Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lest Week in Tech - Technology Innovation

This is one of my favorite teachers, and this boat school is an innovative solution to a seasonal problem. One might wonder why we don't have these innovative schools in America. Probably the same reason we don't go out back and teach in the dirt with sticks. we just don't have to. Schools are designed to maximize the teaching we do. Could there be a better design, possibly, but not for the teaching we do currently.

Technology is thought of as a disrupter in education because it comes into the design we already have and makes it possible to change. Many people see this change as computers teaching students. it isn't.
For about 100 years there has been a belief among behaviorists that if we could build a smart enough machine, that it could take the place of a teacher. Many believe and have believed that computers will fill that role.

Tools like Plato have been around for about 40 years and they haven't disrupted schools. Actually, it has been assimilated. Massive online courses were going to disrupt education. The year of the MOOC was 2012. It was the ultimate school choice. It hasn’t disrupted higher education. Instead is seems to be morphing into a college prep for connected students, at least in America. It has been assimilated and is coming to high school.

The reason these tools have not disrupted education is because they don't actually make any changes in education. When we look at technology in education if we are looking at completely upending our entire system we are looking for too much. The change, the disruption, is more subtle.

The real disruption with technology in education is the ability to transform traditional education. The R in SAMR. The "goal directed transformation" in the Arizona Technology Integration Matrix. Some would go so far as to say it is a transfer of power from teacher to student. I would say it is taking the responsibility of learning off of the shoulders of the teacher and putting it squarely onto the shoulders of the students.

edit - I realize the title might be a bit misleading as this post was written to be a follow up to a notification to the teachers I work with that my position has been eliminated. Thus my last week in tech with them

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Week in Tech - Success Story

Good Advice

  "Learn a new skill, take a break." Advice from the longest-serving teacher in her building. "Kids need a bit of down time to process the skill they just learned, don’t force them to practice over and over until they hate it."   The Freshman English class is almost finished with Romeo and Juliet. From my 30 minutes in the class it seems the students have done:
  • Active reading
  • Guided questions,
  • Discussions (online and offline)
  • A movie,
Can we cover this play from any different angle? Maybe they need a Google survey? Seriously, they were better at decoding Shakespeare than me.   I created a list of tech tools to use in the classroom, I know it seems long, but it is barely a fraction of the stuff created for teachers. Please, take a look.

Success story

  Almost three years ago when I started this job. One of my first mistakes was telling a teacher she was using technology wrong. The next day her principal called and gave me an earful.   Luckily for me, she asked for some help putting spelling words on the web. We talked about options and ended up meeting every week after school talking technology and education.   Each week she had a list of questions and we usually never got past the third question, getting sidetracked not by the technology, but by how it integrates with teaching. She is now the proud owner of a grade level website designed to enhance learning. More importantly she is more comfortable trying new things in her classroom.   This week she introduced a tech tool to her building staff. She didn’t teach the tool, she taught a lesson using the tool.
Picture of computer, laminated card, and worksheet 
I love the combination of tools to meet all needs   
Way back when she was asking the computer to teach, afraid to interact too much with a tool she didn't understand. Today she teaches using technology. Is she a computer expert and able to fix your computer? No, she is a teacher who uses technology as a tool.   I seem to have a bit of dust in my eye now. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration - Discussion

Classroom Action

The school year is coming quickly to an end. I’m trying to get some summer thoughts moving. One of the things I want to do is get an idea of how comfortable teachers are with the actual tech skills you need as a classroom teacher. I’ll probably send out a survey soon, I’m waiting for the boss to approve it.

The other thing I need to do is get an idea of what sort of PD you might want to come to over the summer and when best to present them. Please let me know in the comments or via email, but I also have this on my survey.

I was watching some students take a practice test earlier this week. They were using technology (phones mostly because they were juniors and seniors and didn’t have Chromebooks). What if we combined Padlet (Middle school teachers had a lot of fun learning and playing with this tool, 6th grade, 7th grade, Exploratory) with a phone or screen capture tools on a computer, to solve the practice problems and post them to a Padlet for discussion.

The discussion should not be about who is right, but how elegant is the solution? Why would you choose one method of solving the problem over an other? Etc…. A lot of the stuff I saw on the internet this week had this theme of a debate or discussion. For an example, using math debate in classroom

I remember a blog post years ago about using bell ringers to create a debate. The teacher would collect bell ringers on index cards and grab one that was wrong (not telling who it was of course) and put it on the overhead and discuss why or what thinking could have led to the wrong answer and how to correct it.

Today without an overhead I might ask students to put the answer on a Padlet or document camera anonymously and then pick one to discuss. I’m seeing more and more centers, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before. The devices are one of the centers. See this one girl. She is concentrating intensely. This activity is writing practice so no you can’t substitute with technology.

These other kids, not so much. 

This is a good lesson, that is why I choose to feature it. It is great to bring in leveled work for practice, but we can do intense creation on the computer as well. Yes there is a tech hurdle. We can work through it, we should work through it. If we never ask our students to do intense creative work on the computer we are short-changing our students and ourselves as teachers.

