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The roars of approval as we revert back to what we’ve always done

Applause

George Couros said:

Sometimes when the statement is made, “it is not about technology, it is about pedagogy”, you then hear the roars of approval, and off we go on our merry way with nothing changing for many students.

In reality sometimes it is about the technology, and the opportunities that it provides that were not there before for a student.

via http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5250

Image credit: and the crowd went wild, Tim Bayman

Option 3: Actually USE the smartphones

Door sign: Cell phone prohibited

Murphy & Beland’s recent study is making the rounds online, particularly among those who are eager to find reasons to ban learning technologies in classrooms. The economists found that banning mobile phones helped improve student achievement on standardized test scores, with the biggest gains seen by low-achieving and at-risk students. Here are my thoughts on this…

The outcome measure is standardized test score improvement. Is that all you care about or do you have a bigger, more complex vision for student learning? For instance, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving are difficult to assess with a standardized test. Most schools I know didn’t adopt their learning technology initiatives for the sole purpose of test score improvement. (if they did, how sad is that?)

The accepted dichotomy in this study and the media seems to be 1) doing low-level knowledge work while smartphones are banned, or 2) doing low-level knowledge work while smartphones are present (and, presumably, distracting). Neither of these two options addresses the fact that decontextualized, low-level work isn’t very interesting or engaging to many (most?) students, particularly those who already find that traditional schooling doesn’t meet their needs very well. So, faced with the opportunity to do something else, many students do. Youth today aren’t any different than when we were young and adults made snarky, woeful comments about us. They just have different opportunities and resources. How many times were you bored in high school? Lots, so admit that if you’d had access to a smartphone or your friends on Facebook back then, you would have turned that way too. I know that I sure would have. Let’s stop blaming students and/or demonizing technology as an evil succubus and address the real problem, which is disengaging learning environments. The solution to that problem is not to try and force students to pay attention to and comply with our boring lessons. That’s not teaching students ‘grit.’ That’s an indictment of our failure to differently imagine learning and teaching.

How about a third option, that of doing higher-level learning and USING the smartphones to help with that? That sounds pretty good to me. Why isn’t this ever brought up as an option to be considered?

Image credit: Cell phone prohibited, SmartSign

The problem with ‘any time, any place, any path, any pace’

Any time, any place, any path, any pace

In most online courses and/or ‘adaptive learning systems’ …

  • Students do low-level work at times that are convenient.
  • Students do low-level work from places that are convenient.
  • Students do low-level work on their own, unique path.
  • Students do low-level work at their own, unique pace.

But it’s still low-level work. 

Digitizing, chunking, and algorithmizing worksheet-like learning tasks doesn’t move them out of the domains of factual recall and procedural regurgitation. The modality doesn’t change the substance of the learning task. Until we are willing to address the kinds of work that we ask students to do on a day-to-day basis, not just the delivery mode, the any time, any place, any path, any pace mantra isn’t going to change a thing…

Today’s #ETCoaches Twitter chat

I had the pleasure of moderating the #ETCoaches Twitter chat today. Here are the questions I asked… (and here’s the archive)

  1. Welcome to our #ETCoaches Twitter discussion. Our topic today: Confronting some hard truths about our own #edtech coaching.
  2. After we do an #edtech PD session, what percentage of teachers actually implement what we showed them? #ETCoaches
  3. Should we judge our success as #ETCoaches by teacher #edtech use or student #edtech work products?
  4. Why do we keep doing ’60 apps in 60 minutes’ type conference sessions since they focus on tools, not learning? #ETCoaches #edtech
  5. When we do educator PD / conference workshops, what principles of effective adult learning do we routinely violate? #ETCoaches #edtech
  6. I’m struggling w/ SAMR, TPACK. Are they really helpful? Do they help a teacher know what to CHANGE or DO DIFFERENTLY? #ETCoaches #edtech
  7. What takeaways do you have from the previous 50 minutes of conversation? #ETCoaches #edtech #makeitbetter
  8. What might you rethink about your own practice? #ETCoaches #edtech #makeitbetter
  9. Thanks for joining us today. Great #edtech conversation. Go in peace. Do great things! #ETCoaches #MakeSchoolDifferent

Thoughts on any of these?

