Category: implementation (page 2 of 11)

What’s Worthy?

In the discussion following my last post, The Bottom Five, wonderful educator and good friend, Jeff made a comment about me not being clear as to the criteria by which I was judging technology purchases. I would hope that anyone reading my blog for any time would know where I stand, but I will take the time to respond.

My views have evolved in the 12 years or so I’ve worked in educational technology, but there was an important, early moment. Initially, I was excited by just the mere sight of technology being used in the classroom. The training we focused on back in those early days centered upon basic skills, mostly productivity stuff like mastering Microsoft Office and using the internet. About 2 years in, however, I attended a workshop led by Dr. Bernajean Porter. Dr. Porter shared a wonderfully simple Technology and Learning Spectrum that broke classroom technology use into 3 categories: Literacy uses (mainly dealing with technology proficiency); Adaptive uses (using technologies to do tasks that would traditionally be done with other resources); and Transformative uses (technology used to accomplish things impossible without the technology). It was immediately obvious that we were stuck in the second, adaptive level at best.

Other technology integration spectrums abound. The SAMR model is similar to Dr. Porter’s model. It classifies technology use as: Substitution; Augmentation; Modification; and Redefinition (See video below). The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) classifies technology use as: Entry; Adoption; Adaptation; Infusion; and Transformation. Dr. Alan November assesses technology use based upon audience, connectedness, and impacts. His levels are: Paper Becomes Digital; Audience–One to Many; All Kids Create Together; Limitless Boundaries; and Building Legacy.

These are just a few examples of the standards I believe should guide our technology purchases and instructional goal-setting. Given the enormous power and capabilities of technologies today, is it enough to invest in technology that cannot achieve the highest of these levels? Is it satisfactory to see teachers using technology to make learning more “exciting” than with traditional methods? I don’t believe it is, particularly with the significant costs often involved. Many of the most expensive tools are specifically designed to achieve a narrow set of aims that fall far below the highest levels above. Others may be capable of achieving high level things, but at costs that greatly exceed less expensive, even free options. The ability to reach the highest levels and the availability of less costly alternatives should dictate how we determine where to put our technology dollars.

The Bottom 5

Everybody loves a list, or so I’ve heard. Most are happy, top of the charts list. Slipping into my devil’s advocate outfit for a bit, I would like to take the opposite route today and give you my Bottom 5 list of educational technologies. All of these, incidentally, are extremely popular and have made their respective companies more money than some countries. For each, however, I would assert that there are better, wiser, or less expensive alternatives. The list:

5. Microsoft Office. I really do consider myself an Office fan, at least for my own, personal use. I love the bells and the whistles and all that comes with Office. However, the question needs to be asked, “Do our teachers and students need all of those bells and whistles at that price?” Office licenses can cost schools and districts easily tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for each new adoption. Free alternatives such as Open Office or Libre Office get more Office-like with each new release. Google Apps for Education, also free, has significantly fewer features, but the core tools are there, it can be accessed anywhere a computer meets an internet connection, and it is a collaboration godsend. The more we look at how our teachers and students use these productivity apps, the harder it is to justify the expense of full-blown Office. (Note: I understand that moving to a free alternative incurs some initial costs, particularly related to professional development on the new tools. Long-term, though, it pales by comparison.)

Source: http://oldcomputers.net/pet4032.html

Source: http://oldcomputers.net/pet4032.html

4.Desktop Computers. In the past, desktops were the most common and attractive classroom computer option. This was largely due to the very significant expense associated with laptops. Today, however, there are very affordable laptop and tablet devices all over the market. Not only do thse give students and teachers largely the same capabilities, they can move with the student. This promotes a modern learning environment, where students can engage in projects and problem solving in flexible arrangements that are determined by the demands of the task, not the location of the desk/table. They are also much easier to take home in a backpack.

