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Toward better technology integration: Introducing trudacot

Leadershipday2014

[My Leadership Day post this year introduces a new tool, trudacot, that we have been using to facilitate productive conversations with educators about technology-infused learning and teaching…]

We’ve got a lot of technology floating around our schools and classrooms these days. And while that can and should be a good thing given the digital age in which we now live, we often find that our technology-related efforts aren’t paying off for us as we had hoped. There are many reasons why this is true, but a main one is that we don’t have great ways to think about what’s occurring when we see students and teachers using technology for learning and teaching purposes.

TPACK and SAMR are the two main technology integration frameworks being used right now. While conceptually useful, both of them have their limitations. Neither are very specific when it comes to helping teachers think about what to change to make their technology integration better. The SAMR levels have the additional challenge of apparently meaning very different things to different people (I have witnessed on numerous occasions a particular usage of technology placed in all four SAMR levels by educator audiences). Resources like the TPACK activity types help with some of this, but my colleague, Julie Graber, and I were looking for something different. Failing to find what we wanted, we decided to make our own…

Starting with purpose

Technology integration should be purposeful. That very simple statement is at the heart of the trudacot template. When we use digital technologies for learning and teaching, those uses should be intentional and targeted and not simply ‘tech for tech’s sake.’ My team continually asks the question, ‘Technology for the purpose of what?’ With that in mind, Julie and I set out to create a template of questions that would allow educators to think critically – and purposefully – about their technology integration.

For example, if a class activity was using learning technologies for the purpose(s) of enhancing personalization or enabling greater student agency and choice, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Learning Goals. Who selected what is being learned? 
  • Learning Activity. Who selected how it is being learned? 
  • Assessment of Learning. Who selected how students demonstrate their knowledge and skills and how that will be assessed?
  • Work Time. During the lesson/unit, who is the primary driver of the work time?
  • Technology Usage. Who is the primary user of the technology?

In contrast, if a lesson pulled in digital tools for the purpose(s) of enhancing student communication / connection, and perhaps even facilitating collaboration across locations, we would ask very different questions. The types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Audience. How are students communicating? If with others, with whom? [students in this school / students in another school / adults in this school / adults outside of this school]
  • Communication Technologies. Are digital technologies being used to facilitate the communication processes? [writing / photos and images / charts and graphs / infographics / audio / video / multimedia / transmedia]
  • Collaborators. How are students working? If with others, who is managing collaborative processes (planning, management, monitoring, etc.)
  • Collaborative Technologies. Are digital technologies being used to facilitate collaborative processes? If yes, in which ways? [online office suites, email, texting, wikis, blogs, videoconferencing, mindmapping, curation tools, project planning tools, other]

Similarly, if teachers wanted students to use technology for the purpose(s) of enabling them to do more authentic, real world work, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished would be different from those previous and might include:

  • Real or Fake. Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by real people outside of school? 
  • Domain Knowledge. Are students learning discipline-specific and -appropriate content and procedural knowledge? If yes, is student work focused around big, important concepts central to the discipline? [not just minutiae]
  • Domain Practices. Are students utilizing discipline-specific and -appropriate practices and processes?
  • Domain Technologies. Are students utilizing discipline-specific and -appropriate tools and technologies? 

And if a lesson or unit integrated learning technologies for the purpose(s) of facilitating students’ deeper thinking, creativity, or metacognition, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Deeper Thinking. Do student learning activities and assessments go beyond facts, procedures, and/or previously-provided ways of thinking? [e.g., ‘syntheses’ or ‘analyses’ that actually are just regurgitations]
  • Creativity. Do students have the opportunity to design, create, make, or otherwise add value that is unique to them?
  • Initiative. Do students have the opportunity to initiate, be entrepreneurial, be self-directed, and/or go beyond given parameters of the learning task or environment?
  • Metacognition. Do students have the opportunity to reflect on their planning, thinking, work, and/or progress? If yes, can students identify what they’re learning, not just what they’re doing?
As I hope is evident, trudacot tries to get at some specific, concrete ‘look-fors’ that can help educators think about what they might change. In other words, we are attempting with trudacot to make explicit the kinds of questions we might ask when considering which intersection of TPACK – or level of SAMR – a particular instance of technology integration may be inhabiting (and how to shift it toward more robustness).
 
