Digital Learning is About Flipping the Teacher

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Much has been written about Jon Bergmann’s movement around flipping the classroom.  Digital learning is more about flipping the teacher.  As illustrated above, traditional education is centered around the expert delivering information to a large group.  In this setting, the teacher speaks to large groups up to 80-90% of the time and less than 20% of the time working with small groups.  In digital settings, the teacher becomes small group focused, working with individuals  and small groups 80-90% of the time and in large group settings for the balance.  This is more than being a “guide on the side.”  The digital teacher provides detailed focused instruction to help students with basics, for clarity, and for extension of the fundamental learning.  The teacher’s role becomes flipped.   So the forecasts and calls for competency based instruction and personalized learning need to focus on flipping the instructional perspectives and roles of the teachers.  This is more than flipping any classroom; it is flipping the teacher.

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Technology Integration: Stuck in an Infinite Loop

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Recently, the advertisement above appeared in a national educational technology magazine.  I sent out a tweet, asking “Why would I want do this in my classroom?”  One response was, “You’re looking to create ICE in the classroom! Independence, Challenge, Engagement! Differentiated classroom with open objectives.”  I replied that I could do that with a book.

This is what “technology integration” looks like.  Doing the same activities with new objects.  Further why are we asking the student to convert digital content to analog content?  My guess is the student is completing a worksheet or “taking notes,” moving information from one place to another (Jamie McKenzie).

How did this hardware get there?  My standing hypothesis is that it’s not curriculum-related.  Some “influencer” attended a conference or other presentation, returned, and stated that “we have to do that.”  “Our students will be behind if we do not do that.” Peer pressure from other districts forced action.  The equipment was purchased, teachers were shown the switches, buttons and a few “apps.”  They were asked to brainstorm how to use the gear, asked to make a lesson, and sent back to their classrooms to “integrate the technology into their classrooms.”  There will be little results related to student learning.  There will be an assorted discussion about student “engagement” and “use of technology.”  Little or nothing about student performance and achievement.

The hardware and software are the fourth most important feature with classrooms and learning:

  1. What should students know and do?
  2. How will we know they understand and can do?
  3. What instructional strategies will we use?
  4. What hardware and software will we use to support the strategies, student learning, and student assessment?

Any framework for technology integration has levels of integration and districts attempt to move teacher practices to “higher levels.”

Starting with student learning and assessment, districts can determine their direction and their practices.  This will transform learning, by unleashing the promise of hardware and software.  Teachers are not left to figure it out themselves by “integrating technology.”

So until we get thoughtful leadership in our schools that quits talking about “technology as a tool” or “technology integration,” learning in school with hardware and software will be stuck in an infinite loop!

Tech Forum Note — 05/03/13

At last Friday’s Techforum Chicago, I listed intently during presentations about innovations in schools.  One of the themes of the conversations was about creating content.  Without exception many presenters and participants talked about creating digital content.  In some cases it was stated in an arrogant fashion:  “Nobody can do it better than me!”

In digital settings, students need to hear from their instructors.  Learning in a digital setting is not learning alone.  It’s not learning from a computer.  The teacher is essential to the instruction and the learning.  However, students need to hear from a variety of voices.    The instructor is one of them.  The others are experts in the field, who can communicate with students.  The “not invented here” attitude is arrogant and a major error waiting to occur.

I’ve developed content.  Developing quality content takes a long time; it’s a difficult task.  From a design point of view, it’s better to borrow it, such as that from OER or what’s available from other resources.  I’d prefer to borrow quality content that meets my students’ goals rather than to reinvent it because somebody else made it.  From that design view, making your own content is the least desirable after borrowing it or buying it.  Find and use quality content whenever possible before constructing it yourself.

A Different View of Digital Citizenship

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Many digital citizenship programs focus on digital citizenship with students  with a list of “don’ts.”  The ideas below look at positive and proactive steps to consider citizenship issues with students.

In recent years, many blue ribbon committees have called for changes in schools to prepare children for their futures.  Globalization, competition, and new economies are dictating expectations to our schools.  The proliferation of new technologies allows students to communicate and collaborate with their peers.  While schools grapple with the implications of social networking, instant messaging, and cell phones, students need guidance from adults to use these power learning opportunities in appropriate ways.  In some cases schools need to intervene because students use technologies inappropriately.

Many professional societies, including the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), provide standards and goals for the implementation of technology in learning.  These standards include information literacy, collaboration, communication, and digital citizenship, among others.

This guide is to further focus on digital citizenship.

