It’s like throwback Thursday (#TBT), only it’s Tuesday! However, I am doing a little digital housecleaning and have stumbled upon some great files from my past. One is a picture of a fave student who just graduated from university last month. In the picture he’s in 9th grade, slightly chubby with short hair. He’s now tall, thin, with long metal-rocker locks.
Among the gems, I found the following document chronicling a workshop experience led by a certain Mr. Jeff Utecht at the 2010 NESA Spring Educators Conference in Bangkok. Not a surprise that this document was submitted to SUNY Buffalo (with a check) in exchange for graduate credit. I was COETAIL blogging before COETAIL was a thing! Note the hyperlinks. Those were there in the original Word document. 🙂 (Only the NESA link gets an error message.)
I think this is evidence that my life could not have been complete without the COETAIL experience.
NESA 2010 Spring Educators’ Conference – PAPER 1
Buffalo State University
April 24, 2010
Thoughts on the Changing Role of the Educator in the 21st Century
At the NESA 2010 Spring Educators’ Conference in Bangkok, I (finally!) had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Jeff Utecht of the International School of Bangkok. I walked away from his workshop entitled “Building Student Centered Blended Learning Environments” with a wealth of information. The role of technology is changing the delivery of education in significant ways. In truth, technology’s impact on the changing role of the educator is even more considerable.
Technology itself doesn’t change education, the classroom, or teaching practices. The problem with any pedagogical movement is often that it is touted as the thing that will transform education. This is the misconception that often sinks sound pedagogical ideas. A laptop cart that sits locked in a storage room doesn’t change teaching. Sparkling new computer labs that are used to teach PowerPoint don’t necessarily make for a productive learning environment. Something more than just having the technology, or access to it, is required.
It’s not about having access to the technology. The majority of my high school students carry around a mobile phone (mostly smartphones), an iPod touch, or a laptop. They own technology, they use technology, but it’s not currently impacting their learning in positive and productive ways. Students are left to their own devices (literally and figuratively) to make sense of the technology that surrounds them. Their misguided and uneducated misadventures into 21st century technology often find them making a lot of mistakes (i.e. cyber/text bullying, copy-paste plagiarism, etc.).
I find that most of my students haven’t independently moved beyond very low-level educational uses of 21st century technology. These misuses include: reading Spark Notes or Shmoop instead of actually reading George Orwell’s 1984, following bizarre urban legends via their BBM network, texting gossip during classes, looking up words on dictionary.com, creating mash-up essays with excerpts lifted from various free essay sources on the web, and the list goes on. In fact, there is even a small minority of serious students who seem to be anti-technology because they see it misused and abused by students around them as tools for distractions and gossip mongering.
Pedagogy must change to shift the focus of 21st century learning environments. Educators must make the leap into the 21st century (hey, it’s already 10% over!). Schools need to stop reacting to students’ misuse of technology in the classroom and teach them how to become better learners while using a smartphone, laptop, or iPad. There is often an outcry from community groups when books are banned from libraries and classrooms. It’s time to hear the outcry when students are deprived of using 21st century technologies to become better learners.
My experiences in education now span two decades. I’ve been in the business long enough now to have seen my share of educational change. I have a better understanding of those been-there-done-that veterans from my early days of teaching who always stated smugly, “This new bandwagon is just like the one from x years ago.” One aspect of teaching that never changes, regardless of the bandwagon du jour, is that there is not one easy fix that will revolutionize education. Technology itself is not going to revolutionize the field of education, classrooms, or instructional practices. The key is how educators and their pedagogical practices must change in order to remain relevant in the lives of the 21st century learner.
FINALLY!!!! I am very pleased to announce that I got the COETAIL final project monkey off my back! I refer to it as a monkey in the most affectionate of manners. This was a really long process. The first step of just settling on a project topic seemed like an amazing accomplishment.
The next step was actually planning the tech integration project. True to the life of an educator, it just never seemed like there was enough time to get this thing done.
Then, the project was done. I had photos, video footage (MERCI Lissa!), student work, and student testimonial videos…which I sat on for too many weeks to count. It was tough work scripting and summarizing. Then the hours spent in iMovie seemed never ending.Until I turned that magical corner of no-turning-back. What a sense of relief! What a sense of accomplishment!
