I have become interested in the idea that in order to get students engaged, we as educators need to make some kind of interest connection with them. I know, you say, that is what relevance is all about. Yeah yeah, I know. But to me, this idea goes way beyond relevance. It goes more towards how do you make a lesson RELEVANT AND INTERESTING?
To me, relevance and interest are two separate terms, and just because something is relevant, it does not mean it is of interest. And just because something is interesting, does not mean it is relevant. I can have a great interesting lesson that means nothing either to the standards that I need to teach, or to the kids I am teaching. On the other hand, I can have a lesson that kills it when it comes to relevance in my student’s lives but be boring as hell.
This goes back to that idea that there needs to be some kind of emotional attachment to learning, as I wrote about in “Remembering the Kiss.” We don’t have to be recreating the late Robin William’s manic routines in front of them in order to be engaging or to create that connection. I remember in the movie “Teachers” where Richard Mulligan plays a man that has escaped the asylum and was mistaken for a substitute teacher: He actually ended up being more interesting to the students than the regular teacher, reenacting historical theater of the absurd in the classroom:
Boring it certainly was not, but whether the students were actually learning, well, that is left up to the viewer.
We are now blessed with an overabundance of ways of teaching. Indeed, in my 27 or so years as an educator, I cannot recall a time when there ever was such an infusion of knowledge, techniques, sharing, and general just education-related material available as there is today.
Online, in class, at home, at the coffee house, listening while riding the bus or driving a car, there is now so many opportunities to learn that really someone must purposely avoid it.
Yet, I wonder if those opportunities are any better than they were before? Are we growing more crops in our larger fields or more weeds like in this picture:
Do we still produce low interest lessons?
We want to create a sweet spot where our lessons are both high in relevance and interest:
I was thinking about flipped classrooms the other day. I know, everyone is hot for flipped classrooms, where you take the lecture (READ THAT: BORING) part of the lesson and “flip it” so that the kids get the boring part of the class at home, and the actual stuff they would have done at home in class. (I have several entries about flipping the classroom here.) So are we flipping the boredom to home instead of in class? Is that such a good thing? I am not sure. Are we not just shifting stuff around instead of making it more engaging and more relevant in many flipped class examples? Afterall, boring is boring, whether it is presented in class or on a computer screen at home. Watching this on a computer screen does not make it more meaningful, relevant or interesting:
"There’s a lot more testing with the teacher-as-examiner going on than we probably think, and that’s a real negative to me because it’s such a limited kind of writing,” Melzer said. “It should make people think about how we can improve upon the situation and have student do richer kinds of writing.”
Professors are also “obsessed” with grammatical correctness, even when they claim to value critical thinking, the study says.
“Based on their discussions of grading criteria, instructors devote as much time to formal correctness as they do talking about content, and often grammatical correctness was a baseline for acceptability” – even when most syllabuses had typos or grammatical errors, Melzer says in the book; one of the “strongest patterns” in his research was the expectation of perfect grammar.
“At a minimum, your writing should be free of spelling errors and grammatical errors,” reads one sample assignment. Another business law professor’s assignment offers very specific guidance about how different grammatical and spelling errors will affect a student’s grade. Then, seemingly as an afterthought, the professor says: “Please offer analysis, also.”
Melzer argues that such an apparent emphasis on surface-level writing sends students “mixed messages” about the value of higher-order writing skills. It would also impede many students’ ability to “let things flow” to build writing fluency, he says.
This HAS to apply at all levels, not just post secondary AND it has to apply to assignments other than just writing. If we create boring ,single disciplinary, low cognitive ability assignments, we will get back from students exactly what we ask them to provide: Low level, low interest papers.
If we assign those types of problems, we should not complain that students cannot “think out of the box” or “lack creativity.” If the assignment is stuck in the box, don’t expect the students to exist anywhere but in that same box.
This certainly makes the case for programs such as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) which has been around for quite a while, but is not used widely. Indeed, Melzer seems to be quite an advocate of WAC:
"The instructors in my research who assign the widest variety of purposes, audiences, and genres, who provide students with interesting and complex rhetorical situations rather than just the traditional lecture/exam format, and who teach writing as a process through peer response or responding to rough drafts are most often teaching in a course connected in some way to a Writing Across the Curriculum program. This may mean a writing-intensive course, a team-taught course with an English department faculty member, a learning community, or a course connected to a writing fellows program. Instructors from writing-intensive courses connected to established WAC programs at ￼institutions such as the University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, University of Hawaii, Duke, University of Massachusetts, and Stanford assigned the most writing, asked students to write for the greatest variety of audiences in the greatest variety of genres, and adopted common WAC pedagogical tools such as journaling, freewriting, grading rubrics, and peer response."
"Boring is a boring does" to paraphrase Forrest Gump.
What is the difference between Notetaking and Notemaking? I am not sure i agree 100% with this, especially the longhand writing stuff, but I do think that there is a need to teach students to become something more than organic Xerox™ machines.
From the article:
“Do students know how to make their own notes? As veteran learners, we teachers often take things for granted, but if students are used to having notes given to them, they’ll need guidance. I observed a chemistry teacher who did this effectively. He projected the text on the board (the students had their own copies) as he read the text aloud. He paused and noted key words such as most important, three reasons for…, first. He underlined a few key phrases and annotated the margins with key terms or questions from the paragraph. After a page or two, he encouraged students to try this on their own as he circulated around the room and monitored their efforts. With a notemaking approach, teachers need to accept that students’ notes will not be uniform.”
Interesting take on something we hear a lot about.
Can we actually tach critical thinking if we are not critical thinners to begin with?
Here is the reprinted article:
Let’s stop trying to teach students critical thinking
Many teachers say they strive to teach their students to be critical thinkers. They even pride themselves on it; after all, who wants children to just take in knowledge passively?
But there is a problem with this widespread belief. The truth is that you can’t teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself. This involves more than asking young people to “look critically” at something, as if criticism was a mechanical task.
As a teacher, you have to have a critical spirit. This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think. It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation. This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world. It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.
The need for teachers to engage in this kind of deep conversation has been forgotten, because they think that being critical is a skill. But the philosopher John Passmore criticised this idea nearly half a century ago:
If being critical consisted simply in the application of a skill then it could in principle be taught by teachers who never engaged in it except as a game or defensive device, somewhat as a crack rifle shot who happened to be a pacifist might nevertheless be able to teach rifle-shooting to soldiers. But in fact being critical can be taught only by men who can themselves freely partake in critical discussion.
The misuses of ‘criticism’
The misuse of the idea of “criticism” first became clear to me when I gave a talk about critical thinking to a large group of first-year students. One student said that the lecturers she most disliked were the ones who banged on about the importance of being critical. She longed for one of them to assert or say something, so she could learn from them and perhaps challenge what they say.
The idea that critical thinking is a skill is the first of three popular, but false views that all do disservice to the idea of being critical. They also allow many teachers to believe they are critical thinkers when they are the opposite:
“Critical thinking” is a skill. No it is not. At best this view reduces criticism to second-rate or elementary instruction in informal and some formal logic. It is usually second-rate logic and poor philosophy offered in bite-sized nuggets. Seen as a skill, critical thinking can also mean subjection to the conformism of an ideological yoke. If a feminist or Marxist teacher demands a certain perspective be adopted this may seem like it is “criticism” or acquiring a “critical perspective”, but it is actually a training in feminism or Marxism which could be done through tick box techniques. It almost acquires the character of a mental drill.
“Critical thinking” means indoctrination. When teachers talk about the need to be “critical” they often mean instead that students must “conform”. It is often actually teaching students to be “critical” of their unacceptable ideas and adopt the right ones. Having to support multiculturalism and diversity are the most common of the “correct ideas” that everyone has to adopt. Professional programmes in education, nursing, social work and others often promote this sort of “criticism”. It used to be called “indoctrination”.
“Critical theories” are “uncritical theories”. When some theory has the prefix “critical” it requires the uncritical acceptance of a certain political perspective. Critical theory, critical race theory, critical race philosophy, critical realism, critical reflective practice all explicitly have political aims.
What is criticism?
Criticism, according to Victorian cultural critic Matthew Arnold, is a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world. We should all be as “bound” by that definition as he was. We need only to teach the best that is known and thought and “criticism” will take care of itself. That is a lesson from 100 years ago that every teacher should learn.
Critical thinking seen as Arnold defined it is more like a character trait – like having “a critical spirit”, or a willingness to engage in the “give and take of critical discussion”. Criticism is always about the world and not about you.
The philosopher most associated with the critical spirit is Socrates. In the 1930s, Australian philosopher John Anderson put the Socratic view of education most clearly when he wrote: “The Socratic education begins … with the awakening of the mind to the need for criticism, to the uncertainty of the principles by which it supposed itself to be guided.”
But when I discuss Socratic criticism with teachers and teacher trainers I miss out Anderson’s mention of the word “uncertainty”. This is because many teachers will assume that this “uncertainty” means questioning those bad ideas you have and conforming to an agreed version of events, or an agreed theory.
Becoming a truly critical thinker is more difficult today because so many people want to be a Socrates. But Socrates only sought knowledge and to be a Socrates today means putting knowledge first.
Dennis Hayes does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Reflections on District Site Visits: Not Everything is About Money
This week, I have the privilege of traveling with a delegation from my school district to three Dallas Texas area districts: Plano, Lewisville and Coppell. The purpose of the trip was to meet with representatives of the districts and see first hand some of the interesting and innovative programs that they have instituted and to pick their brains on the good and bad of what they were doing.
Now I know that these three districts are in economically well-off areas of the state of Texas. There is no way around it, they have money. They are located in high SES bedroom communities outside of the Dallas-proper area. They don’t have many of the problems that property poor districts have. I understand that. But we were not there to feel sorry for ourselves and make a wish list of things we could never afford. We were there to see how innovation works in innovative districts. Innovation was easy to find there.
After a few hours, it became apparent that some major themes were common in these districts.
And it wasn’t about the money. It was about attitude.
