ISTE Certification 01

[I decided to make some new investments in my own learning this semester. One of the ways that I’m doing that is to try and become ISTE-certified. I’ve had a longtime relationship with ISTE. When we created the nation’s first graduate program designed to prepare a technology-savvy school administrator at the University of Minnesota (way back in 2003!), ISTE was one of our most important partners in that work. I served on the initial advisory board for ISTE’s Standards for Education Leaders (back then, they were the NETS-A) and in 2016 I received ISTE’s global Award for Outstanding Leadership. I have worked with ISTE in a number of other service and professional learning roles and currently am serving as one of ISTE’s Community Leaders. All that said, I never have worked toward ISTE certification until now. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experiences as I go through the certification program this year…]

ISTE logoI’m part of an awesome cohort. We represent a variety of job roles and responsibilities across multiple states and several countries, including both P-12 and postsecondary. I already can tell that I’m going to learn a lot from the other members of my cohort. We meet face-to-face every few weeks and also engage together in a number of asynchronous learning activities. So far we’ve met once and have been assigned to some small groups.

Our early work has been focused on grounding ourselves in course expectations, assignments and deadlines, and introducing ourselves to each other and the ISTE Standards for Educators. ISTE also has invited us to reflect on what it means to be part of an online professional learning network.

One of our first activities asked us to reflect on some of our understandings, strengths, and challenges related to the ISTE Standards for Educators. Here’s some of what I wrote:

I orient toward design thinking so am probably most confident with Standards 5a, 5b, 5c, and 6c because they emphasize the (re)design process. I spend a lot of time redesigning lessons and units with P-12 teachers, instructional coaches, and principals. I also have done a great deal of program design work at the university level, including recently redesigning our principal licensure program at CU Denver. I’m also confident in Standards 2a and 2b because I’m a school leadership professor who works with school leaders all around the world on designing and implementing new visions for learning and implementation structures for deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion. As a university faculty member who tries hard to integrate technology into my teaching, I think I’m doing a decent job with Standards 6a, 6c, and 7a. My students tell me that they appreciate my efforts in this area. Finally, I’m a strong user of social media tools and online platforms and have a large global professional learning network (so Standard 1b!).

As a university school leadership professor, I don’t deal too much with data, data privacy, copyright, coding, computational thinking, and other more IT-oriented and/or media literacy concerns. Accordingly, Standards 3c, 3d, and 6b aren’t really in my day-to-day domain. Standard 7c is hard for me simply because I have seen technology systems used too often to reinforce low-level factual recall, procedural regurgitation, and assessment and I am adamantly opposed to those traditional practices dominating the deeper learning practices that we should be implementing instead.

I’ve been using ed tech since the mid-1990s. I’ve seen a number of learning and productivity technologies come and go, so I think I’m a pretty savvy consumer of new tools and their affordances (or their lack thereof) and the mindsets that underlie them. I’m familiar with and am a regular user of a larger number of digital tools, including some old standbys like RSS and blogs that I think still have value in today’s social media-oriented world. I’m an unafraid and unapologetic learner and am looking forward to living in community with – and being stretched by – the other folks in this certification cohort.

My primary implementation struggle is time. As a research university faculty member who also happens to care deeply about my teaching, those often conflict with each other in regard to institutional expectations and reward systems. Now that I’ve been promoted to Full Professor, I’m hoping that I can spend more time on what I want, not what the university wants!

I’m looking forward to my continued learning and growth in this certification process as I work to strengthen my understandings of learning technologies and meaningful classroom integration. I’m also interested in the logistics of how ISTE structures and facilitates this course and am hoping to pick up some good tips for my own blended instruction. 

More reflections from me in the weeks and months to come!

A conversation with Katie Martin

As always, Katie Martin has been doing a lot of wonderful work this summer around deeper learning and student engagement. I thought it might be fun for the two of us to just get together and chat. I tweeted an invitation to her and she kindly took me up on the offer.

Katie Martin Twitter exchange

Two days later we made that conversation happen and the result is below. As you can imagine, our discussion was wide-ranging and SUPER fun. I am sharing it here in case you’d like to join us. Hope it’s useful to you.

