Reflection 2: I’m a Technology Boot Camp Grad!

What attitudes, skills, and concepts have you learned from participating in the course?

Interestingly, my love for learning about and being considered “cutting edge” in technology has been rejuvenated as a result of this course.  Back in the “day”, I was considered by many to be on the front end of technology.  As I have said in earlier posts, I did not keep up with the changes, particularly when it comes to Web 2.0.  I now have at least beginner level knowledge in many new tools and applications, and I can see myself using many of these tools in both my professional and personal life. 

What have you learned in the course that you will not forget tomorrow?

You can teach an old dog new tricks.   All joking aside, this doctoral program has reminded me how much I enjoy learning, and while it is time consuming and life changing, it is life changing.  This course is another example of effort and hard work resulting in increasing knowledge and skill in an area that I was behind the times. 

How will you apply what you have learned to your teaching and future learning?

As our district is placing more and more emphasis on 21st century skills, I can be a part of the team that is solution and future thinking focused.  I will be able to contribute both theory and practical ideas to support this movement.  I will encourage teachers and other administrators to be comfortable with and use these tools, through my own example of using them myself.

“Technology Boot Camp” image retrieved from the following website: http://loueyville.blogspot.com/2011/10/louisville-library-technology-boot-camp.html

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Blog Post 4…so many choices

As Doug Johnson suggests in this post, educators have many choices when considering educational technology to use in their classrooms, as well as communication.  He provides some nice options for instructional resources and direct communications:

Options, again

DateThursday, February 16, 2012 at 06:34AM

With the adoption of GoogleDocs a couple years ago we discovered that our staff was confronted with a relatively large number of options for sharing and collaborative editing (September 2009). And I wrote a short guide for helping people decide the advantages and disadvantage of each method.

With the adoption of Moodle in our district, a growing awareness of the power of GoogleSites, the increasing use the parent and student portal in our student information system Infinite Campus, a growing awareness that private social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can be an effective means of reaching students, and the realization most parents can be contacted by e-mail or text, we need to expand this guide.

While the tools and purposes overlap, I am calling these new types of communication publishing instructional resources and direct communication. How might a teacher or administrator decide what tool to use to make classroom materials available (unit and course guides, links to readings, quizzes, and discussion forums)? And what’s the best way to get timely information to students, parents and the community delivered?

Below is a rough outline and some beginning thoughts…

Options for publishing instructional resources in ISD77 and when to use them:

1. Your teacher page on the district websiteThis yours and the district’s “public face.” Contact information, broad course descriptions or grade level units, calendars and static information like supply lists and forms should be made available using the personal webpages on the district/school site.

2. GoogleSites/Blogger/Picasa. These tools that are available as a part of the GoogleApps for Education package can be used for providing instructional materials in electronic forms and for sharing student projects. Since permission to access these sites can be designated by the creator of the sites, worksheets, study guides, spelling/vocab lists, discussion forums and galleries of work are practical uses.

3. Moodle. As a management system, this tool is best used to develop entire course outlines and structures with links to units and lessons. Access to Moodle units can be given to students only.

4. Gradebook accessible from the Infinite Campus student/parent portal. This tool is best used to inform students and parents of assignment and project deadlines and reporting what work has been done and how successfully. Since it is a part of the required use of the gradebook in the district, this should create no additional work for teacher, but perhaps more timely use of the system.

5. Non-district adopted tools. Wikis, blogs and other tools which teachers can create independently can be easy to use. However, there is a learning curve for both the creator and user of many tools and a means of locating the resources when not linked to district-adopted online resource can be problematic.

Options for direct communication in ISD77 and when to use them:

1. Telephone and direct e-mail. Best for spontaneous communication with individuals or small groups. Telephone conversations may be less subject to unintended misunderstanding and are better for in-depth conversations.

2. GoogleGroups. Smaller, relatively permanent groups of students or parents with whom one regularly communicates can be contacted conveniently using Groups. Messages are archived for later retrieval and members can be quickly added or deleted.

3. Sending e-mail via the student information system. “Groups” are already created by default using this system and require no additional set-up. (All students or parent in your 5th hour science class. All parents or students in 5th grade. All parents or students in a school building.)

