronic, often web-based tools can be more dynamic than their paper predecessors, and can be more exciting for students, do they represent a real shift in learning? Where should schools be headed next?

 

Clear Steps Forward

Even within this simple replication, there are clear advantages to Paperless 1.0. Students can submit work to teachers AND still possess that work. That dual possession can be powerful and allow for a faster exchange of feedback.  Communication is more immediate, and in many cases, students can be receiving real-time  feedback during the PROCESS of creation rather than just on the PRODUCT of creation. Feedback can evolve into a deeper continual process rather than a momentary one.  It can be more personal and directed towards specific individual needs.

 

Defining Paperless 2.0

Yet, in order for educational technology to transcend its past patterns, paperless work will need to expand beyond the confines of an 8 ½ x11 mindset not just the 8 ½  x 11 page.  Electronic posters will have to be move beyond being an e-poster stored in the cloud. A key part of moving beyond these limits is for teachers to move beyond the constructs that have defined assignments. While it is hard to look and see the path forward clearly, we can look back and examine past constructs that have been replaced as well as where the classrooms of today came from.  Educational technology has come a long way.  Imagine if we were to conduct our classes today, but were limited only to the technology of the past.

  • Imagine the classroom where slate tablets were the peak of technology? How did students go back and reflect on their previous learning? How did they write beyond the few lines they could fit on the few small inches of slate?
  • Imagine a modern science class without the benefit of microscopes and accurate tools for measurement? How would this affect the ability of students to see and interact with real scientific situations.  Could we imagine going back to that?
  • Imagine  a classroom or school that is not connected to the internet and how the economy of  information in that class affects students compared to those who are not connected.

Perhaps defining what Paperless 2.0 is, requires us to imagine what future teachers might say as they look back on our classrooms. “Wow, imagine if all the learning and work had to find its way to paper, our students would be missing out on so much.” The size of an idea need not be limited by the amount of paper available to contain it.

As technology allows us to remove the physical restraints on our classroom products, we – as educators – should be working to remove our conceptual limits and free ourselves and our students to explore what is possible.

 

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4 Ways to Ensure Students Learn While Creating

This post was originally published on Edudemic you can click here to view the original.

When was the last time your students said “Wow, that worksheet changed my life”?  Can you even remember a similar cookie cutter classroom activity or assignment from your days as a student? Yet they were a popular tool because they were structured and efficient in getting the class to a set finish point.

Image

Education, guided by a focus on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, is moving towards an emphasis on creation and innovation in the classroom. Though technology did not spark this movement, it has fueled the process by providing students with exciting and powerful tools. But is creation synonymous with learning? Can students even create without learning? How can we ensure that what they create has value?

The Exploding Volcano Project

volcano science project

The past archetype for creation in schools is best embodied by the Exploding Volcano Project.  Picture two students standing before the class nervously combining the vinegar, baking soda, and red food coloring that sets the explosion in motion. The class cheers as the small toy figures are consumed by the red wave of destruction.

The real question for teachers the becomes “Did the students presenting, and the other students in class, truly understand the learning objective behind the project?” If they did, then the lesson was a success and that volcano provided a dynamic form of class engagement tied to the learning objective. If they did not, the lesson produced a time consuming distraction that – despite the oohs, aahs and excitement – produced no learning.

4 Strategies To Ensure Students Learn While Creating

Teachers need to help their students move past the flashy excitement of the best creation tools and establish a laser focus on their learning objective. Student work should be an expression of learning not just the mastery of a tool.

1. Start with your specific learning objective.

Define the objective of your lesson clearly and effectively, then communicate it to you class.  Allowing your students to have freedom and choice is much easier when those options revolve around a clear mission.  Framing that mission for your class is where it all begins, and if done incorrectly, where things can come undone.

2.  The idea to be expressed comes before the tool used to express it.

In reality, all products are in essence an essay expressed through a different medium.  Whether you call it a “main idea,”  a “thesis,” or something else, all student projects should begin with one. This is the student’s unique take on demonstrating the class objective, and should guide their research, organization, as well as their choice of tool.

