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


Serve your detention or lose your textbooks

  1. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your textbooks.
  2. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your pencils and paper.
  3. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your band instrument.
  4. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your gym uniform.
  5. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your novel you’re reading for English class.
  6. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your graphing calculator.
  7. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will take away your planner.

Do any of these make sense to you? Does this one?

  1. Dear student, if you do not serve your detention, we will turn off your school laptop.

Apparently it does to one high school. Note also the public shaming orientation in the message below (“Well, we could email you but we choose instead to announce your name to the entire school…”). This is a ‘Character Counts‘ school district. Evidently the need to be respectful only runs in certain directions?

Note also the framing of the school laptops as a ‘nice resource to have,’ not an essential, core element of schooling. And the framing of social media as frivolous, not integral, powerful tools for learning.

The full message from the high school is below. Ugh. This might be even worse than when schools suspend kids for skipping class (“To teach you not to miss school, you’re going to miss some school…”). But, hey, it works so it must be okay, right?

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NEW PROCEDURE FOR ADDRESSING UNEXCUSED ABSENCES

Unexcused absences stand in the way of student success. To more effectively encourage students to attend class regularly, [XYZ] High is taking a new approach to dealing with unexcused absences.

We want students to be successful, and we can’t help them academically when they have unexcused absences. With only 180 school days we strive to insure all students make maximum academic growth. With that being said we do understand that students will miss school for a variety of reasons, which include being sick, doctor appointments, etc. In each of these cases we expect parents to call in and excuse their son or daughter. With that parental excuse, the student will have 2 days to make up work for credit from the classes missed the day of the absence.

Our big concern is when the student’s absence is not excused. What this tells us is that the parents or the school did not know where the student was. Any day we are not aware of the reason for an absence, an automated call goes home that night alerting parents/guardians that their son or daughter missed a class.

The parent is still able to clear the absence the day after the phone message.

The following process and procedure for addressing unexcused absences was announced to students earlier this week.

Every Monday morning  we will read over the PA the names of students with an unexcused absence the previous week and make them aware they have a 25 minute detention after school either Monday or Tuesday at 3:05 p.m. We also state that if students think they did not have an unexcused absence or they have a conflict, they need to see [YYY YYYYY] or [ZZZ ZZZZZ] during passing time to clear up any error or make other arrangements for serving the detention.

On Tuesday we send out emails to those students who did not serve their detention on Monday reminding the students to serve their 25 minute detention. On Wednesday we read the names one more time as a last reminder.

After Thursday’s opportunity to serve detention and a student has not served the detention or made other arrangements, we turn off the student’s computer until the detention is served.

We completely understand that the school issued computers are a resource to enhance student learning. However, we also know that the computers are a tool for social media that our students are very fond of using and think this approach will lead to desired results.

We implemented this for the first time this week and by the time it was noon on Friday 10 out of the 15 students still owing a detention had made arrangements to get their detention done as soon as possible.

In closing we have tried to put a process in place that will limit interruptions to classrooms, hold students accountable for their actions and have consequences that do not include missing class time (i.e., suspension).


Grading and assessment as an opportunity

Greg Jouriles said:

We have the grade problem at my high school. In the same course or department, a B in one classroom might be an A, or even a C, in another. It’s a problem for us, and, likely, a problem in most schools.

But it has also been an opportunity. Recognizing our grading differences, we opted to create a common conception of achievement, our graduate profile, and department learning outcomes with rubrics. Our standards now align closely with the Common Core State Standards. Second, we created common performance tasks that measure these standards and formative assessments that scaffold to them. Third, we look together at student work. Fourth, we have begun to grade each other’s students on these common tasks.

We could publish the results of these performance tasks, and the public would have a good idea of what we’re good at and what we’re not. For example, our students effectively employ reading strategies to comprehend a text, but are often stymied by a lack of vocabulary or complex syntax. We’ve also learned most of our students can coherently develop a claim, citing the appropriate evidence to support it when choosing from a restricted universe of data. They aren’t as good when the universe of data is broadened. They are mediocre at analysis, counter-arguments, rebuttals, and evaluation of sources, though they have recently gotten better at evaluating sources as we have improved our instruction and formative assessments. A small percentage of our students do not show even basic competency in reading and writing.