4. Sending text or e-mail from the Public Relations subscriber lists. A good way to get information about events of interest to general public, not just those in the student information system. These announcements need to coordinated and approved by the Public Relations staff.

5. Publishing on a Facebook Fan Page or Twitter. While popular with many users of these social networks, staff must remember that voluntary subscription (or following) may mean not all students or parents will receive these messages. Students under 13 should be using these tools. There are still questions surrounding the appropriateness of the use of these tools with students.

From a few comments I’ve heard recently, so many choices can be confusing for parents, students and staff. At what point should districts require the use of certain tools (For blended course the use of Moodle is required) or meet specific communication expectations. (All staff members must post upcoming major assignments at least week prior to their due date in the gradebook.)

I will be upfront and admit that “mandating” anything for professionals in the schools is unpopular. We all have our favorite ways of doing things and our favorite tools. Some teachers may already have a large body of materials available in one program and moving them to another would be a lot of work.

I sense though that as a kindness to parents and students, good technology leadership will require such guidelines to be created and enforced.

OK, readers, your thoughts? What does your district do in this regard? Is this truly an issue or am I being over-reactive to a few comments?

 Reader Comments (1)
My reply:

“Doug- Thanks so much for sharing your ideas-I especially like your outlines for instructional resources and direct communication.  To answer your question, I work in a district in which we are growing by leaps and bounds in regards to the educational technology tools that are available to both staff and students…and I agree, it can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. How exciting it is that we have so many options, and that our teachers have choices and the ability to be self-directed. For e-mail communication in my district, teachers and students are required to communicate via district e-mail accounts.  An updated social networking policy just went to our school board last week, basically saying that staff and students need to be responsible. Teachers are tweeting and we have facebook pages for each of our schools, and many teachers have course blogs and wikis.   We don’t have much in place in required sites or platforms to use, but there is talk of us moving to using Google for document sharing, blogs, etc. Do you think there is value in allowing teachers to explore, and then come back in a year to reconsider the outlines?”

Info

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Blog Post 3: “open network” tests…interesting thoughts

I enjoyed the following post by a blog I follow by Will Richardson:
 
 

“Open Network” Tests

I just recently ran across Jonathan Martin’s posts regarding the “Open Internet” tests that he’s piloting with some teachers at St. Gregory School in Arizona, and I’m just loving the thinking. In November of 2010, he first asked:

We know that content memorization must no longer [be] the goal of our learning programs; what our goal must be is that students can make the most sense of the voluminous and fast-accelerating quantity of information which will forever be at their fingertips, and about which they must be able to think critically, to select, to evaluate, to apply, and to amend as they tackle challenging problems. So why shouldn’t our school-tests evaluate our students ability to do exactly this?  Why not structure tests appropriately, and then invite and welcome (and require) our students to use their computers on their tests? Isn’t this real world, and real life, preparation?

A couple of months ago, Jonathan wrote about a chemistry teacher at his school who was letting students use the Internet to take tests, (check out the embedded annotated example test) and he added this piece of reasoning:

Our students are preparing to work in professional environments where they must tackle and resolve complex problems, and we know that in nearly every envisionable such environment, they will have laptops or other mobile, web-connected, digital tools to address those problems.   Let’s assess their  understanding in situations parallel to those for which we are preparing them.

Then, this week, Jonathan added a third post that documents the experiences of a Theater History teacher, and he refined his pitch for “Open Internet” tests even more:

I think this assessment approach is a highly valuable one for promoting deeper learning, information literacy, and analytic and organizational skill development over memorization and regurgitation.  I think that many tests in most subjects can be, with the right intentional design, “open internet” and that they will be the better for it.  Some argue against tests altogether, but I still love a good test, and taking the time to think through as a teacher what kind of questions can we ask which will continue to be meaningful assessments when Google and Wolfram Alpha are available is, I think, a highly productive exercise, and, of course, will generate a more authentic assessment experience far more well aligned with the real world of professionals for which we are preparing our students.

The student feedback about the test structure included in the post is instructive. For instance:

I liked this test because it allowed me to show what I know. With multiple choice tests, that’s not always obvious (it could just be a lucky guess or limited knowledge of something).  Short answer takes too much time and also isn’t the best option for full explanations. I also liked how we had some input on the test, because not only were the suggested questions helpful for studying, but it also forced me to think about the test long before the morning of.