Without exception, the employees we met with seemed to have a consistent set of attitudes:
They enjoyed working in the districts they worked in.
They believed that they could do interesting and awesome things if only they tried.
They were not afraid to fail at something if they learned, moved on and grew from the failure.
They had a spirit of cooperation. One district even called another their “sister school district.”
They understood the direction that the district was headed. They were familiar with the district’s plan.
They worked hard to incorporate the community into their decisions and to maintain a strong community relationship.
I noticed that many of things that they did were not as much to do with money but rather simply attitude. For instance, one district had a professional development center that had a snack area which included an area that looked like it came out of a 7-11: Hot Dogs, popcorn, nacho chips and sauce…serve yourself and clean up after yourself as well. When teachers were hungry during PD, go get a snack.
A very inexpensive thing, However, what that does is send the message that we value having you here and we value you enough that we will provide little things to make you more comfortable.
That attitude of valuing the employees, was evident everywhere and that does not require a lot of money. Employee input was not just something done as part of a yearly or quarterly survey, it actually was just the way business was conducted.
Having an enjoyable place to work. Is that a money thing? I don’t think so. I think it is a leadership thing. Indeed, almost all of the above points are leadership things.
Cooperation, no fear to try new things, communicating the district’s direction, community involvement. Are those money things or are they leadership things?
It is easy for us in the low SES districts to look at districts like these and say “Yeah, well if WE had money, we could do that too.” It is easy to have that attitude and it is easy to use that attitude to not try to excel. (It reminds me of the old story of the amateur photographer that owned a less expensive camera that told the professional photographer that they could take good pictures if they just had a “good camera.” Turns out it is not the camera, it is the photographers. Crappy photography comes from crappy photographers, not crappy cameras.) In districts with High SES, it might be easier to get the word out to parents for instance and that translates into better parental involvement. But really, that is just a logistics thing, not a money thing.
When I was leaving, one of the ladies I was with had an interesting story. “Tim, she said “When I got married , I really wanted to dress like celebrities that I saw on TV and in the movies. Of course we were poor and just starting out, so I couldn’t afford the fancy clothes. My husband said to me ‘You know how they look. You know where the cloth store is, you know how to sew. Why not try to replicate as best you can? It may not be the exact copy, but it would be pretty close.” She went on to tell me how she would make clothes that were pretty close. Good enough. (As Kevin Honeycutt once told me it was “China Good.”) Maybe, she said, we could duplicate what these districts are doing but on our terms, on our budgets (Much like this website tries to do with celebrity fashions.)
The point was, we may not be able to exactly duplicate what these districts are doing, but we can try, with the limitations we have, work to replicate other’s successful programs so that they fit in our needs , our community.
And if we aren’t afraid to fail, we can make magic.
They may not know who Steve Jobs was or even how to tie their own shoelaces, but the average six-year-old child understands more about digital technology than a 45-year-old adult, according to an authoritative new report published on Thursday.
The advent of broadband in the year 2000 has created a generation of digital natives, the communication watchdog Ofcom says in its annual study of British consumers. Born in the new millennium, these children have never known the dark ages of dial up internet, and the youngest are learning how to operate smartphones or tablets before they are able to talk.
"These younger people are shaping communications," said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s media research head. "As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group."
The fact is of course, that the news rarely reports the planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that DON’T burn down are never news, Houses that burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.
With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big ed tech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where the kids immediately found a way around the built-in security and the iPads had to be recalled. Amid all of that, the district’s $1 Billion program crashed and burned, and recently the district rebooted the initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it made for great news: giant ed tech program crashes. Millions of dollars wasted!
Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiate was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative:
Listen to the story here:
Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case for instance the current Superintendent Toback “admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”
The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.
The point however, is that there are 100s if not thousands of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on. Both large scale and small scale. From chromebooks to laptops to tablets. From classroom implementations to district wide, to statewide programs. Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Remember the state of Maine? They still are going with laptops for all their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about that anymore do you?
McAllen and the state of Maine: The planes are landing safely there. No one talks about them. Sigh again.
One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see the plane crashes in Ed Tech and think that the NORM is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts which it is not. Never seeing the positive or only tangentially by going to their kids school and seeing kids with technology.
We as ed tech proponents need to get the word out to our communities, not just report to ourselves about how wonderful we are, That is preaching to the choir. We need to preach to those that watch the bubble headed beach blondes for the evening news.
Dear Principals: Some Tips for Your First Back-to-School Meeting.
Dear New Campus Principal,
I know you have to do SOMETHING when all the we come back to school. I know that you are under the gun to be amusing, engaging, and informative. Some of us are a pretty hard audience. We have been through a whole lot of your kind over the years. It’s tough. Everyone is watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake so we can pounce on you like sharks on chum.
I thought I would make your life here a little easier by giving you a few pointers to make your new life here easier and to start the new year off on a good note. Believe me, I have been through a bunch of campus administrators over the years, and that old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is true. Especially with us teachers.
So consider this a friendly welcome to the building letter. I hope you take it in the spirit that it is written.
Here goes nothing:
Please don’t show us a Ken Robinson video about how schools kill creativity and then in the next breath show us our test scores and tell us how we need to bring them up this year by sticking to the prescribed curriculum. Also any video that was made from cheesy sentimental slides telling us that all kids can learn while playing over some generic soft instrumental music is a no no. Oh, and we all saw that video of the guy that got everyone to dance on the hillside a couple of years ago.
Avoid giving us sports related platitudes about how we are all a team and that there is no “I” in team.
Don’t tell us that we need to use lots of technology in our classes if you are not willing to allow us time to learn how to use the technology and how we can incorporate it into our lessons. Allow us time to explore how we can use technology.
Don’t say you “plan” to do something. Either you are doing it or you are not. DO you PLAN to be walking the campus each morning or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN to be highly visible or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN on having lots of parental involvement, or are you actually going to have lots of parental involvement? We have seen lots of plans. We want to see lots of follow through.
Do not read a handout verbatim that you just gave out. We are all adults, We all have degrees. We can read. Really.
Do not say you want to have a culture of high expectations, and then are happy with test results that are the minimum expectation. Either we have high expectations or we don’t. But if we have high expectations, that means we also have high expectations for you.
On a side note, don’t tell us to not be afraid to fail, if you are going to get made if we fail at something. Set your rules for this, set your expectations, and let us know up front what you consider “acceptable failure” and what you do not.
Do not say you expect all of us to keep up with the latest trends in education, but then refuse to pay for any professional development opportunities. If it is within reason, then please send us to on going and meaningful professional development. And you can come along with us.
Do not read off your Powerpoint slides word for word.
Do not show a stupid Dilbert comic.
Do not treat teachers that have been in the system for 30 years the same as a new teacher. We know where the book room is, We know where the custodian hands out the keys. Meet with them separately to give them the lowdown on the basics.
Do not show us ANY video longer than 3 minutes.
Do not start a Book Study on the first day back.
Get to know the new staff BEFORE you introduce them at a meeting. Why are they here? Why did you hire them? Give us a little insight as to why you think they fit in here. Don’t just tell us that you think they will do a good job. Tell us WHY you think they will do a good job. Show us that you really thought about them when you hired them.
Don’t say you have an open door policy and then never be around. An open door is useless if no-one is there.
If you want us to use technology, then you use technology. Show us your blog. Show us you can walk the walk. And if you cannot, at least learn with us. Then use it.
We had BBQ for lunch last year. Try something different. Oh, and your secretary hates fajitas.
Tell us you are perfectly willing to take down every single motivational poster that has been hanging in the office for the last 10 years that no one has ever read.
Tell us that you will let all of us know when you will be out for the day. Don’t just tell your secretary.
Have you seen this meme going around Facebook? It is quite popular and has a gizillion “Likes.” I saw it on a few of my friends feeds, and it got me wondering if indeed the sentiment was true. Let’s think about it for a second:
The quote is: “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in High School to teaching remedial English in college.” The quote is from a fellow named Joseph Sobran, a well known anti-Semitic conservative columnist who passed away in 2010. I suspect most people that pass these memes on have no idea who the person that made the quotes they agree with were like. They just like the quote and pass it on. No deep thought involved or needed to click “Send” or “Share.” The accompanying picture shows a kid wearing a Dunce hat sitting next to a computer, IMPLYING that computers make you a dunce.
These types of things show up almost on a weekly basis on the internet. Most of us have also seen the meme about the 8th grade test from 1895 or something, that most people today could not pass:
Such questions ask how many rods in an acre, and of course the scientifically inaccurate question asking students to explain why the Atlantic Coast is cooler than the Pacific Coast at a similar latitude (hmm..it isn’t actually, the water temperature is actually cooler on the US Pacific coast due to the way the ocean currents rotate..but I digress. Perhaps that is a trick question.)
The point of both of these memes is to demonstrate how poorly educated students today are compared to their counterparts 100 or so years ago. (I find it highly amusing that the people that are clicking “Like” probably could not pass that test, so what does that say about them?) By God, we are not teaching the Major Epochs in US History anymore! Dammit, my kids don’t know all the Republics of Europe! It is the Common Core’s fault! (Here is a list of them by the way. How many did you know?)
Of course those people that think kids today are just stupid, and that education is far inferior today than it was 100 years ago are totally wrong. Here is why:
Beginning with the Sobran quote, Latin and Greek, for the most part were taught in Prep schools, not your basic one room school house. For proof, look at the 1895 Kansas test and see how many questions ask about Greek or Latin? There are none. Frankly, Greek and Latin were part of a Rich White Male’s college prep education. The vast majority of students in school at the time, if they were even lucky enough to be in school because it was not mandatory, never took Latin, never took Greek, and almost certainly never took both together. If your Daddy was the owner of Standard Oil or your last name was Rockefeller, then you learned Latin and Greek. If your daddy was a dirt farmer, then you probably didn’t go to school at all.
