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The Student Perspective on Chromebooks at Leyden High Schools [guest post]

This is the fifth and final post in the guest blog series on 1:1 at Leyden High Schools.
By Jason Markey, East Leyden High School Principal

The student perspectives below are from Justyna Chojnowski, Amina Patel, and Joaquin Cardenas at East Leyden High School.

For a greater perspective on our 1:1 initiative  please see our past four guest posts:

When Scott McLeod and I first discussed this series, the first four posts seemed obvious.  It wasn’t until after the second post that Scott suggested it would be good to hear directly from students.  For anyone that knows me, I usually think this way as well, but I know with the topic of 1:1 computing there are some pretty intense feelings among educators.  We all want to see transformational practices every time the device is powered up during school hours.  I think it’s important to consider – and I think what the following student perspectives demonstrate, – we have to realize that no matter the level of tech saturation in their lives outside of school, that this introduction of ever-present connectedness during school is something very different for students too.  So my approach with the following students was to ask them to simply share what some positives and negatives were with their first few months of this newfound access to the Web.  Here are their unabridged responses…

Joaquin Cardenas (Junior)

When I found out last year we were going to get chromebooks I didn’t think there was going to be much of a difference in my typical school day. That my classroom atmosphere wasn’t going to change much. That is only partly true so far in the time I have spent with my chromebook. There have been many positive changes with getting a chromebook, but whenever something changes, there tends to be some negatives as well.

Now that we all have chromebooks, I think I have seen more responsibility among the students. Rarely, does someone forget to bring their chromebook to class. It has taught me how to become more responsible and take care of something that is worth more than your pen and pencil. To me, the major and most helpful difference in having a chromebook is Google Docs. The ability to be able to write, save, and share a document all online is remarkable. You can’t lose what you have written because your document is automatically saved. It is easier for teachers to help you with your writing because now they can directly comment on your paper. You can collaborate more with your peers when you share a document with them and can work on it at the same time. It can also benefit teachers because there isn’t the excuse anymore of that “I didn’t print it”, or “my computer wasn’t working”. Teachers can now see exactly what the student did to the document and at what time they made any changes. Because of the addition of the chromebooks, teachers can place everything online, like the agenda, calendar, homework, etc. If a student is absent he can check online to see what he missed. Having chromebooks opens up the classroom to many resources that are online to get a better understanding of what you are learning. With all the good things that come with having chromebooks there are also some negatives.

As I said before, you have to become more responsible when you receive the chromebook, not just by taking care of it but by what you do with it. During class you may be able to get distracted by browsing the web. Also you can’t use the chromebook for certain classes like math because there aren’t many uses for it. The chromebook come with some distractions but it is worth it for the type of learning atmosphere that the student receives to prepare him for the future.

Photo by Adrianne Nix - Art teacher at East Leyden High School

Justyna Chojnowski (Senior)

Upon hearing that we would be getting Chromebooks that would be ours, most of the student body at Leyden was beyond excited. The teachers, on the other hand, not so much. I, personally, have never been much of a computer person and would rather write out my own papers and not rely on a piece of technology that could break or not connect to the Internet. However, over the last couple of years, the Internet and I have become extremely close friends, especially when I needed help with Physics homework. Because of this, I was also very excited to receive the Chromebooks. The prospect of obtaining a Chromebook was very appealing, seeing as we would have access to an unlimited supply of information from all over the world except, of course, the sites that were restricted. This would not only help us further our knowledge, it would also enable us to collaborate with people from all around the world. I think, this reason was one of the major reasons that made getting Chromebooks so exciting.

Nevertheless, we faced, and still sometimes face, a major obstacle: incorporating the Chromebooks into the classroom. This has been a struggle from the beginning. The Chromebooks possess such great power that some teachers are overwhelmed and do not know how to use the Chromebooks to their advantage. Furthermore, sometimes it is impossible to incorporate the Chromebooks into a classroom, for example my Calculus AP class. Sure, we have Math XL, an online program for homework problems, but writing out equations and symbols on the Chromebook takes way longer than writing them out on paper. Or the Chromebook decides that it doesn’t want to work properly, such as when OpenClass does not want to “open.” I understand the incorporation of Chromebooks into the classroom is a work in progress, but it can be stressful on both the teacher and the students when something is not going the way it is supposed to. Teachers not only have to change how they teach, they also have to make sure that students are on task and not roaming the Internet. Sometimes the Chromebook is a major distractor and functions the reverse role of distracting instead of helping the students.

Although the Chromebook possesses some disadvantages, it in turn has a lot of advantages that can be utilized by students and teachers. One of the best things about the Chromebooks is being able to share and simultaneously collaborate, revise, and work on the same document. This allows students to complete an assignment or project without having to meet up outside of school. With busy schedules and a lot of other schoolwork, this feature ensures that students turn in their assignments, especially group projects, for they cannot use the excuse of “I wasn’t able to meet up with my group.” Sharing documents is also favorable to teachers. Teachers can view what a student is doing as they do it and are also able to access who is doing what on each document, thus in turn giving each student the grade they deserve based on the amount of work they completed. In addition, the Chromebooks are light and portable, and, in some cases, replace the back-breaking weight of carrying a stack of books. As I mentioned before, the Chromebooks offer students and teachers access to a huge supply of readily available information. This is turn can be utilized, propelling students and teachers alike into the future of technology. With a head start, students will know how to work different programs on their computers, use the Internet to obtain extra information, and eventually leave an amazing digital footprint that others will be able to view.

We, here at Leyden, have begun the process of leaving a digital footprint. Administrators, as well as teachers, are promoting the use of the Chromebooks in a positive manner, such as starting the Twitter hashtag #leydenpride. Many of our students have participated in using this hashtag. Search #leydenpride on Twitter and the results will portray students talking about our school in a positive manner as well as many different activities going on at our school and in our community. I believe, that the Chromebooks have presented students here at Leyden with many opportunities, and will continue to do so even more effectively once all the kinks are worked out.

Design by the East Leyden Graphic Design class.

Amina Patel (Junior)

Google Chromebook, if you mentioned these two words to me last year I would have stared at you in confusion, but now it has changed my way of thinking. It all started back in January when I was doing a service event for a club, I had to give my opinion on what I thought of these chromebooks and how other teachers can learn, it was some sort of edcamp. I honestly had no idea what I was going to say, but being me I winged it and gave it my best shot. After talking to other teachers from our school I realized that Leyden is a very privileged school, being able to have 1:1 for each and every single student is phenomenal. Having the chromebook has changed my experience here at Leyden in a postive way.

Being a junior here at Leyden has given me two years without the Google Chromebooks. I have been in the place of using simple pencil and paper in every class, I have had a basis of comparison between the classroom environments. I can honestly say the use of the Chromebooks have made my job as a student easier. The hassle of printing, the worry of late assignments, and most importantly the ease of communication with my teachers. In particular I am in an AP English class, the teacher (Mr. Narter) had us watch the political debates, and apply the things we are learning in class to the significance it has in the debate. Well, the problem was that the debate is after school hours, and instead of having the inconvenience of writing an analysis, he send us a link to a website called Today’s Meet. This website lets you log on to a specific group and have a group conversation, this made watching the debate more entertaining because you essentially had your fellow classmates right there. And trust me we had heavy debates going on. But thinking about the difficulty of this tasks without the chromebooks, made it somewhat impossible. The ease of the chromebooks with the students doesn’t go quite well with the teachers.

We live in the age of technology, with such easy access to internet the world is at our fingertips. With the chromebooks learning has becoming easier but in the case of the teachers, teaching has become harder. To implement learning online is a difficult task especially for teachers who have been doing it for years. In my opinion teachers aren’t using the chromebooks to the full extent, there has been quite a gap in the adjustments between paper and digital.