3.  Make asking “How will this show mastery of the learning objective?” your classroom mantra.

Doing this will help students to keep the assignment on task and evaluate the effectiveness of their work and allowing them to reflect on their current knowledge. This constant articulation of the learning objective in their own words develops a crucial metacognitive skill: the ability to evaluate their own progress.

4.  Engage in evaluating the  PROCESS of creation and not just grading the finished product.

Technology creates well-polished products.  At first glance, a well-edited video or a visually pleasing presentation can impress, but upon further evaluation, it may be of little substance.  Creating check-ins and opportunities for peer and teacher review can keep the learning objective in view as well as support the development of skills. Watching a student construct meaning, formulate how to express it to an audience, and THEN create a presentation, offers more opportunity to foster growth than just collecting an assignment ever will.

The following creation example illustrates how one student chose to demonstrate his mastery of the learning objective  “Describe and communicate the ideas and philosophies that arose in response to the industrial revolution.”

While many students chose posters or graphic organizers to explain these concepts, this student, gifted as a musician, chose to write this song.  As you listen, ask yourself if it meets the objective, and if it represents learning.

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5 Ways To Support Teachers Skeptical Of Technology

The following article originally appeared on Edudemic.  See the original article here.

For some, the technology rich classroom is easy to justify. Once you have made the transition and seen the benefits, it is easy to weigh them against the potential risks and worries about the problems resulting from having a room full of devices.

For these “dive right in” types, the process makes a lot of sense. Give it a try and see what happens! These are the teachers who typically make up 1:1 and BYOD pilot programs and test groups. They are also the teachers who more often than not are going to lead professional development and share what they have learned.

scared of technology

However, the teachers to whom they will be presenting may not be so easily convinced that this change will be entirely positive. There are reasons that veteran teachers SHOULD be questioning new initiatives and putting them to the “This Too Shall Pass” acid test, crunching the numbers on whether investing in technology will be time well spent. It is part of the reality of being a teacher. As a result, once training begins, there can be problems.

As more schools move to a 1:1 or BYOD format, it becomes increasingly important to support teachers – all teachers – effectively make that transition and to support them in that process. Dismissing their concerns is rarely, if ever, the best answer. Here are a few helpful ways to help reluctant teachers make the transition while showing empathy and understanding.

1. Correctly identify their concern

For many teachers the greatest fear that looming changes hold is the loss of effectiveness. Veteran teachers have worked long and hard to craft a system that gets results. Once they find what works, they are right to embrace it. It is easy to misinterpret this as being uncooperative or dismissive, but understanding their viewpoint will help you to have the conversation in a more constructive and less judgmental way. Demonstrating clearly how technology will increase effectiveness is the single greatest way to win converts and give you common ground to stand on.

2. Listen

When teachers are struggling to implement technology or any other initiative in their classroom often what they need is a chance to talk about what they want to accomplish, and have an instructor guide them to possible solutions. Offering too many options too fast, minimizing the difficulty of the transition, or dismissing their concerns outright, only makes it more stressful. We often talk about how technology helps us to meet the needs of our students. We need to be clear on how it also meets the needs of the teachers.

3. Build on what they are already doing well

Often we make the mistake of asking teachers to implement technology to improve on a lesson or unit where they feel that they are not currently being effective. Suggest that teachers implement technology into a lesson that IS effective in order to show them how it can help them to be even more so. These units are often points of passion for the teachers where they have invested time to get successful results. Here teachers will not be constructing an entirely new unit from the ground-up, but seeing instead how technology can augment previous successes. It is a more forgiving entry point from which they can operate from a position of greater comfort.

4. Help them understand that simply using technology is not the same as APPROPRIATE and MEANINGFUL use

Supporting effective technology integration means more than just mandating its use. Much like teaching people how to drive, we should not be too overly excited just because people will get behind the wheel and spin around a parking lot. That is a great starting point, but it is just that. Setting the bar higher, discussing pedagogy and framework, makes it clear that there is educational value and weakens the image of technology as a faddish gimmick. Establishing a conversation that defines meaningful and appropriate use, and allowing teachers the professional time to share their practice with each, will help the entire school to grow and build upon each other’s successes.

