Tag Archives: Teachers

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/

Leave a comment

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

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.

2 Comments

Filed under #edtech, general education, pedagogy

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.

1 Comment

January 16, 2014 · 8:58 am

Why We Teach – a Tribute

Earlier this year my friend and colleague Lew Hubbard passed away suddenly. He was a kind and generous man and like so many of my other colleagues, deeply committed to his students and to the art that he taught.

At our school’s recent variety show, a student performed a speed painting and dedicated it to him. I won’t try to describe her feelings and reasons because Maddy (the student in the video) does that so effectively.

When I was done watching this video I had tears in my eyes. It was clear that Lew had left a mark on this world and given something very important to his students. He taught art, he inspired art and here he becomes art.

In the weeks preceding Winter Break it was a nice reminder of what is possible in our classrooms, but also of a great man who I will miss talking to in the halls and at the copy machine.

We can make a difference in the lives of our students, we can leave our mark on the world and more importantly we can help our students to leave a mark of their own.

Some of Lew’s Art can be seen here. http://www.lrhimages.com/

Leave a comment

December 15, 2013 · 11:34 am

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.

4 Comments

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.

3 Comments

Filed under #blogging, #edtech, general education, pedagogy, professional development

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.

Image

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.

6 Comments

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

5 Ways to Blow the Top Off of Rubrics

This article was orignally published as a guest post on “Free Technology For Teachers” an incredibly helpful resource run by Richard Byrne.   

Do you have a rubric for that? Rubrics, designed to help teachers grade fairly and convey their learning objectives and performance standards to students, can serve a critical role especially with technology-rich projects. Teachers also like them for standardizing grading among teachers teaching the same course. At their best, rubrics firmly establish a minimum standard for learning and product construction. At their worst, rubrics become a recipe that can lead to all students producing the same product. In these cases, creativity and the development of unique products become a casualty to tightly constructed standards.

“If you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that’s not a project, that’s a recipe.” – Chris Lehmann

Especially with 1:1 or BYOD classrooms, where individualized learning should be the norm, this is a huge potential problem. In these classrooms, it is still important to effectively convey the learning objective. However, it is the rare rubric that both provides guidance as well as addresses the task of grading the widely varying assignments generated when students have real freedom to choose what they create.

“Individualized instruction is a method of instruction in which content, instructional technology (such as materials) and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner” via Wikipedia

Rubrics can become barriers to creativity and fall short when they provide a stopping point – where, once each component is checked, the assignment is done and learning and creation stop. There is incredible power in letting students pursue their interests and express their creativity. The products that result from this pursuit of passion and interest will always stand out when placed next to those created through a sense of duty and obligation. Placing a list of “have to’s” at the top of a rubric is like building a wall at the bottom of a slide. It completely destroys the ride and subverts the joy of the creative process, providing an off-switch. The way teachers assess individualized learning needs to be adapted in consideration of this.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in the creative art of expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Blow the top off of your rubrics to encourage students to keep pursuing their learning. Leave the basic level standards in place to help students meet the assignment’s objective and support students who need more structure, but then create a rubric with a blatant challenge and ample encouragement for students to push themselves beyond the basic requirements.  

5 Ways to Blow the Top Off of Rubrics:

  1. One of my favorites is to modify the definition of an “A” to include this language: “A project that in some way redefines the teachers definition of excellence.” The video below is an example of a student who did just that: she could have submitted a Venn diagram for this project but chose instead to do this RSA style video.
  2. Where possible, eliminate simple checklists from your definition of “Exemplary”. Students who are given a checklist will do just that, check off the list. When everything is checked, their minds will tell them that they are done. That is not how excellence is created.
  3. Avoid having too many rules and extraneous limits in your rubric. Making too many restrictions stifles creativity, and makes students nervous and cautious. Stick to standards that make the learning objectives clear without being overwhelming. Rubrics don’t need to reaffirm every standard of work established over the course of the year.
  4. Use language that supports taking creative risks. Encourage “Daring” and “Unique” work. Charge students with something more than simply meeting or exceeding a standard. Often rubrics can sound too clinical, use rubrics to issue a challenge.
  5. Allow room for mistakes and errors in excellent work, especially where new tools and technologies are concerned. Creativity takes time to polish, and overly punitive standards can make students feel that creative risks aren’t worth their effort.

