“If educational technology and 1:1 education are going to thrive, school leaders must be focused on constantly employing the best practices and tools in relation to the most pressing needs of their students. Managing and sustaining these programs means that the big choices don’t stop after a platform has been selected. Getting devices in the hands of students is just the beginning.”
I have listened to and been a part of many discussions or debates about the specific platform that schools should use for their 1:1 program. At some level most of these discussions end with people listing the benefits of their preferred choice. Spending too much time focused on choosing “the” device can narrow the focus on what the purpose of having the technology is in the first place.
While I can’t republish the Mind/Shift article here in its entirety, here is a link to the full article.
MacBook, Chromebook, iPads: Why Schools Should Think beyond Platform
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.
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.
Putting Tech Before Content– New tech is exciting. Students (and teachers) will be focused on the new devices. It is easy to get sidetracked by the excitement. I spent so much time trying to front load all of the setup, sign up and procedure that I lost something essential to my class. While they were fired up about technology, I had not gotten the students excited about history. Keep your focus on your content. It is your content that defines your class and it is your content that will drive the way you use your device, not the other way around.
Too Much Too Fast– It is hard for students to get comfortable with a new piece of technology unless they have time. Requiring too many new tech competencies to quickly upsets students. They need time to build upon past skills and integrate them with new ones. I buried my students in accounts and passwords. I set up everything I thought I would be using for the year within the first week. It was too much for many students. Focus on fewer more important skills and Scaffold early assignments to build to more complex ones. Think big picture.
Lack of Tech Focus- There will be times where a new technology is AMAZING and perfect to generate more learning and deeper understanding. But there will be times where it is nothing more than a shiny distraction. I am constantly asking myself “Why use this? What is the benefit? What is the loss?” Choose your essential technology carefully. Choose things that support your lesson goals and allow productivity.You can’t do everything and be distracted by every new technology you learn.
No Recovery Time– Students have grasped a new skill and they need time to absorb it, apply it, and use it effectively. When lessons go well and students succeeded I can be too quick to move on the next big idea. I quickly learned that I needed to provide some recovery time for students to get proficient before I could focus on the next tech competency. Stop, and allow them to understand before you present new technology. Beyond just taking it slow (see above) I learned that sometimes you have to take a break. Don’t over complicate this though. Sometimes knowing the right time to proceed is as simple as asking. Trust your students in this process.
Limiting Students to What the Teacher Knows– When given a choice students are going to choose tools that they are comfortable with and that allow them to express what they know. You may not have the slightest knowledge of them or how they work. It is impossible to be proficient at every web tool, app and program available. I have poured myself into learning as many as I can. There are many where I would consider myself an expert but that in no way means that they are the best resource for every student. Don’t be afraid to let students use technology beyond your knowledge base and understanding. Accept that you are student too. Learn.
See the previous article in the series here.