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60 apps in 60 seconds

[In honor of whatever educational technology conference you next attend...]

30 fantastic free apps for pre-readers! 38 of the best elementary learning apps for students! 40 iPad apps for science! 60 APPS IN 60 MINUTES!!!!

60 apps in 60 minutes? Pshaw! WAY too easy. I proudly present… 60 apps in 60 seconds!

How many sessions like these have we seen at educational technology conferences? (fess up: how many have we delivered?!) Teachers attend, they scribble notes madly, they ask for the slides afterward because “they missed some.” The long-term substantive impact of these spray-and-pray workshops on teachers’ day-to-day practice? Zero.

If we want people to start taking instructional technology seriously, we have to stop doing this to ourselves. How about one app – or perhaps a very small handful in combination – presented thoughtfully and deeply, with numerous applications to rich, robust student learning outcomes?

This presentation? I guarantee the same classroom results as all of our other firehose sessions…

Music credits: Rock 12, by dron

Three thoughts that are percolating in my head today

Think Think

Here are a few thoughts that are swirling around in my brain today…

  1. It’s hard for schools to teach kids how to make a dent in the universe when they’re focused so heavily on teaching compliance. It’s very difficult to reconcile ‘go out and change the world’ with ‘we’re going to tell you what to do and how to do it every minute of the day; just go along and don’t make trouble.’
  2. It’s hard for schools to teach kids how to make a dent in the universe when the majority of the people working in them don’t understand how most of the world-changing tools work.
  3. We’re afraid of an awful lot of stuff that never seems to actually happen.

Image credit: Think – Computer History Museum, Scott Loftesness

Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?

Yes

Most school technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) contain these kinds of phrases:

  • “Students shall not use technology unless authorized by appropriate school personnel.”
  • “The use of the Internet is a privilege, not a right, and inappropriate use will result in cancellation of those privileges.”
  • “Students will not access or modify other accounts, data, files, and/or passwords without authorization.”
  • “You will be held responsible at all times for the proper use of district technology resources, and the district may suspend or revoke your access if you violate the rules.”
  • “Users have no right to privacy while using the district’s Internet systems. The district monitors users’ online activities and reserves the right to access, review, copy, store, or delete any electronic communications or files. This includes any items stored on district-provided devices, such as files, e-mails, cookies, and Internet history.”
  • And so on…

That’s a lot of legalistic language. That’s a lot of negativity.

How about an empowered use policy (EUP) instead? In other words, instead of saying NO, NO, NO! all the time, how about saying yes? Here’s one to consider…

[SCHOOL / DISTRICT NAME]

When it comes to digital technologies in our [school / district], please…

  1. Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
  2. Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
  3. Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
  4. Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.
Thank you and let us know if you have any questions.

Is there anything major that this EUP doesn’t address? Other thoughts or reactions? Help me make it better…

Image credit: YES, Transcend

Personalized learning v. targeted advertising

Arguing that ‘the line between educational and commercial purposes may be somewhat blurry,’ Katherine Varker, Associate General Counsel for McGraw-Hill Education, asks:

Where does targeted advertising end and personalized learning begin?

via http://digital.hechingerreport.org/content/schoolprivacyzone-emerging-best-practices-for-a-contentious-issue_1301

The fact that you don’t know – or don’t care – means that I don’t want your company anywhere near my kids.

Diane Ravitch and technology: Once more into the breach…

I’m trying to see Diane Ravitch’s pro-technology stance. I really am. I thought she was more tempered in Reign of Error. She actually noted some positive affordances of instructional technologies for students and teachers and also appropriately noted concerns about some cyber charter schools. But after yet another derisive statement about how technologies are ‘distracting toys,’ I left the following comment on Diane’s blog:

Diane, lately you have been more tempered with your language regarding educational technology, noting that it has powerful potentials when used correctly and also properly noting the stupidity of some implementation efforts (e.g., L.A. Unified and its iPads). However, you undercut your messaging – and reinforce my earlier concerns about the anti-technology tone of your blogging – when you use phrases like this:

“the ubiquity of distracting electronic toys”

As you know, how we say things is important. I wish you would be more consistent with your nuanced language when it comes to instructional technology. Laptops and iPads and smartphones and other computing devices in schools are not ‘toys’ (as you have stated several times) but instead powerful access vehicles to our increasingly-digital information, economic, and learning landscapes. If a particular implementation is dumb, go ahead and label it as such. But please don’t label all instructional technology efforts as ‘distracting’ or ‘toys.’