Rubrics have been a valid and effective tool for teachers to evaluate both a student’s process, as well as their products, and can remain so if they are adapted to fit within the models of freedom and creativity. Like a fence, rubrics can keep students confined to a learning objective, but where excellence is concerned, make sure that the gate is left open. Ultimately, the goal is to allow for creative projects that you can’t imagine, but that your students can.  

1 Comment

Filed under #edtech, general education

Voices for Introverts: A 1:1 Success

Being an introvert is not a bad thing.  Recently there is a wave of writing discussing how schools are failing to meet the needs of introverts by creating classrooms that demand that students become extroverts in order to succeed.

These are the student who will share a great idea with you privately after class when the crowd has dissipated.  These are the students who write the most amazing and insightful papers but during debates keep that insight to themselves.  I have spent my entire career trying to find ways to make them feel comfortable enough to risk sharing in my class.   In reality I have never found a way to hear from regularly.  So they sit silently, all of their talents and gifts, their thoughts and ideas, present but unheard.

from "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson

from “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

Today, if I were to lose the devices (iPads) that that my students have I would mourn the loss not of the technology but of the voices that my students have gained through having them.

One student, who I will call Ellis, (pseudonym) has never once voluntarily spoken in my class.  Were this another year I would think that she had nothing to say. I would not even have pegged her as someone who is interested in politics, but because my class used a Today’s Meet room to discuss the Presidential debates I got to hear her share opinions and interact with her classmates.  With electronic communication a person has the chance to see their words in writing before they share them. They can hone their thoughts more effectively then when put on the spot in class.  And share she did, more effectively than any other student who joined the chat that night.

Unfortunately she is not in a 1:1 class.  It is hard to replicate that moment and the conditions that let her find her voice and support her convictions.

If I take a good look at my 1:1 classes I can name many students who I would call leaders. Some are extroverts but more than a few are like Ellis; intelligent and inspiring introverts who under the right conditions have something to offer to the whole class.  They raise questions about films and leave me stunned with their thoughtful advice to classmates on blogs.  I can think back to past students who could have offered similar contributions, but lacked the tools and opportunities to do so. They had voices too.

You probably know a student like Ellis. Can you give them a voice? Can you help them speak louder or let more people hear them? We should strive to raise their voices above a whisper.

13 Comments

Filed under #edtech, 1:1

1:1 Choices Made Simple

You won’t be able to do it all.  You have limited time and therefore you will have to decide what you value.  Identify what you value most and focus your efforts there.   

Schools are going to have to choose.  It will not be easy and you better not try to rush the process.  1:1 devices are a trendy topic. Ultimately they force schools to make many hard choices.  You can read a lifetime’s worth of articles on every aspect of 1:1 but they will all eventually return you to the idea above.

 Image

The first few weeks of my 1:1 pilot were a very stressful time.  I was adding volumes of skills, daily student choice and doing iPad set up regularly.  I felt torn between the tech and the content. Daily I would drive home and feel that I had failed on some level.  My school district did not tell us “you must do this!!” and much was left to the individual teachers. (Which I believe is ultimately a good thing for a pilot to do.)

Finally reality slapped me. I realized that the curriculum can only expand so much if the time available does not expand with it.  I needed a focus.  I needed to decide what was important and make some decisions.  I looked at the critical learning standards for my course, focused on how the technology could add to their development and started to refocus.  This was how I could best focus my efforts, my time, and the technology towards the priorities of my school and my district. It is my divining rod as to what is essential and what can be cut. 

If a whole school is to succeed in going 1:1 these hard decisions will need to be framed for the teachers in advance.  Leaders will need to identify and communicate the values that should be driving teacher choices.

“We believe (X) is important for our students. Use this technology to achieve that aim.”

So find your school’s goal, your purpose, your “True North”. Make it clear to everyone. Then pursue it with all your might.

1 Comment

Filed under #edtech, 1:1