Friday, July 19, 2013

Rylee & Aaden try Videolicious

Here is Rylee's Blog that she wrote today about using Videolicious. The other day I asked her if she would help me do awesome things. Without actually knowing what I meant by that, she agreed. One of the things she was excited to try was making videos. Since I don't have iMovie on my new iPad yet, we   tried out a new app (to me). We struggled to get all her information into one minute, but it was a good learning experience for both of us. She blogged about her experience (briefly) afterward.

She is a perfectionist, so she got upset that we had to keep doing it over and over in order to get her information (from her bottle lamb record book from the county fair) to fit with the slides. She didn't feel comfortable doing it from memory, so I helped her type up a script. She still ended up frustrated with the time limits, though.

However, after her 5 year old brother did it in just a few tries she was up for trying one last time. Aaden also worked with me to type a script and record his, and was really excited to watch it when he was finished. Here's his final product, view Rylee's on her blog (linked above)!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Power of PreK-2

The last week has left me physically and mentally exhausted. After 3 days in Storm Lake for our PLAEA team retreat and 2 days on the other side of the state in Cedar Rapids for iPadU, combined with getting sick, I am pretty much running on fumes. However, that didn't stop me from rolling out of bed and heading over to Kendall Young Library this morning so I could come get some work done in a quiet space.

The discussions, books, and sessions I talked about, analyzed, sorted through, tweeted about, and immersed myself in this week have my head spinning. Sure, anyone's head would be spinning after a week like that, but spinning around one central question: Are we doing enough to utilize the power of young learners in our primary classrooms?

Our youngest learners have yet to be "broken by the system", have not had their curiosity and enthusiasm stifled, and are at an age where they will do or say something every single day that surprises adults - whether it's funny, intellectual, or wise beyond their years. If you have kids or interact with much kids at all you'll know exactly what I'm talking about with that last one.

How can we harness this pure desire to learn and experience the world to help these kids see the true power and impact than can or could have in the world around them? How do we go about assisting them without limiting them with our own biases and preconceived ideas about how the world works?

I'm still pondering. As I said, my head is swimming, but I have some ideas that I'm really excited about. I'm not ready to share them yet, but if you know an educator or individual who is working with young learners to do amazing, authentic work, please leave me some contact info in the comment section. As I continue to work through this I'd like to start curating a list of some of our nation's best and brightest children and individuals who work with them.

I am not an "elementary person" by any means, but these 3 goofballs are helping me realize that the possibilities are limitless, and have challenged me to really think about the kind of education I want my children to have - from top to bottom.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Just get rid of it...

So we were at our team retreat this week in Storm Lake, and Scott (@mcleod) asked us to dream big. What would we do if we could do anything? After some initial fear on my part, not really knowing what "big" was, I decided that I would love to rethink ed tech in teacher prep. What if we get rid of it? Yep. You read that right. Can we get rid of the ed tech specific courses for undergrad?

Think about it. What's the problem? New teachers are graduating with a modeled perception that technology is an add-on - technology is a separate piece that they could think about adding in later. We model in our K-12 classrooms (I hope), so why don't we model in the post-secondary classroom? If we want new teachers to really grasp the idea that technology is something to use to extend teaching and content (not replace it), to offer new opportunities, to create unique and otherwise unavailable experiences, then we need to see that seamless integration into the methods classes, the assessment classes, and the principles classes.

Now I know what you're thinking. Then don't we have to teach the professors how to use these things and to be able to do this in their specific areas? Yep. Probably. But here's a better question. Why aren't professors already doing these things? EVERY kid comes to their class with a laptop, smart phone, tablet, something. Why not get them off of Facebook (yes, I was in college once too) and doing powerful things with technology in ALL their teacher ed classes instead of just the one labeled "Instructional Technology"?

I took classes in special education (where we did everything on paper - how many teachers today do ALL IEPs and interventions using strictly pencil and paper?), methods (where we looked at design in textbooks - the district I taught in wasn't even buying textbooks anymore), assessment (where we learned how to write a proper multiple choice question - the issues I have with that are for a whole different blog post), and more. And then I graduated, got a job, and between my own curiosity, my colleagues, and my Twitter feed, I re-taught myself how to do these things more efficiently, more effectively, and with a much deeper impact on student learning via technology than anything I learned in class.

