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[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?
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
I’m going to disagree with Robert on this one. I’m fairly certain that test makers should NOT be the ones driving instruction…
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.
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.’
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.”
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.
Kirk Vandersall said:
My two measures when observing classrooms: Would I put my kids in this classroom? And how fast would my kid run from the bus to join this class in progress?
Calvin Hennick wrote:
NetSupport’s Kingsley is more skeptical. He laughs at the notion that students will studiously ignore text messages and social media updates from their friends and simply put their devices down when the teacher is talking. “Have you been in a classroom?” he asks. “If only the kids would do that.”
“The level of temptation, whether it’s Facebook status updates or chatting with other students, there will always be students doing that,” Kingsley adds. “If you tell them to go to a particular website, how do you know all 30 kids are on that website? You don’t, unless you get up and walk around and check, and then you’ve just wasted 10 minutes of class time. The whole point of this [screen monitoring/blocking] software is to free up time for teachers to do what they do best, which is to teach.”
In other words, teaching = teacher talking while kids are forced to sit and listen.
You could view walking around and seeing what is on kids’ screens as wasting 10 minutes of class time (10 minutes? really?). Or you could view it as what teachers already should be doing.
Another technological ‘solution’ to what ultimately is a learning-teaching issue…
I saw this poster recently in a middle school. And I confess it struck me the wrong way…
Do we really want to send the message to young adolescents that character is nonrecoverable, lost with a single mistake? Or do we want to send messages about learning from mistakes – even really bad ones – and personal growth? I think the latter…
Is your school a place that believes in student redemption? Do your youth have some leeway to make academic, behavioral, and ethical mistakes and then grow and recover from them? If so, how much? Where do you draw the line between ‘once labeled, always labeled’ and an opportunity for redemption? How do you decide that they made some mistakes but that they still are worth the effort?
How about for employees? Do your educators have some leeway to make professional, behavioral, and ethical mistakes and then grow and recover from them? If so, how much? Where do you draw the line between a firing / non-hiring offense and an opportunity for redemption? How do you decide that they made some mistakes but that they still have worthwhile value to contribute?
How forgiving are our educational systems, for either students or staff? Your thoughts?