The COETAIL journey was well worth the time and effort. I now have a solid base of information on which to build my approach to technology integration. In addition, I have a phenomenal PLN to consult for further information, developments, advice, and examples. I am certainly a better educator as a result. 😉
The week of March 3…fully booked during teaching time to record Individual Oral Assessments.
The awkward part of a week of Orals is that only one or two students become the focal point of my attention during class time. This leaves the rest of the class to their own devices (literally and figuratively). Talk about a teacher’s worst guilt trip on so many levels.
This week through a combination of using Edmodo and Google Drive apps, I am going to attempt to flip instruction. Although, is it still flipping instruction if students are left to work independently during the regularly scheduled class time? 😉
The biggest challenge is that they are beginning a new unit on the environment. I have been scouring the internet for resources that they could use to independently learn the vocabulary and expressions necessary.
The first theme will focus on Recycling.
- Preparation: I sent students a notification via edmodo to bring a device to class and to be sure that they have a Google account. I also posted a Youtube video for them to watch either before, or upon, arriving in class, their choice. The beauty of the Youtube video is that students can turn on the subtitles in French to follow the dialogue. They are not 100% correct, but should help to support students as they begin.
- Class 1: Today’s success hinges on a couple of factors that I can’t necessarily control: student motivation/engagement, devices present, and internet connection. I was able to snag Lissa, the French speaking tech coach to support students and help them with troubleshooting.
I posted two flipped assignments and scheduled them to open just before class begins. One is a collaborative presentation in which student are to add 3 slides each representing a different vocabulary word or expression. The other is a document that students will copy to their own Google drive and use to work with new vocabulary. There are two internet-based reading activities linked in this document with simple comprehension activities. It’s a lot of learning for them to complete in 60 minutes, even if everything runs smoothly.
- Class 2: Not convinced that too much is getting done during class time…
- Class 3: First student shares completed assignment via Google doc. I notice that answers about reading article were often copied and pasted from said article. Not what I really wanted, but kids often answer questions by copying by hand from text. Maybe not the end of the world, as students also need to comprehend in order to choose the right text to copy/paste.
- The night before class 4: Second student shares a completed assignment via Google doc. Not a total surprise that I am receiving requests from many students regarding sharing the Google Presentation with them so they could add their slides. Numerous edmodo messages asking for details and clarifications on various expectations. (Without technology, students wouldn’t be able to get answers from me outside of school hours.) I am compiling a survey in Google Forms for students to provide feedback after tomorrow’s written formative.
- Class 4: Today students will complete a formative assessment based on the previous three classes of flipped instruction/independent learning.
Well, this was an experience for all involved. The majority of students did not complete/submit assignments in the time frame allowed. Flipping instruction. It’s like flipping a coin. Will they? Won’t they? On time? Late?
So, I was recently inspired. This inspiration led to the realization that maybe I haven’t been very inspired lately. I blame this recent inspiration on @klbeasley and @intrepidteacher (and, of course, the ever-inspirational PLN that can exist only as a result of the 21st century and Twitter). They recently shared (via Twitter) their recent addition to the iBooks collection entitled Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook.
I’m not really sure why I promptly downloaded this iBook. Maybe it was because these are two Twitter handles that I have come to associate with quality 21st century learning. Maybe it was because I was curious to see what others had to say about the Twitter experience. Maybe I was just avoiding something on my to-do list that day. Whatever the reason, I was led to an absolutely amazing example of what an e-book can be!
From the opening video sequence using the extended metaphor comparing the use of Twitter to the experience of traveling, to the interactive widgets to test knowledge, to the personal testimonial videos, I was in awe. Be damned the poor excuses for e-texts that are nothing more than flat .pdf versions of the original hard copy. In my opinion, Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook is the exemplar of the redefinition that technology can provide.