Read the rest.

Now a couple of quick points and then a push. First, as both teachers that are featured in the posts point out, the thinking is a bit different when creating tests like these. For instance:

In his Chemistry class, Dr. Morris recognizes how radically the questions he asks must change if he knows his test-takers have access to the internet, Wolfram-Alpha, and a myriad of other sources on chemical information.   His questions must require his students to genuinely sort out what information they require, get that information, evaluate it, and then apply it to solve his now much more complex and rich questions. This is assessment for genuine understanding, not assessment of recall and regurgitation. It is far [more] likely to be assessment of lasting understanding and future applicability than typical memorization based testing.

Second, while the idea of going online to find answers may strike some as “cheating” and/or making things too easy, many of our students will find this more difficult:

This test does not have multiple choice or terms that we had to define. This is more about testing your ability to find resources that you need, write a quality essay under pressure. I find I like the multiple choice and defining terms better.

And now the push. What if we didn’t just make it about giving kids access to Google and Wolfram Alpha for test taking? What if we invited them to use their networks of peer learners and teachers as well? 

Awesome.

I know that this goes back to the “what do we really need to make sure kids are carrying around in their heads?” debate, and it speaks to the fact that not every child is going to have access to the Web at every moment (at least not in the near term.) But just think of all of the new ways we would be able to prepare kids to answer the questions that they will be asked in their real lives if we gave them a handful of “Open Network” tests before they graduated. I mean, why wouldn’t we be doing this?

And if you really want to go there, why wouldn’t we let kids access their networks for the Common Core assessments that are coming down the pike? 

Curious to hear your thoughts. Anyone else out there moving in this direction? Why or why not?

(Note: Jonathan will be presenting on these ideas at the NAIS conference next month in Seattle.) 

My comment to this blog post:

“This idea of “open network tests” takes the concept of the old open book tests to a whole new level. I recall as a student loving open book tests, because not as much studying (or effort) was required and because the answers were there. The only resource was the textbook in most cases, and not much problem solving was required.
Opening up the endless resources available on the internet requires a much higher level of analysis and problem solving. The student needs to analyze the source-is it reputable, and then be able to gather and synthesize from various sources to solve the problem or answer the question. It also requires teachers to ask different, and likely higher-level , questions. This method of assessment more closely aligns with both “21st Century Skills” and the 2010 Natinal Educational Technology Plan outcomes”.

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Reflection 1

What attitudes, skills and concepts have I gained from participating in the course so far?

This is a hard question to conceptualize.  I have always considered myself fairly “forward” in my openess and interest in technology.  Technology has always been fairly intuitive for me, and others have relied on me for knowledge and support.  However, this class has made me realize that I have definitely not kept up with “the times”.  Sure, I have been using Facebook for several years, have had a twitter account, and certainly have taken advantage of many aspects of Web 2.0. But this class has opened my eyes up to technology and applications that I did not know existed, or knew was out there, but had not used or explored. This class has introduced me formally to “21st Century Skills”, countless applications, and concepts for using technology both with students, but also ways for more easily accessing information, and being connected to other education professionals.

What have I learned in the course that I will not forget tomorrow?

I have definitely learned that I need to do a better job in the future of keeping up with technology.  Technology is only going to continue to change…that is the only constant we can be guaranteed at this point.  I wouldn’t necessarily say there is one thing I have learned that I will not forget, it is more about the philosophy of how technology can be used in both education and our lives.  At this point in the course, I believe I have gained a greater ability to anaylze and scrutinize potential technologies and web applications as they are reviewed for potential use.

How will I apply what I have learned to my teaching and future learning?

Again, there are both practical and attitudinal applications. I now have the skill of creating a blog and using a wiki. I plan to use these tools for some of the different groups I work with in my job.  I know I need to keep up with the changes in technology-I can do this by either taking in-district course offerings, or take adavantage of sessions at conferences or specific technology related conferences.  I will continue to keep abreast of federal and local initiatives in regards to technology in the schools and professional world, so I can continue to be a part of the solution of ensuring all students are as prepared as they can possibly be for their future.

