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Avoid magical thinking: ‘Design for online’ this fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New book chapter in Multimedia Learning Theory!

Multimedia Learning Theory: Preparing for the New Generation of Students (edited book)I am pleased to announce that my book chapter in Multimedia Learning Theory: Preparing for the New Generation of Students is now available!

My chapter is titled Multimedia Learning and the Educational Leader. Here’s an excerpt from the Systemic Improvement section of the chapter:

One important role of principals and superintendents is ensuring that employee position announcements, job descriptions, hiring processes, mentoring systems, training, and evaluation criteria all enforce school organizations’ need for robust multimedia learning and teaching. Few school systems currently have powerful technology integration as a core competency for classroom teaching staff. Educational organizations’ omission of digital teaching proficiency and the ability to facilitate students’ higher-order thinking as essential, required skill sets for teachers and administrators sends clear signals to current faculty, job candidates, and educator preparation programs about institutional values. Until this changes, meaningful and authentic uses of multimedia technologies in P-12 classrooms will continue to be isolated aberrations rather than routine observances.

Over the past several decades, school systems have slowly instituted a variety of technical systems to facilitate the management of lower-level cognitive work. Student information systems, online gradebooks, electronic formative assessment tools, and data warehouses are all examples of technologies that help educators input, manage, analyze, and present student learning data (Wayman, Stringfield, & Yakimowski, 2004). Most of the data in these institutional systems focus on student demographic information, letter grades, test scores, and daily assignment tracking.

As educational organizations transition to student learning environments that place greater emphasis on higher-order thinking skills, they will need more robust technology tools that allow them to facilitate, collect, and evaluate more complex, abstract, open-ended student learning. Most of these tools do not yet exist, so it is difficult to envision at this time what they might look like. They are likely to include evolving features such as sophisticated document and portfolio management (including archiving and tagging of multimedia student and teacher work products); deep cross-artifact text, image, audio, and video analysis; infographic-like presentation of underlying patterns and meaning; and the ability to easily but selectively share through a variety of information and social media channels.

Other tools to facilitate effective learning and teaching will include system-provided technologies such as open access content repositories, streaming multimedia servers, online adaptive learning systems, and robust, social media-driven collaboration channels for students, classroom teachers, and administrators. Strategic partnerships with state and federal governments, corporations, foundations, nonprofits, and others will become more prevalent as school systems face inevitable gaps in funding and resources. Growth in these and other technology systems must be accompanied by concurrent growth in organizational thinking as well as administrative and societal permission and encouragement to utilize these tools.

Hope the book is useful to some of you. Happy reading!

Citation

McLeod, S. (2019). Multimedia learning and the educational leader. In P. M. Jenlink & B. D. Knight (Eds.), Multimedia learning theory: Preparing for the new generation of students, pp. 129-143. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

10 building blocks for the future of schools

As Dean Shareski and I worked together on our new book, Different Schools for a Different World, (released this week!), he encouraged me to update my list of building blocks for the future of schools. Here’s the new list (now 10 items instead of 8):

  1. Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.
  2. Community projects, internships, digital simulations, and other problem- and project-based learning experiences that foster students’ ability to engage in authentic, real-world work.
  3. Competency-based education and standards-based grading efforts that shift the focus of assessment from seat time to learning mastery.
  4. 1:1 computing initiatives (and concurrent Internet bandwidth upgrades) that give students powerful digital learning devices and access to the world’s information, individuals, and organizations.
  5. The expansion of digital and online (and often open access) information resources that increase the availability of higher and deeper learning opportunities.
  6. Online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities that are limited by geography and time.
  7. Adaptive software and data systems (and accompanying organizational models) that can facilitate greater individualization of learning content and pace.
  8. Alternative credentialing mechanisms that enable individuals to quickly reskill for and adapt to rapidly-evolving workforce needs and economic demands.
  9. Flexible scheduling that moves students away from 50-minute time chunks – and a prescribed number of hours and days in a prescribed location – and toward opportunities for students to learn longer, deeper, and in more places about important life skills and concepts.
  10. Redesigned learning spaces that accommodate flexible, student-centered grouping and learning tasks rather than classrooms that are dictated by instructor or janitorial needs.

What would you add or change?

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The weakest area of most school computing plans is the leadership

Alan November said:

Perhaps the weakest area of the typical one-to-one computing plan is the complete absence of leadership development for the administrative team – that is, learning how to manage the transition from a learning ecology where paper is the dominant technology for storing and retrieving information, to a world that is all digital, all the time.

via http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/teaching-and-learning-articles/why-schools-must-move-beyond-one-to-one-computing

No argument here! See, for example:

If the leaders don't get it, it's not going to happen

7 building blocks for the future of schools

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If I had the chance to build a new school organization (or redesign an existing one), I would start by attending to the educational movements listed below. Every year we see these initiatives gain further ground in traditional educational systems. I see these as basic building blocks for the future of schooling and think that leaders and policymakers should be working toward greater implementation of all of these, both individually and in concert…

