Live Recording of the “So We’ve Been Thinking…” Podcast at the EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit Boston

Last week was the annual EdTechTeacher Innovation summit in Boston.  I presented on Augmented and Virtual Reality, Digital Citizenship & Creation Tools, as well as giving an Ignite Presentation.

As if that were not enough, Greg Kulowiec and I recorded a live episode of the “So We’ve Been Thinking…” Podcast where we discussed our purpose, process and history.  Presenting live was something we discussed before we recorded our first episode, so the session was a proud accomplishment on many levels.

As we set off on planning episodes for part two of Season 1, it was fun to look back and reflect on what we have learned.

Thanks to Greg Kulowiec for sharing the video of the session after my video was lost.

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Constructing Narratives in The History Classroom

This article was originally published in “Digital Learning” Magazine.  It was co-wrtitten by my friend and colleague Tom Driscoll. 

As history teachers, we strive for a few key outcomes. We want our students to learn the history of world civilizations and appreciate their culture and heritage. We seek to help students develop critical thinking skills, locate and evaluate sources, construct arguments and form new connections and ideas. Once developed, we strive to have students communicate their understanding and viewpoints.

While the goals of the history classroom have remained, for the most part, consistent over time, what has changed dramatically in recent years is our ability to access an abundance of resources and tools that can make the process of learning and the expression of that learning come alive for the students in our classrooms.

In this article, we will highlight ways that teachers can leverage technology to advance these goals. From online discussion forums to virtual tours around the world, there are countless ways that we can amplify history teaching with technology.

Here is a link to the full article.

DL01_p36-47_Constructing Narratives in the History Classroom

Here is a link to the Digital Learning Magazine https://www.teachingtimes.com/publications/digitallearning.htm

 

The So We’ve Been Thinking Podcast

I have been working on a project reviewing past writing and in doing so realized that I have not yet written here about the “So We’ve Been Thinking…” Podcast.

For the last two months Greg Kulowiec and I have been building a podcast. The ultimate aim of this passion project is to explore discussions around education, educational technology, modern literacy, innovation and work. We want to talk to everyone, teachers, students, leaders, experts, authors, agitators, and researchers.

Beyond that though, we also want to take a look at what it is like to find work and do business in the world today to determine if schools are preparing students for the world of work that they are about to enter. So I have been reaching out to former students to hear their stories and experiences in the working world. I’ve been focusing on those who have jobs in technology or education related fields, to explore the intersection of education, technology and careers in the real world.

Working on the podcast with Greg has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career in education. We have set out to learn and we want to share the story of that learning in a public way much like we did in the early days of #sschat (Social Studies Chat) on twitter.

I would be honored if you would give it a listen. The response to the work so far has been overwhelming. I was excited when our listens climbed into the hundreds and that feeling only deepens now that we have crossed over into many thousands.

I’m loving the work and the feeling that I am learning and bettering myself and I’d like  to share that with you.

Here is a link to So We’ve Been Thinking Project page where you can access “So We’ve Been Thinking through all of the major podcast services. https://www.sowevebeenthinking.com/podcast/

The Smart Phone Generation is About to Graduate

Have you ever wondered if the work you do in the classroom has truly prepared your students for the world? I do. A lot. Especially as the pace of change in our world becomes faster and faster. Sometimes keeping up with that change can be hard, but it is important so that education is preparing students as we send them out into the world.

Students who graduate at the end of this school year (2018-2019) began school some time around 2006. The first iPhone came out that year. The iPad released in 2010 followed quickly by the Chromebook in 2011. The popularity of 1:1 programs began changing the relationships that students had with information and the way they were connected to the world outside of school.

Most of these kids have always had some level of internet access, and a good portion of them have had access to a web connected device as part of their learning. At school, a new, abundant economy of information emerged in schools, as in the rest of the world. Think of the changes that that have taken place in that time in our world and hopefully in our schools.

This year’s graduating class learned through the entire transition, and will set out into a world we could barely have imagined when they were born in 2000. Their reality is having their own devices in their pockets and within their reach at all hours of the day. . They have navigated social media as part of their daily lives and have had nearly every fact at their disposal, always.