Happy viewing!

Design for high engagement this fall

Student wearing maskIn a couple of recent posts, I said:

One of the biggest challenges of ‘remote learning’ over the past few months has been that most of the motivators been pared away. For many students, all that has been left is the uninspiring learning. Little to no interaction with classmates. Little to no interaction with caring educators. No electives, extracurriculars, or athletics. And so on. Accordingly, we shouldn’t be surprised when our students – who generally have more control and autonomy at home over their learning decisions than they do at school – simply opt out. They decide that the exchange rate has shifted and they’re no longer interested, regardless of our pleas (or punishments) to the contrary.

As we try to figure out what schooling will look like in the months to come, we need to pay attention to the motivators and demotivators that help foster student engagement. If all we’re offering students is the uninspiring learning, we’re in a heap of trouble.

and

Our families gave us grace in the spring when we did remote learning because it was an ‘emergency.’ If we squandered the summer by engaging in magical thinking about returning in person this fall instead of making the organizational investments that we needed to make, they’re not going to give us the same grace again. And they’ll be right. We had our chance this summer to get better at online learning. And many school systems didn’t do nearly enough.

Whether we’re face-to-face, blended, hybrid, hyflex, or fully online, we need to be thinking deeply about what our students need from us this fall. As much as we’re worried about past or ongoing ‘learning loss,’ our students aren’t going to learn if they’re not first engaged. We can’t learn things if we have ‘checked out’ of the experience!

The student who’s sitting in school at an isolated desk, wearing a mask, separated from her friends, facing forward with her feet on the floor, perhaps behind a plexiglass divider? She’s going to be nervous, scared, and feeling disconnected. She’s also probably disenchanted with her overall school experience compared to years past. Listening to teacher lectures and doing rote, low-level desk work isn’t going to help her stay engaged.

The student who’s sitting at home, trying to find a quiet place to concentrate and work, separated from his friends, juggling a variety of technologies and assignments, perhaps struggling with device / Internet access or parent support? He’s going to be anxious, confused, and feeling disconnected. He’s also probably disenchanted with his overall school experience compared to years past. Sending home low-level factual recall and procedural regurgitation work isn’t going to help him stay engaged.

All of our students deserve deeper learning opportunities, even during a pandemic. As educators, we should be designing learning activities that are hands-on, active, and applied; that provide students with a lot of voice and choice; that allow them to be creative; that foster their critical thinking and problem-solving skills; that let them share, communicate, and collaborate; that provide opportunities for them to tap into their interests and passions; that give them chances to use technology in interesting ways; that connect them in meaningful ways with outside experts, organizations, and local communities; and so on…

No one should be surprised when we start to hear families pushing back on the kinds of learning tasks we put before students this fall. We had all summer to design for something different than textbooks, homework packets, and electronic worksheets. If day after day, week after week, we push out low-level and low-engagement learning, we’re going to start losing kids left and right like we did in the spring.

Did your summer professional learning opportunities for teachers focus on technology tools or robust learning? What are your schools and educators doing to design for high engagement student learning this fall? (and maybe the 4 Shifts Protocol can help?)

Image credit: Special post, Chris Schultz

See also

Avoid magical thinking: ‘Design for online’ this fall

As coronavirus cases continue to increase across the country, numerous school districts are reluctantly announcing that they will be doing ‘remote learning’ again this fall. Although we had the summer to prepare for this eventuality, unfortunately we have instead seen a lot of magical thinking from educational leaders and policy makers. 

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As much as we want our children to go back to school in person, we can’t underestimate how harmful this magical thinking can be.

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We are seeing a wide variety of school schedules being proposed for the fall, even in locations that are leading the world in infection rates. Many of them center learning in person at school as the main modality, with accommodations perhaps being made for students, families, and educators who are rightfully concerned about becoming infected with a deadly virus.