I don't care how amazing your ed tech course is, teacher prep students aren't being exposed to the true impact of technology in the classroom soon enough or often enough. "Instructional technology" isn't app specific or tool specific - it's a pedagogy in itself (think TPACK here, people), and one that seems to be largely ignored until you get to the appropriately numbered course to address it.

So you've heard my proposal. We don't want reading to be just something done in the English classroom, we do it across the curriculum. We don't have a 1:1 class for students and then ask them to put their devices away for the real content (again, I hope). Let's help future teachers focus on the learning and understand how to use technology to make their best practices and powerful lessons even better. Technology isn't a "quick fix" for education, but you can't fight the idea of "technology as an extra add on" if that's the way it's taught.

*Disclaimer 1: I'm sure there are superb teacher prep programs somewhere that follow models closer to what I'm asking for, so I would love to hear about those.

**Disclaimer 2: I know that my own examples at the end seem to negate my argument - we do have reading specific classes and computer specific classes. So you're thinking, "well, do people argue for getting rid of those in order to promote their implementation in other classes? No, because that would be stupid." You're right. Getting rid of reading class would be stupid. Oh wait... how many general ed high school students take a reading specific class? I'm pretty sure it's integrated into their ELA class. And on the flip side, aren't ALL content teachers offered training in reading strategies or writing strategies (We got CRISS training in my district) to implement those things more effectively in all classes? As far as a computer class, I'd say get rid of that one too, in its current form.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Reflections on "Social Media... and stuff"

So after all that, here's what's left. If you missed my previous posts, you can check out "Social Media.. and stuff" Part 1 and Part 2
  1. Reality

We can debate philosophy and theory of education all you want, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, what everyone wants is a job. As of next fall, if you want to teach in Iowa, it is more likely than not that you will teach in some form of a 1:1 district. The district will have spent a lot of money on those devices, and WILL expect you to use said devices. Particularly for beginning teachers, choosing not to integrate student devices will likely come up in your evaluations.

You have a choice to make. You can choose to be a teacher who uses technology meaningfully, to create experiences and opportunities for your students that extend their learning beyond the traditional classroom... or not. I know I want my kids studying with a teacher who helps them reach heights they never thought possible. 

2. What I learned about myself as a presenter

I’m really struggling with the fact that I cannot directly express these sentiments to the group I talked to. I thought I was addressing how to leverage technology to create new opportunities for learners, and was thrown off my game a bit. There were great questions asked and valid concerns raised, but in hindsight, I either needed to take a moment to gather my thoughts (as I did here) or steer the conversation back to the idea that like it or not, technology is not going away, and I am here to share some positive methods of using it in your future classrooms.

I’m glad I was able to share the resources I prepared via my wiki (yay technology!), but I’m disappointed that I let the learning get derailed for those who were interested in what I had intended to share. While I never want to stifle quality discussion, I should have done a better job of bringing the discussion back to the topic at hand. I wasn’t going to be able to calm their fears in the time allotted and a lot of REALLY GREAT resources didn’t get shared because I tried. I focused on the wrong train car!

As I continue doing this work in my capacity as a tech integration consultant I feel like this was a great opportunity for me to grow and learn as an instructor. I have reflected and will be better next time. Who knows, maybe something I said will resonate with someone when they least expect it!

On an unrelated note, I now know what stellar parallax is (below)!

Social Media... and stuff (2 of 2)

Last week I gave a presentation on “Social Media in Education” to some future classroom teachers. What I prepped was a “Here’s the why”, “Here are some tools”, “Here is how you can use them personally/professionally” and “Here is what you can do with them in the classroom”. I wanted to model some tools along the way like Poll Everywhere, Today’s Meet, and Padlet. We didn’t get very far. The students raised some interesting questions and points (see bulleted points below) that I really needed time to reflect on (see rambling responses below bulleted points). The first part of this post went out on Saturday (7/6).
  • What research is there to support 1:1 teaching? 