The Sock Monkeys are returning!

Sock monkeys

Just a heads-up that Team 4443, The Sock Monkeys (@4443sockmonkeys), from Oskaloosa, Iowa will be returning to this blog to share its experiences at the First Robotics Championships in St. Louis, Missouri. Molly Bleything will be sharing out this year’s challenge, photos and videos of the team in action, and other items of note. Hope you’ll leave her and the team some positive encouragement!

Image credit: Sock Monkeys

Is it wrong for me to wish the ISTE keynotes focused more on ed tech?

ISTE announced its 2015 conference keynote speakers yesterday:

  • Soledad O’Brien, journalist and news anchor
  • Jack Gallagher, comedian and parent of a child with autism
  • Josh Stumpenhorst, Illinois teacher of the year and ISTE Emerging Leader

I love ISTE and the ISTE conference. But every year I wish more of the keynotes were actually helpful to our technology integration and implementation efforts. It is an educational technology conference, after all, and we have lots of needs in the actual topic area of the conference.

Go get ‘em, Josh…

[UPDATE: See also Michelle Baldwin’s recent post on this issue]

Why must we ask the 21st century to wait outside our classes?

Internet kill switch

John Jones said:

why must we ask the 21st century to wait outside our classes? Is it just to protect the lecture? We know what a classroom designed around lectures, notes, and quizzes can do, and it is not impressive. . . . Perhaps by embracing the new forms and structures of communication enabled by laptops and other portable electronics we might discover new classroom practices that enable new and better learning outcomes.

There is a robust body of research exploring alternatives to the lecture. Never before has technology been so able to support a new understanding of learning but, as Rivers argues, suppressing the use of new technologies avoids and ignores such discussions.

via http://dmlcentral.net/blog/john-jones/let’s-ban-bans-classroom

Image credit: internet-kill-switch, CyberHades

The challenges of digital leadership

National Association of Independent Schools logo

I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!

Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces. 

AND

Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.

AND

As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.

Happy reading!

Avoiding worst-case technology scenarios through mindfulness

Mike Crowley said:

There can be no question but that technology can provide the potential for isolation, for synthetic relationships, for a sedentary lifestyle, an anxiety-ridden social existence, a failure to focus, concentrate, and engage. But surely this is a worst-case scenario conception of technology without balance, without thoughtful schools, informed, engaged parents? An education system that emphasises the need to be cultured as well as educated, well-read as well as literate, articulate as well as able to skim, physically healthy as well as mentally engaged … surely an individual in this context will only benefit from the interactive tools of contemporary technology to allow them to create, design, persuade and engage? Yes, perhaps our brains will be rewired in the process, but isn’t that what the brain has always done throughout history? 

via http://crowleym.com/2014/11/03/rewired-brains-unbalanced-lives

Day 2 with Matt Gomez

Here are my notes from Day 2 of our elementary school technology integration workshop with Matt Gomez… [often in Matt’s voice, not mine] You also can see my notes from Day 1.

