Sharing one of Darren Kuropatwa’s latest slideshares below. I’ve bookmarked the show to start at slide 125, a summary statement with which I fully agree.
Quotes that are making me think …
Yong Zhao, in a recent article on the direction of US education, makes this observation:
For historical reasons, the United States is not as good at “sausage-making education” as most other countries are. A decentralized education system that allows local autonomy, the lack of a national curriculum, a broad conceptualization of success that tolerates diversity, and teaching practices that respect individual differences have made U.S. schools relatively ineffective in producing students who score high on standardized international tests. But this very ineffectiveness has made schools more successful in preserving students’ creative and entrepreneurial talents.
Seth Godin, in his Stop Stealing Dreams manifesto, writes
In 1914, a professor in Kansas invented the multiple-choice test. Yes, it’s less than a hundred years old.
There was an emergency on. World War I was ramping up, hundreds of thousands of new immigrants needed to be processed and educated, and factories were hungry for workers. The government had just made two years of high school mandatory, and we needed a temporary, high-efficiency way to sort students and quickly assign them to appropriate slots.
In the words of Professor Kelly, “This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.”
A few years later, as President of the University of Idaho, Kelly disowned the idea, pointing out that it was an appropriate method to test only a tiny portion of what is actually taught and should be abandoned.
James Baldwin, from his essay A Talk to Teachers,
The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish.
My open question: Are we succeeding in American education in spite of ourselves?
I just finished reviewing a book for the upcoming METC conference, The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Schools by Christopher R. Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr. It was well-worth the read. My review is below:
The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Schools
In this volume, authors Christopher R Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr have woven a quick-witted, down-to-earth account of how their Assistive Technology (AT) team took form. Though the book might seem written toward a specific audience, I recommend it as an important case-study for any leader interested in creating a viable and defensible district team. Buaj and Norton-Darr thoroughly examine the team-creation process – selecting team members, dividing workload, outlining leadership duties, advertising services, establishing procedures, delivering training, scheduling consultations, tracking contacts, and measuring success. While addressing these general strategies, Buaj and Norton-Darr also keep faithful to their task: outlining what it takes to build a team focused on delivering a free and appropriate public education for all students through accomodations that involve assistive technology. For general or special educators alike, this book offers a number of practical measures that expedite the process of getting assistive technology and AT strategies into the hands of kids and teachers. As an added bonus, the authors have done so in a way that makes the reading a delight, and not drudgery. Peppered with personal anecdotes and fictitious tales ripe for re-use when explaining concepts to others, this “practical and fun guide” delivers on both counts. Many of the strategies outlined can be put in place at once, and it won’t feel like hard labor to wrangle them from the text. Kudos to Chris and Sally for an eminently readable account of what is certainly a daunting task: building or improving a district AT team.
Recently, John Lawrence (instructional technology over at Chaminade College Prep High School) passed my information along to a student there who was looking for a teacher’s perspective on technology and teens. The student’s questions and my answers are below. If you have any additional thoughts, or have some corrections to offer, please add them in the comments.
I think the most appropriate answer must be “it depends.” To the degree that it connects young people to ideas, world views, and those they care about or are interested in, it’s great. To the degree that a particular young person may choose to use it in ways that isolate or distract him, it can be a detriment to his development. In my opinion, if we come to technology with an idea of what we want to productively accomplish by using it, we win. If, instead, we come to technology with a desire for entertainment, self-fulfillment, or escape, we run the risk that the technology may control us rather than the other way round. I think this concept applies to any type of technology, whether we are talking about a guy’s shop full of power tools, a lady’s collection of romance novels, or a teenager’s use of the Internet.
I’m not sure teens love their cell phones. I think those who “love their cell phones” actually love something their cell phones give them. For some, cell phones give them instant connection to their peer group. Part of the adolescent journey is defining ourselves within one crowd and in opposition to another. Teens have been doing this through peer interaction for generations. Cell phones just add an immediacy to this dynamic that is a powerful pull away from the “established” identity tied to the family. If I already know where I stand as a “son”, I don’t have to think about that. What I really wonder about is where I stand as a … fill in the blank. That’s a big question, and a big reason to be attached to a peer group through one’s cell phone.
As I mentioned earlier, technology can be a great connector. It ties us into conversations happening around the world, and allows us to be participants in those conversations, not merely passive consumers. It allows us to archive and analyze our experiences in new ways, ways that can bring patterns to light that we never imagined were there. Athletes use digital video to hone their form, companies use tweets to re-evaluate their marketing strategy, students use tablets to record lectures and review their notes, and the list goes on. Advanced technology coupled with user-generated content has created a vast ocean of information that is growing exponentially. We as a human community are learning together in a way we’ve never done before.