That’s better information than we’ve ever received from standardized testing. What’s also started to happen is that teachers who use the same standards and rubrics, assign the same performance tasks, and grade each other’s work are finding their letter grades starting to align.

And, this approach has led to a lot of frank discussions. For example, why are grades different? Where we have looked, different conceptions of achievement and rigor seem most important. So we have to talk about it. The more we do, the more aligned we will become, and the more honest picture of achievement we can create. It has been fantastic professional development – done without external mandates. We have a long way to go, but we can understand the value of our efforts and see improvement in student work.

via http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/07/09/36jouriles.h33.html


I read blocked blogs

I read blocked blogs

It’s Banned Books Week. I oppose censorship and support students’ and educators’ freedom to read. Do you?

Does that extend to all of those blogs and other web sites that your schools are filtering and blocking categorically?

FREADOM. Celebrate the right to read.


School technology is neutered into uselessness

Neuter

Tim Cushing said:

Few entities approach new advances in technology with more foreboding than school administrations. What could be used as portals to a nearly-infinite supply of information via the Internet is often neutered into uselessness by schools’ acceptable use policies (AUPs). 

via https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140919/12311228582/technology-improves-internet-expands-school-acceptable-use-policies-still-lock-students-out-benefits.shtml


Suppressing students’ creativity and inquiry

Jeff Herzberg said:

What are we doing that suppresses students’ natural creativity and inquiry? And what are we doing to try and stop those things?

via https://twitter.com/mcleod/status/514074648531984384


Good luck with that

You want student learning to change but you don't want to change teaching or schooling. Good luck with that.

[FYI, doing even more of what you’ve been doing is not the answer]


We can do better than this

Thiscomputerismonitored

Some random technology-related incidents that I have seen and heard about during the first few weeks of school here in Iowa…

1. Big Brother

Nothing says ‘students, get excited about our new 1:1 initiative!’ like frequent, numerous, vehement reminders from administrators during the rollout that WE ARE WATCHING YOU and that WE CAN SEE EVERYTHING ON YOUR SCREENS AT ALL TIMES.

2. More sign-offs than buying a house

Nothing says ‘students, get excited about your new laptop!’ like both students and parents having to initial each and every one of the items below AND having to sign their name twice for the overall list.

  1. I understand that I am responsible for my use of the district technologies and the use of the tools is for academic and educational purposes.
  2. I will practice digital citizenship by using information and technology responsibly, legally, and ethically.
  3. I understand the use of the Internet and technology is a privilege and not a right; there are consequences for not adhering to the Acceptable Use Policy.
  4. I will honor property rights and copyrights with information and technology.
  5. I will keep my intellectual property safe by saving in specified locations, using and safeguarding passwords, and using my own account at all times.
  6. I will practice personal safety by safeguarding identities while online or offline.
  7. I will not participate in any form of cyber-bullying or harassment.
  8. I will use technology in a respectful manner, sharing equipment and resources.
  9. I will only use district-approved technology, tools, resources, and applications while on [the district’s] campuses.
  10. I understand that users must use the district wireless access points; no personal or other access points should be used while on [district] campuses.
  11. I understand that personally-owned devices are not allowed on district networks nor used for online access.
  12. I will not attempt to use any software, utilities, applications, or other means to access Internet sites or content blocked by filters.
  13. I will not capture video, audio, or pictures without the consent of all persons being recorded, their knowledge of the media’s intended use, as well as the approval of a staff member.
  14. I will report any problems with the equipment, resources, or network to a teacher or administrator in a timely manner.
  15. I understand that the district’s technology resources are the property of the district. I have no expectation of privacy with respect to any materials therein, and all use of district technology resources may be monitored without notice.
  16. I understand that I may be responsible for any damage or loss I cause to district technology resources.
  17. I have read the acceptable use policy, which [sic] are incorporated by reference herein, and agree to the stated conditions in this form as well as in the entire policy and regulations. I also agree to abide by any school technology handbook which may be applicable.
  18. I understand that I am responsible for taking care of my laptop and accessories, including proper cleaning, avoiding hot and cold temperatures, and storing the laptop in the district-provided case.
  19. I will not leave my laptop unattended unless it is locked in a secure place. I (or parents) may be fully responsible for the cost of replacement should my laptop become lost or stolen.
  20. I understand that I (or parents) may be fully responsible for the cost of repair or replacement due to damages that occur to the laptop issued to me or damages I am responsible for on another person’s laptop.
  21. I will bring the laptop to school every day and to the best of my abilities have it fully charged.
  22. I will use the laptop for educational purposes and in accordance with the handbook and other applicable [district] policies, including, but not limited to, policy [ZZZ]. I will use academically-appropriate sounds, music, video, photos, games, and applications.
  23. I will not attempt to use any software, utilities, applications, or other means to access Internet sites or content blocked by filters. [duplicate!]
  24. I will only use the laptop’s recording capabilities for academic purposes, with consent of the participants, their knowledge of the media’s intended use, and staff approval.
  25. I will report any problems with my laptop to a member of the technology staff in a timely manner. The only technology support for the [district] laptops are [sic] through the [district] technology department, not a store or technology service.
  26. I understand that the district owns the laptop and has the right to collect and inspect the laptop at any time. I have no expectation of privacy in the laptop on [sic] any materials and/or content contained therein.
  27. While off campus, I will abide by [district’s] policies and agreement with respect to the use of the laptop, including but not limited to the 21st century learning handbook and board policy [ZZZ].
  28. I will only use public or personally-owned access points and not privately-owned points without the owner’s permission.
  29. I will turn in the laptop and accessories on or before the designated day and location, or prior to my leaving the [district].
  30. We have read the [district] 21st century learning handbook and policy [ZZZ] (acceptable use), which are incorporated by reference herein, and agree to the stated conditions. Questions or accommodations regarding the device would be directed to your building principals.