From the Web

We think we know how we learn, but there is a lot of undiscovered territory out there.
One thing we do is attempt to find patterns so we can do things automatically, without thinking. Like riding a bike.
What if you changed what it means to ride a bike?

As I was watching this a 3rd grader says, “I saw you watching Smarter Everyday. … I’m subscribed” Be warned you'll have to be smart if she's in your classroom next year.

It turns out that there is an #etcoaches chat. I’ll have to try to participate next month. here is the storify from last week. I really wanted to point out a few highlights.
  1. Most coaches estimate that only 5% to 15% of our teachers actually implement what we introduce.
  2. While superficially introducing a lot of apps in a short period of time is popular, no one thinks it is a good strategy. Instead we need to carve out time to let teachers play and practice using apps in actual lessons. Then we need time for the coach to follow-up, and create individual goals for each teacher.
  3. Trudacot is a great way to look at your current lesson and determine how well technology (or learning) is integrated.
Finally, Google Education on Air, two full days of speakers on education. An all-star cast including, Michelle Obama, Michael Fullan, LeVar Burton, and others.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Week in Tech - Formative Assessment

Classroom Action

Several teachers have been using during RTI. A great way to get that math practice in while working with a small group.
All of these researched based help usually say something like students who put in 75 minutes a day have shown improvement in math. Well if you practice 75 minutes a day on math of course you are going to get better. That isn't to say the program is not useful, just that it is not trans-formative. It is a tried and true practice with just a bit of an edge because the work adapts to the level of the student instantaneously.

There are of course many similar programs out there, depending on what you want at a teacher could determine the tool you use. However, all should have at least some way to sign in and track the students, so that we know if they are actually learning or not.

Put your favorite tool in the comments or go to this survey and put it there. Some of my favorites are:

Presentations to students - getting interactive

Wouldn't it be nice to integrate formative assessment into your regular teaching? I know it’s easy a quick half sheet of paper and boom an exit slip. But then you have to grade everything and what if they didn't understand the first thing you said and so were lost for the entire class period.
Some folks will create a quick Google form (like the one above, you can add videos as well) then use something like flubaroo to automatically grade it. The problem is that is still separating the discussion from the assessment.

Enter the web app Blendspace. It is a product one of the elementary teachers showed me Wednesday. It is a very simple way to add content and make quick multiple choice quizzes. Students don’t need an email to sign up so it is appropriate for the elementary crowd.

However, the questions are limited to multiple choice and sometimes you want students to be able to write or draw and answer. So here is a list of a few similar tools. NearpodPearDeckSocrativeSmartBoard clickersClassflow, and Junoed.

Of course the middle school teachers noticed the educreations app. Similar to the Show Me app and the Doceri app (more of a presentation tool). All of these are iPad apps which require an iPad and a way to get the iPad onto your projector, which can be done with Air Server.

Stuff from the web

Portfolio defense to graduate high school
From Envision academy charter schools.
Cool blog I found two great posts.

Most people will like and probably use the first one right away, but the second one is great for technology. When you start asking “How do I create curriculum with multiple ways to learn the same content?” My mind goes immediately to technology. I might share one way to learn content in class and then offer a couple of youtube videos on my web site for further help. So when students don’t quite get what I explained in class they don't have to rewatch my same lecture a million times and hope it finally sinks in, they can watch alternative explanations and hopefully one of those sticks.

Cool kindergarten classroom 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Maine Township High School Visit

A visit to Maine Township High Schools. This was an interesting visit with myself and several staff members from Downers Grove. Maine Township has three high schools of over 2,000 students each. Each high school is startlingly different in its mix of students.
We started the morning early in the administration office. Dr. Thiele, the Assistant Superintendent of Technology and Learning, was happy to answer questions. As it turns out their students are required to pay for books. Two years ago when chromebooks really hit the market a lot of textbooks were up for renewal. The choice seems simple in hindsight, though they took their time and made sure to ask all stakeholders what they thought. Instead of buying new expensive physical textbooks they bought cheaper digital versions and chromebooks.
Those first version chromebooks were pretty fragile, but they changed plans right away and dropped the neoprene sleeves to buy durable cases for the devices. As a result their incidents of broken machines stayed low.
 I was happy to spend most of my day with the technology manager from Maine West, Neil Charlet.  The structure of the department was very impressive. I won’t explain the entire technology department structure because I didn't get into that, but the single school structure was strong. The technology manager seemed to be the bridge between technology and education.
Entrance of the Chrome Depot at Maine West
There he is way in the back