I think technology can be a bad thing as any “tool” can branded as “bad.” A hammer is just as effective a tool in creating shelter as it is in tearing it down. Technology connects. It connects moral people to those without consciences. It connects vulnerable children to images of unspeakable evil. It connects teens who feel unsure of themselves to any manner of arenas where they can escape rather than confront their doubts and fears. Ultimately, I think of technology as an amplifier of our intentions, emotions, and actions. If it is bad, it is so because we find our own faults magnified before us.
That question you might better answer than I. I think a mind soaked in the connectedness of technology has a tendency to be satisfied skimming across information rather than diving into it. This bears out whether I’m thinking of an adult or teenager. I think the teen may have a more difficult time reading or thinking deeply only insofar as he has fewer reference points for the more sustained action of study than has the adult who may not have experienced the same degree of screen exposure. There’s a good body of evidence about what screen time does to children, and a growing debate over what it does to our ability to read. I don’t think that teenagers have been “zombified” by technology, but they do have a more demanding choice before them than have other generations in the past. Through technology, kids and adults have an ‘escape hatch’ from the stress that may actually produce learning. Teens have the added challenge of the innumerable other stressors that adolescence brings, so jumping for that escape might be even more tempting than at other stages of life.
I think it definitely has a bigger effect on children aged 2 and below. Beyond that, I haven’t seen a lot of research on degrees of impact between elementary-aged students and teenagers.
Big thanks to John for passing this opportunity my way, and to the folks at EdTechTalk, whose conversation with me last winter helped me begin to describe technology in terms of one piece of a unified experience rather than a world that operates under separate rules.
It’s been a number of months now since I last added to this blog. So many changes, all at the same time.
1) I’ve taken a new position as of July 2, Instructional Technology Coordinator for St. John Vianney High School, a private, all-boys 9-12 school in south St. Louis County. It’s a departure, culturally, from the large public school district that I have left, and has been an intriguing and energizing change. Private education is a new ball game for me, and I’m enjoying getting to know the excellent staff and great student population here. At the same time that I am coming to understand some cultural differences, it has been encouraging to see many connections between the work of the people here and those at my previous district. Passion for teaching is still the same, the focus on student learning is the same, the concern for helping young people grow into mature, empathetic adults is still the same work at St. John Vianney as it was in the Parkway School District. It is a privilege to begin this new professional adventure, and I am thankful.
2) I finally finished my bathroom renovation project, bringing to an end the barrage of home improvement projects taking place at our home over the last 8 months or so. New siding, new roof, new window treatments, new paint in the living room, new bathroom and updates to the kitchen. I’m hoping to take a break and enjoy this for a while.
3) New addition to our family. Hope Elizabeth McAllister was born just this past month. She is an absolute gift, doted upon by her two older brothers. We are learning all the wonders of baby care all over again, and enjoying the memories her care bring to us of the boys when they were this size.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging small things, possibly under the tag “New Learnings”, in an effort to get myself back into the habit of archiving what I know and produce in this ed tech journey. We’ve done some interesting things at St. John Vianney High School in the last few months, and I’ve accumulated a number of experiences more “tech” than “instructional” in nature. I’m looking forward to regaining some of that “instructional” piece with a new development program we’ll be rolling out next semester. More on that soon.
Last week I was asked by a teacher to brainstorm 10 applications every student should have some experience with. This is a difficult task, as applications, like most things, come and go. But given the present state of technology, this week’s tip is my personal list of applications every student should understand.
Technically, I came up with a list of categories rather than tools. I’ve arranged the list according to category of tool, followed by a short list tools within that category, and ending with my rationale for including these applications in the list.
Notable omissions include the Microsoft Office Suite and the Adobe Creative Suite. I have omitted these intentionally due to their ubiquity, established reputation as industry standards, and cost. The tools I list below are free, and largely web-based. If you are familiar with Office and Adobe, you will be able to place them within their correct categories.
After working through this exercise, there are noticeable gaps. I’d love to include tools on how to control feeds (Google Reader, ifttt) and all that goes in to managing files in the cloud (Box.com, Dropbox, Google Drive), but I was uncertain about what to drop in favor of the ones I’ve chosen. Programming (Scratch, Alice) and 3D modeling (Google Sketchup) are certainly categories that prepare students for 21st century careers, but I wonder whether all students would be faced with situations where these tools would be helpful.
After creating this list, I happened upon a wonderful post of similar content but for the adult learning and higher education field. For further reading, I highly encourage that you check out Inge Deward’s blog post on social media tools for e-learning or professional learning networks.
And let me know what I missed!
As of late, I’ve been thinking about the question above quite often.