As for remedial English college courses, there is some thought today that these courses are merely cash cows for cash-strapped universities and community colleges that are looking for any way possible to get students to pony up extra dough. Studies are now showing that remedial courses in post secondary schools are not needed in many cases, but still are offered or mandated. Many students in them do not need to be there, so for Sobran to say that remedial courses are bad is really saying that the system to get students enrolled in them is bad, not that the students or their education is lacking.
The people that make these memes are also ignoring basic US history. After WWII, there was a great number of returning vets that all of a sudden were placed back into the education system. Were they there to learn Latin and Greek? Of course not, They came back and wanted an education that would get them a job. As you can easily see from the graph below, the number of post secondary degrees awarded by accredited schools in the US has shot through the roof since the end of the Second World War. Latin and Greek were dropped out of most curricula because they were not needed to understand the jobs being offered, just as today. How many of you have had to pass a Greek test in order to get a job? Latin?
What the folks that decry how poorly our students are prepared ( do we really need to know such trivia as the feminine of Ox or the major rivers of South America?) rarely if ever turn the tables and ask if a student in 1895 Salina Kansas could pass a 2014 Eighth Grade standardized test? Consider the following question, taken off a pretty typical standardized science test:
How do you think those Kansas farm boys in 1895 would be up to answering that question? Probably not. The point is, tests are written for the times that the tests take place, not for 100 years after they were written. The other point is that education is designed to meet the needs of the CURRENT society, not the needs of society 10 decades past.
On a side note, the next time you come across the Kansas Test, you might want to point out that the Kansas Test was probably NOT an 8th grade test but rather a test for someone applying for a job TEACHING in Salina Kansas. There is nothing on the original document that says “Eighth Grade Test” and in fact there are questions about tax rates and school funding, knowledge probably even a 19th century farm kid in 8th grade didn’t need to know, then or now.
Now, if you REALLY want to know the state of education in the US from an historical perspective, you need to read Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
Of course, it will take you a little more time than simply hitting the “Share” key on Facebook to actually learn the history of education.
Interesting survey on the current trends in educator employment. Good info for administrators and HR people.
From the report:
“To explore these questions, we used the largest and most comprehensive source of data on teachers available—the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS). These data are collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Education (for information on SASS, see NCES, 2005). NCES has administered seven cycles of SASS over a 25-year period—1987-88, 1990- 91, 1993-94, 1999-2000, 2003-04, 2007-08, and 2011-12. In each cycle, NCES administers questionnaires to a nationally representative sample of about 50,000 teachers, 11,000 school- level administrators, and 5,000 district-level officials, collecting an unusually rich array of information on teachers, their students, and their schools. We decided to take advantage of both the depth and duration of these data to explore what changes have taken place in the teaching force and teaching occupation over the two and a half decades from 1987 to 2012. Below, we summarize seven of the most prominent trends and changes; we found the teaching force to be:
5.More Diverse, by Race-ethnicity
6.Consistent in Academic Ability
Click on the link to go to the report. There is a download available from the site.
But if the use of technology is to have differential impact, technology must be made integral to teaching, not supplemental to teaching. Past attempts to integrate new technologies have been half-hearted, at best. Embracing technological change is no longer optional, it is essential.
Education technology is always a hard sell, epsecially with those teachers and administrators that are perfectly happy with the status quo. “Why change? My scores are just fine.” is a phrase that we hear all the time. I have always thought of a bell curve that I learned about in my ed admin classes all those years ago:
A certain percent of your teachers, if you are a new principal, will do whatever you ask. A certain amount will never do what you ask. The vast majority of teachers however, want to be convinced that what you are doing is correct.
So what are some strategies that can convince those teachers that they should get on board with ed tech initiatives? Here are five ways that should help you convince those teachers and administrators that your ed tech initiative is worth their time:
Start With the Why
Why are we doing this? What is the reason that we are doing this initiative? So often, we see some ed tech THING coming from central office, we are not told why this is being done, only that we have to do it. The issue with this, other than the trust, is that decisions seem to be made in some sort of vacuum, without consideration of WHY the decision was made.
Explaining WHY this particular ed tech decision was made will go a long way towards teachers and administrators trusting that the technology was not just purchased because we could.
Explain How This Technology Makes their Jobs Easier
This kind of is an addition to the “WHY” argument: How does this new thingy make my job easier? If you can honestly show teachers that this technology actually makes their jobs easier, even if there is an upfront expenditure of time and effort, then you will win many converts, especially if the effort to keep using this new technology requires less effort than the whatever it replaces.
There should be some trade off as well. Don’t push a new effort out if you are not willing to give something up. What is it that teachers will NOT have to do if they adopt the use of this new technology? If you do not have an answer to that question, it will appear that you are “piling on” something else.
Explain How this Help Students
No technology effort in a school district should not even be considered if you cannot somehow explain how this will help students. What are students doing with this technology which is superior to what they are doing without the technology? How does this make learning more meaningful? How can students use this across classes? How does this allow students to address their learnign weaknesses? Show how this helps students, and many teachers will be convinced that this is a good thing.
Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Meaningful professional development means more than just showing how something works. Meaningful means how do you put this work in a classroom setting, using the new tool. If I teach science, then show me how to use this in science. Same for any class I teach. Do not just show me how to turn it on. Show me how to use this with my students.
If the PD is weak, then the implementation will be weak as well. Ed tech is not the field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. Meaningful PD provides the wedge between the naysayers who argue that the tool is a waste of time or money or effort.
Always Provide for Feedback and Transparency
From the very outset, allow for users to provide feedback. If teachers or administrators feel they have no voice in the process, then they will feel that they are being forced to use something that they may not need. Users of technology should be able to vent frustrations in a constructive way, as well as be able to provide feedback on what is working and what is not working. The folks that put in the technology should also be willing to admit when something is not working and be able to swallow their pride and create constructive work arounds for problems. There has never been a 100% successful implementation of anything. If you expect problems will occur, then when they happen, it is easier to respond.
A Response to Joshua Kim's "3 Reasons Why Chromebook Beats iPad in 1:1 Programs"
A few weeks ago, Edsurge republished a piece I did on how the iPad / Chromebook debate was not being correctly framed. Essentially, I said that the iPad was a totally different type of device and since it’s interface could change to meet the needs of the user, that that certain value-add could not be overstated. The issues of not “meeting needs” arise when schools try to make tablet devices into laptops. Since tablets are not laptops the efforts to make them “pseudo laptops” often fail.
Chromebooks on the other hand, are great if you want a laptop and a laptop experience. Unfortunately, 21st century skills are not all about the “laptop experience” or the MS Office experience.
Joshua Kim wrote his piece on Chromebooks entitled, “3 Reasons Why Chromebook Beats iPad in 1:1 Programs.”
Kim’s three points that make the Chromebook a “better choice” that iPads are:
Chromebooks are for Creating, iPads are for Consuming
The App Versus the Web
The Google Ecosystem for Collaboration
Okay, I usually don’t revisit stuff like this, but Kim’s article has some outdated doozies that I feel have to be addressed.
I feel like I am in an episode of Mythbusters.
Lets look at them one by one:
Chromebooks are for Creating, iPads are for Consuming
This argument was the first heard out of the mouths of laptop and PC users when the iPad initially came out with few apps and no camera. I cannot say it any other way: This argument is simply ignorant. It is an argument that has been disproven time and time again over the lifespan of the iPad.
There literally are hundreds of thousands of apps that are used to create music, written papers, animations, spreadsheets, movies, photos and on and on. Even 4 years ago, articles were being written about how creative types were using iPads to create content. Since then the number and types of creative content being don’t on iPads is astounding. See the video above to understand content creation using an iPad. Now, ask yourself, can a Chromebook do that?
Yet, Kim says:
"But I would submit that anyone making the argument that the iPad is adequate for creating should be willing to live with only an iPad. How far would you get in your work if were iPad only? Everyone I know who owns an iPad uses it as a complement and a supplement to a laptop. They might bring their iPad to meetings attached to this keyboard or that, but for serious work (which almost always means creating documents), it is back to the laptop."
That simply makes no sense at all. No one uses a single device to do everything. No one. That is what living in the 21st century is all about. A chef does not JUST use a stove top. A chef uses an oven, the stovetop, a microwave…the tool should suit the needs, same with the school technology.
My argument again is this: If you have to purchase a single piece of equipment, why not purchase the most versatile one not simply the cheapest one?
App versus Web
Kim makes the incorrect “either/or” argument that because Chromebooks live in the web they are superior.
“Students using a Chromebook to learn can share materials and creations with everyone else on the Web. They can access the same sites and use the same tools.”
What? In his first argument against iPads, he claims that they are “consumption devices.” That IMPLIES that the consuming (watching videos, reading books, surfing the internet) all takes place on the web. He then says that the Chromebooks are better because they live in the web and that apps are an inferior place to teach and learn. You cannot have both. (Funny how we have been using PCs for years with “apps” and no one complains about them.) Either using the web is superior or it is inferior. Either way, the iPad has both spaces covered.
Without going too far into such impressive teaching apps like Doceri, it is apparent that Mr. Kim has not really picked up an iPad in a long long time. The iPad pretty much can do all of the “Chrome” things, including run the Chrome browser. Google docs, pretty much ALL of them, have apps that run on iPad. Not enough for you? Simply access your Google-office thing through the safari web browser and collaborate away.
Again, Kim is simply incorrect when he says that “Building our teaching and learning around an iOS device means that only those in the iOS club get to participate. Our students can’t connect or share or learn from anyone outside of the club. Is this what we really want?”
Collaborative tools such as Dropbox, Google Docs, and now Pages, and the Office Collaboartive suite all work in the web, with iOS devices and non-iOS devices. iCloud runs anywhere on any machine, for instance, including PCs.
The final nail in the coffin for this argument is that Google itself announced back in December 2013 that it was allowing all of it’s Chrome apps to be ported over to iOS. The advantage, if there was one to Chromebooks, is nullified.
Kim’s final argument is that somehow, magically, the Chromebook is the only device that allows for collaboration. Let me answer that with this:
Here is a description:
Create, edit and collaborate with others on documents from your iPod, iPhone or iPad with the free Google Docs app.