5. Let them know the greater “Why?”

Change for change’s sake will never be as meaningful as change that is focused on achieving a shared goal or objective. If your school can effectively align your program with your school and community goals and values, accepting it will make a lot more sense. Too often new programs seem to undercut or debase previous initiatives, causing confusion or a sense of changing direction. (Part of this can be caused by dramatic unveilings and theatrical rollouts.) For teachers, this can seem like their work – and more importantly their time – have been lost. Demonstrating how technology initiatives are another part of a step towards the established goals of your school will help these teachers move past their initial sense of reluctance. Teachers may be more likely to move forward if they view this as the next step on a continuing journey, and not a new journey altogether.

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From Smoke Signals to Tweets: How The Evolution Of Communication Is Changing Your Classroom

This post was a collaboration with EdTechTeacher’s Beth Holland as a post for Edudemic. See the original posting here. 

From quill and ink, to slate and chalk, to pencil and paper, to typewriter, to computer, to iPad…. each evolution of technology has allowed students to make their thinking visual, articulate their ideas, demonstrate their understanding of concepts and skills, collaborate with their peers, and communicate in complex and modern ways.

Each advance has made it possible for those who master them to go a little further and to communicate a little more effectively. Historically, people who have taken the time to learn these technologies, or develop new ones, have reaped great rewards.

Andrew Carnegie was “discovered” because of his ability to use the telegraph – the peak of communication at the time – to unravel a rail snarl that paralyzed his company.

Thomas Edison created a way for people to record themselves, and others, and share these messages widely.

Bill Gates invented a way for people to visually interact with data on their computers.

Tim Berners Lee (not Al Gore) designed the Internet so that computers, and their subsequent users, could connect, communicate, and collaborate. With all of these individuals, each one mastered a newer form of complex communication and then became innovators in how they used it.

The technology of today simply takes this connection, communication, and collaboration to a new level and is tied to a process that began, perhaps, with the first use of smoke signals. In fact, the writing of this article would not have been as efficient without these new technologies.

  • The conversation started on Twitter as direct messages.
  • Brief planning period via email ensued.
  • Creation and shift to Google Doc where writing, commenting, and instant messaging proceeded.
  • Final sharing back on Twitter.

Classroom Applications

Note that neither a phone, nor a face-to-face meeting, occurred. In fact, we have only met in person on one occasion, and yet we can seamlessly collaborate. So how does this apply to the classroom? Why is it essential when we are using devices with students that we go beyond simply giving students a tool and expect them to create course-specific content with it?

Because unlike with previous technologies, the teaching of associated social skills seems to have been ignored. We can all remember our parents teaching us to politely answer a phone and write a letter. These norms transferred easily to the realm of e-mail, but how about a 140 character Tweet or a short text? How do we, as educators, help our students to develop skills to use the device as a tool of creation and the social skills to use it without negative consequence?

This actually raises another question, WHY has the modeling of communication, collaboration, and social skills not accompanied these new advances? Educators, parents, and adults have experienced turmoil and discomfort because there have been few rules to go along with these latest technologies and platforms; because, frankly, they have been created and instigated by our students. The telegraph, telephone, computer, and even the Internet were invented by established adults. Facebook, one of the more disruptive technologies, took off because of a college-aged kid! Teens started texting long before their parents.

The Anomie Problem

Since we, as adults, did not model appropriate usage for our children and students, they don’t know how to react to these new communication styles, struggling to determine when they should use them and when they should not. This state of “anomie” or normlessness can be frustrating at the very least. This was true with the invention of cars, phones, walkmen, ipods and is no less true for devices in the classroom. Just think, about how hard theaters have worked to educate people about cell phone use during movies and plays. Consider the efforts currently being made to prevent texting and driving. Society is working hard to create norms in light of the rapid evolution of new technologies.