In the next three months, my task is to prepare librarians and technical support in my buildings for an upcoming transition – away from in-building instructional technology support and to a more distributed system of technology development. In light of this, I have been attempting to summarize what I’ve learned over the last four years into a format I can hand off to teacher leaders and support personnel.
I began by asking this question to a number of teachers at the recent #edcamp in St. Louis. We came up with an extensive list, pictured on the right.
These elements seem to be a nice point from which to start. Taking the list another step, I’d like to collect these concepts into domains I could then summarize and present to those interested in continuing the work. This post is the beginning of that work. If the question intrigues you, or you’d like to help me out, I’d appreciate your input!
Possible themes of importance to educational technology and sub-topics:
These are just the first pieces that come to my mind. They are largely focused on the web and not the innumerable other pieces of hardware present in the rooms of teachers. How can I weave those elements in? What else have I missed? What should I change?
These are also posted on a public Google Doc. Feel free to add your comments, edits, and suggestions there!
The first tip I sent out to schools was one that was quick to put in practice, but big on return: impose a NO TEXT rule for student presentations. This week’s tip is like it:
Publish student work online.
If your students are creating something – anything – for your class, a growing body of research is demonstrating that students learn more deeply when they are working for someone other than their teacher or the peers in the classroom. If someone were to ask your students, “Who are you doing this project for?” and their answer would be, “Our teacher”, a few simple changes to your assignment could dramatically affect your students’ motivation and engagement.
Students create all the time, in school and outside it. They create for their peers, for their family, and for themselves. In the last ten years, they’ve been creating more and more and more content, filling up terrabytes of space on the internet with everything from profound reflections on identity to absolute drivel. Why the increase? Because it’s easy. Technology, especially mobile technology, has lowered the threshold of effort required to share with the world.
But the threshold hasn’t just lowered for personal publishing – it’s lowered for educational uses, too. There are compelling reasons to leverage these publishing media in our approach to teaching, and the number of those reasons is growing. Recently, Derek Bruff, the director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, wrote,
“Social pedagogies [approaches to teaching that leverage social reasons to learn] can provide sufficiently strong motivations since representing knowledge for authentic audiences can satisfy students’ desires for connection and sharing.” 1
Publishing work online connects students to real people who aren’t in your classroom, imbuing student work with a sense that the product ought to be worth viewing.
Publishing in this way raises student anxiety about work, a condition that can actually promote learning, and brings a new context to the role of a teacher. Bruff illustrates this with the picture below.
Publishing for an authentic audience produces the stress of performance, a somewhat negative emotion, but couples it with the positive experiences of making connections and sharing. When students are placed within this dynamic, the “teacher” is cast in a different light. Instead of the sole evaluator of a student’s product, she is now the keeper of skills that will help that student perform well in the eyes of an authentic audience.
Will this work for all students? Of course not. Each of us views the task of performing for others a bit differently, but teachers at West High and West Middle have found that adding “audience” to their teaching toolkit has changed the way students are approaching their work.
A few ‘homegrown’ examples
The slides below outline 3 different levels of authentic audience.
One of the joys of my job is to facilitate professional development tied to instruction of Moodle, our district’s choice for a learning management system. This winter is the second time I’ve run the course on my own, an opportunity I thoroughly enjoy, and yet, this year, something has changed.
That change is the advent of teachers who are proficient in multiple online tools. After all, if a person is proficient with wikis, blogs, edmodo, glogs, etc., what could Moodle profitably offer? That is, if I can productively navigate public and private spaces on the web, and teach my students to do the same, am I not doing a greater service to students by teaching them through the whole of the web rather than plunking them down in a walled garden? Wouldn’t it be better to simply manage a website as my home base and operate my “classroom” from there?
If I were to duplicate the functionality of Moodle in our current installation, I could generally accomplish …
Things I could not accomplish easily without Moodle …
This post is an exercise for me to help me think this through – I’m interested to hear other thoughts. Abandoning Moodle almost seems a catch phrase on the blogosphere in the past six months, but Moodle has brought so many functions under one roof for us that I hesitate to recommend another solution.
That said, I don’t see Moodle as a panacea. We’re still using 1.9 because Nanogong is just that good, but I know that means we’re outside the benefits of updates that came with 2.0. I know it doesn’t have a ‘Web 2.0′ look and that it lacks the type of collaborative features available elsewhere. I know that my blogging, wiki, and collaborative writing solutions must be “outsourced” to other tools. I know that Moodle doesn’t “do” mobile. I know these things, and yet having all the above interactions available in one place with one student login persuades me that it’s worth it.
What do you think?
