Tag Archives: education

#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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

Professional Collaboration in the 21st Century

tweet

A very interesting professional collaboration is in the works.  While I’m not going to discuss the specifics of the work itself in this post, I am going to discuss the fascinating manner in which this work is occurring and the potential for this work to be a model for others who are also similarly aligned.

We let our avocation be our vocation.  

I get annoyed with colleagues who suggest my wee hour weekend tweets are evidence of a work-life imbalance.  When you do what you love for a living, you simply get paid a portion of the time you are doing the thing you love: you still do what you love 24/7.  Michael tweeted his close-reading work surrounding “Royals” Thursday evening; Kristen and I discussed the creation of a mini-unit Friday afternoon.  Kristen reached out both to me, her collaborator, and Michael, the originator of the material, with one fell swoop on Twitter Friday evening.  With this one sub-140 character action, a team had been assembled.

We use a variety of collaboration tools to suit the task at hand.

After browsing Michael’s work, I saw what Kristen did: that he had already done a lion’s share of writing text-dependent questions and finding entry points into the text that we might now build upon.  Because of our itinerant coaching assignments, Kristen and I don’t actually work face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow like we did on Friday more than once a month.  Not to be stymied by physical distance, I suggested we work in Google Docs too, and Kristen agreed.  We had connected to each other and to the material on Twitter, but recognizing that ongoing collaboration can be clunky in 140-character messages, had migrated to Google Docs, matching the right tool to the task at hand.

We literally speak the same language.

A strength of the Common Core is certainly this: that educators everywhere now speak the same language.  When Michael expressed a curiosity with what Kristen and I might be building on top of his work, I was able to communicate it to him clearly and succinctly.  It turns out he’s from Buffalo, an hour or two from us; but he could have been from California. I was able to get Michael up to speed in less than 140 characters, even, knowing that either he’d know what RL2, RL7, and RL9 were, or that he wouldn’t – but would recognize them as standards and go look them up.  Because of this common language, we could all access the same schema regarding expectations for students, and could move immediately into the work of building the unit, not the ceaseless talking about building the unit.

We value the collaboration of like-minded individuals.

None of this tech-enabled collaboration surprised me up until this point.  Of course Kristen was thinking about the mini-unit Friday evening, and of course she saw Michael’s tweet with fresh eyes after that conversation.  Of course she forwarded it to me and of course I browsed it, loved it, and then set up a Doc on which we can collaborate.

But I didn’t expect Michael to want to collaborate with us.

And in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I wonder how many other opportunities to collaborate in this manner – asynchronously, with someone from outside your district or organization, and using only collaborative technologies –  I’ve missed, simply because I didn’t know to look for them.

Conditions for Success

The work that is resulting — a mini-unit tailored to the needs of a specific subset of the student population — wouldn’t be possible without collaborating with others, using a variety of collaboration tools to fulfill various tasks,  speaking a common language surrounding goals and practice, and making one’s passion one’s life work.