Technology grants for Iowa teachers

Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency is working with the CenturyLink Foundation to award technology grants to Iowa teachers. As we said on our web site,

The goal of this grant program is to fund INNOVATIVE uses of digital learning tools by students and educators. Don’t just tell us you ‘need some iPads.’ Dream bigger than electronic worksheets. And please, please, please don’t send us a proposal describing how your students need drill-and-kill apps or software.

We’re looking for visionary, not replicative. We’re looking for 10X thinking, not 10% thinking. Tell us what your students are going to do with the digital learning tools and why it will be incredible. Describe for us why your students can’t make a difference in their learning and the world around them without these funds. Speak to our hearts as well as our minds and sell us a vision of learning and teaching that’s inspiring and amazing! What will your moonshot be?

Got a great idea worth funding? Visit the CenturyLink Teachers & Technology Grant Program web site to learn more. The deadline is January 2, 2015.

CenturyLink logo

Prairie Lakes AEA Logo


We’ve got no time, no time… [SLIDE]

We're so busy doing 20th century teaching, we don't have time to initiate 21st century learning.

We’ve got no time, no time… [note: this is more the fault of our systems than our teachers]

Download this file: png pptx key

Image credit: Classroom scene with teacher Ida Adams, City of Boston Archives

See also my other slides, my Pinterest collection, and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.


Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’

85 questions assigned by a high school teacher to start off To Kill A Mockingbird… Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’

  • Who is this book dedicated to?
  • How old was Jem when he broke his arm?
  • What is Jem’s full name?
  • Who does Scout believe caused the events to happen to lead to Jem’s accident?
  • Who does Jem believe cause the events to happen to lead to his accident?
  • How much older than Scout is Jem?
  • Is Scout a boy or a girl?
  • Is Jem a boy or a girl?
  • What is Jem and Scout’s father’s name?
  • What is shameful as Southerners?
  • How did Scout’s ancestor make his living?
  • Did the Finches at any time believe slavery was okay?
  • Who is supposed to live on Finch Landing? Who does?
  • What is in Atticus’s office?
  • How does Atticus feel about criminal law?
  • Who paid for John Finch’s education?
  • What name does John Finch go by?
  • How did the author describe each of the following Maycomb sites?
  • _____________________ town
  • _____________________ streets
  • _____________________Courthouse
  • _____________________Shade
  • _____________________ Collars
  • _____________________Ladies
  • How did people move back in the 1930s Maycomb, Alabama?
  • The narrator states that Maycomb had optimism because they had recently been told that they have “nothing to fear but fear itself.” To what is she referring?
  • Who is Calpurnia?
  • How did Scout and Jem view their father?
  • How is Calpurnia described by the narrator?
  • Who is the narrator?
  • Is the narrator a child or adult?
  • How old was Scout when her mother died?
  • How much younger was Atticus’s wife than himself?
  • How did Scout’s mother die?
  • Does Jem remember his mother?
  • Where is Mrs. Dubose’s house from Scout and Jem’s?
  • Where is the Radley house from Scout and Jem’s house?
  • Who lives next door to Jem and Dill?
  • How did Dill introduce himself?
  • How did Dill get the money to watch movies?
  • What kind of movies can you see in Maycomb?
  • When did Jem start to respect Dill?
  • What does “routine contentment” mean to Scout?
  • What did Dill become known as? Why?
  • Where would Dill stand to watch the Radley house?
  • How was the Radley house described?
  • What kinds of crimes had the Radley “phantom” been credited with?
  • What is Maycomb’s principle recreation?
  • By listing all the things the Radley’s don’t do, the narrator is telling us more about the town?  What do the people of the town expect from their residents?
  • What kinds of things did the Cunningham “gang” do in Maycomb?
  • What was the “gang” charged with?
  • How long has it been since anyone has seen Mr. Radley’s youngest son?
  • According to this person, Boo stabbed Mr. Radley with a pair of scissors.
  • According to Scout’s source, the sheriff wouldn’t put Boo in prison because…
  • How was old Mr. Radley described?
  • When Old Mr. Radley was dying, why do you think they put up sawhorses and straw?
  • Jem tells Dill three details about Boo haunting the neighborhood; what were they?
  • How does Jem describe Boo?
  • It takes Jem three days before he accepts Dill’s dare to go into the Radley yard. Dill goads him each day. What does Dill say each day? Day 1: _____ Day 2: _____ Day 3: _____
  • What happened after Jem touched the house? Was there any movement in the house?
  • Why was Jem “delighted” to take Scout to school the first day?
  • What is discipline like in Scout’s school?
  • What does Miss Caroline look like?
  • How old is she?
  • What does Scout know about Winston County (North Alabama)?
  • Why does most of the class know what the letters are?
  • How does Miss Caroline react when she finds out Scout can read?
  • What did Jem tell Scout about her childhood?
  • Do you think there is anything wrong with Scout’s reading?
  • How did Scout learn to read?
  • What does Scout mean by “One does not love breathing.”
  • What is the Dewey Decimal System of teaching? (You might have to look this up!)
  • What do you think Scout means by “writing?”
  • Is Calpurnia easy to please?
  • How could Scout tell by Walter’s face that he had Hookworms?
  • What is Scout’s full name?
  • Why won’t Walter take the quarter?
  • How did Mr. Cunningham pay Atticus back?
  • Why would the crash have hit the country folks hardest?
  • What is a WPA job? (You might have to look this one and #79 up.)
  • What did Scout think Miss Caroline wanted her hand for?  
  • What were Miss Caroline’s actions when the bell rang?
  • What did Scout do to get back at Walter?
  • How is Walter described?
  • How did Walter “almost die?”

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

UPDATE: Please also see An #itec14 apology


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


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