"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others."
- African Proverb
LR teachers and administrators, have you discovered a new app, addon, Chrome extension, or website to support learning? Are you mixing things up in the classroom to allow for more choice, deeper learning, stronger engagement, or differentiated practice? If so, let us all know!
Celebrate a new blended learning teaching strategy. Celebrate a tech tool. Celebrate student success. Just celebrate!
Tweet about your blended learning strategy or tool and include #LRblended and @LRInstrucTech in your tweet.
Recently, I recalled an article I stumbled onto a few years ago titled "Classroom Technology Integration: Six Easy Steps". The article offered bits and pieces about starting slow, choosing easy to use technology, walking students through processes, and how to "manage technology behavior" (not real sure what managing behavior means). The article even suggesting that students would benefit from technology if their teacher was lacking "fundamental teaching theory" due to the fact students could still access information. In the end, this article, from the title, to its contents, represents all that is wrong with technology integration and why many schools get it wrong- it is not easy.
If integrating technology in the classroom beyond the electric pencil sharpener were easy, the heaping pile of SMART Boards in the landfill would not exist. Fifteen years ago, the sounds of drills echoed down school halls as SMART Board after SMART Board was installed. Yet for all the excitement, this early integration failed because teachers were under-trained and spent most of their time trying to get the device to work. Jump to the present and it seems that we continue to repeat the same integration mistakes of the past- buy devices, put them in teachers' hands, and seamless integration will take place. The reality is, the focus often falls incorrectly on which device to use and how teachers will use said device instead of on how to integrate the device, teacher support, and learning goals. In the end, there are no "Six Easy Steps" to classroom integration.
The phrase "seamless integration" of technology in education, is thrown around regularly. However, challenging students academically, trying new methods to support student learning, and incorporating new teaching styles in the classroom is anything but seamless. The dream of technology integration should be its invisible role in the learning process. Technology should be as inconspicuous as a pencil, paper, or table in the classroom. Though the reality is, in the words of Irish poet W.B. Yeats, things fall apart.
Embedding effective technology integration requires us to deal first with non-technological elements.
Number 1: Lessen the load teachers carry
While teachers' class sizes get bigger, requirements broader, and responsibility greater, we ask them to take on the task of integrating technology. In doing this, teachers are radically altering the teaching formula they have used, in some instances, for decades. Something has to give. If one more thing is placed on teachers' plates, something needs to be taken off. Perhaps self reflection on current practices may reveal methods that are no longer effective. Wipe these from your plate.
Number 2: Provide embedded and meaningful professional learning
Technology integration does not just happen, teachers must be supported through professional learning opportunities. Schools serious about integration need to shift their professional development approaches. Providing embedded time during the work day for professional learning, opportunities to observe colleagues, and working with coaches are sound practices. If teachers are expected to shift their pedagogy in a technology integrated environment, school culture toward support of teacher learning must also shift.
Yes, I am guilty of leading professional development that focuses on the latest app, or Google Doc trick. However, to really support teachers I think we need to offer more leaning opportunities on how to supply timely feedback to students, best practices in grading, and how to collaborate with students. Lets face it, teachers became teachers to teach what they love. This needs to be supported.
Number 3: Develop a shared vision for integration
The use of technology in the classroom must be deliberate and driven by a shared "why?". Forming a goal or purpose offers us a reason to work toward integration. Without a shared vision, we are just using technology for technology's sake. Whether working toward specific student learning outcomes, offering more effective feedback, collaboration with parents, or improving efficiency, goals need to be identified first. The right technology tool to meet the goal should follow.
Number 4: Technology is not pedagogy
Critical thinking, collaboration, inspiration, empathy, and persistence are not taught by computers. They are taught by teachers. Five years ago I started to flip classes. The technology was slick and my Moodle page looked awesome. The assessments, videos, and resources were all great. But, I had forgotten one thing, my role as the teacher. The first few semesters of flipping were disastrous. I erroneously thought the technology could teach my students and I would just guide them. After nearly giving up on blended learning, I realized the fundamental component of technology integration was not the technology, but me. I began to leverage technology to allow me to spend more time with individual students in more meaningful engagement than I had ever previously experienced.
Long before their were computers, SMART Boards, or electric pencil sharpeners, teachers did what teachers still do today: coach, inspire, gather resources, facilitate, guide, assess, communicate with parents, collaborate with peers, cry when students hurt, and celebrate when students succeed. These things can never be replaced by technology. But, what if we could harness the potential technology in the classroom offers to have more time to coach, to assess, to collaborate with peers, to communicate with parents, to cry and laugh with students, and teach?
