Did the question change because it’s now a QR code?

Rafranz Davis said:

I get that one must learn about tech tools but … why are we NOT putting the “how to use this app” things online and offering more discussion-based sessions on things like writing better questions, learner empowerment, designing student-driven lessons, community-based projects, teaching beyond the test, reflection, feedback, research, and soft skills … you know … the things that technology can support.

At some point we’ll figure out that while playing assessment app games are somewhat informing, our kids deserve much more than that when it comes to technology.

Scanning a [QR] code for a math problem to solve is “fun” but how is that technology really supporting learning? Did the question change because it was scanned versus written in a book or on paper? Don’t even get me started on augmented reality. Yes, some kids love competition, but how is playing Kahoot different than “insert clicker name here”  and don’t you dare say, “because it has bright colors and music!” Just … No.

via http://rafranzdavis.com/is-this-all-there-is-an-edtech-rant-of-sorts


An #itec14 apology

Sometimes when you think as publicly as I do, you make a mistake publicly and have to apologize publicly. My post earlier this week about ed tech conferences is one of those times…

I stand behind what I said in my post. Most of our ed tech conferences could use a lot of rethinking and many folks agree with me (96 comments and counting…). That said, I wasn’t thinking about ITEC, Iowa’s ed tech conference, in particular but rather about ed tech conferences more generally based on a bunch of experiences that I’ve had over the past year or so. However, because 1) some of the things I mentioned that occur at conferences elsewhere also were occurring at ITEC, and 2) I blogged halfway through the ITEC conference because that’s when my back brain bubbled up my post, and 3) I used the ITEC hashtag several times to share my post (along with other hashtags too), many of the hardworking educators and volunteers here in Iowa thought I was slamming our conference specifically. They’re absolutely correct. At the very least, I should have waited a few weeks to gain some distance.

I am deeply regretful. I hurt some folks’ feelings and angered others, people that I care about greatly and who have been tremendous allies in our state’s journey toward meaningful technology empowerment of students and educators. I’ve apologized in several other less-public places but am also doing so here for anyone in our state that I haven’t reached yet. It was never my intent to single out ITEC or any other conference. But my timing was abysmal and then I compounded the error with my tweets.

I have a tendency to blog what’s in my head and in my heart… Most of the time it’s fine. Sometimes it’s even great. But sometimes it isn’t. This time I didn’t do it in a way that worked, not here with my friends and colleagues in Iowa.

I’m sorry.


Peer-to-peer collaboration? Meh.

Tom Whitby said:

Technology has provided us with the ability to communicate, curate, collaborate, and (most importantly) create with any number of educators, globally, at any time, and at very little cost. One would think educators would be celebrating in the streets at the good fortune of advancing their own learning while helping their profession evolve.

That jubilation does not yet exist in many educators.

via http://www.edutopia.org/blog/connected-educator-begins-with-collaboration-tom-whitby


Romanticizing the blackboard

Lewis Buzbee said:

It’s true that in the pods-and-pinwheel design students can more easily work in smaller groups, but such pods, of course, also offer more opportunity for subterfuge and mutiny.

The blackboard-centered classroom offers more than pedagogical efficiency; it also offers an effective set of teaching possibilities. In such a classroom students are focused on the teacher (on a good day), but most importantly, they are focused. The teacher is not the focus of the class but rather a lens through which the lesson is created and clarified. The teacher draws the class toward her, but she projects the lessons onto the blackboard behind her, a blank surface upon which smaller ideas may be gathered into larger ones. The blackboard is the surface of thought.

The physical dramatics of the classroom – all those bodies and brains ritually focused – can create a new and singular mind, and foster in the individual student an urgent hunger to learn. A good teacher … can, with a nod or a wink, or by simply repeating a key phrase slowly and with certain emphasis, maybe leaning toward her student body, deliver a chapter’s worth of information instantly and unforgettably. Otherwise, we might as well stay home and read to ourselves. The teacher commands her audience, conducts them.

via http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/10/a_history_of_the_blackboard_how_the_blackboard_became_an_effective_and_ubiquitous.single.html

So, basically, the blackboard is desirable because it’s an instrument for teacher control over mutinous students…


Nobody likes to hear it

Montanahighway

Nobody likes to hear that they need to change.

Nobody likes to be told that they’re not there yet.

Nobody likes the unrelenting messages that we need to do things differently.

And therein lies the challenge. Because we DO need to change, we DO need to do things differently, and we are NOT there yet.

But folks get defensive. And angry. Or they withdraw. Or they just get tired. Tired of hearing again and again that what’s occurring isn’t sufficient for either today or tomorrow. Even when maybe, just maybe, they also know it’s true.

It’s tough to be change advocates. Or change agents. Or pains in the butt, as some call us. It would be so much easier to temper the rhetoric, to roll back the expectations, to ramp back the pace. But we know that we need to stay the course. Because our students – and our educators – and our society – need and deserve something different.

So we try to capture hearts and minds and articulate visions of what can be. We try to show models and exemplars of places that are further along and doing some of this. We try to put in support structures to help folks get there. We ask really tough questions. We enlist allies. We help in any way that we can. We encourage and we plead. We push and we pull. Is it arrogance? Is it passion? Maybe it depends on your perspective.

We don’t always do it well. We don’t always succeed. Sometimes people hate us. But sometimes people are ready to get moving.

The journey continues…

Image credit: Montana highway, Mark Hamilton


Wasting opportunities at ed tech conferences

Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.