The standards for digital citizenship:

  • Manage a positive screen reputation and your personal safety
  • Protect the privacy of others
  • Value your relationships with others
  • Respect the ownership of intellectual property
  • Protect the technology you use at school and the library

Manage a positive screen reputation and your personal safety

Entries on social networking web sites, in microblogging networks, and in digital video collections are virtually permanent records of students’ lives.  A mistaken entry made as a teenage could negatively affect college acceptance, employment opportunities, or even future friendships.  It is essential that students manage their traditional reputations as well as their screen reputations.

Having multiple identities on the Internet may be unwarranted and confusing.  As students develop digital proficiencies, maturity and independence, their screen activities are likely to increase.  Part of managing a screen reputation is with a single identity (screen name).  This screen name can manage educational achievements and personal connections.

With a single screen identity, students should closely manage what they add to Internet sites as well as routinely checking search engines for their names to determine what is posted by others about them.

Meanwhile, students should manage their digital safety as strongly as they manage their personal safety each day.  Post only information that will not reveal home addresses, telephone numbers, date of birth, parents’ names, siblings’ names, and other information that could make a student a target.  This also means that students should never post provocative pictures of themselves, send such pictures through texting, or other means of sharing.

Protect the Privacy of Others

With digital technologies, students can easily share information and photos on social networking sites, phone texting, and peer-to-peer sharing.  While this possible, students should think whether this should be done.  Like personal information, never share another individual’s personal information without permission.  With photos, it’s best not to share them without permission of those in the group.  Certainly, it is not appropriate to share a photograph of others that may be embarrassing or put them into a position to explain their actions to others.  When unsure, ask for permission to share.

Value Your Relationships With Others

Forwarding embarrassing photographs, text messages, or email communication damages relationships is easy with digital technologies.  Resist the urge to share any information that might damage friendships or family relationships, or hurt others.  Common sense should tell students not to share anything about others without permission.

Respect the Ownership of Intellectual Property

Across the world, prosperity is gauged by ownership whether it be homes, office buildings, money, herds of animals, or publication of ideas.  Attitudes and laws have been developed about ownership of ideas expressed through writing, art, and music.  In learning environments, scholars give credit to other scholars through citations and attribution.  When ideas are quoted directly or paraphrased, the original scholar is given credit.  Additionally, scholars, artists, and musicians earn their incomes on selling their work.  Respect that work by purchasing legal copies.  Do not share your copy with others as it deprives the creator from payment.

Protect the Technology You Use at School and the Library

Your community has provided you with many places to learn and for recreation.  You have schools, libraries, and parks.  Leave these places in better shape than you find them.  At schools and libraries use the resources

with great care.  Computers, printers, and networks are expensive to install and maintain.  Share your computer time with others who are waiting.  Print only what you really need.  Maintain your personal storage devices, such as usb drives, so they are virus free.  Refrain from installing viruses or key loggers on computers.  In many states, computer hacking and other digital intrusions are serious crimes.

Regardless of a school’s view of technology applications, viewing citizenship activities as positive measures provides forward-thinking ways to apply important standards for students.

Notes From Techcon 2012

Techcon 2012

Techcon occurred October 26, 2012 at the Naperville Campus of Northern Illinois University. Over 160 local school administrators, technology leaders, and classroom teachers convened for the one-day session.

Google’s Jaime Casap (Twitter: @jcasap) was the keynote speaker. His presentation focused on the crisis of low expectations and that even though the jobs that will exist in 2037 are not known today, several skills exists today that are fundamental to success years away: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, analyzing information, and problem solving.

He noted that we learn and solve problems in different ways so we should have different types of assessment. Further students today have new capabilities to learn differently and that education is beginning to take advantage of new learning models.

With one of the themes of the conference was about cloud resources, sessions addressed the Illinicloud, and Google, Apple, and Microsoft cloud offerings. Other sessions outlined digital learning opportunities, a 1:1 implementation, digital mapping, Open Education Resources, and social networking applications in schools.

Apple’s Patrick Beedles (Twitter: @beedles_apple) closed the day with a summary of the day’s key points.

This day-long program is a strong collaboration of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials , the Illinois Computing Educators, and the Illinois Chief Technology Officers.

Next year’s conference is at the same location on October 18, 2013.

Virtual School’s Symposium 2012 Summary

The student panel at the Virtual Schools Symposium 2012

 Over 2,000 conferees assembled in New Orleans, Louisiana for iNACOL’s edition of its Virtual Schools Symposium held October 21-24, 2012. Across the program, presentations looked at research in the field, instructional models, administrative successes, and policy proposals.