Twitter, many people know what this is and many people do not, simply put, it is a social networking website. I started using Twitter because being a teenager and using social media went hand in hand. At first it was just place to post tweets aimlessly, but has we all received chromebooks it started gaining popularity here at Leyden. Sooner than I thought the hashtag #leydenpride had started trending within our school. Students, including myself, would use it to tweet about amplifying school spirit, and other activities we were taking apart of at school. It has gotten so popular that even our own teachers and administrators were using it. Yes, my principal (Mr. Markey) is a huge twitter fan and was using the hashtag all over the place. Because the hashtag had such great popularity I had an idea, my entrepreneurship class was creating new leyden wear.  Why not put #leydenpride on it? So, I got the class to agree and we sold wristbands, and t-shirts with the hashtag #leydenpride. It helped encourage students to not only have pride in their school but pride in themselves and their own self-achievements.

T-shirt design by Amina Patel

 


I would like to thank our three student contributors to this post for their candor and willingness to write some “extra’ this week.  Also, I would like thank Scott McLeod for the work he continues to do to support and promote this type of integration of technology in our education system.  We all may have a different vision of where education is headed, but I hope we all understand that the Web is going to be vital part of our world moving forward. Since we never deprived our students of the printed word for the past several centuries, I hope the same holds true regarding the Web.

—–

Note from Scott

Leave the students a comment or question. I bet you’ll hear back!

I greatly appreciate the willingness of Jason and the other Leyden staff and students to contribute to this guest series on Chromebooks in schools. Chromebooks are a new approach to 1:1 computing for most educators. It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to hear lessons learned from a school district that is ahead of the curve on this front. Thanks, Leyden!

If you’re doing something interesting with technology in your school that you think might be of interest to school leaders, I’d love to hear from you. There are many educators and school organizations doing incredible work out there. I try to use my guest posts to publicly honor and share some of that work. Read over my guest blogging guidelines and drop me a note!

Tech Support Internship: Student-led support for Leyden’s Chromebook initiative [guest post]

Part 4 of a 5-part series on 1:1 with Chromebooks at Leyden High Schools.  This post was written collaboratively by the four teachers who work with the Tech Support Internship program:  Jason Cartwright, Adam Labriola, Lauren Martire, and Tony Pecucci. More information is available at the East Leyden and West Leyden TSI Websites.

Overview

The Tech Support Internship (TSI) is a year-long course that supports Leyden’s 1:1 technology initiative.  Students in the Tech Support Internship get experience working in a real life tech support environment.

The Tech Support Interns have three main objectives:

  1. To support students’ Chromebooks
  2. To support the faculty and staff with technology needs
  3. To pursue independent learning pathways

When students are not supporting students’ and/or faculty/staff technology needs, students work on a variety of independent pathways.  These pathways allow students to explore and develop skills in a variety of technology subjects including computer programming, networking, app development, web design, etc.  The students also are given the opportunity to become certified in multiple industry recognized certifications.

Pathways and Why Students Chose Them

Certification

Students in this pathway pursue industry certifications.  Students may choose one or more of the following certifications:  Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3), Microsoft Office Specialist, Google Apps, and/or CompTia A+ Certification.

“I chose certification as my pathway because I wanted to learn more about computers.  There will be many benefits gained from completing this pathway. If I get my A+ certification next semester, I can have more job and internship opportunities in college. I want to get as many certifications as I can this year.” - Karolina Moniuszko

Computer Programming or Networking

Students in this pathway gain hands on experience in computer programming or networking.  For computer programming, students may choose between two programming languages: C++ or JavaScript.

“The reason why I chose programming was because the whole entire concept of it was so cool. Studying programming is like studying a whole new language, it’s hard but when you finally understand you feel a sense of accomplishment. In programming you will learn the fundamentals of where all the current apps and programs you use come from and how they were made, while at the same time interacting with developing codes yourself. Other than that it’s a high demand job in the real world that pays a lot of money.” - Clint De Leon

Communications

Students in this pathway implement new communication technologies for Leyden students and staff.  Students create websites, podcasts, blogs, tutorials, and workshops related to Leyden’s technology initiative.

“I chose the Communications pathway because I liked the idea of being able to inform teachers and students about different technologies in a creative way.  I also get to learn about and use a variety of multimedia tools that will benefit me in my school work and my future jobs.” - Dulce Lopez

App Development

Students in this pathway build and develop apps for the Chrome Browser, iOS, and Android devices. Students will gain experience developing applications using a web browser and either a connected phone or emulator.

“Through curiosity of viewing the app store and the unlimited apps provided for download, I thought more and more on how to do certain apps and the difficulty involved. I chose this Pathway so I can make apps that people my age can use and find to be important or entertaining in their everyday lives. To have a well known app would give me the confidence to build more and to do that, my first step was to join this class and follow this Pathway.” - Zaid Alaraj

Interaction Between Students and Tech Department

Level 1: Students

In TSI, students are the initial point of contact on any and all technical issues.  Students work with students, faculty and staff to determine exactly what their issue is and determine how to address it.  These requests all come through a work ticketing system (Spiceworks) and are handled by the students on a rotating basis.  Most commonly, students work on Chromebook issues/repairs, projection screens, Google Application support, and many other common issues.  If an issue can be handled completely by a student, these tickets are considered Level 1.

Level 2: Students Working with Tech Department

When students are addressing issues, they may derive that the issue is in need of administrative access.  For these types of cases, they would need to bring in a member of the Tech Department to assist.  These issues would then be considered Level 2.  Typically, these issues would involve the wireless network password, accessing network printers or handling software downloads for computers labs.  The students have a close relationship with the Tech Department and often come along to see how Level 2 tickets are handled for learning purposes.  Again, all tickets are filtered through our work ticketing program to ensure they are being addressed in a timely manner.

Benefits

We believe the benefits of TSI are many.  Throughout our conversations with computer professionals, they would continually stress the need for students to not only have certifications in various areas – but also to have the soft skills and hands on experience to work in a job environment.  This is where TSI is an extremely good fit as it provides all of those skills … and more.

TSI students at Leyden interact with students, faculty and staff on a daily basis.  They sharpen their communication skills by answering phones, handling incoming issues and going out in the “field” on various tickets.  TSI students never know what they will be working on next and no day is like the day before!  We feel this is a replication of what they will be facing once they leave Leyden and prepares them in a way no other class does.

In addition, students can choose the various pathways to work on when not assisting our school.  Particularly, the certifications they can attain will increase their ability to secure a position directly out of high school.  Leyden TSI students will be more qualified than many others in the workforce for entry level positions in computing.

Overall, Leyden TSI students are getting much of the “real world” experience they need to succeed post high school.  TSI provides enormous benefits for students and can give them the edge they need to start their careers, wherever they may start!

Previous posts in the series

What Can You Expect When Moving Learning to the Web? [guest post]

The third post of a 5-part series on 1:1 at Leyden High Schools. This post is from Mikkel Storaasli, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction for the Leyden High School District.  This post is also cross-posted on Mikke’s blog, Surely You Can’t Be Serious.

Leyden High School District 212, right next door to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, has just gone 1-1 with the (mostly) web-only Chromebook. So that means that every student in our two high school district has a laptop with a full keyboard. However, native programs cannot be installed as on a a Win/Mac laptop; all applications that students have access to must come from the web. In other words, there is no MS Office for students, just Google Apps. Thus, we characterize our 1-1 model as “moving learning to the Web.”

There is power when you shift learning to the Web. For us, there have been two critical pieces to making this shift.