  • Our agenda and resources (including Matt’s slides)
  • Our backchannel
  • Crowdsourced ideas
  • Lesson / activity redesign
    • We spent 15 minutes thinking about redesigning what we do – individual reflection then conversation with others in room
    • In Matt’s district, there aren’t separate math blocks, or health blocks, or science blocks – the entire curriculum is integrated
    • If you want to see what students are excited about, give them choice and see what they gravitate toward and finish first – most often it’s the activities that give them greater agency and creativity
    • When I started sharing what’s happening in my room, I realized that we had better be doing good stuff! – that meant giving up some control and focusing on deeper thinking work – our one rule is ‘be brave!’ and we take it from there – it takes about 3 weeks to get my kids up and running at the beginning of the year – then we roll without dozens of rules about everything
    • Rather than seeing a bunch of kids at one center as a problem, see it as an indication of success – how can we do more of that tomorrow?
    • Every year my class is first or second of our five kindergarten classes on standardized tests
    • Get kids excited about learning – little things like rhyming or site words come along as part of the process
  • App reviews
  • Wonderopolis
    • Every day we start with a daily wonder
    • My kids run into school and class each morning to see what the day’s wonder is – others tell them not to run – I say, ‘they’re excited about school… let ‘em run in here!’
    • Geared toward 2nd to 4th grade – may need to translate / paraphrase for younger students
    • This helps me find out what my kids are interested in – sometimes we spend 3 minutes on this, sometimes it launches new learning inquiries/activities and an hour later we’re still going
    • Each morning they have a wonder journal – they start a page, draw a picture, and write down what they wonder
    • Kids are good at telling you what they know – not so good at sharing what they don’t know – in the journals, they can’t write about what they know, they can only write about what they don’t know or would like to know – ‘I’m glad you know about [x], but I want to hear from you what you don’t know’
    • If the topic is polar bears, when they come to the carpet, they ask questions like ‘I wonder why they’re white’ or ‘I wonder why they don’t get cold’
    • Second semester their wonder journal becomes a KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) journal – this 10 to 30 minutes depending on their interest
    • Each day my kids write 3 journal entries – Wonder/KWL journal, reading response journal, and a regular writing journal
    • My team collectively writes lesson plans each week – I’m not afraid to deviate from those
    • If you’re going to make your classroom student-centered, you have to follow the students’ lead
    • The app stinks, use the web site
    • Matt’s Top 50 Wonderopolis activities
  • Headphones
    • Never buy headphones without volume control – kids need to adjust their sound
    • Suggested headphones
    • The kids never care about background noise – only adults do – we like products, we want it to be perfect – they’re just having fun learning
  • Toontastic
    • An app designed for telling stories
    • The first time my students use the app, their job is to make one scene/page – later they’ll do two, then three…
    • Example – students make a scene in Toontastic to make sense of their learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. – the best way to understand if my kids learned is for them to tell me stories – I can see what they understand, what they’re still struggling with or where they have misconceptions – helps me know what to review
    • The background can be whatever you want – great for explanatory videos
    • When kids watch each others’ videos, they’re reviewing our learning over and over again – kids learning from kids is incredibly powerful
    • Upper elementary students in our school use Toontastic for vocabulary – have to use several of the words in the story
    • How can we connect this to Iowa standards?
  • Audri’s Monster Trap video
    • Kids will get this excited about learning if we set up the environment right
  • Chatterpix (not Chatterkid)
    • Chatterpix allows you to email the final product
    • Take/import a picture, add a mouth, record audio…
    • Kids will self-differentiate a lot – e.g., taking a picture of any set of blocks/shapes, but then explain in Chatterpix how many there are of each – explaining about an animal or a book character or a historical figure – reading sight words (you can type in the app)
    • How can we connect this to Iowa standards?
    • Examples – screenshot a book page and tell what the characters are thinking (inferencing, motivation, feelings) – screenshot anything and describe its attribute – snapping a picture of a stage of work and explaining that step for a how-to video (then string multiple ones together) – write a poem of an inanimate object (then take a photo, read the poem) – pretend that no one likes your animal baby and convince someone that your animal baby is the best (persuasive speaking/writing)
    • Great for prewriting
  • Story Buddy 2
