Category Archives: professional development

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

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

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.

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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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Filed under #blogging, #edtech, 1:1, edudemic, general education, pedagogy, professional development

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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Filed under #edtech, edudemic, general education, professional development

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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Beware Ye Smashing Archetypes…

I have dedicated a fair amount of my life to redefining  the experience in my classroom over the past 3 years.  I still have a lot to do but I am proud of  how far I have come.  I count the following among my successes.

-Students are far more central to class activities than they ever were.  I give them more choices and much more control not only in what we learn but how we will learn it. 

-The products that students submit are widely varied but show a deeper understanding of learning.

-We have deeper more nuanced conversations about our subject matter (history) than we ever have before. Students find messy histories that we need to make sense of, something that did not happen very often before.

-There are different voices being heard in my classes. Students who used to get A’s are contributing great things to class and students who once sat silent find ways to share in ways that weren’t possible before.

All of the above are the results of having tools that help me redefine learning, but redefining learning is not without consequences. If you are to promote the change, you should be aware of some potential consequences.

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Some changes can been seen as destructive to the prevailing archetypes of how learning should take place.  Intentionally or not, people can be threatened by, resistant to and dismissive of the changes. If you are closely associated with the change, they will project these feelings on you as well. Unsettling the masses wasn’t on my to do list, but in a sense the people who feel this way aren’t exactly wrong.

 What I have gained from all of this is that the best way to drive change is not to become the evangelical techie who condemns the  practices of other teachers, but to respect the effective teaching they have done and show them where technology can add to what they already do so well.  Accept that the transformation technology creates in the classroom is not imposed, but is rather a process that a teacher undergoes once they understand what is now possible. That is where the actual growth and the real change happens.

If you present technology as the end of what we know and love, it is natural to resent it. Beware condemning their past practice. It is a common  mistake.  However, if we present technology as a tool that will help teachers to more effectively accomplish the goals that they have dedicated their lives to, we have to hope they will embrace it. One thing that I am proud of is that regardless of personality, every person I work with on a given day cares deeply about helping our students.  They won’t hesitate to employ tools that make that possible.

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