There is research available if you look for it (Nick Sauers and Scott McLeod put together a great article on this exact topic!) , but I also have a couple of other thoughts. 

It’s not about the device - 1:1 is about access!

1:1 is what you make it. If you use your device as an overpriced worksheet, it will be as effective as a worksheet. One student voiced her concern about using technology for self-grading multiple choice questions. Her thought was WHY are we still using multiple choice questions as form of assessment when there are much better ways to assess student learning? I understand these things.

But what if you make it something bigger than a worksheet or a self-grading multiple choice quiz?

What if you are using your device as a means to create, connect, collaborate, and be a change agent? What if we are inspiring these qualities and nurturing these abilities in our students? What if we create a blog for a 1st grader to share her thoughts and views? She becomes excited about sharing her work (How many people do you think saw my blog?), she becomes aware of her writing (Did I spell these words right? Can you help me fix my mistakes?), and she becomes a young author who moves from sharing life experiences to creating stories. She gets feedback from teachers online AND in the halls, she works with classmates to develop ideas, and she recognizes that her voice is important. 

Rylee, age 7, sharing her blog

  • What will happen to our jobs if more courses are offered online?

This was the only question that really upset me, and I didn’t see it posted until later when I went back through the TodaysMeet. 

If what you are doing in the classroom can be wholly replicated in an online course, then you aren’t doing your job. At least not well. There is definitely something to be said for quality online and blended learning opportunities, but there is a lot more to school and education than putting content on a page. And the online courses that are TRULY meaningful and successful have a highly effective educator behind them who is available (maybe virtually, but definitely available), practicing sound pedagogy, and supporting the needs of the learners in the course. And that teacher still has a job - it just may not look like the “traditional” teaching job.

Social Media... and stuff (post 1 of 2 - stay tuned!)

Last week I gave a presentation on “Social Media in Education” to some future classroom teachers. What I prepped was a “Here’s the why”, “Here are some tools”, “Here is how you can use them personally/professionally” and “Here is what you can do with them in the classroom”. I wanted to model some tools along the way like Poll Everywhere, Today’s Meet, and Padlet. We didn’t get very far. The students raised some interesting questions and points (see bulleted points below) that I really needed time to reflect on (see rambling responses below bulleted points). 

  • Why is technology being placed above highly effective teaching?

I will never advocate for the use of technology for the sake of using technology. But the MEANINGFUL use of technology in the classroom can offer students opportunities that we previously had never even imagined. 

For example - one student shared that his 9th grade geography class was mostly coloring maps. I shared that my 7th grade geography class used Skype and various presentation tools to connect with a sales manager from India who was living in South Africa and spent time touring sub-Saharan Africa. He talked with us about culture, technology, farming, showed maps for location, pictures of the homes and environments, and shared first-hand experiences with my students who were studying sustainability in agriculture (one of the UN millennium developmental goals) in the region. Without technology, I would never have been able to offer my students an opportunity like this.

Technology is not the end all, be all. If you think it is you are in for a rude awakening. But on the way home I wondered - can you be, or are you, a highly effective teacher if you are not using the BEST resources as they apply to the content? You can’t use technology as the fix-all, but you also can’t avoid it and stay relevant. 

  • Technology is not the silver bullet that makes ineffective teachers more effective.
This one I completely agree with, and I never said it was (which they also agreed with, and added that their regular prof did not address it that way, either). But this is the impression they all seemed to have. If you are getting this message, you are not following the right people. My resources included articles from forward-thinkers like Steve Hargadon, Scott McLeod, and Vicki Davis, to name a few. If you don’t like the way administrators and legislators are pushing technology, then find a way to be a change agent! Be the voice that explains to the public, to the legislators, to your administrators, exactly what effective teaching looks like!

There are movements within the ed tech community to not only offer better training on the front end, in our teacher prep programs, but to find a way to offer it for those mid and late career educators who missed out in teacher prep. If you are not embracing the best tools in your classroom, technology based or otherwise, you will quickly become irrelevant.