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Given that every time a place opens up we seem to have a surge of infections there, centering a school’s fall reopening plan on in-person instruction sure feels like magical thinking. We aren’t providing schools with the funding or supplies necessary to keep students and educators safe and, even if we did, there are a number of other issues for which we don’t have very good answers

Many of the schools that are still planning to be face-to-face this fall will have to switch over in the next couple of weeks. It’s also likely that a surge of cases in their area will shut them back down again soon after opening. Even those that are planning to start in person – either entirely or with a staggered schedule – realize that many families are going to keep their children at home. And schools may have to dip in and out of in person, online, and hybrid modalities throughout the year, depending on what happens with the coronavirus.

This is what I have been recommending to the schools and educators that I am working with this summer:

Design for online this fall. Even if you’re lucky enough to have students in person in your classrooms at some point, use that precious time to work on technology skills, social-emotional resilience, building students’ capacity to be self-directed learners, creating classroom community, etc. Given that you have some of your students learning remotely anyway, design for online instead of asking teachers to do double work for both in school and at home. Even the kids that are sitting in front of you in class should do their learning work online – the same learning work that the kids at home are doing. It’s incredibly likely that you’re going to have to be wholly remote at some point this school year anyway. Designing for online as your primary modality allows you maximum flexibility and a more seamless transition when you almost inevitably have to shift over to remote instruction. It also protects your staff from burnout, and most communities will support you.

I don’t see any other reasonable way to do school this fall. Anything else seems like magical thinking. Magical thinking that our schools and communities will be free of the virus despite inadequate safety protections. Magical thinking that students and parents will engage in appropriate mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing precautions. Magical thinking that teachers can operate simultaneously in face-to-face, online, hybrid, and/or hyflex modalities all year, even with scant training on how to do so. Magical thinking that the decisions that we make this summer about in-person instruction are going to somehow hold for an entire school year. And so on… 

Students and families are going to pay the price if they are in school systems that haven’t invested heavily this summer in professional learning for teachers to teach effectively online. Students and families are going to pay the price if they are in school systems that haven’t figured out how to remedy device and Internet bandwidth inequities. Students and families are going to pay the price if they are in school systems that continue to prepare primarily for in person learning and have neglected online learning.

Magical Thinking 09Magical Thinking 11I also think it’s worth considering what we are fighting for this fall. Are we fighting for compelling visions of learning and teaching in person, or just child care so that people can get back to work?

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Our families gave us grace in the spring when we did remote learning because it was an ‘emergency.’ If we squandered the summer by engaging in magical thinking about returning in person this fall instead of making the organizational investments that we needed to make, they’re not going to give us the same grace again. And they’ll be right. We had our chance this summer to get better at online learning. And many school systems didn’t do nearly enough.

Is your school system ready to ‘design for online’ this fall and do it well?

P.S. We need to do this in higher education too…

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If all we offer is uninspiring learning, we’re in trouble

TroubleOur students come to school for a variety of reasons:

  • to see their friends;
  • to participate in electives, extracurricular activities, and athletics;
  • to interact with and get support from caring teachers;
  • to get a credential for college, career, or the military;
  • because their parents need child care;
  • because state law requires them to attend;
  • etc.

What about learning? Yes, that’s a reason too… for some. But engagement data show that many/most of our students are not coming to school because their learning is engaging. The reasons listed above tend to be much more compelling for most students than the fairly-uninspiring learning tasks that we put before them. But many students are often willing to put up with the uninspiring learning and play ‘the game of school’ in exchange for the other aspects of school. In other words: “Most of my classes may be boring but I get to hang out with my friends, be in a club, participate in music and art, play a sport, see a couple of teachers that I like…”

One of the biggest challenges of ‘remote learning’ over the past few months has been that most of the motivators been pared away. For many students, all that has been left is the uninspiring learning. Little to no interaction with classmates. Little to no interaction with caring educators. No electives, extracurriculars, or athletics. And so on. Accordingly, we shouldn’t be surprised when our students – who generally have more control and autonomy at home over their learning decisions than they do at school – simply opt out. They decide that the exchange rate has shifted and they’re no longer interested, regardless of our pleas (or punishments) to the contrary.

As we try to figure out what schooling will look like in the months to come, we need to pay attention to the motivators and demotivators that help foster student engagement. If all we’re offering students is the uninspiring learning, we’re in a heap of trouble.

Image credit: In case you were looking for it, Schwar