No, there are no "Six Easy Steps" to technology integration.
This week's Instructional Technology Weekly looks at the role of the SMAR model in tech integration and spotlights the work of students using recording tools to build deeper understanding.
This week's Instructional Technology Weekly looks at assistive technologies available through Chromebooks, high lights of the fall PD Day, and a sneak peak of English I's Escape Classroom.
This week's edition of InstrucTech Weekly looks at the Chrome extension Blendspace and the math pilot of ALEKS.
We have all heard it, perhaps even echoed it ourselves, "why do I have to read this?" or better still "reading is stupid!" Why do so many students, refuse to read "required" readings in class, yet they may read 100s of pages a day in books they selected? Obviously, choice is a major factor. Allow me to choose what I want to read and I will read, force me to read a piece of text that extols the virtues of the Transcendental Number Theory, or Shakespeare's Othello, I will be bored (yes, I tried to read both, no, I did not make it to the end of either work, but I imagine both end the same- in death). So beyond choice, why will students not read the work teachers assign?
Their are countless reasons why students do not read assigned work, limited comprehension, they see no value in it, they can not read, they have learned the teacher will review it anyway, or it does not connect to lessons. Their are also many reasons why students will read, their intrinsic love of reading, genuine curiosity about the topic, fear of punitive quizzes that measure assignment completion and not comprehension, or simply because they are ugh... "obedient". Mountains of data has been produced to support, negate, and otherwise laugh at my reasons behind student reading desire, or lack of. Yet, despite all of the research, money, and time spent identifying why students will not read, there exists few quality resources for teachers to build reading platforms that are interactive, engaging, collaborative, and supportive. I think I may have stumbled on a pretty good one.
Actively Learn may be one of the best platforms for creating teacher supported reading activities I have ever seen. This free resource (limit of 3 internet articles, Google Docs, or PDFs per month for the free side, the paid side, a bit pricey, offers unlimited downloads, student grading, and many more tools) allows teachers to embed questions, notes, and media directly into an assignment. Actively Learn also integrates nicely with most Google Apps for Ed tools. Most importantly, this resource allows for differentiated reading support. I am not a paid spokesperson, nor will you get to keep the knives as my gift if you decide to return this resource, but this single tool is one of the coolest, easiest, and interactive tools I have ever used to support student reading.
For a closer look, check out the brief walk-through video.
At a conference in 2010, I was first introduced to the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) model. What this framework did for me was graphically demonstrate that technology knowledge alone could not support the learning needs of my students. Rather, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge had to be enhanced alongside technology knowledge. At the intersection of all three is found TPCK.
The TPCK framework promotes the emphasis of teaching and learning experiences with technology and not simply the use of technology. Many times, in my excitement to try new technology with students, I have forgotten the importance of sound pedagogy and content. When all three are given proper support student learning is most supported.
In their book The Other "F" Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work, John Danner and Mark Coopersmith explore the one thing every organization does -- fail. Although we all fail, it is the one thing very few teachers, administrators, even students want to address. Danner and Coopersmith suggest failure is the "one asset you and your colleagues create and pay for every day. You might as well put it to work."
As educators we will fail. Our students will see us fail and they will watch closely to see how we respond to failure. Our response to failure may be the most important education our students receive. The fear of failure that permeates education, most be eradicated. Students need to be encouraged to try, to fail, to get up and succeed.
A goal for myself, and I challenge my colleagues with the same this year, is to share our stories of struggling and failing. By asking "how did you fail?" and "what did you learn?", we can begin to encourage each other and students to not fear failure but rather embrace it.
A war has been raging in classrooms for years, a war, whose loosing side's battle cry is "put your phones away", that can not be won. Sure, teachers may win small battles, but they will never win the war. Why do we fight this war? Do we fear distraction, loss of "control", or even the recognition that many answers students seek can be found online? All are valid concerns, kind of, but the reality is students are distracted without cell phones, "control" should be low on our list of priorities, and if they can find the answer on google, we are asking the wrong questions.
Why not embrace phones.....gasp. Take a moment to recover. Why is this so difficult to fathom? Many teachers use them during PD meetings, staff meetings, or even during class after telling students to put theirs away. With smart phone resources like remind 101, polleverywhere, and worldwiki, we can stop the battle of the cell phones and embrace their use for learning. Plenty more to come on this topic......
Feel free to contact me with questions, answers, ideas, or your favorite pasta bake recipe. I have quest for years to cook the perfect pasta bake.