With Google Docs you can:
- Create new documents or edit any that you have started on the web or another device
- Share documents and work together with others in the same document at the same time
- Get stuff done at any time – even without an Internet connection
- Add and respond to comments
- Never worry about losing your work – everything is automatically saved as you type
- Protect your documents with a 4-digit passcode
A simple Google search “Collaborative Tools IOS” gives you amazing results like this.
Kim ends his rebuttal with this question:
"All the learning and the work that the student invests to learn how to use Google collaboration tools will be relevant in their future education and work life, even if they never own another Chromebook. Can that be said of an iOS device?"
Again, he looks at life with an either/or mindset. The iOS device CAN do many if not MOST of the web based tricks a Chromebook can, in many cases even better (For instance the recent collaborative upgrade to PAGES on iOS makes much nicer documents than Google Docs could ever imagine. For free. Same for all of the other IWorks for IOS apps.
What I think we have here, is someone stuck in the idea that a device has to have a keyboard built in in order to be an effective learning tool. It does not. I once had a colleague tell me that he would never use a Mac because it didn’t have a “right click” on the mouse. I think that this is a similar argument: No tactile keyboard=little use.
Times are changing and perhaps we need to rethink that whole idea that writing MUST have a keyboard in order to be prductive.
Interesting (paid for?) list of ed tech companies that appeared to have made a splash at ISTE at least according to EducationDive. Is this a form of advertising? I cannot tell form the article. However, some of these are interesting to note.
The 11 are:
As most of you know, the website aggregator Thinkfinity is shutting down. For years, Thinkfinity was a great place to find loads of lesson plans that spanned curricular areas. For instance, if you needed a lesson that combined arts with pretty much anything, Thinkfinity was the place to go.
Thinkfinity may be gone, but the resources and websites are still available. For those of you that are not familiar with Thinkfinity, let me assure you that ALL of these websites are of the highest quality and all have tons of resources for teachers.
Here is the list of partners that helped make Thinkfinity so great:
EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities.
EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.
All websites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. They cover a wide range of humanities subjects, from American history to literature, world history and culture, language, art, and archaeology, and have been judged by humanities specialists to be of high intellectual quality. EDSITEment is not intended to represent a complete curriculum in the humanities, nor does it prescribe any specific course of study.
The EDSITEment experience includes:
a user-friendly website that offers easy homepage access to the latest offerings from EDSITEment
NEH Connections: a robust feature that links to NEH-funded projects of particular relevance to educators
user-defined lesson-plan searches that can be customized and filtered five different ways
direct access to student resources and interactives from the homepage
a rotating calendar feature with access to a full, yearly calendar
Closer Readings +, a unique blog for and about the humanities in the classroom
EDSITEment was selected as one of the top 25 websites for 2010 by the America Association of School Librarians and has been accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Permanent Research Collection of Information Technology, the world’s premier historical record of computing applications and innovations.
The National Geographic Education Portal offers free geography, science, and social studies content resources for K-12 educators, learners, and families. Created by the National Geographic Center for Geo-Education, the Portal’s highly engaging materials maximize learning in and out of the classroom.
The Portal features wide-ranging instructional content—spanning pre-kindergarten through post-secondary—that brings concepts and real-world events to life for our worldwide audience. Cutting-edge multimedia and mapping tools engage a new generation of young people in National Geographic’s iconic research and media.
With over one million visitors each month, the award-winning Education Portal is recognized as one of the most innovative sources for educational and reference content.
Standards-based lessons and activities use National Geographic photos and video to enable teachers and students to explore the world.
Hundreds of free activities and lesson plans are available for use in classrooms, homes, and other educational settings. They are searchable by grade, subject, and audience.
Lessons, activities, units, and ideas
Professional development resources and courses
Collections for STEM, Common Core, citizen science, and other timely topics
Educational interactives and games
Reference and News
The Portal’s extensive reference offerings for students combine maps, videos, photos, and text to explain complex topics in an accessible, student-friendly way. Students can search by grade and subject to satisfy their personal curiosity or conduct research for school.
Geography and geoscience encyclopedia
Real-world profiles of explorers and scientists
Articles on events and research
National Geographic video, photography, and illustrations
Interactive maps and tools offer students the chance to see the world in new ways by inviting them to create and print their own maps, incorporate thematic data about the world, and supplement it with graphics and links of their own creation. FieldScope, our interactive mapping platform, lets citizen scientists view and analyze data geographically.
Interactive maps with thematic data layers for data analysis
Geo-tours and geo-quizzes
Black-and-white outline maps to print in sizes from 8.5x11 inches to 8x10 feet
Historical maps and maps from National Geographic magazine
Games and Interactive Multimedia
The Portal’s many games, apps, and interactives for learners focus on decision-making, interconnections, and learning through exploration.
Interactive science models and calculators
At ReadWriteThink, their mission is to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials. A great source for cross curicular activities, including lots of ideas and materials for after school lessons.
RWT contains lesson plans, professional development parent resources. after school resources, and a wide variety of videos.
Science NetLinks is a premier K-12 science education resource produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At Science NetLinks, you’ll find teaching tools, interactives, podcasts, and hands-on activities, and all of it is free!
Science NetLinks provides K-12 teachers, students, and families with quality resources for teaching and learning science.
All of the resources are Internet based and free to everyone. Lessons and activities can be printed or used online. Many of the interactives, esheets, and tools work great on an interactive white board or in a computer lab. All of the resources are designed to be delivered in a variety of formats and classroom settings.
At the heart of Science NetLinks are standards-based lesson plans that incorporate reviewed Internet resources, and can be selected according to specific learning goals and grade ranges. Each lesson is tied to at least one learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies that support student learning. The lessons are written for the teacher, but include student-ready materials such as student sheets (student reproducibles) or esheets (online worksheets that enable students to engage directly in Internet activities).
Each Science NetLinks lesson ties to at least one specific learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies to support student learning. All Science NetLinks lessons follow pedagogy guidelines recommended by the AAAS Project 2061, as well as many other education researchers, and begin with motivation exercises. These exercises allow students to engage in an introductory exploration, with guiding questions. These explorations may be conducted online or offline, and involve concrete, relevant involvement with the subject matter.
The activities in a typical Science NetLinks lesson provide an opportunity for students to participate in a series of guided reflections that will engage them in the subject matter. These can take a variety of forms, including the following:
Full class discussions, in which the teacher leads the class in a group discussion of the questions and situations that are posed;
Self-guided exploration involving one student or a small team of students responding to the questions in case journal work sheets printed from the web site;
Individual participation, using a student virtual workspace, in which a student responds to the material online in a personal, electronic notebook that stores the student’s answers on a web-accessible file.
Online interactives that illustrate concepts or processes (for example, investigating the layers of the skin or how organs work together in a system) or other supplemental information that will help students understand the content.
All lessons include detailed teacher components that offer content framework, instructional strategies, and suggestions for ongoing student assessment. Strategies for checking students’ understanding are embedded throughout the materials and guide teachers in making instructional decisions, and provide measurable learning results.
Science NetLinks Tools are a comprehensive collection of the best resources on the Web for students and teachers. Included in Tools are original interactive lessons developed by Science NetLinks as well as annotated reviews of the best STEM resources on the Web. Each Tool includes a detailed description of the resources as well as substantive suggestions for using the resource in the classroom. Also included in each Tool are customized links to other related Science NetLinks content.
Science NetLinks Collections are resource lists compiled around a theme or topic. They may include lessons, tools, Science Updates, or other Science NetLinks content as well as additional resources from trusted sites that support or enhance the Collection theme.
Science NetLinks Science News is the place to go to get the latest news on what’s happening in the world of science. It includes several dynamic features that provide links to articles from ScienceNOW and Science for Kids as well as the latest Science Update, Mystery Image, Science Blog, and Thinkfinity Community discussion. Science News is updated frequently to stay fresh and relevant to science educators and students.
Science Updates are 60-second radio programs presenting current science research, as well as responses to questions phoned in to the Science Update hotline (1-800-WHY-ISIT). Science NetLinks Science Update lessons include suggestions for using the research in the K-12 classroom, as well as the transcript and an MP3 file for playback.
Science NetLinks Afterschool is for afterschool facilitators and daycare providers who would like to bring more hands-on science to the children in their care. It includes a list of activities, grouped by age. Each experiment includes a facilitator page and a student page. The facilitator page not only includes the instructions for setting up and running the activity, but also offers an explanation of the science involved in plain English and suggests related activities for further follow-up. The student page includes a link to the student’s instructions for conducting the experiment or online activity, as well as one or two links to additional youth-friendly resources, such as videos, podcasts, or websites.
Welcome to Wonderopolis®, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.
Wonder is for everyone. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. Connecting the learning we do in our schools, our homes, and our communities, Wonderopolis walks the line between formal and informal education. Each day, we pose an intriguing question and explore it in a variety of ways. Our approach both informs and encourages new questions, sparking new paths of wonder and discovery in family and classroom settings.
Since our inception in October 2010, Wonderopolis has been lauded for our fresh approach to wonder and learning. Some of our awards and recognition include:
TIME magazine’s “50 Top Websites of 2011”
Parenting.com “Best Kids’ App”
EdSurge featured School Tool
WOMMY winner (2011)
USA Today 4-star rating
TIME Techland Technologizer endorsement of the Wonderopolis app
Winner of Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for the Family
With multi-disciplinary content that purposefully aligns to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the STEM Educational Quality Framework, and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we’ve earned a place in K-12 curriculum and in classrooms worldwide. Teachers can use the daily Wonder to jumpstart their students’ critical thinking, or dip into our ever-growing collection of Wonders for content that relates to specific themes and student interests. The possibilities for using Wonderopolis in the classroom are endless, and we invite you to find firsthand accounts and additional resources in the Educator Sandbox.