As teachers, we will need to focus on helping students to learn the norms that relate to having devices in class as well as the appropriate context in which to use – or not use – them. We will need to help the students master the social implications of using these tools appropriately in order to make sure that they add to, rather than distract from, their learning.

How It Looks In The Classroom

Given the challenges of piloting programs, integrating technology, and addressing 21st Century Skills, how do we also teach these complex communication strategies? What does this look like in the classroom?

  • Angela Cunningham (@kyteacher) had her students Tweet the history of the United States as a review activity for their AP exam. However, she first had to teach them to Tweet. With slips of paper, they planned hashtags for major events and handles for significant historical figures. On other occasions, students organized reviews by Tweeting summaries of entire chapters of their book, and then, as a group, evaluated their effectiveness. In each case, students needed to evaluate information, identify the essential importance, and relate that significance to their classmates. Each Twitter activity created a lasting record of the process that reached an audience beyond the classroom.
  • Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy) not only models digital citizenship and successful blogging strategies for her third-grade students, but also encourages them to blog. Throughout the year, they discuss the concept of being public, and published, as well as the ensuing social responsibility. Since she moderates all student posts and comments before they become public, Suzy creates a non-threatening learning environment where she has the chance to discuss digital citizenship and effective online communication without concerns about a negative impact.
  • Tony Perez (@TonyPerez) presents FaceBook to his students at the Atlanta Girls School in the larger context of “finding our voice using Social Media.” The ultimate goal is for the students to understand that, to an increasing degree, they are who the Internet says they are. Given an understanding of that concept, students learn to take an active role in the presentation of their own self and ask if they are painting an authentic picture. All of this is presented under the context that everything we post, re-post, Tweet, Like or otherwise engage in on the web and in social media, along with our surfing habits, purchases, and email, contributes to the long-tail which follows us across the web and through the years. It is this body of information about us that creates the larger, universal “my profile” – or, in other words, our digital brand.

Modern Challenges

Today, we are faced with the challenge of helping to define for our students what is appropriate and effective for these new devices – iPad, Chrome Book, laptop, smart phone, etc. As we think about how we can effectively leverage them to transform our curriculum and empower our students as creators, we also need to think about how we are developing our students as citizens and future leaders in the digital world. Just as long ago elders shared the best use of the smoke signal with their children as well as its drawbacks (Smoke signals give you an advantage over your enemies, but also tell them exactly where you are). Or, perhaps more realistically, we have been tasked to guide our students to create appropriate and effective norms of their own.

The next challenge, and maybe the next step in the successful integration of new technology will be to examine our own behavior in how we choose to use, leverage, and model usage of these new tools to not only reflect our own values but also shape those of our students.

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How Education Technology Is Like Betamax

This blog is cross posted from its original posting on the Edudemic site. Access the original post here.

Are you a Betamax? by Beth Holland and Shawn McCusker

betamax

Source: TopTenz.net

Now that we are all excited about integrating iPads into the classroom, what’s next? What are we all going to do in 18.. 24.. 36.. months when the next great device comes along? Are we all going to just start over? How do we, as educators, avoid being the next Betamax: that flash in the pan that couldn’t scale up and adjust to a rapidly changing market?

While Betamax may be gone, the idea behind it – that people wanted to easily access videos and then store them to watch later –  lives on in every DVD player, and mobile device, that exists today. If you were someone who looked and saw the big picture idea of Beta as the sharing and storing of videos (or of information, images, video,  and data), you may not have been upset by its demise and would probably not be surprised by the popularity of today’s technologies that perform the same functions. Similarly, you would neither be shocked by the popularity of the Blu-Ray format that delivers an ever higher quality product, nor by web sites such as YouTube or Vimeo.

However, the person who found comfort in the familiarity of the small cassettes and argued against VHS on principle, as well as out of loyalty, would have seen the demise of Betamax as a tragedy and their investment in it as a useless waste of time. So how does this apply to education?

