Posts Tagged With: technology

Drawing a Line in the Sand

According to Wikipedia “a line in the sand” is a metaphor with two similar meanings:

The first meaning is of a point (physical, decisional, etc.) beyond which one will proceed no further.
The second meaning is that of a point beyond which, once the decision to go beyond it is made, the decision and its resulting consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.line-300x202

On a recent trip to Toronto I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Malloy, Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Dr. Malloy gave an enthusiastic accounting of the 1-to-1 iPad initiative currently playing out in his Districts’ 100 plus schools. In the initial year of a five-year plan they have placed iPads in the hands of every student in seven elementary schools, in one secondary school, and in the assistive technology used in two other secondary schools. If the roll out goes according to plan, every student will have the full time use of an iPad by 2019. The plan, titled “Transforming Learning Everywhere”, is strongly supported by their School Board and will be resourced heavily through ongoing teacher professional development, adequate wireless bandwidth in every school, and a team of individuals to support and maintain all aspects of the project. Wow!

Then Dr. Malloy shared what I thought was the most brilliant part of the entire initiative. He used the metaphor of “a line in the sand” to describe the plan they had to reduce paper in schools throughout the District. As more iPads are deployed, more paper will be removed. “If we are going to continue to provide access to the old way of doing things”, he said, “how are we going to get our teachers to buy into something new? We can’t afford both.” By 2019 Hamilton-Wentworth will be 95% paperless. This is written into the strategic plan.

Here is the problem that exists most everywhere. All too often School Districts continue to allow outdated practices to exist at the same time they introduce something new.Unknown When this happens many teachers simply opt out of risking the new practice and retreat to what is most comfortable to them. For system leaders, resources are scarce so if they aren’t able to build a coalition of the willing, real change rarely occurs.

I think everyone can agree that the Education landscape is changing more rapidly than ever before. Our students were born into a different world than we were. They learn differently and will require a very different set of skills in today’s society and workplace. Transforming pedagogy should not be an option but rather a requirement of all teachers. All available resources should be used, not on maintaining the old, but on building the new.

We need more leaders who, like Dr. Malloy, are not afraid to draw that line in the sand.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Desktop is Dead…

Last week, while standing in my school district’s Boardroom talking to a colleague, my attention was drawn to a small table in the corner of the room. There, sharing a space with a landline telephone and a traditional analog wall clock, was the desktop computer we hadn’t used for months. It was as though these innovative tools of the past were gathering to remember their glory days and to commiserate about their rapid fall from grace and loss of relevance.

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This past September an Apple TV was installed, which effectively ended any need for the Dell computer and Smartboard. Instead, those who use the space for meetings and PD carry smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices that pretty much gives them everything they need. This little corner of the room has simply gone unnoticed.

This gets me thinking about how fast the world of learning has changed. In just a few years mobile devices have taken over as the primary means to communicate, but also as the preferred method to perform a variety of other necessary daily tasks. Would you not agree that we have come to rely heavily on our devices in both our professional and personal lives to research, organize, remind, compute, and play? We’re now at a point where young adults can’t even remember a time before technology. And school aged children can barely remember a time before mobile technology.

The New Media Consortium, in their 2013 Horizon Report has identified mobile learning as a trend entering the mainstream in education within the next year:

“After years of anticipation, mobile learning is positioned for near-term and widespread adoption in schools. Tablets, smartphones, and mobile apps have become too capable, too ubiquitous, and too useful to ignore, and their distribution defies traditional patterns of adoption, both by consumers, where even economically disadvantaged families find ways to make use of mobile technology, and in schools, where the tide of opinion has dramatically shifted when it comes to mobiles in schools. At the end of 2012, the mobile market consisted of over 6.5 billion accounts…”

It’s encouraging to see a movement toward the use of mobile technology in schools recently. From 1-to-1 initiatives to students being permitted to use their own devices; from the dismantling of traditional computer labs to the creation of Learning Commons’ with carts of laptops and tablets. It seems as though the education landscape is starting to shift, and more and more teachers are engaging their students with the tools of today.