Children, parents, teachers, schools, and families all benefit from Wonderopolis—as well as contribute to its content and growth. Supporting 21st century communication and digital citizenship, visitors who leave comments on the site receive personalized responses from the Wonderopolis team. Users are encouraged to nominate their own Wonders and to vote on Wonder ideas from others.
Q: Can you give us a 10,000 foot view of your new book “Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever?”
We have incredible new tools to teach writers that will empower peer review, make assessment easier, and unleash collaboration and yet so many schools are still satisfied with just typing the same old paper essay. I wanted to write an approachable book that any teacher could understand about how to teach writing in school. To get started, I took the 60+ tools I’ve used in my own classroom and wrote them on post it notes to determine just what categories of writing we should talk about. I simple ways to select the right tool, set it up quickly, and how to prevent common mistakes and demonstrate how it has never been easier, more convenient or more important than right now. Every teacher or school who teaches writing or uses writing across the curriculum principles will want this book as a reference.
Q: I hear a lot of teachers tell me that technology tools are taking something out of learning. Some say that it removes that personal touch. Do you find that to be true? What do you say to those that think technology is going to somehow lessen their roles as teachers?
If you use it collaboratively it can connect learners and engage communities. This is a hard one because change is hard. I would say that it depends on how they are connecting students. If students are now just connected to a machine then yes, we’ve moved one step closer away from human touch. However, I see technology as always being about people. When my students write with kids in Iowa or masters students in Alaska - they are connecting in a new, powerful way.
Teachers need to know how to: 1) engage peer review and feedback every day and 2) interact with their students online and 3) connect their classrooms with other learners from around the world. These three things can supercharge learning and writing.
As for lessening our roles as teachers, we are connectors, coaches, and lead learners. Research shows that teachers remain and continue to be the single most important factor for student achievement. While the effectiveness of the school and a student’s background do factor in greatly, not as much as the teacher in the classroom.
By learning and improving our practice continually, we can become more effective teachers every day. In the south we say “when you’re green, you’re growing, when you’re ripe, you rot.” As a teacher, we’re never ripe - we must always grow and learn the best practices to help our students — that is what makes us more effective.
Q: How is writing changing?
We can now collaborate and give peer feedback. Tools like Kaizana let us leave voice feedback (an important best practice for struggling writers.)
I heard someone who observed a teacher who had a 1:1 iPad classroom. Her students wrote, stacked their iPads on her desk. She looked at them and checked them off and handed them back. If you look at the SAMR model — the lowest level is just “Substitution.” This means that technology has just been substituted for something that was already done — in this case paper. iPads are expensive replacements for paper and this classroom totally missed the point of what writing using technology can do!
The last stage of SAMR is Redefinition and that is where I want to help teachers understand how new tools are redefining how we can teach. We still incorporate some of the older things that we used to do, but now we redefine. For example, ProWriting Aid is such a powerful tool for grammar and style, what teacher wouldn’t want to use the free version of that with Google Docs? (It works free for under 1,000 words.)
Q: What should we be saying to students about the future of writing? What should we be saying to teachers?
Writing is still essential to being well educated. While some call video “the book of the future” - great videos have scripts and descriptions and blog posts written about them. And yet, when we write in schools, students must see themselves as professionals. I teach my students that they are professional students. How they write in their social lives is up to them, but when they are professionals they must write in ways that include others. While English is being used by many around the world, our dependence upon translator apps means that when we write in nonstandard ways and ignore punctuation and capitalization that we are excluding some people from understanding our work. Most students who haven’t been taught immediately resort to terrible grammar, spelling, and punctuation when they go online. We must help them understand that their job is as a professional student so we can help them shift gears and thrive in the academic and business world. We should also help them see and enjoy the beauty, wonder, and art of good writing (and reading).
I believe most teachers love their students and want to help students succeed. To do this, we have to shift our minds and modalities out of the 20th century in which we were raised. Remember your grandparents who used to say, “I used to walk two miles to school and why don’t you? It was good enough for me and it is good enough for you.” The way we were taught was born out of another century. While there are some things we can use, we’ve got a wealth of research and innovation at our fingertips now. We know so much more about the human brain and learning. Add to that the proliferation of conditions like ADD and special needs and we have a completely new age of teaching. We can thrive and not just survive in this world today as teachers but we must learn how.
I want teachers to be empowered and encouraged and Reinventing Writing is a book about hope. In the final chapter I share my strategy of innovation for overwhelmed teachers — Innovate like a turtle. Enough said. ;-)
Q: One concern that many educators have is that paper and pens are ubiquitous, while iPads and other technology is not available to everyone. What are your thoughts on that?
You use what you have. Paper and pens are still part of writing - of course. But as other devices proliferate we must use them to help students collaborate. My school is a BYOD school but not all students have full sized devices, so much of our writing is taught in our computer lab. .
Schools who do not have every single student in their middle and high school writing electronically should reexamine and restructure what they’re doing. I recommend that the school and district take the free survey from Project 24 (http://all4ed.org/issues/project-24/) and benchmark what they are doing against best practices for 21st century schools. .
We use what we have but we also push forward to what we must do. Most teachers do have their own computing device, this book will help them improve their own writing and co-planning until they can help their students with writing. It starts with you learning and with the massive movement towards technology in every school, the time to learn is now..
Q: Something I always hear from teachers is that there are no actual, real life, in-the-classroom examples of what us Ed Tech people are advocating. How do you address that in your book?.
I am a classroom teacher - every single tool in the book I have used with my students. Everything I write is born out of personal experience and recommendations from other teachers. Quite a few chapters also had collaborative editors — teachers who added their thoughts and shared. Those chapters were actually written in Google Docs! Those who follow my Cool Cat Teacher blog will know that I’m pretty practical and this book is an example. .
I do have two pieces from researchers where appropriate — one on wikis by Dr. Justin Reich of Harvard University and another on cooperation vs. collaboration from Dr. Mary Friend Shepherd. Sue Waters also shares best practices for teaching blogging from her experiences with tens of thousands of teachers on Edublogs. .
Q: Why just nine tools? Aren’t there a million?
Back to the post it notes from the beginning. There are many many tools but when I took the 60+ tools I was using in my classroom to teach writing and began grouping them, I saw patterns emerge. I also wanted to help teachers understand just what had been reinvented in their classroom.
For example, Reinventing Your Filing Cabinet talks about Cloud Storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, and One Drive and how to store files. Reinventing Prewriting talks about brainstorming tools and graphic organizers. Reinventing Paper talks about ePaper and eBooks and Reinventing Notetaking gets into Evernote and One Note and how to take notes electronically. You get the idea. There are basic things in the classroom which have transformed and there may be several tools that can be used in that category of tool. So, it would be 9 categories of tools I guess you could say.
Q: I am a teacher and I say to you: “These are just more things I have to learn. I don’t have time.” What do you answer back?
I say read Chapter 13 - my personal strategy of innovation. As I work to improve I keep a list of my big three - what are the next three things I’m going to learn. In the past three years one of my things was writing. We implemented a program in my school called “Writing Across the Curriculum” - which I thing is important. But in my technology-centric classroom I found it was so hard. As I pushed forward and got every student to write eagerly and often, I wanted it to be easier for other teachers.
So, if writing is your thing to improve - just read the book and then come up with your big three. I always recommend that overwhelmed teachers read the last chapter first as it calms them down. Too many of us get into overload paralysis instead of just plodding ahead like a turtle one flipper at a time.
Q: What did you hope to accomplish by writing this book?
I want to make writing with technology easy, approachable, and more effective. Writing teachers are on a hamster wheel being asked to run faster and faster and it is killing many of them. I have friends who grade essays every night and you could hang clothes hangers on the bags under their eyes by the end of the school year. IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!!
There are simple ways to improve writing and to harness the power of peers. I have a whole chapter on building a community of writers because I think that so many do not unleash the power and engagement of a writing community.
I’m so grateful for the teachers who helped me journal, write, and even publish my own work in high school. I want to help more teachers reach more students than ever. Students who write and publish online are students with a voice - I want that for every student.
Teachers are amazing professionals but they often just want to know a practical how-to and advice. This book is my effort to give them that - from a real classroom teacher. I wrote it at 4:45 each morning over the past two years and quite a bit last summer.
Q: I always like to ask this question to all the authors: Who is listening?
Great question. To me the question is more about conversation. When I write I put my Twitter handle on the cover. When someone reads a book or blog post of mine, I want to engage in conversation with my fellow teachers.
So, we’ve had some great conversation - some are using #reinventingwriting and others are just messaging me about the book. Right now, many teachers feel the relief of just picking 3 things and starting on those. Many are starting at different places. I’m seeing elementary teachers focus on prewriting tools and infographics and using Voicethread to help students speak with topic sentences so they’ll be able to write with them. Lots of elementary classrooms are starting to publish their own ebooks and teachers are running class twitter accounts as I discuss in the Reinventing Journals: Blogging & Microblogging Chapter.
Middle school teachers seem to be heavily into collaborative writing and peer review and using tools like Kaizena and Google Docs for feedback. High school teachers are using all of these things but also getting into ebooks, epaper, and all of the great citations tools as well as the research tools in the book. The “term paper” process is evolving and students are getting far more feedback along the way from peers instead of the teacher having to be the one reviewer.
All classrooms are publishing and sharing and Quadblogging is becoming wildly popular. There is a ton of conversation on the difference between journaling and blogging (and rightly so.)
I’m getting ready to create a group on Voxer for the teachers who are having these conversations. I think excellent books in today’s educational circles become conduits for conversation. So, I want to facilitate connections between teachers so they can share best practices. Reinventing Writing gives them a common starting point.
So, who is talking about reinventing writing the concept? Every single school moving into the 21st century. Reinventing Writing is rapidly become part of that conversation and that is exciting to see.