So, enter inspiration…I, too, would create an iBook that would support the next unit of learning for my DP2 French ab initio students! I shall outline the steps (and challenges) of my process…
- I began by searching out resources to support my independent learning using iTunes U. I found a series of 21 vodcasts in a course called “Creating Impressive, Interactive Books” from Michigan’s MI Learning by Craig Van Ham (@baldtechteacher). Each vodcast addresses a particular aspect of using the iBooks Author app. Most vodcasts are under 10 minutes long and provide straightforward explanations and examples of how to use the tools within the app. I watched the first five or six topics and felt that I was ready to proceed.
- After opening iBooks Author on my MacBook, I chose a template and promptly got to work. “Getting to work” only served to remind me just how time-consuming it is to a.) grow technologically and b.) CREATE! Oh, and there’s that thing called copyright that gets in the way of putting an iBook together. Did I mention that I was also creating it for a French class? Because that means that I was writing and creating in my 2nd language. I’m fairly fluent, but that’s a far cry from being bilingual.
- Pictures are key to any e-text, but visuals are really important in learning a 2nd language. Where would the numerous weather, environment, and natural catastrophe visuals come from? When considering copyright infringement, the obvious choice was my personal collection of digital photos. (Ummm, about those natural catastrophe shots…) I love using the Gallery widget where I uploaded photos from my personal collection to reinforce French weather expressions.
- Text is another piece of the learning environment of an e-text. There are so many great resources that exist to support student learning. I never think twice about referring students to a website or printing and copying an article from a website for use in class. However, when considering publishing and distributing to my students via iBooks, I am confronted with copyright infringement. My intention is for this iBook project to be offered to my students (and anyone else in the world) free of charge. What are the implications of using sources that I would not really hesitate to share with my students in a resource packet of photocopied material? As a result, I began writing text. The problem? It’s not authentic. I’m not a real French writer, nor are the things that I wrote real in the way that the front page of the Actu Environnement website is.
- I have currently abandoned the project.
This was definitely an example of the process being far more valuable than the product. I was reminded of the all-important planning process. I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do, but it turned out to be a bit fuzzy when I was trying to make it real. My goals were also unrealistic. I thought that I would accomplish the greater part of this project over a five-day holiday (please don’t laugh!). I now see that perhaps this project is really a series of smaller projects. In the end, however, what may be perceived by some as a colossal waste of time got me thinking about where I will be going and what I will be doing with this next unit. Ultimately, the iBook thing won’t be my COETAIL course 5 project. The creation of iBooks by teachers really is a viable option to feed the e-text revolution, if/when it ever does come to fruition.
It’s way past time for a brief update on my most recent forays into technology integration. I have not necessarily begun my full-on COETAIL final project, but since inheriting a section of DP2 French ab initio in November I have managed to integrate some forms of technology with my students.
I will give a brief description of what I am doing followed by my assessment of where the use of technology falls on the SAMR model of technology integration.
- Edmodo. I regularly use Edmodo to record what we did in class, assign homework, and to share a variety of documents with students. As a former heavy Moodle
userlover, I find Edmodo to be useful, but lacking some of the features that I loved in Moodle. Edmodo doesn’t seem to have improved on the “scroll of death” format, either. I can tag all of my Edmodo posts, but my students just broke it to me a few days ago that tags are personal, so they can’t search my tags…which are well thought so as to be helpful for students.
- S? A? M? or R? Good questions! On the one hand, Edmodo is a technology that is simply a substitution for a teacher writing assignments on the board that students then copy into a paper agenda. However, due to various sharing and connectivity features, Edmodo is an augmentation that offers functionality that the student agenda does not: distributing paper copies, passing around a sign-up paper, providing feedback for students outside of schools hours.
- Google Apps. I have created a couple of key documents for my students to use thus far. These are all in support of understanding an IB external assessment know as The Written Assignment.
- One is a collection of linked sources that they can choose from for their upcoming Written Assignment, which is an external assessment required by the IB. I continue to add sources that I find or that students find and share with me. It would probably be easier to give them the rights to edit the document, but I’m being a bit controlling at the moment. I am considering sharing this document to the IB’s online curriculum center where other French ab initio teachers could have access. At that point, I would strongly consider allowing other teachers around the world to add to this collection of links. The biggest problem in doing this is that in Kuwait we deal with censorship issues and do need to be cognizant of what topics are being shared with students.