As educators we have an important role to play in building life long learners who can use mobile technology to learn any time, any place, and in a variety of ways. We have the responsibility to prepare them for a world where that will be the norm.

The king is dead! Long live the king!

The desktop is dead! Long live mobile learning!

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Learning Goes Viral

This past Friday was my districts second Collab Day of the year. That’s right, Collab Day. That’s ourimages common language here – we refer to the district-wide professional development day as a Collab Day. It’s important to have a common language around professional learning in a district, don’t you think? I like that language because it suggests that whatever it is we are doing, we are doing it together as a team. Our focus for  Collab Days this year is Differentiated Instruction and I want to share the process we are using to make it successful in our district.

  • We have a wonderful lead teacher, Annette Rouleau, who eats, drinks and sleeps DI, and on any given day throughout the year is working side-by-side with teachers in their classrooms. That’s where it starts for us; with an innovative, relational, and credible teacher supporting her colleagues as they experiment with new approaches.
  • Each of our schools have a DI rep who attend sessions with our lead teacher throughout the year.
  • In the month leading up to each Collab Day our lead teacher takes school principals through an engaging presentation on DI, building their capacity and providing them with a template presentation that can be used if they wish, but they are certainly encouraged to make it their own and to put it into the context of their own school.
  • The lead teacher also works with the school DI reps for a day to prepare them for the presentation.
  • On the Collab Day, the school principal and DI rep work as a team to deliver the presentation in a way that works best for them and their teachers. This takes place in the morning and provides teachers with a base of knowledge that will assist them in moving forward with planning DI strategies in their classrooms.
  • The afternoon is more teacher driven. Teams of teachers work on developing instructional strategies that will be applied to their practice in the coming days. They will come back to the next Collab Day ready to share the challenges and successes they experienced when applying their new learning to their daily practice.
  • This cycle continues throughout the year.

It’s a great balance between a top down and bottom up approach to teacher PD. Not only do our teachers receive a high level of instruction from knowledgeable peers, they also have a great deal of autonomy in deciding where to place their focus in the afternoon. Although I’ve only been in the district for a few months, I’m witnessing high levels of teacher engagement which is transferring to innovative learning experiences for students.

To make things even better, this month it was suggested that a back channel be set up so learning could be shared throughout the district in real-time. Our Twitter hashtag (#GPCSD) was used to stream Tweets from across the district and I was quite amazed at the result. Both experienced and brand new Tweeps flooded the airways and by the end of the day we had a wonderful accounting of all that had taken place. One might even say our learning went viral that day.

Well done #GPCSD.

Here’s the archive:

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Grade 2 App Smackdown – An Experiment.

According to Cybrary Man’s Educational Websites (@cybraryman1), “a Smackdown or Show and Tell is a sharing of websites, tools or teaching tricks that you have found to be great to use.  You are given 2 minutes to present the tool to the group.”

Recently, we held an App Smackdown during grade two 21st Century Learning time. Our students have been using iPads for nearly two years now so I thought it would be a good idea to give them an opportunity to show me what they knew. The idea of a “Smackdown” has been used at teacher conferences and EDCAMPs so why not experiment with the concept with young students. Heres the experiment.

Question

With little time to prep, are seven-year old students capable of effectively selecting an educational App from a list and effectively presenting it to peers.

Hypothesis

Yes, when given the opportunity students will amaze us.

Materials

  • iPad for each student
  • Apps on each iPad
  • Apple TV
  • Comfortable furniture
  • Front seat for presenter

Background Research

Students have been using the iPads for two years in a variety of ways, using a variety of Apps.