1.  A Common Platform: A Learning Management System (LMS) such as Blackboard, Moodle, or OpenClass (which is what we use) to provide a common electronic platform is an immediate shift in how school is done.

Look, I realize that this may seem like an obvious use of web-based tools to some, but providing a digital organizing structure for students is crucial. I cannot stress this enough: The LMS is HUGE. It’s the glue that holds together our digital work.

The immediate access to tools for posting materials, syllabi, calendars, assessments, facilitating discussions, and communicating with students immediately changes the educational landscape. Furthermore, the fact that it’s a common platform for students helps them keep it all organized and coherent.

For example, one teacher posted a lesson with an online presentation tool called SlideRocket  Complete with audio narration, students can view the material anytime anywhere. What’s even better is that the teacher sent the link to the presentation to his students’ parents. Having that lesson available online helps students who were absent, students who need to hear it (or just part of it) a second or third time, and effectively brings parents into the class with their students.

2. An Ethos of Sharing (rather than “turning it in”): Along with the LMS, the use of Google Apps has provided the foundation for communication and collaboration among our staff and students.

Again, in our district we are utilizing the (mostly) web-only Chromebook, which means that native apps such as the MS Office Suite are off the table.  Thus, Google Apps for education provides the platform for most of our productivity tools.

Think about this: The move to Google docs and the ethos of sharing files, of working with products that are constantly being revised by a team, is not a small one. Some of have been doing this for years and take it as second nature. Personally, it’s totally changed how I work and collaborate with others. However, it’s taken me years to build this capacity.

In this model, students and teachers are working together, constantly revising and sharing feedback on living documents. We sometimes forget how alien this may seem to many students, who have been largely trained to “turn it in” (or to “attach it”), and that’s the end of the assignment.  Short of receiving an assignment back with a few red marks scrawled (or typed) on it, the work was done. Dead and abandoned. Static. Time to move on to the next thing.

“Just” introducing Google Apps (or other tools which allow for cloud-based collaboration) is a big shift for teachers, students, and parents. It may not seem all that big of a deal to seasoned Google Apps users, but introducing these tools on a mass scale can be challenging.

Yet, it’s also critically important to our model. Institutionalizing a cycle of sharing and providing meaningful feedback between teachers and students has positive implications based on decades of research. Here’s why: according to John Hattie’s table of effect sizes, a vast body of educational research indicates that “Feedback” is the instructional technique that has the #1 biggest impact on student learning.

Never heard of Hattie? Perhaps you’re a fan of Robert Marzano’s “Classroom Instruction That Works.” You will of course know that “Setting objectives and providing feedback” is one of the nine high impact, research-based instructional strategies advocated by that Dr. Marzano. Incidentally, Marzano’s work is linked to Hattie’s research, so they’re singing from the same hymnal.

If you have a handle on Google Apps and a Learning Management System, you will have built the foundation for learning to be collaborative and dynamic in nature as well as available anytime or anywhere. As one of our teachers said, “Class doesn’t end at the period, it ends in the cloud.”

So, aside from these two foundational pieces, what else can you expect when you move learning to the web? Certainly, our teachers are using a multitude of other web-based techniques such as

Remember “Feedback” and Hattie’s effect sizes? How about this for increasing the amount and quality of feedback for students:

These are a few things off the top of my head.  Now, I realize that what I’ve been discussing isn’t full-blown Problem Based Learning across the curriculum or anything. I worry that teachers see presentations like the one given by Seth Godin here, and feel as though they have to immediately meet that standard. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Seth is saying but what he’s talking about takes deep learning on the part of everyone in the institution over a long period of time.

We are just scratching the surface of the pedagogical implications of the tools we have available and building the structure of our digital courses. However, that doesn’t mean what’s going on isn’t not effective and potentially transformative.

What is the unintended curriculum for students and teachers?

However, you should also consider the challenges this poses for students. For students, learning to learn in a 1-1 setting is HARD. Let’s not pretend it isn’t. It’s a totally new paradigm for interacting with a course and a teacher, for accessing materials, not to mention the inevitable technical issues that arise.

Moving learning to the web immediately introduces a different prototype for student learning, and learning to navigate this takes time for everyone. Although we sometimes perpetuate the myth that students are “digital natives” and they innately gravitate toward electronic documents, presentations, syllabi, calendars, and to-do lists, this is certainly not always the case. In fact, some students have a very hard time in this new paradigm, and often it’s those who have succeeded in a traditional paper-based system.

Think of the student binders you’ve seen in years past, those that look like unstable nuclear paper bombs ready to detonate at the slightest nudge. Is it any wonder that students might have the same trouble organizing materials electronically?

Students need to learn HOW to learn in an electronic environment. Students have to learn how to deal with materials (previously tree-based) that are suddenly available electronically via a website or learning management system. Furthermore, they have to deal with a new expectation of responsibility: Your class materials are out there and available at any time, and you need to access them as you need them.

Although it’s fantastic that students no longer have to rely on the teacher to access class materials, that’s a double edged sword: with these tools, there is an expectation of personal responsibility on the part of the student. You cannot understate that this can be uncomfortable for them.

Similarly, learning to teach in a 1-1 setting is also HARD. Again, let’s not pretend it isn’t. It’s a totally new paradigm for organizing a course, for presenting materials, for interacting with students, and it presents a host of new classroom management issues, not to mention the inevitable technical issues that arise.

Teachers will try some things that work, and they’ll try some things that crash and burn. It’s all part of the learning process, and that needs to be OK. I certainly hope that our teachers will make the connection that this is how learning happens for students, too. We all need the space to be able to try things and fail.

But as one our teachers said to me, although this is tough starting out, this is all an investment in time and learning. Next year we will have built it a cache of digital materials and experiences, and this will get easier. As that same teacher said, “Come and see us next year.”

And there it is. I’ve always thought of education as a process of iteration, the repetition of a process creating an increasingly complex and beautiful result. In my brain, damaged slightly by several years as a math teacher, our experience teaching and learning in a 1-1, cloud-based environment like a fractal: beautiful images created by an iterative process.

Right now, we’re in the midst of moving learning to the web, our first iteration. We have just started 1-1, and as we repeat and refine our techniques, over the course of many class periods, days, weeks, months, and years, the investment of time and learning will produce an increasingly beautiful result.

One example of a fractal. Not to get too mathy, but it’s all about the beauty of iteration. From http://www.wisdom-earth.com

Our next post in this series will discuss our Tech Support Internship Class, which serves as our level one tech support for the entire district.

Previous posts in the series

The Logistics of 1:1 Chromebooks at Leyden [guest post]

The second post in a series about 1:1 at Leyden
by Bryan Weinert, Director of Technology for Leyden CHSD 212
@LeydenTechies – Author of the Leyden Techies Blog

The wonderful thing about Chromebooks, is Chromebooks are wonderful things.
Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs.
They’re bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, trouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
The most wonderful thing about Chromebooks, is they’re the only one!

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be trying to write a blog post at the same time while watching my 15 month old daughter, but hopefully I got you started reading this with a smile.  This is the second post in the four-part series on going 1:1 with Chromebooks in our district that a few of my colleagues and I were asked to write for Scott McLeod’s amazing Dangerously Irrelevant blog.  Be sure to check out the first post in the series, Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? written by Jason Markey, our principal at East Leyden High School.

Let me start by suggesting that one of the really wonderful things about Chromebooks is that they actually eliminate or simplify a number of logistics.  While researching and planning to go 1:1 in our district, this made the Chromebook an extremely attractive choice for us.  Far too often over the past 12 years that I’ve been the Director of Technology for our district did technology initiatives run into problems because of logistics.  The following are some of the key highlights that we’ve experienced so far.