3. Document Cameras. I know teachers whose document cameras are easily the most cherished piece of technology they’ve ever had. Many of them say the cameras, teamed with their digital projectors, of course, have revolutionized the way they teach. I could get into the generally VERY teacher-centric practices I’ve witnessed involving teaching with document cameras, and probably should. However, I’ll just offer for now that there are better alternatives that accomplish the same things and much more. A teacher equipped with an iPad, display software such as Reflector, and an iPad display stand, such as a Juststand, can use their device as a document camera. They can easily record, show websites, display apps, and more. And, of course, they can disconnect the iPad from the stand and take it across the campus, out of the building, or place it into a student’s hands. All of this is possible at a price generally less than most document cameras models out there.

iwb

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/virtuallearningcenter/2839193301

2. Interactive Whiteboards. IWB critics are not hard to find. One of the most vocal, Gary Stager, famously describes IWBs as “a terrible investment that breathes new life into medieval educational practices.” He criticized the boards for their support of a teacher-focused teaching style and IWB curriculum that centers “on low-level repetition, memorization, and discrete skills devoid of any meaningful content.” His main argument, though, and the one that I have come to appreciate most, is that these devices are insanely pricy and take away dollars that could (and should) be used in a way that directly benefits students, such as the purchase of student laptops. When we focus on student needs over teacher needs (wants, in this case), IWBs cannot be the choice.

clicker

Original image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/acroamatic/370925701

1. Student Response Systems. Perhaps no other device offers as little power and educational value for the dollar as the student response system, or “clicker”. Clickers save teachers from the arduous, tedious tasks of counting raised hands or actually listening to student thoughts and responses. They provide detailed insights into almost exclusively superficial questions and low-level understanding.  Meanwhile, they set back campuses thousands of dollars per classroom set. As alternatives, schools might consider investing in tablets such as iPads and feedback apps like Socrative, Nearpod, even the Forms tool in Google Drive. They’d be able to get the outcomes they wanted from the clickers but also have the potential to use the devices for endless, more powerful applications. Of course, feedback could come via direct observation or conversations with students, but that’s probably just crazy talk.

What are your thoughts? Am I way off? Are there other technologies that deserve less respect and less money?

What’s Taking Us So Long?

The pace of educational change is frustrating.

The pace of educational change is frustrating.

Dean Shareski, an educator friend whose ideas I highly respect, recently shared a post  on his blog entitled “Why Teachers Aren’t Making ‘The Shifts'”. His post was in response to an earlier post by Will Richardson, one of my earliest ed-tech influences, entitled “My Summer of Confusion“. The two posts both address the issue of a lack of change in most classrooms, despite increasing resources and evidence supporting such changes. Why do so many teachers attend conferences, read articles, or hear in the teachers lounge about amazing, innovative practices, yet fail to implement any significant changes in their own practices? Here are a causes of this inertia that I took from each blog post.

Will:

  • Many teachers and administrators lack a clear vision of what teaching and learning, particularly with technology, should be.
  • Educators lack the technology experiences needed to take those tools and skills and put them to work.
  • Educators don’t do enough to stay abreast of the “latest research, technologies, and news that impact learning.”
  • Resistance to change as a by-product of defending the old system against corporate reform efforts–a bunker mentality.

Dean:

  • Lack of autonomy.
  • Demands on educators’ time are just too great.
  • Inadequate or misguided teacher training–teachers are told by “experts” who have done the legwork what to teach and how. They need time to work through what that means in their own classes.
  • Some (a small percentage) teachers are just more prone to change like this than others, for a variety of reasons.

So much to discuss there, but I’ll just touch on a couple and add a little to the discussion. The vision, experiences, and research are intertwined. As Dean touched on so well, they are also time-consuming. I am fortunate to have a job that encourages me to do all of these things. I do a great deal of the vision building on my own time, reading blogs, tech sites, magazines, and engaging in professional conversations outside of school hours. But I don’t sleep enough, either, so it’s probably taking years off of my life. Seriously, Not everyone can or wants to devote significant portions of their own time to grow professionally. Families, recreation, and other demands do matter greatly. I believe, therefore, it is critical to build in much more time for professional learning, planning, collaboration, and vision building during the school day. The US falls behind most other high-performing countries in the amount of time devoted to growing its teaching pros. In the highly respected educational system in Finland, teachers devote less than 600 hours per year to actual teaching, versus 1,600 for US teachers. Much more time is devoted to research, professional collaboration, mentoring, etc. Singapore provides 100 hours  of PD each year, plus 20 hours/week for co-planning, observing other teachers teaching, etc. Here in the US, we talk about longer school days and years and rarely discuss the role of time for learning and collaboration as a route to improvement.

