Category Archives: pedagogy

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.

 

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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.

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April 24, 2014 · 5:13 pm

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/

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Filed under 1:1, general education, MindShift, pedagogy, professional development

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.

 

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Why It’s Time To Change How Students Cite Their Work

This article was originally posted on Edudemic on February 20th, 2014.  See the original post here.

When students write a paper, it goes without saying that they must cite the sources that they use in creating it. For generations, students have created note cards to document and organize these resources and/or submitted a bibliography page with their finished work.

In the modern classroom, student research and creation has taken on a new look. Before, when students created a poster, and then separately handed in a bibliography page to the teacher, justice was done and fair credit was given for the ideas used.

However, as widespread sharing of these projects becomes more common, and the internet allows students to reach an audience far beyond the school or classroom, we need to re-evaluate this procedure and address our responsibility to share these sources – not just with the teacher or school, but with all who might consume the project.

Without readily available sources to review, the audience cannot truly evaluate the validity of the project. They are left with what might be a beautiful and elegant project (the product) without knowing the sources used to construct it (the process).

Sharing sources with an audience is how we can focus on the PROCESS of creation rather than seeing only the PRODUCT.

Sharing Sources of Student Work

1. Include citations for individual pieces of information within the products themselves. This method has the advantage of sharing the sources with those who are consuming the project. For a classroom, this further engages the class in evaluating the sources that are used and allows them to ask “is that a valid source?” or “does that source have a perspective or a bias?”

2. Have students create a traditional bibliography page in Google Drive and include a link to it on their project. This will increase the likelihood that students will explore sources and evaluate projects at a deeper level. The same could be done with Evernote or a shared document in Dropbox.

3. For traditional paper projects, science fair projects, posters, mobiles or other display work, have the students provide a shortened URL to let others find and explore their works cited as they view the product. This will also work for electronic work such as PrezisGlogstersPoppletsGoogle Presentations or online videos. Shortnened URLs can be created at tinyurl.com or by using chrome extensions such as goo.gl URL shortener.

3. In place of a Tiny URL, use a QR code to link viewers to works cited. QR codes can be created for free using QR Kaywa or QRCode Monkey. QR codes are an image file that can be easily added to online projects, and are equally effective when added to the end of videos.

In our information-rich world, accessing information is a daily activity, making it essential to credit the sources being used. This is no less true in elementary school, high school or college. The “Culture of Creation” that emerges in connected classrooms makes this even more important, and putting it at the forefront of creation will allow for a healthy and necessary evaluation of how classwork is created and the ideas used to do so.

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Creativity and Learning with iPads (Devices)

I participated in this webinar yesterday on the topic of Creativity. it was great to chat with outstanding Aussie educator Paul Hamilton. My only regret is that I was not able to chat more with the amazing Kiwi educator Richard Wells. Both are innovators and blazing new trails for effective use of iPads in the classroom.

This topic of creativity has begun to consume more and more of my thinking. Though transitioning to a 1:1 classroom is what began the process, I see  that while the devices are wonderful mediums for expressing creativity, the classroom procedures and policies that go along with them do just as much to encourage students to create.

Though the title refers to iPads this video would be no less helpful to those with other devices. The conversation trended to creativity in general and how to encourage and foster it.

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January 16, 2014 · 8:58 am

5 Demands Placed on Students in a 1:1

1. Manage the Technology: In addition to learning and completing assignments students have an array or responsibilities simply in managing the device.  The device needs to be charged, apps and programs need to be updated so that they continue to function correctly. At first students and perhaps parents may scoff at the idea that these tasks are part of learning. It can be hard to keep them accountable for them, but just as important as it is to have paper, a pen, a PE uniform or safety goggles, having a functioning device is key to being “ready to learn.”

2.  Make Learning Choices:  The volume of data being evaluated and sifted through and the freedom for students to construct ideas with their own information make 1:1 powerful. One roadblock to this is the “Tell Me What To Do?” mindset that many students have. This is not something reserved to struggling or resistant students.  Many of the best and the brightest students are not used to having choices and being held accountable for making them.  At first many students will get stuck when they get to a fork in the road.  Teachers need to help students get past the fear of deciding. Making clear goals for lessons and having a set of class values to guide those decisions will help. For choosing sources my classes have developed a series standards for what is best. Is the source reputable? Do you know who the author is? Can we identify potential biases in the writing? Does the source list its sources so that we can evaluate them?  The same types of procedures are necessary for choosing the format for their products as well. How does the platform enhance or support the ideas that you are trying to convey? With help and time, students learning to not only embrace, but be excited by the choices and possibilities.  They are more comfortable with bigger decisions about how they will learn.

3.  Problem Solve Together:  There is a big difference between working together and problem solving together.  My 1:1 classroom has taking problem solving to a completely different level.  Often we invent assignments together as a class.  As a result the students have to create a plan for completing them. It is common to have a problem that leads to debates and sometimes even disagreements.  Working through these common roadblocks is a ubiquitous part of my classes today.  More and more I am able to stand back and let them work it out.

4.  Protect Their Data:  There are few things worse than watching a student who has worked hard lose all of that work, effort and time due to a technology glitch.  Several students this year lost 12 weeks of work, all of which could have been saved with a few simple steps. Blaming the device is often a natural reaction. The reality is that we have to assume that the technology will fail us and take steps to protect our data.  If the work that we are doing is valid, authentic and important it is going to hurt, and hurt badly to lose it.  Tools like Dropbox, Evernote and Drive make protecting work easy.  Other apps and programs take a bit more time and effort.  That time and effort is time well spent.