SETUP

None.  Really, none.  We purchased enough devices that they came pre-setup with our wireless network configured and enrolled into our Google Apps domain.  We were able to take them out of the box and give them directly to students.

MANAGEMENT

We purchased our Chromebooks directly from Google so the management tools were included.  If you purchase them from a different vendor, you can contract with Google to add the management capabilities.  Basically, this adds a ChomeOS section to the Settings tab in your Google Apps for Education control panel.

Being web-based, I can quickly and easily manage our entire fleet from just about any web-based device I may be working on.  Some of the management features we have implemented through the control panel are as follows:

  • Proxy Server – We force all of our Chromebooks to communicate through a proxy server so that our students will always be working behind our firewall and content filter.  This was critical for us since our students take their devices home.
  • Screen Lock – We force all of our Chromebooks to be locked after a set amount of idle time or upon closing the lid.  The students can easily re-enter their passwords to pick up working where they left off.
  • Default Homepage – We control not only what the default homepage is for all of our students, but also define multiple different tabs to open each time they log into their device.  That has proved beneficial when we want to get particular information delivered to or highlighted for all of our students.  For example, we created a webpage about digital footprints that was the first page students saw for a week.
  • Account Access – We do not allow “guest mode” on our devices and only allow users within our domain to log in.
  • ChromeOS Updates – We have the ability to allow or prevent our Chromebooks to auto update and can restrict the version of ChromeOS our students are using.
  • Chrome Web Store – We currently allow our students full access to the Chrome web store, however, we can easily turn it off or restrict which resources our students have access to in the web store if necessary.
  • Apps & Extensions – We push out a base package of apps and extensions to all of our students to help standardize some of the tools and practices used in our district.  A few of the tools in our base package include the Google Tasks, Google Dictionary, and Readability extensions and the GeoGebra, Desmos Graphing Calculator, WeVideo for Drive, and Kindle Cloud Reader apps.

That’s about it.  It doesn’t seem like a lot and that’s really the beauty of it.  There just isn’t much to manage for a Chromebook environment.  I’d also like to note that if you have your Google Apps domain grouped into organizational units (OU), you can configure your management settings differently for each OU.

SOFTWARE

Once again, none.  There is no software to install and manage on the Chromebooks.  With our initiative to move teaching and learning to the Web, our teachers and students have the freedom and power to use just about any free tool or resource they choose.  In my opinion this can foster more student choice which could lead to more student engagement and creativity.  Check out one of my previous blog posts on this topic.

CHECK OUT

Because all of our Chromebooks are exactly the same and any user will have the same exact experience regardless of which device they use, we were able to randomly assign the Chromebooks to the students.  We built a system that was used during our registration/book pick-up day the week before school started that had a staff member scan a student’s ID badge, scan the Chromebook’s serial number, scan the Chromebook’s asset tag (self created), and then scan the power cord’s serial number to create a record in a database and officially assign the device to the student.

SUPPORT

One of the most exciting things we’ve done in conjunction with going 1:1 this year was to develop a new Tech Support Intern (TSI) class.  This is an elective course in our Business Education department that runs every period of the day and serves as the starting point for all of our teachers’ and students’ tech support needs.  More detailed information about this class will be featured in the fourth post of this series, so stay tuned.  For the purposes of this blog post, it’s important to note that we purchased 60 extra Chromebooks per school to serve as loaner devices that can be issued to students through the TSI class when they have a device in need of service.  Our goal was to never have a time when a student did not have a Chromebook.

POWER

This is one of the logistics that choosing Chromebooks completely eliminated for us.  With the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook battery lasting 8+ hours, we were able to require our students to bring a fully charged Chromebook to school every day and be assured that they’d be able to use it in every one of their classes.  Since this is a requirement, there are consequences for not bringing a Chromebook to school and for not having a charged device.  If students find themselves in either situation and need a device to participate in class, they can check out a loaner from the TSI class.  The TSI class keeps statistics on how many times a student checkouts out a loaner because they did not have their own to use and sends reports to our deans to assign the consequences.

DEVICE SAFETY AND SECURITY

We issued a protective case to all of our students and require them to carry their devices in those cases when not in class.  They are small enough to even fit in a backpack.  We’re hopeful this will cut down on the breakages.  To help prevent any mysterious disappearances, either on accident or on purpose, we had all of our Chromebooks laser engraved with the following text:

Property of Leyden High School District 212

If found or presented for sale,

please call 847-451-3017.

ID# 2012-2xxxx

In addition, we added a barcoded asset tag to each device with the number matching the engraved ID number on the device.  We outsourced the engraving and asset tagging work which was completed before we even took delivery of our Chromebooks.

INFRASTRUCTURE & BANDWIDTH

We currently have sufficient building-wide wireless coverage to ensure that our students can use their Chromebooks everywhere they need to.  In addition, we currently have a 250 MB Internet pipe for each of our two campuses.  So far, both the wireless infrastructure and our bandwidth are holding up.

CONCLUSION

I may have missed a few logistics topics, but am more than willing to field your questions, so feel free to contact me at , via Twitter @LeydenTechies, or through my blog at http://leydentechies.blogspot.com/.

I’ll wrap up by mentioning that we have been thrilled with the digital evolution of our district into a fully 1:1 environment and many of our success are a result of choosing to go with the Google Chromebook.  The most important factor to our success so far, of course, is our teachers.  We have incredibly talented teachers that have risen to the challenge of moving teaching and learning to the Web.  Because we didn’t have to hire any additional tech support or dedicate as much time, money, and resources to going 1:1 with Chromebooks as we may have needed to do with other devices, we were able to hire two full-time instructional tech coaches to support our teachers.  Please check back for the next post in this series, From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All, to learn more about the professional development we’ve done and the amazing things our teachers and students are now doing.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this post.  “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”  Uh oh, guess it’s time to get back to my kids  ;-)

Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? [guest post]

The first post of a 4-part series on 1:1 at Leyden High Schools.
Jason Markey, principal of East Leyden High School

Leyden High School District, located just outside of Chicago, serves the communities of Franklin Park, Schiller Park, River Grove, Rosemont, and parts of Northlake and Melrose Park.  Our two high schools serve just over 3,500 students.

I’m excited about Leyden sharing our 1:1 journey in hopes that we can help schools realize the potential of access for all students and to allow all of us to learn from others along the way.  One of the most important parts of our digital evolution has been the conversations, visits, and meetings that we have been fortunate to have with districts from Iowa, South Carolina, Massachusetts and many others.  But the most important part of any school’s development of vision is to understand “the why.”  So that’s where we started.

A few months ago, the importance of starting with the why was made even more clear to me when I read a blog post by Carmela Ianni highlighting Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk.  So the center of our “golden circle,” the answer to the question why 1:1, has always been because it will provide opportunities for our students that are simply not possible without anytime, anywhere access to the web.

So what opportunities specifically?

  • The opportunity to ensure that great teaching and learning can happen in all classrooms and not be dependent upon access.
  • The opportunity to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously with other students seamlessly.
  • The opportunity for students to receive more timely and specific feedback from teachers.
  • The opportunity for students to create a positive digital footprint with learning being public on the web.
  • The opportunity for students to generate more writing and create more authentic representations of their learning than ever before.
  • The opportunity for students to choose how they present their learning.
  • Leveling the playing field for access for all our students.
  • The opportunity to remove the ceiling on what they can learn and share.  We purposely did not set a finite goal on what outcome we want to see as “results” of 1:1 because what we truly want is for each student to be able to follow their passion in learning and allow that to take them to new possibilities.

