It’s hard to look back over the last four decades and find ways that education technology has made deep, lasting changes on schooling. It’s also hard to imagine a future where we don’t depend upon emerging technologies to shape learning across our lifetimes.
Gary Stager says:
There are three competing visions of educational computing. Each bestows agency on an actor in the educational enterprise. We can use classroom computers to benefit the system, the teacher, or the student. Data collection, drill-and-practice test-prep, computerized assessment, or monitoring Common Core compliance are examples of the computer benefitting the system. “Interactive” white boards, presenting information or managing whole-class simulations are examples of computing for the teacher. In this scenario, the teacher is the actor, the classroom a theatre, the students the audience and the computer is a prop.
The third vision is a progressive one. The personal computer is used to amplify human potential. It is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that allows each child to not only learn what we’ve always taught, perhaps with greater efficacy, efficiency or comprehension. The computer makes it possible for students to learn and do in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. This vision of computing democratizes educational opportunity and supports what Papert and Turkle call epistemological pluralism. The learner is at the center of the educational experience and learns in their own way.
Too many educators make the mistake of assuming a false equivalence between “technology” and its use. Technology is not neutral. It is always designed to influence behavior. Sure, you might point to an anecdote in which a clever teacher figures out a way to use a white board in a learner-centered fashion or a teacher finds the diagnostic data collected by the management system useful. These are the exception to the rule.
While flexible high-quality hardware is critical, educational computing is about software because software determines what you can do and what you do determines what you can learn. In my opinion the lowest ROI comes from granting agency to the system and the most from empowering each learner. You might think of the a continuum that runs from drill/testing at the bottom; through information access, productivity, simulation and modeling; with the computer as a computational material for knowledge construction representing not only the greatest ROI, but the most potential benefit for the learner.
Piaget reminds us,“To understand is to invent,” while our mutual colleague Seymour Papert said, “If you can use technology to make things, you can make more interesting things and you can learn a lot more by making them.”
kindergarteners could build, program and choreograph their own robot ballerinas by utilizing mathematical concepts and engineering principles never before accessible to young children. Kids express themselves through filmmaking, animation, music composition and collaborations with peers or experts across the globe. 5th graders write computer programs to represent fractions in a variety of ways while understanding not only fractions, but also a host of other mathematics and computer science concepts used in service of that understanding. An incarcerated 17 year-old dropout saddled with a host of learning disabilities is able to use computer programming and robotics to create “gopher-cam,” an intelligent vehicle for exploring beneath the earth, or launch his own probe into space for aerial reconnaissance. Little boys and girls can now make and program wearable computers with circuitry sewn with conductive thread while 10th grade English students can bring Lady Macbeth to life by composing a symphony. Soon, you be able to email and print a bicycle. Computing as a verb is the game-changer.
Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, “play the whole game.” Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative.
we are often forced to ask students to put their learning on hold … if not stop it all together while they compete for resources.
That is a topic for next year. STOP
Today’s lesson is on page 43. Turn to that page and do only questions 4 and 5. STOP
We will not have time for you to explore that. STOP
If you want to borrow that book, put your name on the request list and when it is free you can borrow it. STOP
You will have to wait until I have time to come sit with you. STOP
As long as student knowledge acquisition is limited to books, and the one teacher in the classroom, there will always be a need for learning to STOP. Students will need to stop while they wait for the attention of the teacher. They will need to stop while they wait for the book. They will need to stop when they get to the end of the book. They will need to stop because learning is too big of a job for students to do completely on their own.
Jennifer Brokofsky via http://jenniferbrokofsky.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/does-learning-have-to-stop
Laptops. iPads (or other tablet devices). Chromebooks. Maybe even netbooks or ultrabooks… As more schools and districts move toward 1:1 computing, one of the most common questions is ‘What device should we get for our students?’ The typical response is another question: ‘Well, what do you want your students to do?’ I wonder, though, if that’s the wrong question…
Here’s a short list of what most educators want their students to be able to do with a computing device:
- Access information on the Web
- Make and store files
- Stay organized
- Read electronic books, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, etc.
- Utilize office productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.)
- Use course management systems (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, etc.)
- Communicate, connect, and share (email, blogs, Twitter, Edmodo, videoconferencing, etc.)
- Look at and listen to multimedia (music, podcasts, videos, photos, screencasts, etc.)
- Create and edit multimedia
- Curate learning resources
- Play learning games and engage in simulations
- Participate in online courses
- Use a variety of other online tools, services, social media, and cloud-based environments
- And, perhaps, customize their learning experience with apps
I would venture to say that this brief list covers 95% or so of what educators want students to do. Guess what? All of the devices in the first paragraph let students do these.
Now, granted, some specialized software programs might be needed for particular students and/or purposes. A few high-end laptops or desktops floating around – or perhaps a specialized computer and/or maker lab – probably will suffice in most instances. Mainstream purchasing decisions likely won’t hinge on the exceptions anyway. As more tools move to the cloud – and as the basic capabilities of computing devices overlap substantially – considerations like price and form factor (e.g., tablet v. having a keyboard; do you need a forward-facing camera?) rise closer to the fore. Some mass configuration/setup issues also may be worth considering.
Since numerous devices now satisfy the demands listed above, we’re making decisions at the margins, not the core. In this kind of environment, perhaps the better question when considering what to purchase is ‘If we buy this device for students, what will they NOT be able to do that we and they will wish they could?‘
Any thoughts on this?