    • The app that we use in my class to make books – kids can draw, add text, add pictures, and change the background – also can add audio to each page – can add multiple pictures to the same page
    • Wonderful for digital storytelling, sharing with other students or classrooms – great for nonfiction
    • The paid version allows you to add audio and work on multiple books at the same time
    • Example – field trip to the arboretum – took two cameras and took photos of everything – imported into Story Buddy 2 and told the story of our trip – groups of four wrote books
    • Example – watching the Olympics – writing about / describing the Olympics
    • Example – animal research book
    • Example – list of weather terms – these are the words I want to see in your book – write a story
    • Example – color words – take a picture of something that’s red – make a sentence that uses the word ‘red’
    • Once the book is printed, the kids own that book! – they read each other’s books over and over again – these are all on the class bookshelves for each other – if they can’t read something, they’ll go ask the author
    • I expect the kids to write and spell at their level
    • In our district we don’t have thematic (topical?) units – our curriculum is broken down into concepts (e.g., water systems, how are things connected) – science, social studies, health all tie together – in my class, we investigate kids’ interests
    • I’d rather have 1 iPad than 20 every other week – it’s much easier to use them when you know what you’re going to have and what you’ll have access to – everywhere I go, people are having trouble with carts – sharing iPads across classrooms is tough
  • Explain Everything
    • The mother lode of all creative apps!
    • Similar to Educreations but this one costs money and is more powerful
    • Instead of me regurgitating what I know about the butterfly life cycle, my class and I co-create a video on the butterfly life cycle – they learn the concepts and vocabulary as we go
    • I fill the iPad with butterfly life cycle pictures the night before but I don’t choose which ones – they pick from many options – we talk about why we’re selecting each picture (e.g., ‘I like how we can see the eggs in that picture’) – I try to get 8 to 12 options for each stage of the life cycle
    • We should use real pictures, not cartoon clipart – helps them connect to the real world – for career day, pick diverse images (e.g., male nurse, female doctor, Latino lawyer, etc.) – we need to be thoughtful about this – my Latina girls shouldn’t have to think that all doctors are white males
    • Using pictures that shouldn’t go in the book is a great way to see if they know what they’re doing – e.g., did the kid put a reptile in her mammal book? did the kid put a spider in his insect book?
    • They know each others’ books (just like they know every other kid’s backpack but their own!)
    • Sight word books – finger dots under each word – these ebooks have helped lots with our sight words
    • Use this app a lot in my reading groups – take a screenshot of a book page or import a book PDF – circle some words to emphasize – have the kid read aloud and record it – this is a great running record, able to be shared with parents – easy to show how much kids have gained in their reading skills – I can show parents what kids are reading and what they need to work on
    • I take a video every month (or more often) of every kid’s language acquisition, reading, etc. – great documentation for the teacher and parents
    • Ask kids at the beginning of the year what they like – make a word wall with 5-6 photos from what they tell you – put on their lockers – kids use these as sight word helpers all year (e.g., I need to know how to spell the word ‘bike’ – Brianna likes bikes so I will go look at her locker)
  • Kayden + rain video
    • Learning is about experiences – the only way you can understand rain is to feel it
    • My goal as a teacher is to give my kids as many experiences as I can
    • The thing I’m most proud of in my room is our 3 terrariums, not technology
    • If you can find kids’ interests – if you can tap into their interests – learning can’t help but occur – where interest lies, learning occurs
    • When I went to school, when I went to college, I had lived my whole life in a bubble – I don’t want my kids’ lives to be like that
    • We don’t teach empathy, we give kids opportunities to be empathetic
  • Global connections and collaboration
    • Why Twitter? – student voice, digital citizenship, global connection, spark interest, post anytime
    • What on Twitter? – daily review, answer questions, geography, document learning, shared writing
    • My kids learn to tweet when they’re 5 – we always ask ‘is it safe? is it smart? is it nice?’ before we post – when we’re talking online, it’s like we’re talking to a stranger – we wouldn’t give a stranger the same information we would give a friend
    • I don’t teach digital citizenship, we live digital citizenship every day through what we do
    • Kevin Honeycutt: kids are playing on the social media playground but no one’s on recess duty
    • Things to consider – protected or unprotected, profile name/picture, description, who to follow, favorite tweets
    • I have two Twitter accounts: 1) professional account @mattbgomez and 2) my class account @mrgomezclass (which is protected)
    • My class account is only connected to other kindergarten classes around the world, no individuals