Procedure

  1. Students take an iPad, sit in a comfortable spot, and start playing to warm up.
  2. Teacher explains what an App Smackdown is.
  3. Teacher explains and demonstrates the “face down” rule; which means when the teacher says “face down”, students place their iPad on the floor face down and pay attention to the student up front. As an option, you can tell them that they will lose the iPad if they don’t follow this rule. I guarantee that will work. 🙂
  4. Teacher explains and demonstrates how to take control of the Apple TV with an iPad.
  5. Teacher explains to students that once an App has been demonstrated, it can no longer be used by others.
  6. First student is called up to the front seat, takes control of the Apple TV, and the teacher says, “face down.” The student selects any App they want, explains how it works, and demonstrates its use. They also answer any questions that might be asked by peers or the teacher. This should take no longer than 2 minutes. When finished, the presenting student relinquishes control of the Apple TV.
  7. Teacher tells students to pick up iPads and continue to “play.” They are reminded that the App that was just presented can no longer be used.
  8. After about 2-3 minutes, the next student is called up.
  9. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all students have had a turn or as long as time permits.
A Grade 2 student describes the Pottery App to his classmates.

A Grade 2 student describes the Pottery App to his classmates.

Observations

  • Engagement levels were extremely high.
  • Students were happy to experiment with Apps that were new to them.
  • If the presenting student had any troubles explaining anything about an App, there was a lot of expertise in the room.
  • The students were perfectly behaved.
  • Even the shy students appeared confident because they could use the Apple TV to demonstrate instead of just sitting there and talking.

Conclusion

It was amazing to watch as each student not only selected an App that no one else did, but presented it with great confidence and pride. Everyone, including yours truely, learned something new about the Apps on our school iPads. It was a highly engaging activity that I would recommend to others. Give it a try.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Listen To Me – I Can Read

audioboo_logo[1]We’ve had the Audioboo App on our school iPads for a while now. It’s a great podcasting tool because you can easily record student’s voices and the recording automatically uploads to the Audioboo website where you can manage all your “Boos” and embed them wherever you want. If you don’t have iPads, you can do it all, right from your PC as well. Here, for example, is a recording of a student teacher giving a testimonial after completing an internship at our school. Recently, the concept of recording students reading books came across my Twitter stream. This was not the first time I heard about the high yield strategy of providing children with the opportunity to listen to themselves read. This has been found to improve confidence, fluency and comprehension as the article indicated. So last week, after being reminded of this, we introduced two new activities at our school, one with grade 5 and the other with grade 1. Grade 5 – The students had already been involved in the 100 Word Challenge, a weekly creative writing activity for children 16 and under. Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and the children can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. In our case, grade 4, 5 and 6 students complete their writing on Microsoft Word, post it on their blog and then link it to the 100 Word Challenge blog. They receive some excellent comments from teachers and students around the world and may be selected as part of the weekly showcase of excellent writing. Here’s where the podcasting comes in. Starting last week the students have been voice recording their written entries. We have been embedding the Audioboo recording into their blog post along with the written piece. The students really enjoy hearing their voice and will be able to monitor their own progress as they add more entries to their blogs throughout the year. Here are a couple of examples: Alexis and her story about a dark stormy night in New York City and Tyler writing about a poor bird. Grade 1 – If you want to see what pride looks like, just watch the face of a grade 1 student as they listen to themself read. Last week,CB276635-5691-4882-A165-60847A63D7A7-229-0000003ADC57D570[1] before returning their library books we voice recorded them reading their book. Then, we assisted them in embedding the recording in a Kidblog post. After sending the posts out through our school Twitter feed, a teacher and her students from Texas left a bunch of comments. What a powerful affirmation for our students. Here is Kayla reading Frog and Toad are Friends and Lemuel reading Nicky Upstairs and Down. I encourage you to take a look at the comments they have already recieved. They can’t wait to hear themselves read again next week. We are looking forward to discovering more ways to incorporate voice recording into the literacy activities at our school. If the way in which our students are engaged in the process is any indication, I suspect more teachers will give it a try.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, ETMOOC, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Observations on ETMOOC Week 1 – People, Processes and Stuff

For a few years now I have been following the annual Horizon Report.