In this much-anticipated book from acclaimed blogger Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher), you’ll learn the key shifts in writing instruction necessary to move students forward in today’s world. Vicki describes how the elements of traditional writing are being reinvented with cloud-based tools. Instead of paper, note taking, filing cabinets, word processors, and group reports, we now have tools like ePaper, eBooks, social bookmarking, cloud syncing, infographics, and more. Vicki shows you how to select the right tool, set it up quickly, and prevent common mistakes. She also helps you teach digital citizenship and offers exciting ways to build writing communities where students love to learn.
Essential questions at the start of each chapter to get you thinking about the big ideas
A chapter on each of the nine essential cloud-based tools—ePaper and eBooks; digital notebooks; social bookmarking; cloud syncing; cloud writing apps; blogging and microblogging; wikis and website builders; online graphic organizers and mind maps; and cartoons and infographics
A wide variety of practical ways to use each tool in the classroom
Alignments to the Common Core State Standards in writing
Level Up Learning—a special section at the end of each chapter to help you review, reflect on, and apply what you’ve learned
Writing tips to help you make the best use of the tools and avoid common pitfalls
A glossary of key terms discussed in the book
Useful appendices, including reproducible material for your classroom
No matter what grade level you teach or how much tech experience you have, you will benefit from Vicki’s compelling and practical ideas. As she emphasizes throughout this essential book, teaching with cloud-based tools has never been easier, more convenient, or more important than right now.
About Vicki Davis:
Vicki Adams Davis (1969- ) Through her blog, “Cool Cat Teacher,” Vicki helps educators teach with better results, lead with a positive impact, and live with a greater purpose.
Vicki teaches full time in Camilla, Georgia at Westwood Schools where she teaches technology and business courses for grades 8-12 and serves as IT Director for the school. With more than 70,000 Twitter followers Vicki was named one of “Twitter’s Top 10 Rockstar teachers” by Mashable and included in Thomas Friedman’s book, the World is Flat.
Vicki’s classroom and blog have won many awards including the ISTE Online Learning Award and more. She is author of Reinventing Writing and coauthor of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds. Her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, is consistently named one of the top 50 blogs in education worldwide. She hosts the online show “Every Classroom Matters” which consistently trends as a top 10 show in the K12 section of iTunes. Vicki has keynoted more than 20 education technology conferences in the US and around the world.
Vicki has written for Edutopia, the Washington Post, SmartBlogs and more.
She’s from the south Georgia, growing up on a farm just outside Camilla. Vicki is passionate about inspiring excellent teaching and about helping people use technology effectively to live their dreams. You can read more about Vicki at coolcatteacher.com on Twitter @coolcatteacher.
Apple updates the iTunes U app so that most of all the functionality is now available on the iPad.
Introducing the new iTunes U
New features in this version:
Let the discussion begin
The new iTunes U makes it simple for students participating in private courses to pose questions on the course or any post or assignment
Other students in the class can jump into the discussion and ask more questions or provide answers
Teachers and students can keep up with the conversation when they receive push notifications as the discussion progresses
Create courses on iPad
Teachers can now create and update their courses using the iTunes U app on their iPad—getting started is fast, simple, and completely free
Provide every student a course outline, write posts, distribute assignments, upload class materials, easily track participating students, and much more
Take advantage of the built in camera on iPad to easily capture photos or videos and upload them for course assignments
Create materials using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—or other apps from the App Store—and add them to your course by using “Open in iTunes U” from within each app
Teachers affiliated with qualified institutions have the option to publish their courses to the iTunes U Catalog—making them available to everyone for free
I found this paper, a review of literature and more by Pearson, the Flipped Learning Network and George Mason University. Some interesting insights on the current state of flipped learning and a good intro for those not familiar with the topic. Essentially it says that Flipped Learning is taking off at a rapid pace in education. No duh there.
From the report:
While continued research and evaluation is certainly needed, the studies reviewed in this document along with the original literature review (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Arfstrom, 2013) provide support for the efficacy and potential of the Flipped Learning model. Not only do many more teachers report successfully implementing the Flipped Learning model, but the initial empirical evidence is promising. In several of these studies the Flipped Learning model is associated with increased student learning and positive perceptions of the unique elements, such as presentation of material outside of class and increase in active learning activities.
Despite this support, the Flipped Learning model likely does not work in all contexts and there are understandable concerns about the time involved and fundamental shift in teaching style required. Research is needed on identifying the contexts in which the Flipped Learning model works best and how to most effectively apply the elements of the Flipped Learning model to enhance student learning. In addition, teachers would likely benefit from institutional support and professional development during the transitional period when implementing the Flipped Learning model. Despite these concerns and limitations, the Flipped Learning model represents an innovative approach to teaching with the potential to create active, engaged and learning-centered classrooms.
"More and more schools are realizing that Google Chromebooks are the answer to updating outdated schools. Unfortunately though, in many cases they are making purchases for large scale deployment with little investment toward preparation for implementation issues or knowledge of where to turn to connect with others who have had experience in Chromebooks (and Google Apps for Ed) deployment.
That’s where learning networks come in. Fortunately there is an experienced online community available to support others venturing into this world.
Here are some resources:”
Click on the title to go to the article.
Can you add to the list? Do so in the comment section.
Every year the American Association of School Librarians publishers their list of what they consider the best Education Websites for teaching and learning. This year’s list is broken down into these categories:
Media SharingDigital StorytellingManage & OrganizeSocial Networking & CommunicationContent ResourcesCurriculum Collaboration
I like these types of lists because they always introduce me to sites I have never heard of ,or had forgotten about. Although I wish they would be a bit more transparent on how they chose this year’s winners. Thanks to the AASL for making this yearly list. At the bottom of the page is the previous year’s winners.
Click on the title of this entry to go to the article.
I enjoy reading the thoughts of George Couros. If you are not reading his blog you need to, especially if you are a campus administrator.
In this article (click on the title to go to his article), he lists the five characteristics he thinks define an “Innovative Organization:”
Promotion and modeling of risk-taking
Proud of where we are, but know we have a way to go
The focus on sharing
Relationships, relationships, relationships
While this is a good starting list, I think that there are a few he might have missed.
For instance, I think that innovative organizations have the ability to look at trends and adjust or modify their organization to match the trends. Perhaps this could be called “Forward Thinking.”
I think innovative organizations, as he says take risks, but I also think that they “fail with a purpose" where organizations learn form failure. I also think that most non innovative organizations quickly dismiss or forget failures. Innovative ones will remember what they used, and perhaps revisit the failure. Sometimes, failure happens because the idea was ahead of its time. Holding on the idea of being able to try something again even after it failed the first time is powerful.
Innovative organizations steal. I don’t mean they literally steal, but they can see what others do and adapt those things to meet their needs. The book “Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon is all about that.
What are some things that you think innovate schools or organizations do?
Seems to me that these folks should be required to read Daniel Pink’s “Drive” before they try to of any type of gender outreach. What drives girls is different than what drives boys.
From the article:
Wheat had discovered what Elizabeth Losh, a digital culture scholar at UC San Diego, calls “ridiculous, pink, sparkly techno-princess land.”
Pink websites and polka-dotted flyers are what happens when an entire field overcorrects, Losh says.
Women are grossly underrepresented in engineering and computer science careers, a fact that is attracting an increasing amount of attention. Since May, a number of tech companies, among them Google and Facebook, have released their lagging diversity figures, accompanied by pledges to bridge the gender divide.
The lack of female technical talent is an issue that most tech companies have owned up to. Now, people everywhere, from Google to college admissions offices, are looking for ways the change that. And often, it seems, the proposed solution is simply to turn tech pink.
But as Wheat sees it, the problem with techno-princess land is that it attempts to combat the stereotype that technology is a guy thing with stereotypes of what women want.
The overflow of pink in her inbox moved the Virginia teen to pen an opinion piece, which was recently a runner-up in a New York Times teen editorial contest.
"It says that the only way you can be interested in technology is if it is girly," said Wheat. "I’m very girly. My room is purple. I have floral bedding. I think I’ll probably be a very feminine engineer. I just don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed."
I think that in about a year, the term flipped will morph into something else because it is becoming overused. In the meantime, we have to put up with the phrase in almost any content, in this case, flipping leadership.
I think the ideas here are good, but it seems to me that this is all about good staff development, good communications and good leadership. Are the five things he mentions here exclusive to being a flipped leader? I don’t know.
The five things he lists are:
John Hagel, from his “A 21st Century Global Declaration of Independence:”
We find ourselves now at a crossroads in history. The institutions – commercial, educational, political and civic - that we created in an earlier era in an effort to expand our potential have now become increasingly…
We collect some of the brightest voices from the world of educational technology.
I am honored to have been named to this list for the second year running. Thank you for reading my blog, and thank you for placing me on the list EDtech Magazine! This list has some of the finest ed tech thinkers around. (I have no idea how I got there!) You need to check out the writers.
What happens when you try to do the same old thing with new technology? Ask LAUSD. Here is a good article that looks at the whole iPad fiasco in Los Angeles:
The Los Angeles Unified School District learned some tough lessons with its iPad rollout. The L.A. Times told the story, but there is much to ponder in scenarios like this. John Martellaro offers some food for thought.
From the article
Throughout my career, in education and government, I’ve seen these effects. Purchase authority is exercised by those who have the least technical expertise. Those who have the expertise have no say in the process. Piecemeal test projects fail to generate the desired political clout and glory and are bypassed, and those at the bottom are burdened beyond belief by projects they had little say in, no control over nor adequate preparation and training.
I don’t claim that the LAUSD had all these problems. However, reading about their experience reminded me of the kinds of difficulties I’ve seen in my own career. Perhaps the driving issue on all this is that in modern day American technology, those who most seek enduring power are those people least able to exercise deep technical judgment, whether it’s an iPad in the classroom or a billion dollar weapons program.
The course, based on promising results produced by the professional development model delivered in the Verizon Innovate Learning Schools, includes five modules developed around ISTE standards. Course modules are designed to help teachers, administrators and tech coaches implement effective mobile learning initiatives in their schools and classrooms. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Johns Hopkins University will be offered to teachers completing the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy courses.
