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

 

What is the Future of Civic Education in America

We live in interesting times, during a period of change in many of the patterns of daily life. There are many engines driving that change; technology, social media, globalization just to name a few. Regardless of which reason we credit for the changes that most affect our lives or whether we see them as positive or negative, society is at times slowly, and other times rapidly, adapting to the change. *

One micro example of how we have had to adjust to change has to do with the norms and mores of mobile devices. One benefit of technology in schools is that it has forced the conversation about what societal norms for these devices should be. Much like movie theaters were forced to socialize viewers about when it was inappropriate to use their devices, schools, and teachers had to play a role defining community values for students. Especially when faced with ever increasing numbers of students with their own devices, as well as Chromebooks, iPads, and computers once 1:1 technology programs became more common.

Screenshot 2018-10-29 14.49.03

This may seem obvious to some, but other changes crept up on us. While some may say that they saw it coming, recent elections have shown us the darker effects of social media on our democratic processes and institutions. Whether you choose to call it a crisis or not, once again schools will need to respond to the societal need to socialize students to live in a world where information flows quickly, but depending on how your social media network is constructed, can pool in silos and filter bubbles or a contain purposefully false of misleading information.

Current political trends and what some have termed the current “culture wars” highlight the need for a renewed conversation about American Civic Education. In a world where so much of our lives can be personalized, individualized and unique, what does that mean for the political ideals * that we all hold in common? Perhaps we need to reflect on the sometimes stormy relationship that the US has had with individuality and unity, while as a nation we rose to prominence in the world.

Stepping back to look at education, we should also consider the growing trends of personalized learning and differentiation that seek to make the learning experience more suited to a variety of learners. I believe with all my heart that this is a good thing. These ideas are in line with our societal belief in the worth and value of the individual. Yet at the same time individualized learning and Personalized Learning programs certainly raise the question of how we will create shared community values in these personalized programs. This does not mean that we should forego personalization, but rather that we understand and thoughtfully address the challenges that these models might present to constructing common values.

But this highlights some other societal needs. What are the values that bind us together that we should all hold in common? How can we continue to grow together, as individuals, and as Americans in coming years, in light of the changes, both known and unknown that we will face?

Ultimately it comes down to this: What are the skills that children will need to be educated and prepared to participate responsibly in the democratic process, and how can we construct Civic Education to effectively meet this need?

My partner, Tom Driscoll and I, plan to examine the current state of “Civic Education” across the country as part of an ongoing effort, “The Modern Civics Project. ” We hope to see where we are and where we might be headed, in order to find innovative answers to the challenges facing Civic Education programs today.

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.

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?

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

 

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

This post was originally published on  Daily Genius you can check it out by following the link above.

Whether you call it “fake news”, “misinformation” or the more innocuous “spin,” and whether you see this as an entirely new problem or the continuation of an already existing problem (think “War of the Worlds,” “Yellow Journalism” and “Dewey Defeats Truman”), one thing is clear: there is a powerful and pressing need to prepare our youth to make sense of the constant flow of media information that they consume everyday.

As teachers, we need to be aware of how students are consuming their information.  Recent studies have shown that 69% of Americans get their news from Facebook, while other research suggests that social media such as Snapchat and Twitter are how millennials are staying up to date with current events.  Yet a study from Stanford University suggests that a majority of young Americans cannot accurately identify what content on a web page is news and what is advertising or paid content.

Have we as teachers moved to adjust how we instruct our students to evaluate information as the sources for that information have changed? This isn’t always easy, especially since the trends in social media are fluid and changing.   While there is no one silver bullet website that can resolve this issue, many helpful resources exist. Here are a few to help you get started in constructing your curriculum.

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

The Stanford History Group: The Stanford History Group is well known to history teachers. Recently, they published an executive summary entitled EVALUATING INFORMATION: THE CORNERSTONE OF CIVIC ONLINE REASONING.  It provides a summary of the research they conducted in 2015-16 and includes samples activities geared towards middle and high school students designed to teach students to evaluate articles, comment sections, News on Social media, and website reliability.  It is a must read for teachers at any level.  The sample activities will have you thinking.

Allsides:  Allsides allows readers to evaluate the bias of news articles collected from across online news sites. The site also features the ability for readers rate news sources and individual articles as LEFT or RIGHT leaning. Students can explore the overall ratings of sites or choose articles specifically from one perspective or another.  The site is great for making comparisons of topics from several sites.

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Politifact:  Politifact is the Pulitzer prize winning fact checking website created by the Tampa Bay Times.  It uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to rate the accuracy of politicians and parties.  During last year’s election, Politifact live tweeted during debates, quickly evaluating statements and statistics.  It was a helpful tool for class discussions. The site allows you to search for topics or individual politicians.  For each rating, the site offers an explanation of how they arrived at their conclusion.

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Factcheck.org is a project from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  In addition to evaluating the truthfulness of political statements, Factcheck has a viral spiral feature that addresses internet rumors, a SciCheck page that evaluates scientific claims, and an “Ask Us” feature that allows questions to be submitted for fact checking.

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Google Custom Search: If you can’t find the tools that work best for you, you can make your own.  Google Custom search allows you to select and curate websites that will be searched by your students.  Classes can create a standard for what sites they will use for a lesson or for research assignments and then add them to their custom search if it is determined that they meet the standard. This allows the class to be active and engaged in building a collection of trusted sources.   Individual students can construct a search engine for their projects, allowing them to go back and search sources again as their research evolves.   Teachers can save a variety of different searches which can be shared with students or embedded in websites.

