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 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.

Share Your Story

You have a story inside you that you need to tell. More importantly, you have a story inside of you that is meaningful and will help people. It’s true for you and it is true for your students & co-workers as well. I’m begging you to be brave and share it.

As a teacher I realized that depositing a story inside the brain of a student is nowhere near as powerful as allowing students to tell their own. It may take a while to give them the confidence, and it may take a while for them to feel that people will listen to the story that they share, but once they do, it transforms the classroom. Once they have a story to share, they need way to get it out to the world, to construct a process to connect them to their audience.

How students choose to connect varies a lot. Some make movies. Some want to write children’s books. In recent years I saw a rise in the number of students who wanted to create songs to tell their stories. It all depends on their intended audience and how they can best be reached.

For the past decade or so, the way I share my story, and hear other people’s stories is through blogs. (And twitter and Instagram, but that’s a different post.)

If you look closely you can tell how long a person has been blogging by what platform they are using. Each blogging platform has had its day. New platforms come, new platforms go and they each have their day.

7 or eight years ago Blogger was a very popular choice. That’s where my first attempts attempts at professional writing began. At the same time, I regularly used “Posterous Spaces” for class projects. I learned a valuable lesson when Posterous Spaces and their innovative posting and sharing abilities, died a horrible death. I lost quite a bit of my best work as a teacher, including the EPIC “Assessing Holocaust Responsibility” project that started my collaboration with Greg Kulowiec.

Ultimately I moved on to WordPress, a site that I felt was more powerful in sharing and connecting my writing to the world. It is still the main landing pad for my writing. But that said, new products arise and my eyes wander. Lately I am infatuated with Medium for the simplicity of the service and the wide range of writing that is published there. For a moment, just a moment, I considered packing up and moving my blog to Medium.

Fortunately, I found a great tool that allows me to use both of these services, maintaining the tools, followers and connections that I built in WordPress with all of the things that I love about simple, qualities of Medium.

When my students began blogging in class, someone would inevitably lose their work when writing directly into the website. As a rule, I told my classes to do their writing into a Google Doc. It allowed them to proofread and prevented students from prematurely clicking publish before they had a product they were proud of. I still follow that advice. (Especially since when I hit publish, my writing is automatically shared to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin.)

Using the WordPress.com for Google Docs add on in Google Docs, I can quickly upload my finished writing from a Doc to WordPress where it is saved as a draft. Then after looking it over, simply hit publish to share it with the world. It transfers formatting flawlessly and works well with embedded images.

Once an article is posted to WordPress, (or any other blogging portal), I use the simple Medium Import Tool to bring the work over to my Medium account.

This is another efficient tool, that in addition to bringing in links and photos, also credits the site where your work was originally published.

I am writing in a comfortable space that is efficient and protects my work, then publishing to a hub location that is prepared to share the finished product to an audience across social media and leveraging tools that streamline and simplify that process.

So how are you telling your story? Where can I go to hear it? What tools are you using to share it? Your story is too important to keep to yourself. Share your story.

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.

Beyond Worksheets, A True Expression of Student Learning

This is the 4th part of my 4 part series on “The New Economy of Information” 

 

Perhaps the most important effect of the new economy of information is the need to make sense of information that is around us. “In order to do this, students need to literally create their learning and demonstrate not just what they know, but what they can do.”

 

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/04/beyond-worksheets-a-true-expression-of-student-learning/

 

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/

Creating and iPads… Combining the Physical & Digital to Create Multimedia Content

Today I participated in an EdTechTeacher webinar on how classes can benefit by using iPads to combine the digital and the physical. There is a temptation to go ALL digital when devices arrive in your classroom. In reality the power of the devices is that they can capture digital and real world content together. They can capture the process of learning as well as the product and give the teacher better insight into the learning process. This webinar discusses the possibilities as well as sharing many examples of projects and tools.