  1. Competency-based education and standards-based grading efforts that shift the focus from seat time to learning mastery.
  2. Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.
  3. 1:1 computing initiatives (and concurrent Internet bandwidth upgrades) that give students powerful digital learning devices and access to the world’s information, individuals, and organizations.
  4. The expansion of digital and online (and often open access) information resources that increase the availability of higher and deeper learning opportunities.
  5. Online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities that are limited by geography and time.
  6. Adaptive software and data systems (and accompanying organizational models) that can facilitate greater individualization of learning content and pace.
  7. Alternative credentialing mechanisms that enable individuals to quickly reskill for and adapt to rapidly-evolving workforce needs and economic demands.
  8. ADDED: Simulations and problem-based learning experiences that foster students’ ability to engage in authentic, real-world work. (hat tip: Trent Grundmeyer)

What did I miss here? What would you revise or add to this list? Most importantly, how well is your school organization doing at paying attention to these 7 key components of future learning environments?

[I’m five days late with this, my own Leadership Day post. I figure that’s okay; we’ve always accepted stragglers! Thank you, everyone, for your fabulous posts to celebrate this annual event!]

Big Brother would love the Amplify tablet

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A recent New York Times story said:

[Joel] Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools and the current chief executive of Amplify, News Corporation’s fledgling education division, will take the stage for a surprising announcement. Amplify will not sell just its curriculum on existing tablets, but will also offer the Amplify Tablet, its own 10-inch Android tablet for K-12 schoolchildren.

In addition to tablets and curriculum, Amplify will also provide schools with infrastructure to store students’ data.

An early look at the Amplify tablet revealed a sleek touch screen with material floating against a simple background. If a child’s attention wanders, a stern “eyes on teacher” prompt pops up. A quiz uses emoticons of smiley and sad faces so teachers can instantly gauge which students understand the lesson and which need help.

“We wanted to use the language of the Web,” said Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify Access, the division that produces the tablet, which is manufactured by Asus.

Outside the classroom, children can use it to play games, like one in which Tom Sawyer battles the Brontë sisters.

I predict (hope) this whole venture will be a complete bust. Not just because the market isn’t exactly clamoring for another Android tablet. Not just because the Android apps ecosystem isn’t as robust for P-12 students as Apple’s. Not just because having historical literary characters battle each other is both educationally dubious and less than engaging to today’s students. The ‘eyes on teacher’ announcements, the built-in ability to monitor students’ screens at all time, the student response system features, extensive back-end ‘data’ collection and analysis, the push-out from the teacher to all students’ screens, pre-loaded tools, filtering software, teacher-created content playlists, one-button device tracking / locking / erasure … nearly everything about this initiative screams replication and amplification of traditional instructional techniques in which teachers are the focal point and students are passive recipients. All of the features touted by Amplify are ones that amplify control over students’ learning with computers. Need further evidence? Here’s a quote from Klein:

The teacher can personalize (the tablet.)  A teacher can also click on and see what skills (the student) has mastered.

Notice who’s ‘personalizing’ the device. Notice who’s using data analytics to monitor skill mastery. Not the student, that’s for sure.

Who’s going to buy these devices? My guess is probably some large, vulnerable urban districts with deep pockets who 1) are susceptible to the big-time sell from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, 2) think that Joel Klein’s work in New York City somehow was successful and worth adopting (despite lots of evidence to the contrary), and 3) think that a desirable feature for student technologies is the ability to lock them down and control them as much as possible. That means even more instances where poor kids will yet again experience being programmed by computers rather than having the ability to use technology in meaningful, authentic, relevant, and powerful ways.

Maybe ‘What do you want your students to do?’ is the wrong question

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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

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]

The 800-desktop millstone [SCENARIO]

Computer LabIntroducing a new feature here, here’s a school technology leadership scenario for you…

SCENARIO: You’re a new central office administrator in a growing district. Just a few months into the job you learn that the new high school your district is building – which was originally designed 3 to 4 years ago and is supposed to open next fall – is about to order 800 new desktop computers and put them into rooms configured as stationary computer labs. You know that computing is moving toward mobile, not tethered, environments and that universities, for example, are quickly getting away from labs altogether. The rooms are already built and wired, but you’re concerned about investing a significant amount of money in technologies that may not best meet the present and future needs of students and staff.

YOUR TURN: How do you handle this? Do you let this one go and fight other battles? Or do you take this on and try and stop the already-moving train (and, if so, what’s your approach)?

Got a school technology leadership scenario to share? Send it to me and I’ll see if we can post it. Make sure to let me know if you want your name attached or if you want to stay anonymous!

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]

Tech Support Internship: Student-led support for Leyden’s Chromebook initiative [guest post]

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.

Overview

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:

  1. To support students’ Chromebooks
  2. To support the faculty and staff with technology needs
  3. 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

Certification

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

Students in this pathway gain hands on experience in computer programming or networking.  For computer programming, students may choose between two programming languages: C++ or JavaScript.

“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

Communications

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

App Development

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.

Benefits

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

What Can You Expect When Moving Learning to the Web? [guest post]

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

Remember “Feedback” and Hattie’s effect sizes? How about this for increasing the amount and quality of feedback for students:

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.

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