The internationally recognized New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report is a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. In the 2011 report “personal learning environments” was expected to be 4 to 5 years away from adoption into the mainstream and in the 2012 report, 2 to 3 years away. Interestingly enough, in the 2010 report there is no mention of personal learning environments at all.

The report describes personal learning environments as something that “supports self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization.” It goes on to say that “while the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it is clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person.”

So now I find myself in ETMOOC, a 12 week long Massive Open Online Course with a focus on Technology & Media, along with hundreds of other early adopters who I assume are, like me, looking for ways to continue on their lifelong journey of learning. This has been an amazing week and I thank the conspirators for their foresight and leadership. Although it takes innovative, divergent thinkers like yourselves to get something as big as this off the ground, I’m sure your intentions will be realized as our MOOC takes on a life of its own.gg53965385[1]

Some of my observations from this past week:

The People – Wow! What a learning experience it was for me to view all the ETMOOC introductions. I was both humbled and reinforced every day as I saw what was put out there for all to see. Everything from simple blog posts to intricate multi-media presentations were used to introduce ourselves to our new community. Through these introductions alone, the learning had already begun in full force. The one thing that stood out for me was how far we’ve come with our attitude toward online safety and sharing of personal information. People openly depicted names and images of homes, work places, colleagues, and loved ones. Just a few short years ago we as a society were so much more careful about our digital footprint.

The Processes – I really liked how the introductory sessions were accessible through both Blackboard Collaborate and a Twitter Chat (and were repeated for those who missed or were from different time zones). I participated in both and came away with a sense of being part of something important. @courosa and @cogdog moderated these sessions and did a great job of reminding us why we are here. I’m already thinking the “C” in MOOC stands more for community and less for course. The blog hub and G+ community will also serve as great platforms to communicate and build relationships. I noticed that someone suggested we stick to one social media platform to keep things simpler. Personally, I like the varied approach. It forces me to broaden my skills. It will be interesting to see where most of the interaction takes place. I have one final thought in this area. Thank you for keeping Friday, Saturday and Sunday off the schedule.

The Stuff – Theres a lot of really good stuff being shared already. How many multi media presentation tools have you added to your “I have to learn that” list after intro week? We saw iMovie, Vimeo, YouTube, Voki, Tagxedo, PhotoPeach, Glogster, and Go! Animate just to name a few. Also, the introductions to Twitter, Blogging and Social Curation were perfectly placed in this first week. In my opinion a wonderful example of relevant scaffolding of learning. Many will benefit going forward as a result of those presentations.

One week in and I’m not regretting my decision to join ETMOOC. And if what I am hearing from others on Twitter, Blogs and G+ is any indication, the Horizon Report has probably got it right.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Technology is an Equalizer

Last week I watched intently as a grade 2 child with autism exhibited great delight while navigating his way through an exercise that challenged everyone in his class. Using the school’s internal hard drive we were setting up sub folders for each subject in their individual accounts. I demonstrated on the Smartboard and they followed along. Eventually, it was hoped, they would be able to create files themselves. This was a necessary scaffolding of learning because our students are asked to use their folders to store documents, images, and other files, then revisit them as needed. In a sense, they are beginning the process of building an electronic portfolio of their learning.

Creating files may sound fairly straightforward for us adults, but for any 7-year-old this kind of work usually requires a great deal of support and guidance. And many would expect that a highly autistic child who requires the one-to-one support of an educational assistant probably wouldn’t even be able to complete this task, right. Wrong. That’s not what was happening at all. The student not only completed the task effectively, others in the class approached him for help. His educational assistant spent most of her time assisting others as he beamed with pride while demonstrating independent learning.