How It Applies To Education

If your 1:1 or technology program is simply the endorsement of a platform, then you might find yourself with the next Betamax. What real learning gains have been made with the chosen device? Would this learning be valuable if the chosen tool was retired and replaced by a new one tomorrow? Could you, your colleagues, and your students apply your big picture idea regardless of the technology platform? These question may guide you towards  getting to what is truly important.

 

“Don’t pilot a device… pilot a pedagogy!” – Anthony Salcito (@AnthonySalcit0)

betamax tape player

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betamax

Teaching with technology is about being able to clearly articulate well-defined learning objectives and to encourage students to leverage the best possible tools in order to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and understanding in complex and modern ways…..

At first glance, this statement may not sound like anything more than good solid pedagogy – and that’s the point. Too often, we talk about implementing a device, or piloting a program, rather than leveraging a new quiver of tools to create more dynamic, creative, exciting, and resource-rich learning environments for our students.

The creativity with which students can now demonstrate their understanding as they strive to meet these objectives is what makes modern-day technology so exciting for education. In fact, it is pretty safe to say that from the time that this was written, to the moment when it is read, several new creative outlets to demonstrate learning will appear.

What will not change, however, is this need to direct students towards acquiring understanding as well as effectively expressing their comprehension. Without that endpoint in mind, no app, no program, no website and no device will improve learning. Without that learning objective in mind, and a clearly defined challenge before them, students will see technology as nothing more than the games that it offers them, rather than the learning opportunities that could present themselves through its use.   

5 Betamax Prevention Strategies

Now what? As educators, how do we continue to stay on the cutting edge? How do we ensure that with all of the tools, and talk, we don’t lose sight of our big idea? Here are five strategies for preventing obsolete-ism.

  1. Embrace the fact that we are all life-long learners. Too often, adults forget to keep learning. Read books. Watch the news. Follow a few blogs. Do whatever it takes to continually discover new ideas.EdudemicEdutopiaEdTechTeacherEducation Week, and Free Technology for Teachers are great starting points. From there, branch out and read the blogs of individual teachers: Kevin JarrettSuzy BrooksChris HarrowKatrina KennettKeith Rispin, and Charity Preston to name a few.  The number of teachers problem solving and experimenting with technology is staggering.  Sharing in their experience can help you to grow.
  2. Expand your Personal Learning Community. Teachers get stuck in their classrooms, but there is an entire world of people online willing to collaborate. You may excel at problem solving, but the world of technology, and the corresponding shift to technology in the classroom, will present you with an overload of problems to solve.  You could probably accomplish this yourself if given enough time, but through collaboration, your class, your school, and your students can grow faster. After all, one of our greatest concerns as teachers is time – and how to manage it. A strong Personal Learning Community can weather the minor problems, share successes, and offer support to everyone.
  3. Failure is not an option… It’s a requirement! Embrace and share both your successes and your failures. While it is good to have a high standard at your school, adopting a new technology will also require you to share what does not work. If classroom teachers are afraid to share what goes wrong, the whole community could be repeating failures that may be avoided. In your discussions, in addition to talking about what goes well, and what you are proud of, make sure to also discuss what goes wrong. There are usually more lessons learned from failures than from successes.
  4. Don’t be afraid to play! According to Dan Callahan, Instructional Technology Specialist at Pine Glen Elementary, “The most innovative educators are the ones who aren’t afraid to play.” Push all of the buttons. Challenge yourself to try out new tools. See what you and your students can create. You won’t know what’s possible if you don’t try to figure it out.
  5. Ask WHY questions. WHY follow a particular scope and sequence? WHY assess student understanding with the same essay topic? WHY integrate a new tool? The answer should always take you back to HOW this new tool, technique, subject, etc. helps students achieve desired learning objectives and addresses their learning needs. If you have an answer to WHY, then you have not lost sight of the big picture.

Beth Holland and Shawn McCusker will both be leading pre-conference workshops at the upcomingEdTechTeacher iPad Summit. There are a few spaces still available in their sessions. For more information and registration, visit ipadsummitusa.org.

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October 18, 2012 · 7:15 pm