    • Start small and local and then grow it – when we started on Twitter, we tweeted with the class across the hall
    • A physical Twitter map on our wall – throughout the year, we add location-specific cards with Twitter IDs – you don’t need 30 cards, you only need 2 or 3 – pick a couple to really get to know well
    • Every day we did shared writing, but now we do shared writing on Twitter and then press ‘send’ to share with the world
    • We read others’ projected tweets, we circle sight words – the content comes from other kindergarten classes
    • Integrate digital citizenship into everyday activities – it shouldn’t be a standalone lesson or unit
    • We learn a lot about other classes’  locations – we trade pictures of the outdoors, our lunch rooms, our classrooms – we share videos that we made
    • Two years ago a tornado came through Dallas ten minutes before dismissal time – parents are in line in their cars, beating on the door to get in – very dramatic! – another class tweeted us the next morning to ask if we were okay – we replied – other classes saw the exchange and chimed in – my kids saw that these things happen everywhere, they have safe rooms too, their class had a safety bear, etc. – it all helped my kids make sense of it
    • A class in Japan said they didn’t know anything about Texas – we talked about it and decided to make a book – it turned out my kids didn’t know much about Texas either! – we walked down to the library, got some books, did some research, made our book, and shared it with them – every year the 2nd week of March is Texas History Week because that’s when it is in the curriculum but this year we learned all about Texas because my students needed to know about where they lived – they had a reason for why they wanted to know – we received a book back in return
    • Sometimes we follow experts – e.g., @cmdr_hadfield – when Chris Hadfield shared pictures from space, we would match them up with Google Earth – Pete Delkus, @wfaaweather – we sent 3 questions and he replied – every day we tweeted how close he was – in our class we worked with the number line and showed that he was close (predictions)
    • Channel 5 News (@nbcdfwweather) heard that we tweeted with Channel 8 News – they set up a live tweet exchange with my class where we asked questions and got answers
    • We have a research center in my class – as we tweet with other classes and experts, we write down terms and concepts that we run across (migration, bears, lightning) – we use that list on Friday to pick our books from the library for next week’s research center – a sheet of paper with a big box at the top for a picture, then lines below for writing – they draw and share what they’re reading in the research center
    • Reading books on Skype to others – armadillos, dinosaurs, cars – I hear a lot from parents that they had to go to the library to get more books on what we’re researching
    • Sharing about their flag with the other state/country (and vice versa) – peer-to-peer conversations that foster learning
    • One adult reads to Matt’s class every Friday – Eve’s grandparents lived in China and Skyped in
    • If they’re experts in their field, they’re passionate about their work and are eager to share it – I’ve never had anyone tell me no – authors, zoo scientists, meteorologists
    • We play Connect 4, Tic Tac Toe, 20 Questions, and other games with classes around the world – we play on a shared Google Doc
  • Sharing our learning
    • Doing things in real time is much better (and easier) than sharing 5 days later in the weekly newsletter
    • My class has a Facebook page for our parents – you’ll want to set up a closed group, not a private group – every family can have 4 members – they email names to Matt so he knows to approve them – keeps track on a spreadsheet
    • Every day one of my kids takes home our plastic turtle, Tiny Tim – they have adventures, share pictures on Facebook, and write about it
    • Video of red balloon hanging from ceiling – can you move it without touching it? – parents can see our learning about the concept of force
    • Kids are promoting our learning to their parents – make it a space for students to share their learning, not for you to share updates and reminders!
    • We share things as they’re happening in the moment, not days later – it takes 20 seconds – can do from my phone
    • Matt deletes group members at the end of each summer (after warning parents), then starts a new group for the new year
    • The Remind app is a great way to share messages/pictures to parents – you can set up scheduled texts
    • Weebly is an easy way to set up a web site [I recommend WordPress instead!]
    • The main thing is to find some way to share with parents
    • Symbaloo page with pictures of each kid (no names) – links to a Google Doc for each student – they write in their journal, parents read and leave comments
    • What’s the best way for us to share with parents?
  • Girls first ski jump video
    • Be brave! – we challenge kids to go past their comfort level every day – we need to do this ourselves too – we have to own our fear and change anyway
  • Evaluation results

Toontastic app

Explain Everything app

Story Buddy 2 app

Matt Gomez and new Iowa friends

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