It should be noted that Snopes.com is missing from the list above. The site has been evaluating online news, stories, and urban legends since the 1990’s. I omitted it not because it lacks any value but because while it is useful, it is so compelling that when I take students there they can sometimes get lost down the rabbit hole.

However you are preparing your students, one thing is clear — it is critical that we, as educators, consider how our students are accessing the news and information and how we can help them actively process all that is pushed to them through social media throughout the day.

eSchool News Top 14 Trailblazing Educators on Twitter

I am proud to have been named to the eSchool News Top 14 Trailblazing Educators on Twitter.  In reflecting on my years on Twitter, I can’t help but think of all the passionate educators that I have met along the way while sharing our learning. Years of rethinking education have shown me that while there is much to do, the schools of America are full of the best kind of people.

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.

 

A Year without One-to-One via EdTechResearcher

This post originally appeared May 3rd, 2015 as a guest post on the EdTechResearcher blog. Many thanks to Justing Reich for the opportunity.  

Today’s guest post comes from Shawn McCusker, a teacher who moved from a 1:1 laptop environment to a new school with fewer technology resources. An innovator in 1:1 classroom implementation and the creation of online learning communities, Shawn is a teacher and Social Studies Department Chair at Libertyville High School (IL).

In 2006, my principal called me into her office and asked about rumors that I had been using student phones in class. It was my first year at the school, so I hesitated before acknowledging that I had. Her next reaction surprised me: she gave me free reign to use them as much as possible so long as I shared the results. She felt that we could not hold back the coming tide of technology from our classrooms. As it was just a matter of time before the ban on mobile devices in schools would end, so began my journey with mobile technology in the classroom.

Last year, after teaching for two years in a 1:1 iPad classroom, I accepted a position at a school that had not yet made the move to 1:1. Though plans were in the works to do so, for one year, my students would not have devices. While much technology would still be readily accessible in the form of carts and labs, using it in class would be more incidental and not a daily occurrence.

After a year of planning lessons without the daily presence of student devices, here are the differences that I have faced and what I look forward to in the coming year.

1. Greater Student Control of Content
I quickly realized that once my students were in possession of devices, the lecture format that had comprised a good portion of my teaching would never be the same. When students CAN fact check what you say, they do. This was difficult until I realized that it was exactly what I wanted them to do; fact check a narrative. Rather than fearing the commentary, I constructed class around it. Soon, most of the content that we discussed came from student contributions rather than my notes or the textbook. In discussions, when an unknown arose, it became a class norm for students to fill the void.

With limited access to technology, classroom resources are frequently provided by the teacher and unknowns are often left for the teacher to resolve. While incorporating student contributed content can be a priority, the timeliness and volume can’t compare when students do not have devices. Even with the greatest level of care and professionalism, this represents a filter on class content. Next year, I will prioritize the creation of a classroom that is once again fueled by sources, ideas and concepts generated by the students.

2. Multiple Perspectives and More Than One Correct Answer
When all of the world’s knowledge is available, it can be hard to reach a single conclusion. Though initially a struggle, I ultimately came to believe that the debates to construct and defend such arguments made for outstanding learning. These lessons were far more dynamic, engaging and social than previous ones. The activities allowed students to understand the way that others constructed their ideas and regularly required them to articulate their positions.

3. Dynamic Projects
The nature of class work is different without technology. More often than not, completed work is collected and exists in piles of paper. It is then graded and returned.

In technology rich classrooms, the variety of tools allows students to select the medium which best conveys their idea. Because of the unique nature of the work, these class products generated energy and commentary. Students were more excited to share what they had made and more eager to consume the work of their classmates. In fact, my new policy is that I will not assign work that I am not interested in grading. This year, without these tools available in class, it has been a challenge.

4. Feedback
One eye opening realization was the speed and volume of feedback in a 1:1 classroom. With devices, delivering feedback to students became more efficient and timely because once I posted a comment online my students were alerted and able to respond. There was no need to wait for class work to be physically handed back.

Much more powerful, however, was the volume of student feedback that was shared as my comments became just one of many. I found it helpful to construct my feedback by referring to the thoughtful comments that classmates had shared which established the class norms to define quality. This year, I have been hungry for those thoughts, and they have been harder to harvest. I regularly use Exit Slips and methods like “Fist or Five,” but I am eager to recreate the depth of commentary and to once again have the rich feedback that helps me generate more meaningful learning.

5. Student Centered Learning
The ability to add content, an environment that allowed for students to defend their interpretation of information, and dynamic student constructed projects moved students to the center of learning. It was not long before I felt comfortable asking students to help me construct learning objectives and design complete units. For example, my unit on World War II transformed into an NCAA style research tournament presided over by a jury of seniors. I would never have planned such an activity by myself, but it was highly effective and meaningful for the class.

Having technology available for a day or several days can help to move students to the center of learning, but giving them possession of those tools makes truly transformative student centered learning a reality. I am eager for the opportunity to once again harness these powerful tools for learning on a daily basis.

How to Transform Teaching with Tablets

I was proud to be included in an article in this month’s Educational Leadership.    Reading this made had me thinking about how to make my new curriculum better this year.  A friend once told me that it takes 5 years to get your class back up to speed if you change schools.  I have no intention of taking that long.

May 2015 | Volume 72 | Number 8
Teaching with Mobile Tech Pages 18-23

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may15/vol72/num08/How-to-Transform-Teaching-with-Tablets.aspx