Pause for just a moment and think about just the ways that communicating with a friend is different today. As a child I never had to request to be added as a friend and was never judged based upon the number of followers that I had. I never had to worry about maintaining all of my Snapchat streaks or who I feel comfortable adding to my Instagram spam account versus, my regular Instagram account.

Keeping all of this in mind, today France has banned devices from the majority of their schools. I’m sure that there are some who see this as a step in the right direction, but for me I just gasped, and felt sad.

The most powerful tool that a child has ever entered a classroom with… was just banned…by an entire country. How can you say that you are preparing a student for the world when you make schools places that do not resemble that world? How can that not have serious consequences. I suspect that in a year or two the French will publish data that their test scores have risen as a result. Even if that happens, this will be no less of a tragedy. This is bigger than scores.

France, you can’t roll back time and make it 2006 again. (Honestly we were way down this path even before then.) Banning phones will not protect the French institution of education, it will only serve to further erode its relevance. Banning phones will not uphold values that you feel are threatened by technology, only teaching those values in the context of technology will.

We should be preparing students for reality rather than hiding from it even when that presents difficult challenges. If these tools have become the dominant form of communication in our lives, using them effectively is going to be important in the jobs that they will one day be competing for.

For teachers, the lesson here is to reflect on if we are addressing the issues, trends and needs of our students in our classes through meaningful lessons, meaningful work and by addressing important values. Or are we trying hold back the future, like France.

Get Out of Your Own Way

Looking back on 25 years of classroom teaching, I can say that the greatest changes that I made to my classroom practice began in 2006, when I had a principal that pulled me aside and told me that I should really push the limits and rethink my classroom. What she actually told me was, “Some teachers I feel need me to guide them to change. I think I can help you best by getting out of your way.”  I had a green light, blank check, clearance from the tower.

But in retrospect, at this point where I had the institutional barriers to change removed, I built my own.

I was teaching full inclusion Special Ed US history in a room where ⅓ of the students had IEP, ED, BD plans. I had confidently volunteered to teach the class, saying that I knew exactly what I would do. Which was a combination of wishful thinking and bravado. My cooperating SPED teacher (who was amazing) and I were eager to try new things and started of the year by rethinking homework, due dates and tests. We implemented test retakes and test corrections. I read books, talked to my principal regularly and had a clear vision of what I wanted to do.

But in every instance, I created obstacles and limits on these changes that prevented my classroom from moving forward.

I limited who could do test corrections and how often any one person could do them. (If these processes are learning, why would I limit their chances to continue to learn?)

I was flexible on turning in work, but I limited how often I was flexible and I still imposed harsh penalties for timeliness. (If I identify a hard working student, capable of learning but who needs more time to do so, why would I make time a key continuing factor in their grades?)

I changed classroom activities to be more student centered, but I still maintained dominion over what those activities were. In the back of my head, my current mantra “Choose the destination, not the path” was forming but I was still creating narrow, singular paths to the learning objective. (So long as they arrive at the objective, how concerned am I really about the path that gets them there?)

In hindsight I think there were many reasons for holding back. I was certainly concerned about other teachers. It was my first year at a brand new school.

I was very aware of how parents saw what I was doing, and concerned about helping them to understand and see value in what I was doing. I felt an uneasiness each time we used cell phones in class, secretly set up a wifi network, or threw away the textbook.

Now I see that these were excuses that I made, because there we little to no actual instances where any of these fears were made real.

If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice knowing what I know today, it would be “Get out of your own way.” I knew what I wanted, I was on the right path, yet I kept building roadblocks. Often, (but certainly not always) institutional roadblocks were perceived, but disappeared as my resolve to change grew stronger. What really held me back was me and my perception of how big of a leap I could take.

What are the changes that you believe you need to make? How are you limiting your own ability to achieve them? What personal roadblocks could you remove today?

Get out of your own way.

Building Your Classroom Campfire

Choosing the tools that you use in a classroom is an important part of building the environment you hope to create. Just as teachers arrange desks and invest time in bulletin boards to create physical spaces, tech tools contribute to the digital space of a classroom.