Registration for the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy will open in Fall 2014. If you would like to receive more information, enter your name and email address here:
The five courses are:
Course 1: Evaluating and planning for the mobile learning landscape
Delve into the classroom implications of mobile learning with activities to help you gauge your institution’s readiness.
Course 2: Developing digital fluency
Enrich your digital awareness by investigating the key characteristics and compatibilities of available devices, operating systems and programs.
Course 3: Seamless mobile technology integration
Explore a framework for technology integration that steers teachers through the process of creating a mobile learning lesson plan.
Course 4: Implementing effective mobile practices
Teachers will learn how to apply the ISTE Standards to mobile learning, while technology coaches and administrators will gain strategies for providing visionary leadership and support.
Course 5: Digital age students
Discover how to teach and model safe online practices for students as they use their mobile devices to create and share content.
New survey points to importance of increasing digital readiness
How are we as educators making this easier for people?
From the article:
A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren’t digitally literate or don’t trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American.
In contrast, says Eszter Hargittai, a sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved in the study, those with essential Web skills “tend to be the more privileged. And so the overall story … is that it’s the people who are already privileged who are reaping the benefits here.”
The study was conducted by John Horrigan, an independent researcher, and released 17 June at an event sponsored by the Washington, D.C.–based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study of 1600 adults measured their grasp of terms like “cookie” and “Wi-Fi.” It asked them to rate how confident they were about using a desktop or laptop or a smart phone to find information, as well as how comfortable they felt about using a computer. Of those who scored low in these areas, about half were not Internet users.
E.O. Wilson's "Life on Earth" complete is now free
A couple of days ago, Apple announced it was upgrading iTunes U so that teachers could create entire courses inside their iPads. It looks like they are kicking it up a notch as they have just released E.O.Wilson’s entire work Life on Earth for free in the iTunes Bookstore. If you are not familiar with this work, it continues to be one of the most interactive AWESOME ibooks ever created. Even if you are not teaching biology, this is a great set of books to have on your iPad.
“’Life on Earth’ comes alive on iPad, providing a stunning perspective on life. The interactive experience will ignite in students an appreciation for what they have inherited—this beautiful planet and every living thing on it—and an understanding of the role and responsibility we all have to preserve the biodiversity around us,” said Wilson. “I am immensely proud of the iBooks textbook series that the Foundation is providing at no cost to students and the public, allowing us to bring the meaning and importance of biodiversity to life for a global audience.”
“We are very proud of the enormous effort by all involved in making E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’ a reality. We have created a state-of-the-art teaching tool that brings a new dimension to our understanding of nature and biodiversity, and how it should be presented in classrooms,” said Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “We aim to inspire a new generation of explorers and informed citizens who are prepared to take responsibility for conserving and protecting the biological richness of nature as a treasure to be passed on.”
From the iTunes release notes:
Inspired and led by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalists Edward O. Wilson – and created with a team of world-renowned educators and artists – this comprehensive and original standards-based curriculum tells the story of life on Earth, giving students a deep understanding of introductory biology.
Presented as a seven-unit collection, E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is a free iBooks Textbook that uses rich, Multi-Touch experience to engage students in lessons about everything from molecules to ecosystems.
And accompanying iTune U course – Biology: Life on Earth – extends students’ learning in and out of the classroom with reading and writing assignments and extension activities like field observations and moviemaking.
Designed to prepare tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policymakers, and engaged citizens for their work, this captivating curriculum inspires students to take responsibility for conserving and protecting nature’s biological treasures.
Another nail into the publisher’s of textbooks coffin.
Imagine you are looking for a job as an elementary principal and you see this as the job description:
The position of Elementary School Principal requires a Master’s Degree; valid Administrative, or Principal’s Certificate; leadership ability in working with teachers and students in instructional and managerial administration; working knowledge of curriculum and instruction; the ability to evaluate instructional program and teaching effectiveness; the ability to manage budget and personnel and coordinate campus functions; the ability to explain policy, procedures and data; strong communications, public relations, and interpersonal skills; three years of related administrative experience in education to include at least two years assistant principal experience (for a person who has not previously served as a principal); three years experience as a classroom teacher.
Pretty standard huh? A list of what you are expected to do as an elementary school principal. Nothing in that description MAKES me want to apply for that job. Pretty standard.
Now, imagine of you came across this job description for an elementary school principal in another school district that read like this:
Our district is doing some really exciting things and we want you to be part of it. This position is for an elementary school that is in a well established neighborhood with about 800 kids. (Hey, want to know the demographics of the school? Click here. Check out the campus test data here.) We think that a good leader can make this campus go from good to great and beyond. Are you that person? As you can tell from the demographics, there are some challenges to be met, but this school, with these teachers and these kids, deserve a great leader. Maybe you are that person. We are looking for someone that has the following qualifications: The usual stuff like an administrator’s or management certification and experience as a teacher and maybe as a campus administrator. But we want more than that.
Of course anyone can get a certification. What we really are looking for this:
Someone that has the ability to lead teachers and students and be a real instructional leader, not someone that just says they are a leader. Someone that knows what kids need to learn and what teachers need to teach and how best to match the two. Someone who is also a learner and can share that learning with their staff. Of course, you will have some money, so you will have to know how to wisely spend it. What will be your budget priorities? We want to know before we hire you. Can you communicate well? Great! Because you are going to have to explain what you are doing not only to your staff, but to parents and the community. We also like to hire people that can get along with others, because hey, our district is a big family, and we need to all keep in touch. Tell us that you have some innovative ideas, because if you don’t we really don’t need to talk. We like people that will take chances (to a point of course) and will back you up with professional development opportunities for you and your staff.
Like we said, we are doing some awesome things in our district, and want to surround ourselves with the most awesome educators we can. Are you awesome? Then you need to apply.
I wonder if a school district put out an ad for that, what kind of response they would get? Imagine of every singe job posting that district posted exclaimed how editing it would be to work in that district?
Why more people are not using this incredible resource is beyond me.
Anyway, the best just got better.
Apple Announces Updates to iTunes U
Brings Course Creation, Management for Teachers & Student Discussions To iPad
CUPERTINO, California—June 30, 2014—Apple® today announced updates to iTunes U®, bringing educators and students great new tools to build and experience educational content on iPad®. Beginning July 8, teachers using the free iTunes U app can create, edit and manage entire courses directly on iPad for the first time, and students will discover new ways to collaborate including the ability to start class discussions and ask questions right from their iPad.
“Education is at the core of Apple’s DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad.”
The new in-app updates to iTunes U give teachers full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly add rich content and learning materials from iWork®, iBooks® Author or any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad. Taking advantage of the built-in camera on iPad, teachers can also capture photos and videos to incorporate real-world subject matter into any course, making relevant content available to all students in an instant.
“iTunes U is the most powerful destination for bringing the entire educational experience to life on iPad,” said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. “By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another.”
Students using iPad and enrolled in private iTunes U courses will now have everything they need to fully collaborate with their classmates and teachers. With Discussions in the iTunes U app, students can automatically follow classroom discussions and join conversations on new topics, or set up push notifications for when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. Teachers can participate in forums too, and have the ability to moderate discussions by removing any off-topic messages or replies.
“Discussions in iTunes U puts the potential for thoughtful exploration and collaboration into the hands of every one of our students,” said Larry Reiff, a teacher from Roslyn High School in New York. “iPad and iTunes U continue to provide students with the tools they need to build knowledge and demonstrate their learning.”
iTunes U helps educators create courses including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and more for millions of iOS users around the world. With over 750,000 individual learning materials available on the iTunes U app, iTunes U is the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent organizations. Today, thousands of educational institutions are hosting over 7,500 public and thousands of private courses encompassing the arts, sciences, health and medicine, education, business and more.
Educators can create iTunes U courses in 69 countries and make their courses and educational content accessible via the iTunes U app in 155 countries. In addition to the thousands of individual iTunes U learning materials found on the iTunes Store®, over 500,000 apps designed specifically for iPad are now available on the App Store℠. Additionally, with the free iBooks Author app on the Mac App Store℠, nearly 30,000 Multi-Touch™ books have been created by independent teachers and publishers worldwide.
A recent study suggests that the reason young children are not intimidated by technology, and can figure it out mud more rapidly than adults, is that they are better wired for figuring out cause and relation effects and are not intimidated by pre determined ideas.
Children learn causal relationships quickly and make far-reaching causal inferences from what they observe. Acquiring abstract causal principles that allow generalization across different causal relationships could support these abilities. We examine children’s ability to acquire abstract knowledge about the forms of causal relationships and show that in some cases they learn better than adults. Adults and 4- and 5-year-old children saw events suggesting that a causal relationship took one of two different forms, and their generalization to a new set of objects was then tested. One form was a more typical disjunctive relationship; the other was a more unusual conjunctive relationship. Participants were asked to both judge the causal efficacy of the objects and to design actions to generate or prevent an effect. Our results show that children can learn the abstract properties of causal relationships using only a handful of events. Moreover, children were more likely than adults to generalize the unusual conjunctive relationship, suggesting that they are less biased by prior assumptions and pay more attention to current evidence. These results are consistent with the predictions of a hierarchical Bayesian model.
Hexagonal Thinking is where either student or teacher writes key concepts on hexagonal cards, at the end of a period of learning, where the content behind each ‘headline’ is relatively clear to a team of learners. The students then place the cards together in the way that makes most sense to them - some ideas will connect to up to five others, others will lie at the end of a long sequential order, others still will appear in small outlying positions, on their own.
The technique was first pioneered in the oil and gas industry, and is highlighted in The Living Company, by the creator of “the learning organisation” concept and Royal Dutch Shell, Arie de Geus. De Geus had found that when he and executives were trying to help insurance people better understand their complex products, the expensive computer simulations they had developed were not doing the job: staff were too busy trying to “win” the simulation that the more significant, and complex, information about the products was lost. With the introduction of hexagonal thinking those complex connections were made swiftly and deeply. It has since been used in business as a means of tackling perennial ‘wicked problems’.
iBooks Author is a GREAT program. Simply great. Yet, it is greatly misunderstood and un used. Of course, it could use some love from Apple with more frequent updates, and some how an ability to transform a lot of that coolness to other platforms. I hope it doesn’t become the Betamax of ebook publishing.