Inquiry learning works for adults, too!

Inquiry learning works for adults, too!

Dean’s reflections on the typical nature and quality of his professional development sessions are important. Think about what we know about the ways kids (people) learn best: inquiry, problem solving, and discovery. This is precisely the opposite of most technology PD, at least most that I’ve delivered over the last 11 years. I, the expert, have done my extensive legwork, developed my vision, and attempted to impart it to the willing masses. Interestingly, however, some of my favorite professional development sessions have been the few where I’ve asked questions, guided teachers to the resources and tools they needed to answer the questions in their own way, then sat back and watched professionals get after it. I have, admittedly, not conducted research into how the “stickiness” of these sessions compared to more traditional ones. I did read the very positive post-session surveys, however, and I suspect that the sessions probably produced greater levels of change than my standard fare.

I would add but one thing to Dean’s and Will’s fantastic assessments: administrator influence. Administrators have an enormously powerful influence over how teachers do what they do. First of all, administrators in schools where teachers are making exciting changes encourage teachers to take well-educated risks. If you’ve researched it, can reasonably demonstrate that it should have positive effects, then do it. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t been done in their schools before–change and risk are welcome (and even exciting). Administrators who feel the need to have their hands in every move made by their employees or to enforce a one-size-fits all, misguided philosophy of teaching and learning, will likely never see innovation in their classrooms. Additionally, and I’ve said it before, administrators who are using technologies in powerful ways in their own lives and work will encourage others to do so. Administrators I have seen who fit this description show up with the new Galaxy or iPhone the day after release, are rarely seen without a smartphone or iPad in hand, tend to mix it up with how they share information (YouTube channels/videos, streaming, Prezi instead of a PowerPoint, shared Google Docs, etc.), and they actually attend technology-focused professional development sessions.

This is a vital discussion. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what we know is possible and what we know is happening, and it shows glacially-slow signs of changing. I don’t purport to have the answers down, just a few insights from a long time in the business of trying to foster change. What are your thoughts? What IS taking us so long? What do we need to do differently, or possibly throw out entirely?

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52748818@N07/4995276801;
http://www.flickr.com/photos/andercismo/2349098787

New Podcast: Dayna Laur on Project Based Learning

I had the great opportunity this week to attend project based learning training delivered by Dayna Laur (@daylynn), a Senior National Faculty member with the Buck Institute for Education, one of the premier organizations for promoting and teaching PBL. I only recently had the pleasure of meeting Dayna at TCEA, and she was highly touted as an expert on the subject of PBL. In the podcast, Dayna talks about challenges and benefits of PBL, the change in the role of the teacher  that is necessary, realistic expectations for newbies, and more.

 

Huge thank you to Dayna for foregoing her break time to share to me and for some outstanding professional learning time!

 

1:1, Certainly

We are exploring some options for our district’s future student technologies right now. We have a significant need to increase accessibility for our students, but I’m not sure what that means, exactly. Does it involve a 1:1 program? Perhaps buying large numbers of wireless laptop/tablets and carts? Labs? iPads? Chromebooks? Laptops? Oh, my! Lots of questions in my mind right now, but I have come to a few certainties at this point, particularly after looking at quite a bit of the research on 1:1 programs. I’ve also received some great insight from colleagues trying different 1:1 programs around the state. In no particular order, my conclusions thus far:

  • Students are more than ready.Certainly, not every child is a budding, young Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. However, all students are quite ready to research, create, communicate, etc. using technology (and most are doing it without our assistance or blessing, anyway.)

    Why are some 1:1 programs more successful than others?y).