5.  Teach the Teacher: Independent student work means that I am often listening to students explain how they came to a conclusion, solved a problem or worked through a technology issue.  Listening is a bigger part of the 1:1 teachers day than it used to be. It can take a while before students see the value in these explanations.  Many students still see school simplistically: Get assignment, complete assignment, turn in assignment.  Eventually classes begin to enjoy hearing how people did their work.  this is especially true when we are sharing projects.  Selfishly this change makes class more exciting for me too.  I constantly learn new tricks and tips to share in the future.  Here is an example of a Venn diagram assignment that became a lesson for me on stop animation.  I’ve been excited to try it ever since it was turned in.

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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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Filed under #edtech, 1:1, edudemic, general education, iPad, pedagogy

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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When To Put The Tech Away In Your 1:1 (or Any) Classroom

This article was originally posted on Edudemic. You can read the original post on the Edudemic site here. multitasking-mobile-devices-557x362

When we work with schools embarking on 1:1 programs, losing classroom culture often tops the list of concerns. Teachers worry about too much screen time and lack of face-to-face interaction. Between the two of us, we have taught  in 1:1 environments with students in grades 2-12. Despite the wonderful learning opportunities afforded by these devices, sometimes, the technology is best when turned off.

Turning OFF an Elementary Classroom

power-off

“1-2-3 look at me!” I (Beth) exploded to my students. And then, as if I had been a teacher at Hogwarts rather than a PS-8 school in Newport, RI, the room magically went silent. All eyes turned away from their screens and focused on me standing in the middle of the room waving my hand in the air. Suddenly, I had ripped control back from the gleaming iMacs that lined the lab. We had returned to a state of control and learning could re-commence.

We’d had enough technology, and now it was time to re-engage as a class. Clearly, the iMacs had become a deterrent to learning rather than a catalyst, so it was time to re-group. Would I recommend the above strategy to middle or high school students? Absolutely not. However, with my elementary students, it worked – for a while.

Over the years, I established different routines with different groups of students. Some came straight into the lab, sat down at the computers, and got to work. Others gathered in a circle at the front of the room to discuss the goals of the day, answer questions, or collaborate on a project. With my youngest students, we often sat in a circle, on the floor, in an area devoid of all technology at the start and finish of each class. That allowed us to see and listen to each other without the distraction of the screen.

In an elementary classroom, children bouncing out of their chairs, loud screeching noises, and then occasional slew of waving hands amongst shouts of “it isn’t working” make it obvious to put away the technology. Even while teaching in a computer lab, times existed where we needed to sit in a circle and talk about learning objectives. We also needed to sing “C is for Copy” and play the“Server Game” to apply physical attributes to virtual concepts. However, as students get older, the signs may not be as obvious.

When and Why to Add Technology

tech-savvy students

Though failing to include any technology in the modern classroom is wrong, including too much, or employing it ineffectively, can be equally problematic. Having a list of specific instances where choosing to put away classroom technology is the right choice would certainly be nice, but like most pedagogical challenges it is also unrealistic. Oftentimes, it simply isn’t that easy to know whether to put it away or not., and the skill of making that choice develops over time – a bit like a callous.

At its best, technology enhances, extends or deepens the learning taking place. At its worst, it detracts, distracts, and otherwise frustrates you and your students. When these situations cannot quickly and effectively be remedied – without sacrificing your lesson’s learning objective – put the technology down and embrace the lesson.

The trick is to never let technology erode the relationships in your classroom.  It takes awhile understand to how to effectively create the same relationships that existed in a traditional classroom.  When the teacher is talking less and the students are interacting more, the process for building community looks and feels very different.

Lessons from Going 1:1 in High School Classroom

When I (Shawn) lectured more, it was very easy to end the class knowing that the students had shared a very similar experience together. When devices were added to my classroom, I had no guarantee that would happen. As we worked more individually and in small groups, I realized that I had eroded some of the community that I had prized so highly.  This created tension in the class and left me shaken. I  learned that I had to focus and find ways to build a better community and create shared values in smaller increments of time.

Until you find that balance, take time – outside of instruction if necessary – to build your classroom community.  You can come back to blazing a new trail, as it will be more successful and rewarding to everyone if they are doing so in a trusting and supportive classroom. It is an investment with a return and certainly not wasted time.

The first weeks and months of any 1:1 pilot are difficult. Facing each new learning obstacle with a new device seems awkward, ungainly, and not part of the normal planning process. There WILL be a moment when using technology to solve a problem actually becomes the problem itself. For example, the first time that I used dropitto.me, I failed to realize the importance of a standard naming convention. As a result,  ⅓ of the students assignments were lost. Oops!

Don’t Be Afraid to “Abort Mission”

focus in technology

Even the best lesson plans – complete with clearly defined learning objectives, tested tools, and the most creative intentions – can fail miserably, and technology can certainly expedite the process. When the class activity or project begins to unravel, there is nothing wrong with shifting gears or changing directions. My (Beth’s) virtual archaeology project looked beautiful on paper, but the web sites were above my students’ reading level, and the collaborative tools crashed. After three class periods of scaffolding, re-directing, and suffering, we just moved on.

Technology is a lot like sharing a good story with your class. When it connects to the lesson and provides a solid memorable story that students can wrap their minds around, go with it.  When the story fizzles, the connection is lost – or it becomes a self-inflicted class distraction – set it aside, regroup and try to be wiser the next time.

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