From the article:
“I consider iBooks Author to be one of Apple’s most underrated and underused applications on the Mac. Creating and interactive multi-media electronic book isn’t child’s play, but it’s simple enough to create books that go far beyond what Kindle or Kindle Fire devices can display,” McElfresh writes. “Apple couldn’t make publishing a book from your Mac to the iBook Store much easier. All it takes is a description and a few clicks and your publication is, well, published and ready for purchase… If you’ve ever wanted to write your own book and have it published for sale online, there is no easier way than Apple’s iBook Author app. And it’s free.”
As the education field strives to differentiate and personalize learning to cater to each student, two related movements are gaining attention: competency-based education and blended learning. In competency-based models, students advance on the basis of mastery, rather than according to the traditional methods of counting progress in terms of time or credit hours. Blended learning is a method of delivering learning experiences; in essence, it is any formal education program that combines online learning and brick-and-mortar schools.
How can blended learning support competency-based education?
Blended learning stands to support competency-based education in at least four overarching ways. First, online content can offer a continuum of learning along which students can progress at a flexible pace. Second, when students learn through online learning, testing can occur on-demand—that is, when students are ready to be assessed, not before or after. Third, online content can be deployed in a more modular manner than traditional face-to-face instruction, which in turn offers students multiple pathways to mastery, as opposed to a single lesson or textbook. Finally, blended learning can support school systems attempting to take competency-based education to scale by providing tools to personalize learning for each student.
Findings from the field: New Hampshire
Although we can theorize about how technology could streamline competency-based practices, these hypotheses bear testing in real-school environments. This paper considers the role of blended learning in 13 schools in New Hampshire, where the New Hampshire Department of Education has mandated that high schools measure learning in terms of competency, rather than by credit hours. Some schools in New Hampshire have embraced this new policy by building competency-based models in their schools and classrooms, whereas other schools have remained tethered to time-based practices.
Many of these 13 schools have implemented blended learning in some form or fashion, however, and therefore offer a glimpse into which blended-learning models offer promising solutions for schools pursuing competency-based education. Based on this small, early-stage sampling, blended-learning models that tend to be disruptive relative to the traditional classroom appear especially well suited to support competency-based education at scale. The schools that were the furthest along in implementing competency-based education fell into two buckets: small-scale schools that did not rely on blended learning or schools that used disruptive blended-learning models, namely the Individual Rotation, Flex, and A La Carte. On the other hand, the schools that were still tethered to time-based practices used sustaining blended-learning models, namely the Flipped Classroom and Station Rotation. Although far from a representative sample, these examples point to promising practices of how blended learning may support competency-based approaches.
In the Christensen Institute’s report, author Julia Freeland observes that blended learning can help students forge an individualized path through school in four main ways:
Online courses allow students to progress through content at a flexible pace.
Online courses allow students to be tested on what they learn when they are ready to be assessed, rather than before or after.
Online content can offer students multiple pathways to mastery, not just a single lesson or textbook.
Blended learning provides tools to personalize learning for each student.
Freeland writes that there are two models of blended learning—a “sustaining” model, in which online learning makes traditional classroom learning more effective and efficient, and a “disruptive” model, in which online learning occurs in the absence of traditional school conventions like classroom teachers and schedules.
Back in the late 1990’s I was a member of a photography club here in El Paso. That club was made up of all kinds of photographers, from VERY amateur ones to VERY professional ones. I remember that at the time, there was some talk about digital photography, and I had gotten my hands on some digital cameras, like the old Apple Quicktake 100:
Back then, digital cameras were few and far between, with only high end professional photographers using them, and Photoshop was something that very few people knew about. Way expensive cameras, low resolution images, few ways to manipulate either, and even fewer ways to print an image out. If you wanted the image, you had to pretty much also own an Epson Photo Printer, whose images faded quickly and whose ink and photo paper cost a small fortune.
Yet, the technology, as it almost always does, marched on. Slowly, surely, the cameras became more capable, the software to manipulate the images became more affordable (Photoshop remained expensive, but Photoshop Elements provided users with 90% of the functionality of Photoshop at 1/5th of the price. Photo stores began to adapt and purchase equipment that could print real photos from digital files.
Still, in my photo club, there was almost unanimous opinion that this new technology would never ever replace film. The oft heard phrase was that film was here to stay and that this digital stuff was simply something as a diversion for rich people that could afford a lot of equipment. They pointed to Kodak as an example. Kodak was so big, how could it ever go out of business? And Ilford? And Fujifilm? There simply were too many film photographers out there. You had to know a lot about photography in order to be a “real photographer.” When I demonstrated some digital photo technique to the group, I was met with polite applause, but never a follow-up question. Digital, at least for these folks, was a fad that would pass. Indeed, for a while, photographers that used digital equipment were not really considered “real photographers” because they could manipulate their images on a computer and not in a darkroom.
Well, we all know how that story has ended. Kodak and the film based industry, for the most part, simply could not adapt to the rapid change in their business model and have been relegated to the graveyard of failed businesses. Those “fad” digital devices which once were so expensive only professionals could use them soon became common place. Now, almost every person that has a cell phone has a camera. More photos are being taken now than ever before. Indeed almost one TRILLION photos will be taken in 2014 alone.
Of course, not all of these are works of art, far from it, but there are now more photographers on the planet than ever before. Those high end Photoshop manipulations from a few years ago that cost around $600 to do are now free or near free as apps on those same phones.
Digital photo technology has democratized photography. You no longer have to be a trained professional photographer to get professional looking photographs. That is not to say that professionals are not needed. A trained professional can still run rings around an amateur when it comes to lighting and posing. But for the most part, for 99% of photo needs, that camera in your cell phone will do just fine.
That photography club I once belonged to? Last time I checked, every single photographer was using digital cameras.
If you were like me, you could have seen the shift coming whether you believed it or not, whether you wanted it or not. It was a train that simply could not have been stopped.
The shift was fast, the industry was slow to keep up, the power of the people, the availability of devices and the price being lowered to essentially $0 created a planet of picture takers. Entire industries that were not here a few years ago have now sprouted up in recent years to handle the onslaught of the sheer number of images. Sites like Flickr are designed specifically for digital images.
Here is the sequence: Nascent technology takes on an entrenched and unwilling or unable to change industry and is overwhelmed by massive amounts of free materials that are almost as good , say 99% as good, as the “professional material.”
Sound familiar? The exact same thing is happening right this minute in the textbook industry. Consider such groups as CK12.org which provides secondary textbooks for free, aligned to state and national standards. Did you get that? FREE TEXTBOOKS. No publisher can beat that price. None. And it doesn’t stop there. Literally thousands of free textbooks and entire courses are now available to students and teachers using such diverse sites as hippocampus.org and iTunes U. My district has even started a collection of all of the content we are finding online that can be used in lieu of a traditional textbook. One wonders how long it will be before the traditional textbook publishers start pushing back against the free material. Because knowledge is free, it will be difficult for them to argue that their CONTENT is better. My bet is that they will start arguing that their process is better. In any event, it will be difficult for them to justify $100 textbooks when the same information is available for free elsewhere. Maybe not in as pretty as package, but 99% good enough.
Of course, the other advantage of a digital text is that a device needs to be used to read them. Students an use a device like an iPad to read the text, but also take notes, share information, research and write, all the while no longer having to carry around 30 pounds of books. Digital texts weigh nothing, something that publishing printshops are no doubt very aware of. Choices now seem to be quickly going away from heavy, paper texts. Sure, they will still be there for those that need them, just like you can still buy film for a camera if you really need to, but the reason for doing it becomes more and more moot as time rolls on.
Has your district started to make the switch to digital texts? Let me know about it.
TEC Variety Ebook from Curtis Bonk and Eliane Khoo Free Download
Curtis Bonk is a great educator, as demonstrated by this work. 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online is a seminal work. AND IT IS 100% Free!
If you are looking to teach online, or if you DO teach online, this book is for you.
From the home of this book:
Motivation is central to all things human. Online teaching and learning are no different. In the early years of the Web, however, students endured extremely dry online content, affectionately known as “shovelware.” Over time, learners were increasingly inundated by bland content and unimaginative activities. Worse, too often they accepted it as reality. In the process, online learning became woefully lockstep and mechanized. There was no room for flexibility, choice, or creative expression of any kind.
Unfortunately, most online content remains lifeless today. Legions of learners are interminably bored. Part of the reason is that their online and blended courses fail to effectively utilize the smartphones, tablets, and other wireless and mobile technologies strapped to their bodies or tucked into in their tote bags. At this very moment, tens of millions of learners around the planet are navigating through seemingly endless pages of their online courses. Unfortunately, most of these learners are swimming in this sea of content without much hope for interaction, collaboration, or engagement. The emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs), where learners in a single course can number in the hundreds of thousands, has made the present situation even more precarious and a remedy more urgent.
We propose the TEC-VARIETY framework as a solution to the lack of meaningful engagement. It can shift learners from nearly comatose states to actively engaged ones. Adding Some TEC-VARIETY helps instructors focus on how to motivate online learners and increase learner retention. It also is a comprehensive, one-stop toolkit for online instructors to inspire learners and renew their own passion for teaching. Using 10 theoretically driven and proven motivational principles, TEC-VARIETY offers over 100 practical yet innovative ideas based on decades of author experience teaching in a variety of educational settings.
In this book, you will discover:
A wellspring of Web resources;
10 fully documented successful motivational principles;
Hundreds of activities to motivate and engage online learners;
Proven ideas on how to design interactive and collaborative courses;
A realistic path toward meaningful and relevant online learning;
Detailed risk, cost, and time guidelines for each activity;
A thoroughly researched basis for each idea and activity;
Hope (yes, real hope!) for engaging online learners.