Thank you.

That resulted in this Twitter exchange:

Ravitch01

Ravitch02

I’ll let you judge whether Diane’s response addressed my claim that she often uses anti-technology language in her writing. And I’ll keep hoping for more nuanced recognitions from her – like I thought she was doing of late – of both the positives and negatives of the digital tools that are transforming our and our students’ lives…

Previous posts on this topic:

The digital equity concerns of ‘good enough’

Close up

Tim Holt says:

[George] Couros had a really nice statement in his article “… Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?”

Great point. Tech should be at the point of instruction. He left off a word however: GREAT.

GREAT Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil…

Not “adequate”, not “ok,” not “mediocre,” not “the cheapest we could buy,” not “good enough,” not “hand me down,” not “hobbled.”

The technology we provide students should be the best we can provide.

Miguel Guhlin uses the “90% of all tasks can be completed” argument here as a way of implying that good enough is good enough. (He cites a study in the article.)

Again, a terrible argument.

This idea of providing something that ALMOST can do the job is laughable. It is like giving a kid a donkey to run the Kentucky Derby. Okay kid, that donkey will actually make it around the track just like the thoroughbreds can. Never you mind that the race will be over for 30 minutes by the time you finish. The donkey is good enough for your needs.

Here kid, we are giving you a 1975 Chevy Vega to run the Daytona 500. Good luck. It is LIKE a Nascar car, heck, it is 90% of everything that a Nascar car is: It has an engine, it has four wheels, it has a seat a speedometer, a stick shift … Heck, it does 90% of what a Nascar car can do. Be happy.

The kids coming from low SES are the farthest behind. To give them something that is already hobbled is insulting. Here kid, you are behind already, here is something that will make you farther behind, But be glad, because you can do 90%!

via http://holtthink.tumblr.com/post/71642782063/riding-donkeys-in-a-horse-race-digital-equity

I greatly appreciate Tim’s digital equity concerns and passion. We should indeed strive to provide the same for our children that we use as adults if we want their technology usage to be as authentic as possible. I’m struck by his observation that adult educators typically aren’t using cheap computers to do their day-to-day work but we seem to think it’s okay for kids:

Here is the deal: If cheap is the way to go and it is preparing kids for college and the workforce, then everybody in a school district that is IN THE WORKFORCE, every administrator, every clerk, every secretary, and every accountant at every campus all the way up to the district superintendent should be willing to use the cheap devices.

Let’s see the district architects use them.
Let’s see researchers use them.
Let’s see the accountants use them.
Let’s see the principals use them.
Let’s see the IT staff use them to run the servers.

If it is good enough for the least among us, then it should be good enough for the most advanced of us. I wonder how many upper administration would move to cheap devices if they had to use them 100% of the time to do 90% of the work?

All that said, I’m having a hard time reconciling digital equity concerns with the realities of funding during this time of mindset and paradigm shifts. I want the best for kids too, but I’d rather have 90% for them than nothing. Tim might agree with me on that point. However, he’s not framing this as a choice between 90% and 0% but rather as a choice between 90% and 100%, with iPads closing the final gap at a price point similar to Chromebooks. I think that both devices have their limitations. If you forced me to choose personally (I have both), I’d rather have an iPad than a Chromebook, primarily because of its apps and ease of taking photos/videos. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to pillory schools that make the opposite choice as they go for 90% instead of 0%.

Lots of food for thought in Tim’s post

Image credit: Close Up 0410, Mike Liu

Tech integration fails when it is an add-on

Miguel Guhlin says:

When technology is missing from the equation, both during preparation of an initiative (e.g. Writing Workshop, Problem-Based Learning, whatever), then later when it is shared, adding technology after the fact results in a waste of money. Efforts like mass inclusion of tablets, Bring Your Own Device, Chromebooks fail, not because the devices themselves are insufficient or inadequate to the task, but because they are add-ons to the original recipe … and they were never meant to be included.

via http://www.mguhlin.org/2013/12/plurality-of-diversity-gcouros.html

The magic formula for technology failure?