Using trudacot
 
The complete, annotated, first version of trudacot is now available and includes some tips for usage. First and foremost is the suggestion to focus on just one or two sections of the template. Unless we’re designing a big, multi-week project, we need to pick and choose a few focal areas rather than trying to cover the entire template. Let me be clear: the trudacot template should NOT be used as a massive checklist of things that should be present in a teacher’s lesson or unit. A second suggestion is to answer a question or two from trudacot about a lesson or unit – preferably in small groups, not just individually – and then ask, ‘If we wanted the answer(s) to the question(s) to be different, how could we redesign this to make that desired answer happen instead?’ THIS is where the powerful conversations occur; THIS is the work we should be doing with educators. Finally, we are finding trudacot to have the most power as an up-front brainstorming, idea-generating, and design tool, not an after-the-fact evaluative tool. We want educators thinking about lesson and unit (re)design in ways that are safe and generative, not worrying about being judged.
 
In addition to the trudacot itself, you’re welcome to see the resources that we considered when creating the template and/or sign up on our mailing list for updates. Soon I will post some examples of how we have been introducing and using trudacot in our pilot activities this past spring and summer. Until then, I hope that you find trudacot useful to your own technology integration efforts and that it helps you foster rich discussions about lesson and unit (re)design with your educators. Please stay in touch as you have questions, ideas, and suggestions. The trudacot template is very much a work in progress – help us #makeitbetter! The more people that we have looking at and working with trudacot, the more useful it can become. Julie and I would love to hear how you’ve been using trudacot yourself so let us know!
 
Happy Leadership Day 2014, everyone. Thanks to all of you for helping me celebrate my blog birthday!

Test makers should not be driving instruction

In a post about the difficulty of New York’s Common Core assessments, Robert Pondiscio said:

Test makers have an obligation to signal to the field the kind of instructional choices they want teachers to make

via http://edexcellence.net/articles/new-york%E2%80%99s-common-core-tests-tough-questions-curious-choices

I’m going to disagree with Robert on this one. I’m fairly certain that test makers should NOT be the ones driving instruction…

Reader interest trumps passage readability?

Reading

Alfie Kohn said:

intrinsic motivation – has a huge empirical base of support in workplaces, schools, and elsewhere. We’ve long known that the pleasure one takes from an activity is a powerful predictor of success. For example, one group of researchers tried to sort out the factors that helped third and fourth graders remember what they had been reading. They found that how interested the students were in the passage was thirty times more important than how ‘readable’ the passage was.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/07/25/actually-practice-doesnt-always-make-perfect-new-study

Image credit: Reading, John Flinchbaugh

Redefining ‘rigor’

Tedd Wakeman said:

We’ve always defined, as an educational community, rigor as being a lot of hard drudgery, what we consider really hard work, taking engagement and interests completely out of the equation and saying, ‘If we see kids who are sitting at their desks and they’re just writing a ton or they’re doing a bunch of research, if they just look kind of upset, if they look like they are not enjoying themselves, then there is rigorous things going on in that classroom.’ That’s a real problem.

We need to stop defining rigor as busywork, as kids knuckling down to the pressure and the drudgery of school. At the end of the year, there is this huge binder of notes and diagrams from PowerPoint exhibits, stuff that kids worked all year on. I’ve talked to kids here who have produced an artifact like that. To the outside community, even in many ways to the inside community, that looks rigorous because, look at what you produced.

But when we talk to those kids, when we ask, ‘What are your retaining from this? What do you feel, what are some of the big concepts that you came away with, and how are you applying those in your life in your lives every day,’ they can’t tell you. They know that they did this thing and they got a good grade on it but they can’t tell you what they are going to do with that. And yet to the more traditional educational community, that’s viewed as rigor.