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Blog Post 2…The purpose of education…

The Purpose of Education is… : 2¢ Worth

Posted on | February 3, 2011

David Warlick

There was a quote on this blog  post that I loved, and really got me thinking.  The replies to the post were just and interesting to me:

One of the most interesting sessions at Educon this year was facilitated by Chad Sansing and Meenoo Rami, both of them Science Leadership Academy faculty.  The title was Hacking School: the EduCon 2.4 Hackjam.  I didn’t know what to expect – and what actually happened was beyond any expectation.

They gave groups of four or five of us, collections of objects (tiny cotton balls, crayons, blocks, etc.) and a complete Monopoly set. We were instructed to play the game, but told that players, as part of taking their turn, were required to change the rules in some way.  On my first turn, I was at such a loss that the best rule I could make was that if you couldn’t come up with a rule, then you had to figure out a way of wearing a colorful pipe cleaner.  Someone may have uploaded a photo to Flickr.

The rule I took away from the game was to never play monopoly with anyone more than 40 years younger than you.  We had a great time of not taking any of it very seriously.

As the debriefing began, it became apparent that there was intent behind the activity that had not been communicated by the facilitators.  But, then, the conversation became part of the game, where we continued to change the rules – and our own insights – as we exchanged our exceedingly diverse experiences.

Then Sansing and Rami introduced us to Hackasaurus, a tool that enables you to take most any web page, examine it’s underlying code, and then hack that code to change the look and content of the page.  Of course you are changing a local copy of the page, not the page itself.  Understanding the code of web publishing is the ostensible purpose.  But I kept thinking about the playful learning that might result from asking students to hack particular web pages within the context of some current topic of study in history, science, etc.

Then, what really kicked me in the head was when someone said, from a perspective much broader than just any computer, that

“..anyone who is not a programmer is part of the program.”

Sounds of thunder resounded in my skull.  Then one of those startling moments followed, where previously held notions began to breakdown and recombine into something new.

“What is the purpose of education?”  It’s a frequently asked question these days and I have long said and written that the purpose of education is to prepare our children for their future.  Now I believe that,

The purpose of school is to prepare our children To Own Their Future!

Are we (educators) making programmers, or are we just making software?

My reply:

Mary Pat
February 12th, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

David-

I loved your thoughts on are we making programmers or are we making software? It actually reminded me of one of my favorite quotes : “You can give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime”. Your ideas are a modern version of this quote, I believe. I suppose we could add another dimension to the quote: “teach a man to analyze his catch, build the most effective boat and gear, and he feeds the world”. The more tools we can give students, the more prepared they will be to determine their own future. Technology definitely plays a role in that future-we have to use it (as pointed out in your example) to teach students to think outside the box and problem solve, so children have choices and are prepared for their future. Students should be allowed to “play” and explore.

Mary Pat

A few more thoughts:

Again, I could continue to reflect on this post. I think this is a great of example of how to use technology to do something “different” and think differently.  Warlick’s example of using the “hacking” program to “change” history is a great example of using technology to apply and challenge learned knowledge and information.  He provided a great example of his own by changing Bill Gates’ twitter feeds to say what this blogger would like Bill to say in his tweets.  We can’t rely on technology just to take tests-sure, they will provide more immediate feedback to the teacher and the student (a great benefit), but technology also needs to be used to be a “game changer”.

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Technology in the classroom survey

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Blog Post 1

Game Changer for Education

I recently read this blog post with great interest:

Apple and the iPad’s Potential Game Changer for Education

                                                                                        By Patrick Ledesma on January 19, 2012  8:27

As you may have heard today, Apple announced their E-Textbook Initiative to enter and revolutionize the textbook market, specifically centering these initiatives to highlight the potential of the iPad in education.

iBooks Author allows anyone to create a textbook for the iPad. One can create a textbook on the iPad with multimedia and interactive features such as video, interactive images, Keynote presentations, and 3D images. There are also “review” tools that allow the author to create multiple choice and drag and drop questions.

iBooks 2 is their updated eReader that takes advantage of many of the iPad’s interactive and multimedia features in textbooks. Books created in iBooks Author can be read in this app.

iTunes U is now a separate app for the iPad that contains thousands of free courses. More importantly, any educator can now create courses to teach anyone who is interested.