This year’s conference focused on the trends in the field that includes blended (hybrid) learning.  In their session iNACOL’s Rob Darrow and Innosight Institute’s Michael Horn clarified that in blended learning models, teachers have the ability to look at student achievement data daily, a feature not available in traditional classrooms.  Blended learning is a mix between traditional instruction and student control and self-pacing.

In the opening general session, iNACOL CEO Susan Patrick and Gates Foundation Stacey Childress discussed the trends in non-traditional learning:

  • Student-centered personalized learning.  In this view, students have the ability to learn at their own rates and choose their own learning paths.
  • Students will receive credit when they learn a major concept, not at the end of the course or semester.
  • Smart learning systems will be developed that learn as students use them.

During his presentation, John White (twitter: @Louisianasupe), Louisiana Superintendent of Education described the tension between traditionalists and reformers.  He asked that both sides come togther and develop a system that meets today’s needs.  The workplace and the family have changed so schools should follow.  He cautioned technologists that schools are not ready to implement technology.  Infrastructure is not ready in many parts of his state and  across the country.  White thinks that control needs to be local, that other forms of schools can be successful (vouchers and charters), and certification stops innovation.

In research provided by the Marzano Research Laboratory and Plato Learning students in online courses have greater success the more time that teachers are in the courses interacting with students and their work.  For teachers who are logged in for over 530 hours, students’ end of semester score averaged 81% compared to 62% for teachers who logged in less than 39 hours.

In a session about quality, Susan Patrick and Evergreen Education Group’s  John Watson outlined the issues.  Quality has been defined as course inputs; that is, quality courses have certain features.  Patrick and Watson described the move to performance metrics, such as portfolios, individual growth, college readiness, career readiness, and others.  They called for pilot programs to test these ideas, and to influence policy and legislation.

In another general session, Karen Cator  of the U.S. Department of Education described the need for high end assessments, multiple measures for success, and multiple proof points specifically calling for policy makers to focus on educational issues that is about individual student learning.

The student panel always highlights valuable statements from students about how they are learning in online and blended models.    In these settings, it appears that nobody speaks for them.  The discussions are usually around adult perceptions and views.

In my all-day preconference session, Judy Bauernschmidt (Colorado Department of Education), John Canuel (Blackboard), Holly Bryzcki (CAIU), and Phil Lacey joined me in taking participants through the process of starting an online program.  Our slides follow.

The field is beginning to mature in its thinking.  Policies, practices, and results will determine the success of this innovative movement.

Next year’s VSS is in Orlando, Florida.

Where’s the Education Leadership on Technology in Schools?

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In 1988, Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) reported the “most promising current uses  and demonstrations” (pp.12-13) for computers:

  • Drill and practice to master basic skills.
  • Development of writing skills.
  • Problem solving
  • Understanding abstract mathematics and science concepts.
  • Simulation in science, mathematics and social studies.
  • Manipulation of data.
  • Acquisition of computer skills for general purposes, and for business and vocational training.
  • Access and communication traditionally unserved populations of students
  • Access and communications for teachers and students in remote locations
  • Individualized learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Management of classroom activities and record keeping (pp. 12-14)

Looking at the list, the last — Record keeping:  student information systems, payroll systems, business functions, human resources systems, and the like have been implemented in many schools.  We have implemented technology to handle the mundane.  The other applications have spotty implementation and without significant transformation.

In Technopoly, technology and cultural critic Neil Postman states that

“[T]he main characteristic of all tool-using cultures is that their  tools were largely invented to do two things:  To solve specific and urgent problems of physical life, such as water power, wind mills, and the heavy wheeled plow; or to serve the symbolic world of art politics, ritual, and religion, as the construction of castles and cathedrals. . .” (p. 23).

Considering this view with schools, school leaders are largely tool thinkers:  “Technology is a tool.”  So the focus becomes those  issues not directly related to teaching learning:  mundane management things (recording keeping, paying bills).  Yes, states are requiring data and so school leaders respond to the “urgent” demands of regulators.

Further some school leaders contend that their teachers “integrate” technology.  This is not much beyond the tool user.  Hardware and software are purchased independently of their curricular design and use.  Teachers are herded into a room shown the new gizmo and told to “integrate” it into their curriculum.   This is a recipe for failure.  Teachers have no direction, support, or encouragement to succeed.  It’s up to them to find ways to use stuff with their kids.  Just another thing to do.

School transformation occurs when school leaders insist that hardware and software are part of the curricular design and focuses on learning.  It’s time school leaders realize the potential and implement it in their classrooms.  Otherwise the other ideas that OTA identified in 1988 will continue to be on somebody’s list of promising practices.