We would much rather define rigor as the pursuit of solving a really difficult task that you care about solving. And that persistence can be taught in that way as opposed to, ‘Yeah, let’s teach kids persistence by having them do this thing that they couldn’t care less about, but it’s really hard and just if you can survive it, that’s persistence.’

via http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/a-school-that-ditches-all-the-rules-but-not-the-rigor-game-based-school-playmaker

Computers can help you get schooled for minimum wage jobs

Justin Reich said:

In the [past] forty years … educational technologists have made progress in teaching parts of the curriculum that can be most easily reduced to routines, but we have made very little progress in expanding the range of what these programs can do. During those same forty years, in nearly every other sector of society, computers have reduced the necessity of performing tasks that can be reduced to a routine. Computers, therefore, are best at assessing human performance in the sorts of tasks in which humans have already been replaced by computers.

Perhaps the most concerning part of these developments is that our technology for high-stakes testing mirrors our technology for intelligent tutors. We use machine learning in a limited way for grading essays on tests, but for the most part those tests are dominated by assessment methods – multiple choice and quantitative input – in which computers can quickly compare student responses to an answer bank. We’re pretty good at testing the kinds of things that intelligent tutors can teach, but we’re not nearly as good at testing the kinds of things that the labor market increasingly rewards. In ‘Dancing with Robots,’ an excellent paper on contemporary education, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argue that the pressing challenge of the educational system is to ‘educate many more young people for the jobs computers cannot do.’ Schooling that trains students to efficiently conduct routine tasks is training students for jobs that pay minimum wage – or jobs that simply no longer exist.

via http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/07/will-computers-ever-replace-teachers.html

Should our first goal really be to preserve the structure?

Justin Schwamm said:

Two decades ago, before the great push for higher standards and more accountability, there was a tacit agreement in most factory-model schools: “Just close my door,” said Ms. X, “and let me teach, and don’t bother me because I’m busy.” “Just keep them busy and quiet,” responded her Powers That Be, “and show up for the Special Training and the Scheduled Meeting, and make sure the Relevant Paperwork is in the file.” Within that tacit agreement lay a great deal of freedom and opportunity … for innovation or for more of the Same Old Same Old. As the Relevant Paperwork was complete and the busy, quiet students weren’t roaming the hallways, teachers and students could be as innovative and creative as they wanted.

But then came higher standards and more accountability … and in themselves, those aren’t bad things. But if you operate from a hierarchical individual point of view about leadership and learning, the only logical pathway to higher standards is to command and control them into existence … and the only way to achieve accountability is to ramp up the inspection and testing. I was intrigued to see an article from EdSurge about how and why Rocketship Education moved away from an experiment they’d tried this year … an experiment that seemed to produce positive results of various kinds. The problem? “The lack of a formal structure made it difficult for Rocketship to replicate and control quality,” especially with younger teachers who “rely on pre-determined schedules and procedures, with clearly defined expectations about their work, in order to focus on building basic teaching skills.”

In other words, the promising innovation didn’t fit the existing institutional structure. If you’ve ever worked in a hierarchical structure, you know how important it is to preserve the structure. It takes a great deal of work by Relevant Powers to make anything else as important as preserving the structure.

via https://joyfullatinlearning.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/where-and-how

Filtering social media in schools because it’s a ‘distraction’

Annie Murphy Paul

Annie Murphy Paul said:

according to the [American Association of School Librarians], schools’ top three filtered content areas are social networking sites, instant messaging and online chatting, and games. Such activities aren’t (necessarily) inappropriate or illegal, but they are big honking distractions, and if we want our young people to learn anything during the school day, they must be kept away from these sites.

A growing body of evidence from cognitive science and psychology shows that the divided attention typical of people engaging in “media multitasking” – the attempt to pay attention to two or more streams of information at once – produces shallower, less permanent learning. And let’s not kid ourselves: when students are free to roam the Internet in class or in study periods, divided attention is the result.