I’ve read a number of articles and blog posts that engage in the debate on whether or not the use of technology makes school more inclusive for all students. I’m also of the opinion that more than anything else, excellent teaching has the greatest effect on the success of each individual student. But the tools of technology, which are used every day by great teachers, definitely have a place in making learning more inclusive for many. We witness this every day:

In the struggling reader who use apps like Elmo ABCs, Reading Raven, and Super Why to reinforce concepts that challenge them.

In those who can best demonstrate their learning through tools such as iMovie, ShowMe, or Popplet.

In the student who requires a quick refresher in a math concept and can visit the Khan Academy for assistance.

In learners who require voice to text support by incorporating Dragon Dictation and Voice Thread.

Through blogging, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, online school libraries, iPods, Smartphones, Gaming, Smartboards, etc., etc. 

Let’s not forget that inclusive education really is all about engaging each and every student in their learning, every day. If any of the tools available to us can help, we should be using them. By the way, the most effective teachers (as I alluded to above) are doing this already.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

How Transformation Actually Occurs

PART 1

Last week I was going about my nightly ritual of checking student Kidblog accounts to moderate and approve any posts or comments that may have been submitted in the past 24 hours. I’ve been doing this since September when we introduced our grade 4-6 students to the concept of blogging, an idea that has been received by the teachers in my school to varying degrees. Some have embraced it with great enthusiasm while others are still trying to figure out exactly how it can support their daily teaching practice. That’s OK. The way I look at it, transformation is a curve, and some move along that curve faster than others. The students, on the other hand, have been highly engaged with blogging from the day we started.

So, while checking the student blogs I was quickly drawn to our recent 4DE class posts where 61 comments were awaiting moderation. I thought, “Wow! Where did these come from?” As I started to read (and approve) them I was not able to determine who wrote them, but they were appropriate and appeared to be written by other grade 4 students from somewhere. That’s the beauty of Kidblog. All posts and comments require administrator approval before anyone can see them. This allows us to open our blogging experience to the entire world. It was not until one of the last remaining comments that I was able to determine the source; and this only because the student gave the name of his school. Then the very last submission confirmed who was responsible for having the students comment on our 4DE posts; Mr. Groves. This made my day.

So what does all this have to do with transformation?

PART 2

Mr. Groves had been the grade 1 teacher at my school for the past year, covering a maternity leave that recently ended. While on our staff, he immersed himself in any capacity building experience that was made available to him. He spent time researching and experimenting with iPad apps, implementing a web-based guided reading program, and delving into the world of Twitter to make connections and improve his professional practice. This culture of ‘failing forward’ at our school enabled Mr. Groves to take the necessary risks which made student learning more relevant. Although individual blogging was a bit advanced for his grade 1 students, he did comment on the older student blogs from time to time and became familiar with the Kidblog program. 

At the end of March Mr. Groves left us, but spent only a few days on the substitute teacher list before landing a term position at a cross town school teaching grade 4.  And these comments I was approving were coming from his students. He was introducing them to blogging by having them comment on our student’s posts before creating posts of their own. I contacted him right away and thanked him for taking this great tool and introducing it at another school. He shared his class link and told me that other teachers at the school were already approaching him to learn more about blogging with students. (Insert pride here) He’s taking what he learned here and sharing it there. It’s like passing a baton.

CONCLUSION

Transformation is not an easy process. I’ve often wondered how we will ever make the necessary systemic shift with so many fixed mindsets out there. As school leaders, we can easily get frustrated and lose hope when ideas we perceive as forward-thinking are embraced by few and shunned by many. But then I think of individuals like Mr. Groves and am reminded of how transformation actually occurs. Not usually in large numbers but one individual at a time. Eventually, a critical mass forms and we find ourselves at our destination without even knowing it.

Whether or not you are a person of faith, this prayer is a great metaphor of our work as transformative educators. Creating the Church of Tomorrow. Keep going.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Just “Cover” Curriculum

In our province the English Language Arts curriculum is loaded with numerous outcomes at every grade level. While looking through these outcomes last week my attention was drawn to the concept of  clarifying and extending thoughts and ideas, which is included throughout the K – 9 Program of Study. In grade 5, for example, students are expected to be able to clarify and extend by:

1. seeking others’ viewpoints to build on personal responses and understanding

2. combining ideas by using talk, notes, and personal writing to explore relationships among their own ideas and those of others, and

3. extending understanding by searching for further ideas and information from others.