3. RTF or WTF?

Nothing says ‘students, get excited about your faculty’s technology knowledge!’ like your community college professor sending you a bunch of .RTF files to start the course.

4. Nope, and nope

Parent: “The kids all have laptops. Can we use this free online graphing calculator program instead of having to shell out $100+ for a separate graphing calculator?” School: Nope.

Student: “We all have laptops. I know you cited some random study that I will retain more if I handwrite my notes but I’m an A+ student even when I type my notes. Plus there are many things that I can do with digital notes that I can’t when they’re handwritten. Can I use my laptop for notetaking?” Teacher: Nope.

I think we can do better than this. How about you? What would you add from your own first few weeks of school?

Image credit: Warning – this computer is monitored!, David King


ISTE Follow-Up 22: Education policy / reform blogs (THE PUSH 2014)

The Push 2014If you were asked to nominate a very short list of education policy / reform blogs for educators to read / subscribe to, what would you share? Please submit to the list! (there’s a form at the end of this post)

What are some excellent education reform and policy blogs that P-12 educators should be reading? Please contribute, see the responses, AND share this post with others so that we can get the best list possible.

What #edreform / policy blogs would you recommend? http://bit.ly/1qYYPPC Please share with others so we get a great list! #edtech

Thanks in advance for helping with this initiative. If we all contribute, we should have a bevy of excellent subject-specific blogs to which we all can point. Please spread the word about THE PUSH!

[Next up: Career/technical education]

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What is THE PUSH?

We are working together to identify excellent subject-specific blogs that are useful to P-12 educators. Why? Several reasons…

  • To identify blogs that P-12 educators can use to initially seed (or expand) their RSS readers (e.g., Feedly, FlipboardReeder, Pulse)
  • To facilitate the creation of online, global (not just local) communities of practice by connecting role-alike peers
  • To create a single location where P-12 educators can go to see excellent subject-oriented educational blogging
  • To highlight excellent disciplinary blogging that deserves larger audiences
  • To learn from disciplines other than our own and get ideas about our own teaching and/or blogging

We are looking for blogs with RSS feeds – particularly from P-12 educators – not sites to which we can’t subscribe. This is an effort to update the awesome but now heavily-spammed list we made 5 years ago!


What helps students get good jobs?

The latest results from Phi Delta Kappa’s annual poll… Check out standardized tests versus real-world projects in the image below.

2014PDKPoll01


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