Is it possible to use Facebook and Twitter in educationally appropriate ways? Sure – but as technology and education specialist Michael Trucano points out, tech enthusiasts often focus on what’s possible to the exclusion of what’s predictable and what’s practical. What is predictable is that young people, given the chance, will use the web for social and entertainment purposes; what’s practical is to remove that temptation during the school day.

via http://hechingerreport.org/content/schools-efforts-block-internet-laughably-lame_16588

This article misses the point. It’s fearmongering and control-driven and feeds the misbegotten ‘kids these days are bad’ narratives that are so prevalent in older generations. It’s yet another example of ‘we’re not knowledgeable enough to think of any useful ways to utilize these tools so let’s just block them.’

The myth of ‘digital natives’ has been busted time and time again. Research is very clear that while our students are increasingly savvy at using technology for gaming and social purposes, they’re much less proficient at using technology for academic and other productive work purposes. Of course they will not get good at using technology in these ways if we simply block the technologies instead of using them more productively.

Unlike what is stated elsewhere in this article, the ‘real world’ is digital. The real world is technology-suffused. People everywhere use social media and other online tools all the time to accomplish their work. How are educators supposed to prepare students for our new technology-infused information, economic, and learning landscapes in analog school environments?

As my supervising principal said every day of my administrative internship, ‘Classroom management stems from good instruction.’ The issue here is not the technology but rather our unwillingness as educators and citizens (and pundits) to rethink learning, teaching, and schooling.

UPDATE

Here are some tweets that Annie Murphy Paul and I exchanged today. As I read these (and her article), she believes that students simply can’t be trusted or empowered to use social media in class without being distracted. Although she nominally concedes that schools might be able to use social media in productive ways with students, she quickly reiterates that is only ‘possible’ and that it is much more ‘practical’ to simply block these powerful tools for connecting and learning. I disagree with both (and, of course, many of us can point to countless examples all around the world where these are low-level or nonexistent concerns, thus disproving her broad generalizations about students and classrooms). However, when I stated her ideas back to her, she denied them. I don’t know how to otherwise interpret what she said and she won’t clarify. I did invite her to please continue the dialogue in the comment area of either her post or mine. Your thoughts?

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Why meaningful math problems are defined out of online assessments

Dan Meyer said:

at this moment in history, computers are not a natural working medium for mathematics.

For instance: think of a fraction in your head.

Say it out loud. That’s simple.

Write it on paper. Still simple.

Now communicate that fraction so a computer can understand and grade it. Click open the tools palette. Click the fraction button. Click in the numerator. Press the “4″ key. Click in the denominator. Press the “9″ key.

That’s bad, but if you aren’t convinced the difference is important, try to communicate the square root of that fraction. If it were this hard to post a tweet or update your status, Twitter and Facebook would be empty office space on Folsom Street and Page Mill Road.

It gets worse when you ask students to do anything meaningful with fractions. Like: “Explain whether 4/3 or 3/4 is closer to 1, and how you know.”

It’s simple enough to write down an explanation. It’s also simple to speak that explanation out loud so that somebody can assess its meaning. In 2012, it is impossible for a computer to assess that argument at anywhere near the same level of meaning. Those meaningful problems are then defined out of “mathematics.”

via http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2012/what-silicon-valley-gets-wrong-about-math-education-again-and-again

So much for separate is unequal

“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Well, so much for that…

kindergarten poverty

via http://www.epi.org/publication/black-hispanic-kindergartners-disproportionately

See also the resegregation research from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

In many cases your student peers aren’t burdensome, they’re essential

Dan Meyer said:

most software for individualized instruction fails to connect learners in the kinds of productive debates Brendan describes. And that’s by design. Individualization is the watchword. Don’t let yourself become burdened by your classmates! But in many cases your peers aren’t burdensome. They’re essential. And the software fails to distinguish one case from the other.

via http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2014/tools-for-socialized-instruction-not-individualized-instruction/comment-page-1/#comment-1968224

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