Equally important as considering the why, is considering the why not.  I recently wrote a brief blog post on considering the opportunity cost of not choosing 1:1.  I strongly believe if 1:1 is honestly considered, the only roadblock for districts considering 1:1 is the fear of managing the logistics.  Our next blog post in this series will cover how we have addressed the many logistical concerns of a 1:1 initiative.  One of the most important decisions that made our logistical concerns much easier to address was our device selection, the Chromebook.

So the question we have answered the most since last December when we publicly made our decision is  “why the Chromebook?”  Often the question is phrased something like this, “so why didn’t you choose iPads,  and aren’t Chromebooks just the web?”  As I wrote here in my blog, yes they are a web-based  and web-managed device, and that is actually an incredible advantage over many other potential devices.  Ryan Bretag wrote a great blog post on this topic, “The Internet as a Belief System”.  Again, many more technical specifics will be discussed in our next post, but when we considered a device we looked for something that could ensure our resources, both time and money, were focused more on student learning rather than supporting the technology.  I am so excited to report that we launched 3,500 devices in our two high schools this year and we have not hired one additional person in our tech department.  We have put into place two instructional coaches specializing in integrating technology and a new course called Tech Support Internship (TSI).  TSI is our “frontline” tech support now for students and teachers in addition to being so much more for our students.  Again resources supporting learning, not technology.  In the final post of this series we will highlight our TSI class.

I hope this has been a good introduction as to the “why” we chose 1:1 and Chromebooks for our students.  Please do not hesitate to follow up with me here.  Also, we are opening our doors at Leyden for two school visit dates this fall and a conference in the summer.  If you are interested, please see more information here.

Coming soon….
Post #2 – The Logistics of 1:1 at Leyden
Post #3 – From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All
Post #4 – Student Tech Support – Student Ownership of 1:1

A high school senior’s view of textbooks and worksheet packets [guest post]

[This is a guest post from Tucker, a recently-graduated high school student. He wrote this for his senior year Comp class.]

Hearing the phrase “Get out your textbooks” from a high school teacher makes me want to throw up, and it is something I have heard for the last four years in almost every class from almost every teacher. Textbooks are filled with valuable information but are often boring, outdated, and even physically damaged from past use. In this day and age of “21st Century Learning,” it is insane that we are using 19th and 20th Century teaching strategies.

Most students today do not respond to textbook learning, and yet it is one of the most common ways for teachers to dispense information. Teaching out of a textbook is easy. It does not require teachers to step out of their comfort zone and find new ways to connect with students who are so eager to learn something useful that they can actually apply to their lives. The stereotype of students today is that they are uninterested in anything the school system has to offer. However, that is a complete lie. Students simply become uninterested because each school day seems to them like they have woken up in the movie “Groundhog Day” and go through the exact same motions as the day before. There is not a problem with the students, but with the dreaded textbook that has been around for so long it has become the status quo of teaching tools.

I will agree that the information in textbooks can be valuable to students. The information is not the issue. The issue is that many teachers today will hand out a packet they did not even create, tell the students to look up the information in the textbooks and copy down the answers word for word, and then go back to their desks where they will get on their computers and check their Facebook and Twitter feeds. Sometimes they may even see one of their students tweeting about how bored in class they are, and yet they will go right on down the page hoping to find something that makes them laugh out loud instead of things that make them consider how well they are doing their job. I am afraid that this routine is something the next generation of teachers will find themselves well accustomed to.

I want my classes to be interactive and exciting! I want to be moving around the room, working with other students to solve a real world problem that can eventually tie back into what we are actually learning in the class. Students should want every class to go on longer and be surprised when the bell rings because the period went by so fast. They should not be checking the clock every five minutes hoping for a random fire drill that will speed up the hour, and then waiting at the door for five minutes at the end of the period staring down the second hand as it travels endlessly around the clock. Textbook teaching allows these things to happen, and it is really a tragedy for both students and teachers.

Every day teachers should be standing in the front of the room challenging their students to a higher level of thinking, and in return the teachers will be challenged themselves. Where is the challenge in handing out novel-sized textbook packets to students who will most likely not remember anything they copied down? To truly challenge the students, teachers must actually spend time outside of school researching new tools that help connect with students on a more personal level. The more teachers push themselves to connect and interact with their students in order to boost their ability to critical think and retain knowledge, the better the teacher will become. Over time, there is no limit to how good a teacher can become if they have that mindset and expect the most out of themselves. On the other hand, the more and more they use textbooks, which is the easy way to do things, the worse they will become at teaching and inspiring their students to actually want to learn. That is why textbooks have become the crutch of high school teachers. They are so incredibly easy to lean on, but if they were taken away many teachers would be absolutely lost because they have not challenged themselves to create more of a 21st Century learning environment in their classrooms.

The new job market requires students to have 21st Century learning skills, so it is not a surprise many students struggle when they get out of high school and college because they have been taught in a 19th and 20th Century learning environment. If schools want to create students that are competitive and indispensable in the job market they must ditch the textbooks and challenge their teachers to challenge themselves, and in return inspire students to achieve a love for learning, which can truly take them anywhere they want to go.

Image credit: The eventual destination of the Thursday folder worksheets: The circular file

Forward tutoring: Educate, volunteer, improve [guest post]

[This is a guest post by Dustin Lewis, a 5th grade teacher at the American International School of Budapest.  Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, he has been teaching internationally for four years, with a previous stop at The Anglo American School in Moscow.  Dustin also works part-time promoting First Tutors, a UK-based tutoring service that specializes in finding the right individual tutors for each student.  In his spare time, Dustin enjoys reading and Asian cuisine.]

Educating the youth in our society falls primarily on school systems and teachers.  In many cases, children don’t receive the specialized and individual attention they need to work through tricky concepts or difficult material.  To combat this, some parents hire private tutors to work with their children.  In this blog post, I will detail a new tutoring concept that will not only help children learn, but will provide them with opportunities to become socially responsible as well.

“Serve while you learn” may be the most fitting tagline to describe the concept of forward tutoring. Forward tutoring is beneficial for both students and the community, as it combines the process of learning with the idea of giving back to those that have helped you.  Students get online help for the subject of their choice while in return, they will participate in community service projects contributing towards the betterment of the community they belong to. The online help offered is, in most cases, as good as classroom coaching except in a personalized one on one setting. The students have access to a number of qualified tutors, in a range of subjects and specialties.  Unlike normal tutoring, however, the payment is not in paper currency, but in the form of community service and volunteer projects.  Forward tutoring combines serving and learning in an innovative way through the use of technology, helping out not just the students, but everyone in the community that this project touches.

Forward Tutoring Removes Financial Barriers to Tutoring: For most children, the school day ends when the bell rings.  Sure, many will go home, do their homework, and study for upcoming exams.  For many children, however, this is simply not enough.  In larger school districts where the teacher to student ratio may not be ideal, most students do not receive the individualized attention required for them to succeed.  In this case, one option for students and parents is to hire an after school tutor.  For many families, however, this just isn’t a realistic possibility due to the expensive nature of the tutoring industry.  Forward tutoring breaks down these financial barriers, and allows any person from any social or economic background access to personalized and specialized tutoring.

Forward Tutoring is Promoting Student Volunteerism: Nothing can match the vigor of youth. Non-profits are always looking for helping hands to work towards various noble causes, but finding professionals from various fields that offer volunteer help is almost impossible to find. Thus, forward tutoring provides the framework for students to take action.  Many times students either want to volunteer, but don’t know of the opportunities, or aren’t aware of the positive social ramifications until they actually help out in the community.  Hence, students go through the dual development by being aware as well as educated. Forward tutoring allows the learners to pay forward the learning in the form of helping non-profits, supporting various kinds of community service.