I’m cleaning out my home office and I found this note I hastily scrawled while traveling somewhere:

Lack of vision + inadequate infrastructure + no training + poor implementation + insufficient ongoing support + refusal to change = tech success!

Does this sound like your wishful school or district? Hope not!

When parents want to opt their children out of ed tech

Denial

I had a conversation with a parent a few weeks back during which she said something like this:

My husband and I are worried about how prevalent screens are in our children’s lives. We are striving to maintain some balance between screen time and other time for our kids. However, our high school’s 1:1 laptop initiative has made it much harder for us to do this with our son since he is now expected to bring the computer home and use it during the evenings and weekends.

Even the most ardent technology advocates usually recognize that others may have different beliefs and norms when it comes to children and computers. I found myself empathizing with this mother as she found herself in direct competition with an initiative from the school system that was intended to empower her child but instead was undermining her parenting.

Parents often have opt-out rights for some sensitive course or school library materials (e.g., movies, videos, books or other readings, sex education classes) but they don’t typically have opt-out rights for instructional methods or curricula. Should parents have the right to refuse or limit a 1:1 initiative – or other educational technology usage – for their children? If so, in practical terms how would that work (e.g., would schools be required to provide analog assignments and/or homework)? What do you think?

Image credit: karen’s denial, zen sutherland

Adaptive learning

Unit 1

Teacher 1:

In the past I have mapped out my school year ahead of time. I’ve planned how long each unit is going to take; identified the resources, activities, and assessments that I’ll use for each unit; and then marched students through the content. But this year, I’ve got an amazing idea! Before school starts I’m going to print off all of the worksheets, quizzes, and tests that the publisher sends with the textbook. I’ll also add in a few of my own supplemental activities, and put everything into numbered folders. Since kids like videos, for some units I’ve even got some VHS tapes on which I’ll place Post-It notes with time-marked segments for them to watch. Students will have access to a printed checklist for each unit that shows what they need to read, watch, and do, and they’ll also get an overview checklist of all of the units for the entire year. This way, instead of students marching to my pace, they can go as fast or as slow as they need to. They can even bounce around different units as desired, focusing on whatever they want to work on that day, and can skip stuff if they can prove mastery! I’ll also put some stickers into each folder. As students complete each reading, worksheet, quiz, test, activity, or video, they can put a sticker on their checklist showing that they’ve completed it. It will be just like getting points and leveling up in a video game! We’ll also have tracking posters stapled to the bulletin board so that I can monitor overall task and unit completion for each student, and intervene as necessary if students are moving too slow, need extra help, or are ready for enrichment activities. The system will be entirely student-driven, freeing me up to be a facilitator of learning instead of a ‘sage on the stage.’ I’m so excited to set up this system of personalized learning!

Teacher 2:

In the past I have mapped out my school year ahead of time. I’ve planned how long each unit is going to take; identified the resources, activities, and assessments that I’ll use for each unit; and then marched students through the content. But this year, my school has an amazing idea! Before school starts I’m going to have access to an online adaptive learning system that includes all of the worksheet, quiz, and test items that the publisher sends with the digital textbook. There also are some supplemental activities, and everything is organized into numbered units. Since kids like videos, for some units the system even has some digital tutorials for them to watch. Students will have access to an online checklist for each unit that shows what they need to read, watch, and do, and they’ll also get an overview checklist of all of the units for the entire year. This way, instead of students marching to my pace, they can go as fast or as slow as they need to. They can even bounce around different units as desired, focusing on whatever they want to work on that day, and can skip stuff if they can prove mastery! The system also has digital badges for each unit. As students complete each reading, worksheet, quiz, test, activity, or video item, they get a digital badge for their checklist showing that they’ve completed it. It will be just like getting points and leveling up in a video game! We’ll also have access to an online data analytics system so that I can monitor overall task and unit completion for each student, and intervene as necessary if students are moving too slow, need extra help, or are ready for enrichment activities. The system will be entirely student-driven, freeing me up to be a facilitator of learning instead of a ‘sage on the stage.’ I’m so excited we have this system of personalized learning!

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