Tag Archives: Ed tech

#L2BB2L Unconference: Epic Fail, Great Success, or Something in Between?

L2BB2L

After months and months and months of planning, the Learning2Build/Building2Learn Unconference has just ended.  Reflective learner and practitioner that I am, I can’t help but immediately want to evaluate and assess to what extent we achieved our objectives as event organizers.  And, true to life, I find that in some ways it was a (and hear Borat in your head, please) Greeeeeeat success! and in other ways it was a complete and epic failure.  In order to address this question, we have to know what our objectives are.  In this case, we had several:

  • Create a space in which K-12 and college/ university educators can collaborate.
  • Gather change agents working in education, especially, but not exclusively, those in the Rochester area.
  • Empower learners to take ownership of their own learning.
  • Utilize a presentation method in which the medium is imperative to the message.

Our first and second objectives were absolutely met.  K-12 and college/ university educators did indeed gather at RIT on a frigid Saturday morning to discuss how we can help students create more content than they consume, the barriers that keep us from shifting the create/consume balance, and successful methods for tearing down those barriers.  There were scheduled sessions which included presentations, lectures, and demonstrations that were somehow related to this topic.  There is a Facebook group, a Google+ community, YouTube Videos and a flood of #l2bb2l tweets that allow this fledgling community to remain in touch.  It’s easy to see that the first two objectives were achieved.

The third and fourth objectives are much harder for me to evaluate.  In reality, the event was far more conference than un.

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I want to use collaborative technology with students but… I don’t know what our policy is (part 3 of 4)

In a recent post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

This is the third of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #3:

I can’t take them online during school because our policy doesn’t allow it.

Baloney.  I’m venturing a guess that you haven’t looked into it and are simply assuming that your parents, your leader, or your Board thinks the Big Bad Wolf is waiting just beyond your Firewall.  He’s not, first of all.  Once you’ve stopped fearing the unknown, you can baby step into taking your students online by doing the following:

  • Pay no attention to your nay-saying colleagues.  Remember, as you encounter disbelieving scoffs and raised eyebrows, what a well-developed claim includes – reference to specific and relevant evidence: your colleagues will be wont to offer that to you.
  • Start conducting research.  Your goal is to read all policy documents regarding instruction of students, student interaction, and the protection of student privacy and identity.  They’re on your school’s website, probably in the Administration or Board or Education tabs.  Your goal is to determine how you know which parents have asked for their students’ work not to be published and their photos not to be taken, what (if any) paperwork needs to be on file before students work online, and what steps you are supposed to take to ensure student safety online.

I want to explicitly mention that the purpose of this research is more than simply CYA: putting your students online is authentic learning, but includes authentic consequences: while the Big Bad Wolf – a metaphorical unknown evil – might not be waiting outside your firewall, a non-custodial parent, or a teenage student’s deranged ex, or even the Copyright Police very well may be.

  • If, after conducting this research, you actually find that no clear policy exists, talk to your direct supervisor about your intentions, their connection to the standards, and frame your question and conversation carefully: What is the procedure for alerting parents that students will be collaborating online?  not How do I get permission to for students to blog?  Being purposeful about asking for his or her help in facilitating this good work rather than permission to pursue it is critical to gaining support as you move forward and face the last remaining hurdle to student tech-enabled collaboration.

In closing, knowing your district’s policy, not relying on others’ interpretations of interpretations of policy, is critical in finding the space to do innovative work.

Read yesterday’s post about integrating collaborative technology even when the school-issued computers are less than ideal.

What other impediments keep you from integrating technology into your lessons?

I want to use collaborative technology with students but… the school’s computers don’t work well (part 2 of 4)

In a recent post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

This is the second of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #2:

I can’t take them online during school because the school-issued computers are a problem.

This excuse can also appear in a variety of related statements.

  • They take too long to long on.
  • The computer labs are always booked.
  • The right software isn’t installed.
  • The laptops always crash.
  • Our network is painfully slow and everything is blocked anyway.
  • I have 25 kids and there are only 12 seats in the lab.
  • My kids don’t know how to use those machines.