Online Tutoring is Effective, Efficient, and Rewarding: The best part of forward tutoring is the actual learning that takes place.  Qualified students go through a comprehensive qualification process, where they are given tools and training to support their struggling peers.  These students are learning or have learned the exact same material that many of the learners are struggling with, so it is a perfect match for support.  Countless studies have supported the fact that to peer-to-peer learning is one of the best and most effective ways for a student to learn.  It works even better when the two students are of different ability levels.  Take a look at this study by the National Education Association for more evidence.  The goal of all tutoring is to improve and enhance academic performance in the classroom.  Peer tutoring has proven to be an effective method for facilitating this improvement for the learner and the tutor alike.

Benefits for the Student Tutors: It may seem that forward tutoring is a great way for struggling students to get support and for everyone to get involved in the community effort.  You may ask then, what benefits do the student tutors who give up their free time, without any compensation, receive?  In the short term, the answer is simply volunteer hours and the macro perspective of facilitating a peer’s learning to improve one’s own understanding of the subject matter.  However, if we look at longer term benefits, forward tutoring has teamed with supporting organizations and corporations that will provide internship and scholarship opportunities.

Forward Tutoring is Open for All: This concept is open for all. Since the backdrop is volunteerism, the only drive that is being considered is willingness to come forward and help, while getting educated in return. The forward tutoring project is a novel concept that is imparting a new meaning to internet tutoring and social welfare that is all tied into classroom achievement.  In the end, this project works on the basis of helping others, but consequently many of the students will in fact learn a lot more about themselves.

My Experience:  My experience with forward tutoring has been nothing but positive.  Having children become socially responsible is one of the most important aspects of my job.  Forward tutoring has given me the framework to push children into volunteering who normally would be too shy or unwilling.  Our community has also benefitted greatly.  We have teamed with two large community service projects during the program.  One is a Hungarian version of Walk the Wish and the other is a local dog shelter.  Getting participation in both of these activities is never easy, but forward tutoring makes children extend themselves in ways they never thought possible.  I’ve had several students tell me that they never imagined community service could be so much fun or rewarding.  Children want to do good all they need is a little help and direction.  Let forward tutoring help you and as a result help your entire community.

Forward tutoring is the wave of the future.  It combines technological platforms with the ideals of helping of others and peer to peer education.  Forward tutoring creates a perpetual cycle of learning, volunteering, academic success, and community betterment that will enhance the performance and self-esteem of the children we educate.

Where does 21st Century teaching begin? [Guest Blog]


startingpoint

The 21st Century Teaching Project Findings (Part 2)

Seann Dikkers  3/1/12

This post is part of an ongoing series abridged from the 21st Century Teaching Project (21CTP) – a study of expert professional development trajectories and digital age practice. 

Let’s assume that the goal of teacher training and professional development (PD) is to prepare teachers with powerful models, tools, and pedagogies that will inform expert practice over a career. If so, the 21CTP is designed to help us as a community, 1) hear from 39 award winning teachers, and 2) ask relevant questions about how to study and design teacher training and PD in the coming years.

When over half of these teachers say they completely changed their practice mid-career, I’m particularly interested in what, who, and how those trajectories started. In the first part of this series, I shared one data point on what wasn’t working. The following posts will highlight what was working, who did support these teachers, and how they did grow into expert practitioners.

21CTP Theme 2: Narrated Beginnings

A beginning narrative explains ‘what started it all?’ or ‘where did you first start thinking about?’ practice in the classroom. These questions inform essential beliefs, experiences, and exposure that is relevant to expert practitioners.

Immediately, ‘best practice’ studies are designed to give indications for expanded inquiry. Ideally, we can be given new insights toward recreating similar narratives with a similar end. (By the way, thanks for the clear and helpful feedback from the last post! You are all a gift and the comments are largely being integrated into the final write up of the study.) So we begin simply by asking those that are doing what we hope to see more of, ‘How did you do that?’ – then we listen.

My own assumption was that award winning teachers were going to be those that entered their professional life with a sort of ‘gift’. Their spark of life, talent, and refinement would eventually lead them to promotion and recognition – they were just gifted. They would have begun with a clear vision for expert practice and simply grow towards it. These teachers would have a ‘positive predisposition’ towards expert practice.

Upon completing the first phase of interviews, not one of the preliminary teachers fit this model. Instead I found teachers that claimed to have actually started teaching with faulty predispositions requiring change before they tapped into digital resources, paradigm shifts, and other teachers with great ideas to copy. Instead of having an internal compass, these teachers grew in a community of practice, looked for new tools, and laughed about epic failures as they learned and grew. They weren’t ‘gifted’ as much as they were ‘growing’ the way the rest of us do.

In fact, data from the 21CTP revealed four distinct ‘beginning narratives’’. For a full reading of all 39 stories, check here

Positive Predisposition

In the expanded round of interviews there were in fact teachers that had a great model of teaching they were seeking to resemble, and simply worked towards it. 15% of the teachers fit this beginning narrative I’ll call a ‘positive predisposition’ toward expert practice.

These narratives generally agreed:

“I have always taught the way I do now but I try to constantly try to find new ways and innovative ways to teach so, I’m a constant learner myself. I like to try new things.”

These teachers often had examples that they were trying to follow.

“I remember another elementary teacher who was very active and action oriented. She would act something out every day… I think that is the person I am trying to emulate.”

Those with a positive predisposition shared similar accounting of where they started on a path toward expert practice. They claimed to have always taught they way they did and often had a clear role-model they were trying to emulate.

Progressive Predisposition/Change

Not all teachers shared a positive role-model. On the contrary some entered the profession itching to change things or re-create their practice to look different from their past experiences. 28% of the 21CTP teachers fit this profile:

“Even in my early teaching, I was looking for a different approach towards teaching and learning.”

A progressive predisposition is equally powerful as a starting point for PD on the part of these teachers. However, lacking actual models, they often feel pressure from ‘the system’ and often reported looking outside the profession for new models.

“Again, because there is still a lot of pressure for the test and just getting things done.”

In year three, for instance, one teacher was “exhausted” and took a leave of absence. Upon returning, he reported re-connecting to, “The stuff I enjoy doing outside of school…” Refreshed, he was “always learning something new.”

For both predispositions, teachers were always looking for new ideas and tools to help them grow in the classroom. They held a constant idea of what they wanted and grew over time towards these mental models. 43% of 21CTP participants had a predisposed vision for teaching they continually worked toward. 
 

External Influence

Theme 1 noted what wasn’t necessarily working for expert teachers. From here forward this study turns to what was working for these teachers. For 57% of teachers, they changed their practice mid-career. It can’t be understated how relevant ongoing PD is for expert practice for these teachers.

The first narrative that experienced a change in disposition fit a profile where they experienced a person, tool, or PD program that they report was the start of a new way to practice their craft. Like those with a positive predisposition, these teachers identified a model of practice, through external influence, that became a driving goal. For instance, in the preliminary phase, one teacher credited their social network:

“Developing networking early on… Just sharing ideas, the basic web 2.0 type practices, ideas, tips, software with other educators within my state and increasing abroad. Shortly thereafter, within a year or so, I began to look at integration of video games and video technology into the classroom.” 

There was a laundry list of external influences that seemed unique to each person. In Theme 3, I’ll break down traditional and non-traditional PD assets and the degree to which the teachers were influenced by them. 23% of the teachers named these programs, people, and tools as the starting point for their changed practice.

Sudden Realization

The largest percentage of the 21CTP teachers reported a “sudden realization” or specific moment they could recall. Much like remembering where they were when they heard a major news story, these teachers had a moment when they perceived their own practice as deficient and in need of change. For progressive change narratives, they didn’t yet have a positive model, but recognized what they couldn’t do anymore. For example: 

“I remember crashing and burning real bad on what I would consider traditional lectures.”