As with many Apple press events, the tools they announce are usually available the same day. All of these programs are free. Naturally, after leaving school I went home and downloaded these free programs.

Easy!

I’m using iBooks Author to create a textbook on the iPad. While I create the textbook on my Mac, I can preview immediately what I’m creating on my iPad.

In less than five minutes I’ve created a textbook with a few pages of text, pictures, video, and review questions. (OK, it’s a children’s book about my adopted dog- not very compelling educational content, but I’m more focused on the technical aspects of designing and manipulating objects and media in the pages of the book. If I were to try this using my other, non-Apple, programs such as Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Premiere Elements, the technical tasks would take much longer.)

iBooks Author is very easy to use. There are ready-made templates to easily jump into the program. For those who enjoy creating their own designs, manipulating text boxes, shapes, and formatting image sizes can be done simply by “clicking and dragging” with the mouse.

My initial thoughts? This is a potential game changer in education.

Why? Although tools to self-publish and distribute have been around for a few years, they were not very user friendly or accessible to the casual user. Many of these authoring programs were very expensive and lacked a “popular” distribution system. More importantly, potential self-publishers lacked the iPad- a portable and powerful computing device to maximize the potential to easily access a variety of supporting media and other resources.

iBooks Author, iBooks 2, and iTunes U change the ecosystem for which any educator can freely create and publish content for learning.

For teachers, every teacher can create powerful learning resources for anyone with an iPad. Any teacher now has the power to spread their expertise. Teachers are no longer limited to walls of their classroom.

These programs empower teachers.

For learners, learning from anyone, anywhere, has been made very easy. Learners are no longer limited to educators physically around them.

These apps empower self-directed, personal learning. And learning is the purpose of teaching.

And that’s why these tools are a potential gamechanger for education.

Ease of Acccess…. for Some

Apple did not invent self-publishing, but as with many of their products, they innovated in the way everyday users can easily access and use these tools to improve their lives.

Of course, there are concerns. Participation in this ecosystem requires the use of Apple products. There is that whole thing about digital inequity. This will accelerate the learning for schools and students who have the resources. For those who do not, they will miss these opportunities until other companies provide accessible solutions.

But, the bar has been raised. Competitors will have to maximize accessibility to those in and out of the Apple world.

Will competition increase accessibility of self publishing and on-demand education for all?

And, while I enjoy my iPad for personal use, I still think there are inherent limitations for tablets for higher-level research and writing.

Questions for Later

But, I’m not thinking about any of these concerns now. I just used iMovie to create a video for my textbook and I just dragged the video onto the page and am adjusting the size. I’m about to preview it on my iPad. I don’t think I’ll upload this textbook to iBookstore for public download, but I could email it to anyone I want. I’m now an author, publisher, and distributor.

Not bad for a few minutes work on the first attempt….. When did these apps come out? Oh yeah…This afternoon………

My response:

“I find both the original post and the comments interesting and thought-provoking.  In my district, teachers are using textbooks less and less, and relying more on media and technology for  instruction.  One could assume there are several reasons for this: our textbook cycle is in certain subjects is not able to keep up with change; students prefer a more “interactive” approach to their learning; and teachers prefer to have a bit more “autonomy” in their instruction. We have standards and course outcomes to adhere to-the path to getting there may not be the same for every student. Digital options provide the opportunity to differentiate instruction, as well as be more environmentally conscious (an entirely different “pro” for these devices”.

Afterthought:

I have many more thoughts and opinions on 1:1 devices…I would be very excited to ses each and every student having access to a 1:1 device.  Neighboring districts are already doing it, including on a trial basis, one of our feeder districts.  If these devices could convert text to speech, many doors could be opened, not just for students with that accomodation on their IEP, but for any student that learns better by listening (as one example of how powerful these tools can be).  Our district spends considerable time and manpower converting current text books and other written materials to a computer program that converts text to speech. Imagine being able to use these dollars and people for intervention or other supports.  I suppose I have digressed.  Bottom line:  I do believe these devices could be a “game changer” in education.

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