Not only are teachers expected to “cover” these (and all other) prescribed outcomes, today we are wanting them to do it in such a way that 21st century competencies are being built at the same time.  I blogged about the difficulty with this earlier. What follows is a simple yet innovative example of how these outcomes are being met through competency based learning.

Earlier this year our grade 5s connected with Mrs. Gray’s grade 5 class in Canton, Michigan through our school Twitter account. We got to know each other by tweeting our daily experiences and commenting on blog posts as both classes used Kigblog. Shortly thereafter a Skype visit was set up and the students were able to introduce temselves face-to-face. The level of engagement throughout these experiences was extremely high but the curricular component was missing.

Our current project, I believe, takes care of that. We are writing a story together using a Google Doc. Our students came up with a title and wrote the first part of the story. That alone was an exercise in creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and problem solving. We then sent the link to Canton, where they edited and illustrated our writing, then extended the story by a couple of paragraphs. They have now returned it to us and the students are highly engaged in illustrating and writing again. This is what I call authentic literacy, calling upon students to utilize higher order thinking skills and build important competencies they will need in the future. Here is a link to the shared story as it currently exists.

I think we have effectively addressed the outcomes listed above, and made them relevant to the students. A number of these learning opportunities are out there for our students. As teachers, we just have to go looking for them.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s Teaching Who?

I’ve been noticing some interesting happenings around my school this year. The long-standing relationship between teachers and

DIGITAL NATIVE

students is starting to change. In a slow way and in small amounts it seems as though there is starting to form a notion that the teacher is not the only source of wisdom, knowledge and information around here. As I walk through the school observing teaching and learning it is not uncommon to see student as teacher and teacher as learner. I believe this is because as teachers risk new approaches they look to these digital natives who have a whole different level of comfort with 21st century learning. Here are a few examples of what I’ve witnessed:

  1. Our grade 2 students were learning about a cool new App called Phototangler. I watched as the teacher started explaining how to use it, step by step. Within seconds students were getting ahead of the teacher so she changed gears and just let them play. They soon started showing her parts of the App that she had not figured out herself.
  2. One class was learning about Twitter. The teacher had recently set up a Twitter account herself and was using the school library account @stmarylibrary to show the students how to connect with others. One particular student was very knowledgeable about Twitter and the teacher allowed her to control the smart board and show the class how it worked. The student explained all about follows, hashtags, and chats and in the end the teacher asked even more questions than the students.
  3. A couple of weeks ago I sent the link to our grade 6 blogs out to my PLN to assist the students in receiving some quality comments. I’ve been very impressed with their posts and wanted to share them with others. Low and behold, a college professor from New York  @SocialAcademic responded to my Tweet, suggesting that perhaps our students could motivate hers to start blogging. In the following days many of her students submitted wonderful comments on our grade 6 blogs. Many of them, we hope, will start blogging as well. 11 year olds showing college students how it’s done. Wow!
  4. Aren from grade 6 has become our resident iPad expert. He knows and understands settings and configurations better than any adult on staff. Whenever we are experiencing a glitch with the iPads he either already knows how to fix it or he figures it out. Of course, our division techie is a bit leery about this. lol       

These digital natives that come to us every day are simply not wired the way we were as students.  We didn’t do much problem solving, decision-making, or leading in our own learning.  Those skills weren’t seen as important because when we left school and went to work most of us expected to be told what to do.  This is no longer the case. In today’s world there is more scope for autonomy and decision-making and our students are naturally put together this way.  We need to be sharing learning with our students, not just delivering it to them. I am happy to see that things appear to be moving in this direction.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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