P.S. Notice that I didn’t include here decision-making factors based on adults’ needs to monitor, filter, lock down, and/or control. That was on purpose. If those are your primary concern instead of student-focused factors, good luck with your initiative. You’re going to need it.
Image credit: Untitled
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:
- Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks?
- The Logistics of Chromebooks at Leyden
- What Can You Expect When You Move Learning to the Web?
- Tech Support Internship: Student-Led Support for Leyden’s Chromebook Initiative
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- To support students’ Chromebooks
- To support the faculty and staff with technology needs
- 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
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
“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
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
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.
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
Here are four very powerful videos from the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub that are guaranteed to make you think hard about learning, teaching, and schooling. You can watch them all in less than half an hour. My quick notes from the videos are included underneath each one…
Engaged (7 minutes; Connie Yowell)
- we are fundamentally starting with the wrong questions
- we start with learning outcomes – and content defines everything – rather than “what is the experience we want kids to have?”
- our core question is around engagement; if you ask “is a kid engaged?”, you have to pay attention to and start with the kid
- we have to make room for curiosity, we don’t have enough opportunities for kids to take things apart and wonder about them
- little opportunities to fail and iterate are also opportunities to play with identity
- we need opportunities to explore who we are in the world and how the world works, particularly as teenagers
- we so decontextualize learning for kids, we’ve forgotten we have a passion for learning
- in school they could care less, but in complex games kids demand that they learn how to do something so they can move on
- as adults, we have to deeply connect content and students’ activity, otherwise learning has no meaning
Everyone (7 minutes; Mimi Ito)
- we give responsibility for learning to professionals instead of remembering it’s the fabric that frames all of our interactions with everybody
- connected learning networks force us to fundamentally rethink what we think is the problem and goal of education
- it’s about expertise that’s widely distributed; anybody can help somebody else get better at something
- if you have an educational system that always tell students what to do, you’re not building their capacity to make effective learning choices themselves
- we used to have capacity bottlenecks for learning, so you had to go to school or a library – now we don’t have that problem but we still act as if we do
- education isn’t bound to particular institutions anymore, it can happen anywhere
- how does a kid find a mentor or peer that helps them develop their interest, make their interest relevant, find a sense of purpose, etc.
- how do we use the capacity of the network to bring people together who want to learn together?
- everybody can participate in a connected learning model
- the great side benefit of interest-based, connected learning is that it fosters social connection and well-being: fulfillment, belonging, and purpose
Play (7 minutes; Katie Salen)
- play creates for people a reason for them to want to engage
- body and spirit are transformed by play
- play is a state of being, a very different state of mind, openness to ideas and other people
- not a closed, rules-bound place – the openness of the play space is extremely important
- play is one of the most fundamental human experiences
- play is a practice space, we play to get better at something, it helps us build confidence
- kids are driven to want to share with you what they’re doing, what they’re making, what they’re learning
- at school, we cordon off a time for play (recess) and then you’re not doing that anymore
- when you get older, play becomes embedded in objects (video games), you can activate play when you pick up that object
- when we’re young, play is the frame for how we experience the world
- adult life becomes about a set of responsibilities rather than a way of engaging your soul in the world
Creative (5 minutes, Nichole Pinkard)
- we’re just now getting to the place in America where we realize it needs to be different everywhere, not just in some places
- we have to completely overhaul how we think learning happens, where it happens, and what people are capable of
- technology transformations show us the world is going to be different
- they are going to have to be more nimble and more proficient with technology to communicate and to learn, or they’ll be a new form of illiterate
- we no longer live in a world where you can only write and read text and you will be successful
- we have to teach these new literacies and then let kids be creative in how they express themselves with these literacies
- schools always have been about ‘the right answer’
- now we care more about how kids find information, think about information, communicate information
The DML Research Hub also has an 8-minute summary video, Essence, which includes some of the best pieces from each video above plus some new stuff.
- there’s no longer a promised future for all kids
- how do we create environments that delight learners at all ages?
- open up the question of who contributes to learning
- how do we help kids grow up to become curious, engaged citizens?
- kids say over and over that schools are (merely) a node in their network of learning
- we have an embarrassment of (information) riches but we still have to figure out how to bring those pieces together
- learning principles need to start with the idea of connectedness
Finally, be sure to check out the core values, learning principles, and design principles of connected learning:
- Core values: equity, social connection, full participation
- Learning principles: interest-powered, peer-supported, academically oriented
- Design principles: production-centered, openly networked, shared purpose
See also the infographic below. There’s a lot here to digest. Thoughts?
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
- Creating YouTube channels for endless variations on the “Flipped Classroom” model,
- Using videos to “Clone yourself” in the classroom
- Using the Geogebra web app for creating and sharing dynamic geometry and algebra constructions,
- Creating interactive history timelines using a multitude of web-based tools.
Remember “Feedback” and Hattie’s effect sizes? How about this for increasing the amount and quality of feedback for students:
- Using the student response system Socrative for quick formative assessment,
- Giving self-graded quizzes using Google forms and Flubaroo,
- Using screencasting as a method of providing feedback forstudents’ written work.
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.
Picture taken from ”Confessions of a Prep School English Teacher“
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