- S? A? M? or R? This document of linked resources is a substitution for a hand-out with a list of articles or URLs. With the increase in functionality that the links within the document provide by taking students directly to an online resource, this document moves up to augmentation. If it were an open document that students could add to, it would become a modification since the task would be redesigned through the collaborative nature of the input beyond one person.
- Also for the Written Assignment, I have created a practice template for notes and outlines. This is meant to help students to understand the format of the task and can be used throughout the program in order to familiarize students with the requirements of this assessment. My original intention was for this to be a document that students copied and saved to their own Google Drive. Then, at that point, students would create a written collaboration with a partner. This idea is still on the table, but I haven’t moved forward with it just yet.
- S? A? M? or R? The way that I am currently using this template, it is purely substitution as students are using paper copies of the template that I created. They can follow the link to the template through Edmodo which is, perhaps, a higher level of substitution. If I were using the template for a collaborative brainstorming/writing project, then it would arrive at the modification stage. This would be a modification of peer editing that would happen in real time with the chat option used for discussion during the process.
- Students also submitted their initial topics for the Written Assignment using a Google Form that I created. The beauty of the form is that the information submitted by each student populates a spreadsheet where I can quickly check everyone’s topics. This is really helpful as it allows me to provide individual feedback and to assist students as they seek resources to support their topics.
- S? A? M? or R? The way in which I used the Google Form was simply a substitution for passing around a paper on which student would write the same information.
Arriving at redefinition is the goal to achieve meaningful use of technology to enhance student learning. However, this is no small task! I feel my examples of technology integration outlined here are simply small steps that will move me forward to achieving technology integration nirvana. 🙂
What are ways to manage the use of devices in a classroom environment?
I have typically functioned as a 21st century educator on the BYOD model, since I teach in a school where the vast majority of students have some sort of portable device from smartphone to netbook to iPad to personal laptop. Managing a variety of devices in a classroom has quite a range of interesting challenges. I cannot say that I have a particular set of rules or guidelines that I have reiterated with my students. However, my BYOD events have typically been successful, with a couple of exceptions. I will chalk the successes up to working with students in grades 11 and 12 and to having a very specific lesson/task in mind with clear outcomes.
Here are some considerations that I have found helpful when inviting student devices into the classroom.
- Redesigning classroom setup
I have preferred a horseshoe set up since my early days as a university teaching assistant. This is a great layout for a discussion based classroom. I can also move around with ease to provide assistance or re-direction depending on what a situation requires. When devices enter the lesson, I have had students turn their desks around 180° so that their backs are to the inside of the horseshoe. While walking around the classroom, this setup allows the teacher the ability to quickly scan screens of laptops, netbooks, and propped up tablets to get a visual of what is going on at each device.
- Clear guidelines for the task objective
The successes that I have experienced have happened when the task, outcome, etc. was very clear and well-laid out for students. Explaining it before students are tuned in to devices is perhaps one of the most important parts of setting a successful environment that involves devices. Also, posting a short list of steps/expectations either via the LCD projector or on a blog that students can access serves dual purposes: 1) keeps students mindful of their responsibilities during the lesson and 2) frees the teacher up to provide support and answer bigger questions than “What do I do next?”
- Have students used the app or tool before?
No matter how many times I integrate technology into a unit, I always seem to forget to determine if students have any experience with the tool(s) that they will be using. Personally, I have dismissed the whole myth of the “digital native”; however, I am still caught off-guard when I learn that students have never used a Google doc, nor understand the possibilities that Evernote offers. This inevitably leads to providing “time to play.”
- Time to play
This is the one I always seem to forget. Many times when I introduce a new app or online tool, I realize too late that students haven’t used it before. It is necessary to plan 5 – 10 minutes for them to play. Recently I shared a Google doc with a group of students and began to use the chat feature. Since these students had never really used a Google doc, I lost their attention as they began to type in the document and watch different colored cursors appear. Then they began using the chat feature. Allowing students a few minutes to mess around provides them the opportunity to test drive the features and be better prepared to use the tool more effectively.
Integrating technology in the learning environment is a necessary part of education in the 21st century. However, a break from technology and devices is also important for successful device management. Too much of a good thing can be wonderful, but it can also lose its appeal.