The answer to all of the tech-based excuses is easy, and it seamlessly includes the un-connected students.  BYOD: bring your own device.  Those who do have a personal electronic device are allowed – encouraged and instructed – to use this device educationally.  Those without a device of their own and those whose devices aren’t well suited to this particular task simply make the best of the school-issued computers or partner with someone else.

The most magical thing about BYOD is not the fact that suddenly the school’s connectivity issues become a mute point; the magical thing is the way students to begin to see their own personal electronic devices in a new light because it has Drive as well as Snapchat.  When students begin creating and sharing folders with each other to practice their evaluative skills while selecting prom dresses or colleges, you know you’ve offered them a valuable 21st Century skill.

Read yesterday’s post about building supports to connect your students who are not online at home, and chime in.

What other impediments keep you from using collaborative technology with your students?

I want to use collaborative technology with students but… they can’t connect at home (part 1 of 4)

In my last post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

I am acutely aware of the impediments to the kind of connected classrooms I imagine, and I’d encourage you, dear reader, to begin making plans to integrate technology instead of excuses as to why you can’t.  This is the first of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #1:

Some of my students don’t have access to the Internet at home, not even on a smart phone.

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Using the Internet with Students is Nonnegotiable with Common Core

Teachers and leaders who have been waiting for a compelling reason to integrate technology into their instruction need to wait no further: use of technology by students, including the Internet, is explicitly stated in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  While no one is arguing that students need to, for instance, be able to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources (RL1, RI1), under the Common Core, few school-communities seem to be using the mandate in CCSS to push for technology integration.

Where is technology use in the standards?

The Common Core Learning Standards are not a salad bar, where educators pick and choose what is relevant to their communities; all are necessary; all are required.  And the Standards very clearly state that students need to be using technology purposefully, matching the right tool to the right task.

The short answer is everywhere, both as students receive texts (as readers) and as they produce texts (as writers).  And I’m not just talking about in an English class; to explain, let me cite the literacy standards for history/social studies, and the technical subjects for 6th -12th grade.

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Power to the Edge

Public charters that assume any part of the traditional educational system into their daily operations are a missed opportunity, and the educational approach is no exception.

Power to the Edge is a text that suggests pushing much of the traditional tasks of leader to the literal troops on the ground.  It is a 2003 Department of Defense (DoD) publication that is part of the Command and Control Research Program (CCRP) which seeks specifically to understand the security issues inherent in the Information Age and how the military can embrace emerging technologies to maintain safety and security.  In the Foreword, however, John Stenbit almost suggests it be given a discipline-specific close reading:

This book explores a leap now in progress, one that will transform not only the U.S. military but all human interactions and collaborative endeavors.  Power to the edge is a results of technological advances that will… free us from the need to know a lot in order to share a lot, unfetter us from the requirement to be synchronous in time and space, and remove the last remaining technical barriers to information sharing and collaboration.

We would be smart to consider these issues when reimagining public education.  An educational interpretation of the text is fruitful to explore.  In the Foreword, Stenbit describes the benefits of shifting from a smart smart push to a smart pull approach in information dissemination, a topic very relevant to educators seeking to shift the heavy lifting of learning from the teacher to the student, moving from an educational approach in which content is pushed to (at?) students by teachers to one in which relevant information is pulled to students based on their interests, understanding of content, and preferred delivery method.

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#thisyear

Although teaching is certainly the best part time job I’ve ever had, I start almost daily, full-swing-style planning for my classes a few weeks before school starts, usually the week before kids go off to college. This is not to say that I don’t make little decisions all summer long about organizational or management aspects of my craft, but there are some years that I feel more ready than others to enter the classroom. #ThisYear is one of those years.

In preparing to write this post, and in being deliberate in my call for others to participate in the mandate to be the change one wishes to see in the world, I searched the tag #thisyear. I was pleased to see that others had already started using #thisyear, and that they also seemed to be meaning it in the same context in which I mean it: that this school-year needs to be different than the last, and that their purposeful actions could achieve this reality.

This post is not meant to address my student learning objectives (SLOs and chuckles, for my teacher-friends), which are clear, reasonable, and achievable, not to mention handed to a teacher like me from both the IB and NYS. With that in mind, I’d like to publicly state a few of my own learning goals for #thisyear.

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