My first principal once told me that you can learn a lot about a teacher just by looking at their classroom. I took that to heart and always tried to build a space that served my mission. I remember looking back on the wonder that was my 5th grade teacher. I can’t remember everything that I learned that year, but I loved walking into that room.

I think we can learn a lot about a teacher from the digital spaces that they create.

So I have been thinking…are we as careful about the way we are constructing our digital classroom? Do we vet the choices that we are making about digital learning spaces as heavily as we do those of our physical spaces, not just in terms of what they accomplish in terms of tasks but also in terms of them as a space that students inhabit? Are we concerned if they are warm and welcoming places as much as we are when students walk into our physical classes on day one?

Some time ago I started thinking of the classroom as a campfire. The campfire is a place where after a long day, people come together, get to know each other, celebrate and share experiences. Campfires draw people in and value sharing. Then, invariably they lead people to stare into the fire and reflect. I won’t belabor the analogy here, but there is a lot about seeing the classroom as a campfire that works. (Though I am temp

ted to point out that I have never been to a campfire gathering built on a lecture format.)

Another facet of the “Classroom Campfire” is “What kind of fire do you need to accomplish your task.” Smores, cookout or bonfire, large group or small, you need to plan a fire that serves your mission. Choose wisely and build the right campfire. Tools are no different.

Classroom tools are not neutral, they complete a task but they also have a feel and make statements about what is important. Some LMS tools are sterile and cold while completing a task

well and making it easier for teachers to organize and distribute work. Some web tools are fun, but limit a classes ability to share reflect and return to the work later on. Some tools are powerful but are hard to get familiar (high cost of admission but the show is great.) None of these things are necessarily a problem, if you are constructing a digital classroom space thoughtfully keeping in mind the sum total effect that these tools have on the kids.

Are your students operating in a digital classroom space that is as carefully constructed as the physical space that you create for them? Are you proud of the digital space that you have created?

San Diego Innovation Summit Keynote

While I have not been good about posting to this blog in the last year, I have still stayed very busy traveling and presenting.  Last week I delivered a keynote at the San Diego Innovation Summit titled “Behind the Science of Innovation: 
Bringing About Significant Positive Change.”  Co presenting with Beth Holland, our goal was to look at the actual science and research behind innovative teaching.  We look at what the research says and what the implications are for teachers in the age of information.

 

Teaching the Humanities with Technology

Today I participated in a webinar about integrating technology in Humanities classrooms. One of the reasons I like to participate in these events is that it forces me to evaluate myself and my practice and allows me to collect many new ideas. If you notice towards the end, while the others are talking I start writing ideas down. Look for future posts that share black out poetry and common craft videos. I’m also really excited to look into Vocabla (http://vocabla.com/ ) and Inkle Writer (http://www.inklestudios.com/inklewriter/) .

If you are interested I will be presenting on Creating a Culture of Writing at the EdTechTeacher Summit in July and I will leading variety of workshops  throughout June.

Teachers’ Most Powerful Role? Adding Context

This article originally appeared on Mindshift/KQED.

“And it’s here, in these seemingly disjointed moments, that the expertise of the teacher is crucial to uniting the class’s learning. Teachers need to create the dynamic that transforms individual moments into a broader experience where the class benefits from the complete range of learning that has taken place.” 

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/04/teachers-most-powerful-role-adding-context/

Teaching in the New (Abundant) Economy of Information

Excerpt: In the past, teachers gave life to learning for generations of students — no different than today. But they were operating in an environment of scarcity that would make today’s teachers cringe (and they do, every time the Internet is down for more than just a short while). As the information available and our ability to access it increases, this new economy of information is transforming the practice of teaching and the roles of both teacher and student.

Creating an effective 1:1 program is not so simple as distributing devices. schools will need to make the devices part of their school culture, socialize their students for appropriate use and commit themselves to working with teachers to redefine effective teaching practice. This post reflects on the how the role of the teacher is effected by the abundance of information in their classroom.

While I can’t republish the Mind/Shift article here in its entirety, here is a link to the full article.