It’s super fun to meet new people and see our friends at ed tech conferences. Sometimes they have photo booths and we can wear funny mustaches, Viking helmets, polka dot bow ties, and giant sunglasses. We get to hang out, eat a meal together, talk, share, laugh… all good stuff. It’s cool to see everyone having a great time and sharing their photos and thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

But I think that at most ed tech conferences we’re also missing opportunities. That session on the latest Google Chrome extensions isn’t going to change a kid’s life. That tools smackdown isn’t likely to make students’ learning much better (no, really, it isn’t). And those sessions on 60 iPad apps in 60 minutes? Well…

With rare exception, 80 to 90% of the sessions at most of our ed tech conferences are about extensions, apps, and tools and only 10 to 20% of the sessions are about nontrivial learning and teaching. Or leadership. Or systems change.

[I know some people likely will disagree with me on this breakdown. Fair enough. Grab Bloom’s taxonomy or Webb’s depth of knowledge levels, run through the session titles and descriptions of a recent ed tech conference, and make your own determination about what falls into the deep, meaningful learning category and what falls into the tools / low-level learning / ‘oh, tech is so fun and cool, look what you can do!’ category. Let me know what you find out.]

Oh, what’s the harm? A few sessions on apps or tools won’t hurt anyone, will they?

Probably not. Even when they’re the vast majority, not a small minority. But every time we just show how to use tools or apps or whatever – or our focus is only on low-level learning (or, dare we admit it, behavior control) – or we shill for some vendor – or we spend significant time on ‘OMG, this is so dang cool I might wet my pants!’ – we miss an opportunity to fight for significant grounding in and modeling of more substantive student learning. Every time we extoll the use of a technology tool for trivia or minutiae, we miss an opportunity to demonstrate how technology can be used for meaningful, cognitively-complex outcomes rather than routine cognitive work. Every time we decline to model the usage of technology to learn deep disciplinary practices, processes, and concepts, we reinforce the status quo of factual recall and procedural regurgitation and foster the idea that ’technology for technology’s sake’ is just fine. 

We have entire ed tech conferences dedicated to the latest and greatest tools, apps, and extensions. Educators sign up for them in droves, often paying $200 to $300 per head to attend. They’re fun, they’re cool, and some organizations are making a LOT of money with this model. But next time you’re at an ed tech conference, ask yourself “Are these offerings really moving the needle in terms of systemic change in classrooms, teacher practice, or school systems?” (which is what we need)

I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon. I like ed tech conferences too, quite a bit. But I think our face-to-face time is rare and precious. So when there’s very little discussion or modeling of learning – deep, meaningful learning – I think that we’re missing important chances to change practice and move systems. We’re ignoring the opportunity costs. What could we have done – what could we have accomplished, together – instead? Ed tech conferences should be fun, but they also should be productive and maybe could be transformative.

I wish we had far fewer tools sessions and much more discussion about technology for the purpose of what?, with an emphasis on the what of deeper learning. What do you think?

Image credit: Opportunities, seaternity


Can we really call it learning?

Forgetit

If a student holds on to something she read, heard, or did in class just long enough to regurgitate it back on an assessment but has little to no memory of it a few weeks later, can we really call it ‘learning?’

How much of what students ‘learn’ in school falls into this category?

Image credit: forget it, fake is the new real


Should schools be a refuge from the societal onslaught of digital technologies?

Doomisyourfate

I said in a comment:

Any school or classroom or educator that ignores our digital information landscape, our digital economic landscape, and our digital learning landscape – or relegates children to passive consumption rather than active participation and interaction in those landscapes – is doomed to irrelevance. The argument that school should be a refuge from digital technologies is a desperate plea to hold on to our analog past.

via http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/social-media-valuable-tool-teachers/#comment-1622241200

Image credit: Doom is your fate, Chris


The results of educational inequity

Michael Roth said:

America has some of the best schools on the planet and one of the worst systems of education in the developed world.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-building-a-better-teacher-on-secrets-of-good-teaching-by-elizabeth-green/2014/09/05/7a993056-2307-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html


Our technology messages are important

Important message

When we take away technology access because of student behavior concerns, we send the message that digital devices and the Internet are optional, ‘nice to have’ components of schooling rather than core elements of modern-day learning and teaching.

When we ban teachers from using social media – but not other forms of interaction – to communicate with students in or out of school, we send the message that we are unable to distinguish between behaviors and the mediums in which they occur.

When we decline to devote adequate time or support for technology-related professional learning and implementation, we send the message that low-level or nonexistent usage is just fine.

When we require educators to go hat in hand to IT personnel to get an educational resource unblocked, we send the message that we distrust them so they must be monitored.

When we wag our fingers at students about inappropriate digital behaviors without concurrently and equally highlighting the benefits of being connected and online, we send the message that we are afraid of or don’t understand the technologies that are transforming everything around us.

When we make blanket technology policies that punish the vast majority for the actions of a few, we send the messages of inconsistency and unfairness.

When we ignore the power of online and social media tools for communication with parents and other stakeholders, we send the message of outdatedness.

When we fail to implement hiring, induction, observation, coaching, and evaluation structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration, we send the message that it really isn’t that important to what we do in our classrooms.

When we treat students as passive recipients of teacher-directed integration rather than tapping into their technology-related interests, knowledge, and skills, we send the message that they don’t have anything to contribute to their own learning experiences. And that control is more important than empowerment.

When we continue to place students in primarily analog learning spaces and ignore that essentially all knowledge work these days is done digitally, we send the message of irrelevance to our students, parents, and communities.

Are these the messages that we intend to send with our technology decision-making (or lack thereof)? Often not, but what counts is the perceptions of the recipients of our decisions. 

What technology messages is your school system sending? (and what would you add to this list?)

Image credit: Important message, Patrick Denker


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