“We all love our field, it’s so horrible to feel like you are torturing someone with the things you are passionate about.”

“I wasn’t bold and brazen, I was naive.”

“I had the moment where I realized I was teaching the same way my teachers taught me in high school and I was bored then and I was looking at some of my students who I knew were bright and energetic, lively kids and I could tell they were bored.”

These teachers (33%) did not consider themselves experts initially. They reported a simple realization that what they were doing wasn’t going to work anymore. They changed as a reaction and began doing anything else to garner better classroom results – starting a PD journey from a ‘sudden realization’.

Untitledtheme 2 table

So what?

Our best practitioners have told us that there are at least four beginning narratives toward award winning practice; it is a stretch to claim there is a predominant beginning narrative. Teachers can have positive models of practice, or a negative one. Teachers can enter the profession with a predisposed vision of practice, or not. Sources of change can be internal processes, or externally affected. As with our students, there are multiple types/paths for learning among adults. School leadership cannot afford to think that there is only one way to build expert practice. There is no ‘one size fits all’ that actually works for all.

I spend more time in the larger write up on this section noting that these beginnings don’t appear to be exclusive. Teachers noted one as primary, but often shared the importance of others.  

Also, among calls for reform, this data reconfirms past research that teacher beliefs about practice are significant PD components (see lit sources below). Some traditional models of training and PD (especially ones that provide models of practice – good or bad) should be clung to instead of thrown out with the bathwater primarily because, for some of the teachers, they work.

Finally, much of the PD field claims one progression for change: 1) Teacher learns, 2) Teacher changes practice, and 3) Student learning increases. For a significant portion of our sample, this was not what they claimed happened. For these teachers, they claimed they: 1) Got frustrated, 2) Changed practice, 3) Learned over time, 4) Student motivation increased, then 5) Student learning was enriched. Knowing does not necessarily preclude doing for these teachers.

In Theme 3, I’ll share a closer look at traditional and emergent resources reported as essential, or not so much, to these teachers. What worked, what didn’t. Among the leading PD assets: Effective Leadership, a Community of Practice, and New Media digital tools and resources. More to come…

Blog Discussion:

  1. Do all teachers with positive role-models progress toward them over time? Really a larger study of a random sample of teachers could gather this and more about predispositions. In schools, talk to teachers and find out if there are predispositions that drive their PD, vise versa, or both.
  2. There isn’t a clear ‘best’ beginning narrative, which means many types of beginnings can work towards expertise – not just “gifted” people. I find this encouraging to the rest of us! The data actually slants just a bit toward narratives where the teacher was “crashing and burning”, then resolved to be better. Never give up on teachers willing to grow, today’s worst teachers may be winning awards tomorrow if they are ready to try new things.
  3. Buffet style PD is a growing technique for district and building level training. Are these models intuitively accepted more easily because they are addressing actual adult learning styles more effectively? Teacher selected PD opportunities should at least be targeted for further expanded study, at best these should be the default for district level leaders.
  4. For all four beginning narratives, teachers had or sought a better way to teach. What they called the traditional model of ‘sage on the stage‘ or ‘grill and drill‘ was obsolete – which is expected of these participants – but not to be understated.

– 

Seann Dikkers is a researcher and dissertator in educational technologies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dikkers spent fourteen years as in the public schools as a teacher, principal, and consultant. Dikkers has presented nationwide as a designer and consultant in new media integration strategies for educational leadership, teaching, and learning. His design and research bridges education leadership and curriculum and instruction scholarship – including CivWorld, ParkQuest, History in our Hands, Mobile Media Learning, Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling editor (ARIS), the Comprehensive Assessment for Leadership in Learning (CALL), and the Teacher’s Toolbox. Dikkers edited the recent release of Real-Time Research: Improvisational Game Scholarship and is the founder/president of GamingMatter. Currently, Dikkers is in the process of interviewing award winning teachers across the country to find out strategies for professional development growth in digital media use.

– 

Addenda:

Beliefs of practice aren’t conclusive, but they can be informative for a field of study. For those that are interested in more detail, this study is built to complement current evidence being gathered on PD (Desimone, 2011), revisiting teachers as case units (Borko, 2004), accomplished examples of practice (Sheingold & Hadley, 1990), and beliefs that affect practice (Calderhead, 1996; Pajares, 1992; Ertmer, 2005), in a time of emergent digital skills and ‘literacies, (Trilling & Fadel, 2009; Lankshear & Knobel, 2008; Collins & Halverson, 2009). That’s the short version. Though done and IRB approved, the full lit review will be approved for posting in the next couple weeks at the project home site – along with detailed descriptions of selection, collection and analysis methods. Look for it at: 21 Century Teaching Project.

Borko, H. (2004). Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3-15.

Calderhead, J. (1996). Teachers: Beliefs and knowledge. In D. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psycology (pp. 709-725). New York: Macmillan Library Reference.

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology : the digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press.

Desimone, L. M. (2011). A Primer on Effective Professional Development. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(6), 68-71.

Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher Pedagogical Beliefs: The Final Frontier in Our Quest for Technology Integration? . Education Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 25-39.

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (Eds.). (2008). Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies, and Practices (Vol. 30). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307-332.

Sheingold, K., & Hadley, M. (1990). Accomplished Teachers: Integrating computers into
classroom practice. New York: Centre for Technology in Educaiton.

Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2009). 21 Century Skills: Learning for Life in our Times. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Are Teacher Preparation Programs Dangerously Irrelevant? [guest post]

Seann Dikkers [Guest Blogger]

In my first year of teaching a veteran leaned over during a particularly dry workshop and said blandly, “If you spend a whole day in these things and walk away with even one idea, it was worth the day… Today is not our day.” Cynical? Yes, but true. After 15 years as a teacher and principal this veteran’s words came back to me twice a year during professional development (PD) workshops. For good PD the wisdom was decidedly more uplifting.

Yet, there has to be a better way. Doesn’t there?

Now I’m knee deep in research on new media technologies for learning at the University of Wisconsin – Madison under Kurt Squire and Richard Halverson; both of whom argue that there are better ways. As much evidence as we muster, (in support of new models for leading and educating for learning), those in the system must embrace new practices for any changes to occur. In other words leadership matters and teaching matters as much as (or more) than GamingMatters (shameless self promotion) or any relevant new ideas for education.

Many studies seek to inform practice by examining experts in a field. In this post, I want to share some of the preliminary findings in the 21st Century Teaching Project (21CTP) – a study of teacher professional development trajectories toward the integration of new media technology.

I’ll edit the study details a bit: This is a ‘best practice’ style qualitative study after Dan McAdams’ methodology. Phase one: find out relevant practices. Phase two: quantify them in a larger sample to see if they hold water. 39 of the nation’s award winning teachers (TotY, PAEMST, ING, AMF) and authors make up the data set. If these are the teachers we choose to recognize as excellent, then we should listen to what they have to say about their PD – especially when there are consistent messages emerging.

So what do they say?

The next five blog entries will cover five findings that popped out of the data from the 21st Century Teaching Project (21CTP).

21CTP Theme 1: Teacher Training

In the initial interviews the participants kept telling me, with a conspiratorial tone, that their training wasn’t like most teachers, ”It’s a rather unorthodox journey”, said one. Then, one after another, they shared stories that all converged one one point. Traditional teacher education was at best – irrelevant; and at worst detrimental to being an outstanding teacher today.

“I don’t care what school you go to, it really doesn’t prepare you for what you are going to do in a classroom”.