One year ago I became a member of ACTFL and began receiving the Foreign Language Annals as part of my membership. I meet monthly with the coordinator of modern and classical languages and ESOL here, and we use a bit of that time to discuss research that might direct the ways teachers and students use technology in presenting and learning a second language. I use the FL Annals as a starting point for my part of that conversation, and I suppose the highest praise I could give here would be this: I can’t imagine canceling my membership.
The FL Annals have inspired technology integration ideas, connected some dots in my understanding of second-language acquisition, and given me greater confidence that the work I do with teachers is helping students. Below is a summary of a few articles that have inspired me this year. Though there were many, I’ve selected only two per issue.
Authentic Tasks and Choosing NOT to Grade
In Horst and Pierce’s article, Foreign Languages and Sustainability 1, two things stuck out at me – the important role an authentic task plays in motivating language production and the conscious decision of the professors to AVOID correcting student errors in discussion board forums where students were communicating in an informal register, albeit still in the target language. When integrating technology , the principals of authentic task and a conscious approach to content created in the informal register are important aspects that I’ve seen work in the classroom. This article provides some support.
Building Better Self-Assessors
In Weyer’s article, Speaking Strategies 2 , I found a wonderful strategy to offer teachers who wish to help their students better self-assess: the process of transcription. Though Weyers focuses on how the intentional transcription process pushes higher education students into upper levels of proficiency, the approach can be tailored to secondary education students as well. I’m most excited to promote this technique using the Nanogong module we recently embedded in Moodle, a product that allows students to record their own voice easily and then transcribe the contents in the same web interface.
Though it may only have a tangential connection to the use of engaging activities with technology, Conchran, et al., contributed a thoughtful article 3 on what internal elements of our students contribute to their proficiency in a language – their attributions, attitudes, or aptitude? Their conclusion (from the abstract):
“The best predictive model was attitudes leading to aptitude leading to exam grades.” (566)
It seems to me that one reason to include some of the dynamic technology now at our disposal is that, when combined with meaningful, engaging tasks, it has the ability to influence the attitudes our students bring each day to class. While it’s at times easy to dismiss the idea of having “fun” in class, this article seems to support the idea that the relational environment we create in our classes has a great deal of impact on the production of language we see there.
Write More, Grade Less
In Armstrong’s article on graded and ungraded writing 4, she makes this summary statement:
“ Findings suggest that grades had little affect on student writing, and therefore more frequent and more varied ungraded writing assignments may be a productive pedagogical tool for improving the form and content of student writing” (690)
Earlier in the year I had been able to work with a teacher using TodaysMeet to do just that — provide students structured but ungraded opportunities to write about a topic that interested them. As more language teachers attempt the use of Moodle discussion boards, I’ll continue to promote this approach as one way to strengthen student writing.
Your Answer Doesn’t End the Conversation
In Miao and Heining-Boynton’s discussion of IRF and RTI 5, they include a nice table of response strategies teachers can use regardless of a student’s answers to an initial question, the goal being to mandate participation and promote engagement whether an answer is correct or incorrect. Whether used in face-to-face learning or online, awareness of these strategies can aide teachers as they create a culture of participation among their students.
With Assessment, Context Matters
The role of assessment – both for quantity of writing as well as quality – is investigated in an article by Brown, et al. 6 where the authors point out a tension in motivating students to take risks as well as strive for accuracy.
The findings of this article, paired with those of Armstrong above, seem to indicate that each student learning activity must be contextualized in order for students to succeed. If the goal of the activity is rapid, experimental construction of language, these activities are best ungraded. The results of the same activity, though, may be examined later as students find errors and attempt to fix them. Incorporating both tasks while learning language is an important step to ensuring that students attempt more complex language tasks as well as evaluate how effectively they have succeeded at the same.
And, a selection of quotes I found valuable:
“Current psycholinguistic research suggests that, as students begin to use more complex syntactic forms, their accuracy decreases until they have fully acquired the new forms” Horst and Pierce (Fall 2010, 373)
“Seeking broader and more diverse paths to mastery of a foreign language, students find the current two-tiered configuration [“language instruction” in early levels and “literature instruction in advanced courses] to be both stifling and largely irrelevant to major tracks emphasizing the sciences and business” Neville (Winter 2010, 446)
“Teaching is a matter of providing the learner with the right data at the right time and teaching him how to learn, that is, developing in him appropriate learning strategies and means of testing his hypotheses” Corder, 1988, cited by Mojica-Diaz and Sanchez-Lopez (Winter 2010, 473)
“Clearly, a need for striking a pedagogical balance between activizing new content and focusing on accuracy exists and, perhaps, has an analogy in the anecdotal two steps forward, one step back.” Brown, et al. (Spring 2011, 116)
Switch to our mobile site