  • Teachers are, for the most part, not. Currently, most of the teachers I know either lack the technology know-how and experience, or they utilize a teacher-centered style that does not take full advantage of the capabilities of today’s tech tools. This isn’t an indictment–they are doing great things with the tools they have at their disposal. We’re just talking about a whole new set of tools, which leads to the next point…
  • Professional development is vital, essential, critical, mandatory, and supremely important. Teachers and administrators need to be trained so that they can, for starters:
    • Recognize opportunities to use technology to transform learning.
    • Identify available resources.
    • Understand methods of assessment of technology-rich products and activities.
    • Teach in a less teacher-centered, more problem- or student-centered manner.
  • Don’t rush the process. Districts who hastily rollout technologies without sufficient planning and training are committing themselves to struggling mightily for the foreseeable future and not likely to get much out of the resources. A small-scale pilot, heavy on the PD, can help head off problems before they are unmanageable.
  • Have positive, yet realistic, expectations. Technology offers students many incredible ways to improve their learning. It’s not a panacea, however, and it is not an overnight solution to what ails education. Test scores are unlikely to be directly influenced (Sorry, but read some of the research–it’s hit-and-miss here, at best.), but school climate is likely to improve, and students will have invaluable opportunities to learn and to gain needed technology related skills. The SAMR model is a great thing to keep in mind, too. It will take a few years to see the real impact happen (and only IF the necessary training and expectations have been provided). It takes real commitment to start seeing the maximum potential reached.
  • Students first. Every school’s population is unique, and so it stands to reason that there is no universal solution. It is imperative to resist keeping up with the Joneses’ shiny, new devices and instead looking for what will most benefit the kids we serve, based upon things like prior experiences, curriculum, academic needs, community expectations, etc. As I’ve said before, there is no perfect technology tool. If there was, we’d all have it, obviously.

We’re only beginning to embark upon this effort, so it remains to be seen how this will take shape here. I’m very encouraged at the conversations happening, though, even if they are in the very embryonic stages–at least conversations are happening. As anyone in a school knows, of course, there are many obstacles to an implementation such as this (e.g. infrastructure, money, staffing, money…did I mention money?), but it has to begin as a concept at some point. If it grows to more than that, I’ll do my best to share the process. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts/experiences here? Any other absolutes or experiences you might be able to pass along?

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vblibrary/8465390293

TCEA Areas 10 & 11 Conference: Exploring the Flipped Classroom

Information, implementation guides, and early research on flipped classrooms:

Flipped Classroom Pearltree

 

Technology tools for flipping the classroom:

10 Years, 10 Educational Technology “Truths”

Amazingly, I just finished my 10th year working in educational technology. Time truly passes in a flash when you are engaged in something you enjoy so much. After a decade in this business, I would like to share 10 experienced-based truisms that have come to be the guiding principles for me in this business. It’s tough to prioritize some of them, so, in no particular order…

  • The learning objective comes first. Put this with an understanding of the abilities, preferences, etc. of the kids, then choose the right technology.
  • Technology might not be the best tool for the job. There are times when learning succeeds best without technology. Shut it off.
  • No technology is perfect. What works for one classroom might be unsuccessful, unused, and unwanted next door.
  • Digital natives? Sort of. Kids are generally very fast tech learners, indeed, but they don’t come to your room knowing as much as some would assert.
  • Make do. Your budget and resources are not as deep as what that expert speaker is spreading. Use what you and your kids can get your hands on.
  • You gotta believe. Teachers who routinely use tech believe it is important and beneficial for their students. Those who don’t, won’t.
  • Leaders have followers. When the principal uses technology, the teachers will. Simple.
  • Filters are why I’m losing my hair. That and traffic. No clarification needed.
  • Teaching and learning aren’t the same. The technologies for each are often very different. Keep in mind when setting priorities.
  • Reconsider that PowerPoint or brochure. Technology can and should let students do things they cannot otherwise do or do as well. Kick up the expectations.

Of course, I’m open to others, so please share your own!

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