One author/teacher has yet to get an official license to teach, another accidentally dropped out of high school, another manipulated the system to use certain technology regardless of the class content, and it went on. Each felt their story was unique – yet there was this common thread that was worth pursuing in the larger study with new questions:

Were you trained to teach in a teacher education program? What training most equipped you to teach like you do?

The results were striking. Stop for a moment and consider the following numbers from 39 of our award winning teachers.

  • 10% credit their primary training to a traditional four year certification program.
  • 21% credit their primary training to a hobby, game, or interest.
  • 33% credit their primary training to another job/profession.
  • 36% credit their primary training to another field of study.
  • Only 31% completed a traditional four year certification program.
  • 46% were employed in other fields or left the teaching profession for a time.
  • 67% were trained in other fields of practice before getting a certificate in a 1-2 year program.
  • Only 10%, or 4 of 39, affirmed that their official ‘teacher training’ was relevant to their current practice. The rest were inspired elsewhere.

There were no patterns on what these other field/professions were other than that they covered the gambit: Medicine, Aviation, Acting, Mortuary Work, Rock-n-Roll, Journalism, etc. etc. Commonly, these teachers felt their training in that field was what actually influenced their teaching.

Ironically, those that are being recognized as excellent teachers, were largely not trained as such. Moreover, they largely went out of their way to make sure the world would know it.

So what does this say to educational leadership?

Do we want more 21st century teachers? The most innovative teachers are drawing on experiences and skill sets they developed outside of education.

Later I’ll show results that 21st Century skills are a key part of what they are bringing into the classroom, while traditional education programs still reduce “technology training” to the use of an over-head or interactive whiteboard. The following posts will uplift the sources that positively affect teacher training.

Immediately, a few things… this data would suggest if you want to employ innovative creative teachers, you may want to consider:

1) Interview non-traditional candidates; those with other training, lifelong learners with avid hobby interests, avid readers, and yes, computer gamers. These seem to be better predictors of potential among the sample set.

2) Refine your interview protocol to uncover these interests outside of the profession. What do you do for fun? What other interests do you have? Have you ever worked outside of education? Where?

3) Encourage workshops and training outside of education and validate those experiences with modified accreditation. NASA led summer workshops for teachers that were brought up by three of the candidates – none of them were high school science teachers and two of them went on to get flying licenses.

4) When a teacher leaves to work in another profession, this may not be the end of their teaching career. It may be the beginning of an adventure that will return to teach in coming years and win awards for excellence. Stay in touch with teachers that have left to work elsewhere. Encourage them and keep the door open.

5) We can’t assume that teacher training is actually doing so. When the local prep program is redesigning, participate and vocalize what skills today’s teachers need. Ask for the things that worked for our nation’s ‘best’. Demand that professors are modeling new media pedagogical practices, out-of-field training, student teaching for every course, design work, and community building.

6) Finally, when planning your school’s professional development time, consider experiences over content area. I’ll speak more in future posts on the specifics that were useful to my participants. For now, weight 2-3 day workshops, conferences, curriculum connected technology, and buffet style PD considerably more than guest speakers, mandatory training, and mass technology purchases for the staff (drop-in tech).

More on those in the next post.

Best,

Seann

gamingmatter.com

Keeping Students Engaged in a 1:1 Project-Based Classroom [guest post]


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Source: http://bit.ly/vYUkXB

When laptops first arrived in my classroom, I worried about classroom management. How could I create an environment where students used their computers as tools rather than toys?

I was worried for nothing. The following are suggestions for keeping students engaged in a project and accountable for their time with computers:

Students make a plan. 
Students are most tempted to open widgets, games, and social chats when they are faced with a blank screen and have no plan.

Much of the time, students think they have a plan. If you ask them What are you going to do?, the answer is usually I’m gonna make a Power Point about… or I want to make a movie about… Those answers indicate that students are thinking of technology before content.

Instead, ask What are you trying to learn? or What are you trying to communicate? or What are you working on as a writer? Those questions get answers like I want to know more about the horses that Civil War generals rode or I want to convince people that Justin Bieber is the best singer ever or I’m trying to describe the character’s actions.

When you ask about learning and communication, you are signaling that the content is more important than the technology. Pull aside those who are struggling with plans. Let them talk together and encourage them to sketch their ideas with diagrams or bullet points and return to the computer later. Students with a plan tend to stay on task.

Students set time-bound goals.
Once students have a plan, they break the project into smaller tasks that can be finished in 10- to 15-minute chunks of time. Have students write the specific tasks on Post-it notes. Post-its are set beside the computer. On their Post-its, students finish the sentence, “In the next [x-amount of] minutes, I plan to…” They generally write things like…

  • Create an outline for my essay
  • Write my introduction
  • Find three pictures about…
  • Do my voice recording
  • Finish four slides of my Power Point/Keynote
  • Find at least three database articles on…
  • Draft at least three paragraphs
  • Use Google docs to peer-edit so-and-so’s essay
  • Upload my story to Voicethread

Tasks should be specific. I’m gonna work on my project is not specific enough. At the end of class, Post-its become “exit slips”. Students tick off the tasks they have completed and hand the Post-its to the teacher so the teacher can see the progress.

Laptop screens are “fisted” or “put at half mast”.  

Teachers don’t lecture much in a project-based learning environment. However, sometimes student work time is interrupted so the teacher can give reminders or clarify directions.

Ask students to “fist” their computer (or “put the screen at half mast”). Screens should be gently lowered so that students’ fists fit between the edge of the track pad and the screen.

When screens are fisted, students are not distracted by items on their screen nor can they type. At the same time, students do not lower their screens to the point that the computers go to sleep. In an iPad environment, students might carefully face their screens down on the desk.

Fingers indicate the amount of time students need to complete a shorter task.
Some tasks are shorter and need to be completed within a few minutes of class. After students have worked for a reasonable amount of time, ask students to show fingers for how many additional minutes they need. Fisted computers signal completion.

If a student is far behind the rest of the class, try to determine whether the student got distracted or if the student needs reteaching. Have the student take a screenshot of his or her progress. Screenshots are helpful to guide future conversations.

Circulate the room, conferencing with students.
Walking and talking with students is important with or without computers. In her article 10 Ways to be a Terrible Teacher, Vicki Davis describes the terrible teacher as one who is working on his or her own computer and not paying attention to students. 

Students welcome teacher conversation. They are eager to share their progress and request advice when they’re stuck. You build relationships with students when you talk to them about their work.

Rather than banning chat, teach students how to use it for collaboration.
Chat features are programmed into Gmail and Google products. The first year, I banned chats. Then, I realized that chats can be used for student collaboration.

I glance at the chat windows as I circulate the room. Since students have specific, time-bound goals, most chats are used to ask peers to look over a paragraph or help with another aspect of the project.

Don’t be afraid to have tough conversations with individual students.
Each year, I have to pull aside one or two students to talk about time management. It’s not a punitive conversation. The conversation goes something like this:

I’ve noticed you haven’t made much progress on…I need to know what’s getting in the way of your progress. I’m not asking because I want to get you in trouble. I’m asking because you’re now x-years old and I’m worried that, if you get in the habit of…,then school will be really hard for you in the future.

Many of the suggestions above apply to project-based learning environments both with and without computers. The trick in a 1:1 environment is to maintain focus on learning and communication. Then let technology naturally enhance those outcomes.

What tricks do you use to keep students engaged?

Janet Moeller-Abercrombie is the author of Expat Educator. She has 16 years of teaching experience and currently works full time at Hong Kong International School. Janet is a doctoral candidate with the University of Minnesota and has begun curriculum consulting with administrators and teachers. She is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. @jabbacrombie

 

[cross-posted at 1-to-1 Schools]

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