 Under him were the tech support crew who managed the trouble tickets and the chrome depot (we’ll get into that later). He also worked very closely with the instructional coaches. Instructional coaches aren't tech people, they are half time teachers and half time coaches. While it wasn't a requirement to be a tech person, they were all 21st century teachers and were comfortable incorporating technology into their lessons. There was about one coach per 40 teachers, plus one per department who is a full time as a teacher, but worked extra as an instructional coach. Instructional coaches meet with all teachers three times formally and as often as people needed informally.
  Chrome Depot 5 
 Mr. Charlet met with the coaches to plan out the big technology instruction during the year. These would be the monthly in depth trainings on one particular project. These trainings would last half a day and teachers would get subs to free them up for learning. Then on Tuesdays he does a tech lunch n’ learn. Teaching a tool for use in the classroom.
  Chrome Depot 2
The Chrome Depot is a cool looking (Thanks Mr. Charlet for the pictures), repair center for the chromebooks. There is one staff member assigned to manage the Depot, but the students do most of the work. If someone is having trouble with their chromebook they can stop in the Depot at anytime. If the problem can’t be fixed in 5 minutes they can check out a loaner chromebook (through the library system so it is as simple as checking out a book). The student crew can then examine and fix the chromebook, this is also the same system they use if the chromebook battery is dead, you get a loaner for a few hours and the staff charges your chromebook. No questions asked, at least most of the time.
  Chrome Depot 1 (1)
This process also works well if the student has a broken chromebook, but needs to save up a bit of money to do repairs. Parts are fairly cheap and they don’t charge for labor, but sometimes a student needs to check out a loaner chromebook for a short period of time until they save up enough to pay for necessary repairs. Students do not get to take loaners home so there is an incentive to get their own device repaired.
  Chrome Depot 3 
 I also met with three teachers during the day. I asked again and again how they got their teachers so on board with the program. I guess it really boiled down to support and expectations. They did mention that the many of the biggests resistors before they started the program are now it’s biggest defenders.
 According to the site D 207 has created for information about their program teachers had a strong preparation in instruction before going chromebook in their classrooms.

  Teacher Readiness:

Overall I was impressed with the structure and support represented by Maine Township’s program. It seems to me the hardware and infrastructure, though complicated, is actually the easy part. The hard part it getting support to the teachers in such a manner that they don’t feel over burdened and are willing to make the necessary changes in their classrooms. Once they start doing that, it seems they become a programs biggest supporters.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

This Week in Tech - Writing and Games

Last Friday I visited a Maine Township High School. I didn't have time to write about my week. I'll put a reflection on what I learned there early next week. Today some classroom stuff from last week and this.


Working with letters and fluency in writing seems to be the theme. Not long drawn out essays, but the very beginning. How do our interactions with letters and numbers influence our learning. I love how this kindergarten teacher not only organizes her ipads by letter, but she went through the trouble of making individual backgrounds for each ipad.
  the letter N   

Then there is this student working with numbers in three different ways - at the same time.

I’ve seen a couple of teachers teaching handwriting. Wouldn't it be nice to bring it back on a computer? Here’s how Might be a fun project for extension or fun way to practice handwriting. If you name everyone's personal font on a classroom computer they could write reports in their own handwriting. Finally, of course there is a long essay, but wait it isn’t. These older students were making alphabet books. A letter with a sentence and a picture, researched online and written on a Word document.
  Collaborative working

Stuff from the web:

Game based learning. At first it meant answering questions in some sort of competitive electronic worksheet. We still see it a lot. It isn't learning, it’s practice. Ask your kids how to cheat, if there is learning going on that’s what they learn. The nice thing is it is possible to pretest students and track their scores so they are at least working on problems in their wheelhouse. Next, we had a game reward system. Level up and stuff. Learning is more like a scavenger hunt. Fun, but can easily devolve into just another reward system. With prepackaged tasks and such it still doesn’t have much student input. On the other hand people are taking into account easier entry points and motivation. Think Angry Birds, a game with no instructions but gets harder and adds new challenges along the way. Now if we could harness that process for teaching multiplication or something that would be awesome. Perhaps, Angry Birds led us to games that are intentionally made to feel more like games and less like academics. Problem based learning for the gamer set. Included with these games are commercial games that were not created for the education market, but have found a niche, like minecraft. The difficulty here is connecting to formal learning. Games built for the educational market start with a standard and try to teach. It often makes the learning boring. Consumer games start with a story, they know they have to hook a person and make them want to come back. Their problem is connecting to formal learning usually doesn't happen, at least without help. Just like technology in general, it isn’t about what technology you use, but how you use it. There is a place for educational games that teach to standards, or more correctly let students practice. On the other hand there is also a place for games that allow students to explore and play in less formal ways. There is no one right way to use technology or games in the classroom.

Three great articles on games in the classroom  

Speaking of projects vs practice

The work for some projects takes less time than the actual creation of the vehicle to present it. This often happens in school. Sometimes by design. The time spent working and the organization helps students understand the connections between the different parts. A visual and tactical clue of how things are connected. So why is it in the technology world we don’t expect students to create. Instead we spoon feed them information and practice. Think of technology as the Swiss Army Knife of classroom tools. You can cut, paste, copy, color, write, share, or just about anything you can do hands on. Stop trying to figure out the tech and start trying to figure out how to make something.