Is the question really about integrating technology?

I really enjoyed reading the article by Steve Denning regarding the reforming of educational practice. He argues that we need to shift from a factory model of education; one which simply dispenses content and then tests it, to an educational model which inspires lifelong learners. I think this is the conversation we need to be having first, before we look at how effectively we will integrate technology into the classroom. How can we integrate technology effectively if the education system is flawed to begin with? When I say flawed, I am suggesting a current system, which worked well for a long period of time but which is now becoming outdated and increasingly ineffective. One of the reasons the factory model of educational delivery is becoming increasingly ineffective is because of the advances in technology. The internet has made content accessible and so has changed the role of teachers and the purpose of education. The global access of information has shifted the role of education from delivery of knowledge to application of knowledge. The question is shifting to, “What can student do with knowledge?”

“Our goal is to inspire our students to become life-long learners with a love of education, so that they will be able to learn whatever they have to.”

I see technology integration as supporting this new shift. The technology needs to be seen as a tool to enable students to think creatively and innovate with the content. Technology integration is using technology to apply knowledge in new ways. According to the samr model, it would be focusing on modification and redefinition.I still believe that technology will plateau in effectiveness until the educational model is reformed and shifts to, “ inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.”(Denning,2011)

I am slow with integrating technology because at the same time I am thinking about technology, I am also looking at how to shift learning towards answering, “What can students do with knowledge?” When I come up with ideas about how to make content more applicable and relevant and provide opportunities for students to create and innovate with the knowledge, then I look at technology and ask, “How can technology support the student’s curiosity and be used to deepen understanding?”

AN INTERESTING EXPERIMENT?

For my final project for course 3, I chose to create a google slide show on a topic I will eventually present to the grade 5 parent population at my school. Currently, I am a grade 6 Math and Science teacher and for the past year, I have been offering parent learning sessions to both the current parent population as well as the upcoming parent population. The sessions directly relate to themes their children will experience in grade 6 and so the idea behind the parent sessions is to educate them to these themes in order to provide them with a background on what to expect and the expectations, which will be placed on their children. One of these parent sessions deals with creativity. The first time I presented on creativity, I had a simple google doc to guide my presentation. I tend to struggle with routine and step by step presentations because I find that incredibly constrictive and believe that it actually kills creativity. So, my google doc is based on presenting on the fly, reading the group and developing organically based on the discussions and instantaneous feedback being offered by the parental audience.

When I looked back at my google doc and chose to apply the knowledge gained during this course, I realized one thing my presentation lacked. There was not a single image or student example. The lack of student exemplars was due to the fact that this was a new teaching position and approaching and focusing on creativity was novel. Still, the lack of visual support was recognizable. So, I decided to challenge myself and move away from text and lecture and towards visual literacy and group interaction. I began by reviewing the needs of my audience. If I want to teach the parents about creativity and what it looks like in student work, I had to ask, “What do parents want to see? Want to hear?” How can I have them leave with a greater understanding of what is creativity? The answer: A great visual example of what creativity looks like!

I decided to find a student exemplar of creativity and have my slide presentation be just that. I want to see the power of just providing visual evidence.
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1RUQWb93VuHf9yTQYB2vqnd-bUeMgsiP000Cpda-eGEc/edit#slide=id.p
My presentation will be simply starting with a question, “What is creativity? What does creativity look like?” I will follow this question with a student created example and then the rest of the session will be interacting with the parents, jotting their ideas down, facilitating discussion, challenging what is said, all the while continuously reflecting back to the video as our example. I believe the parents will leave with a clear example of what creativity looks like and through the post-discussion, will be more educated about what creativity is and will be able to more clearly articulate a definition of creativity. I cannot reflect on the outcome of this presentation yet, as I have not presented yet, however with each passing day, I am more and more seeing the profound benefits to simplicity. A two slide presentation plus myself may be enough to sell my idea versus spending hours on a 10 slide presentation, checking my font sizes and background colors. Perhaps the zen experience is simply finding one powerful image and then talking about it! This course is about visual literacy.

Ecosystem infographic

2010
From Visually.
In the next few days, we will be starting our next science unit on ECOSYSTEMS. This activity comes in perfect timing with trying to use visual literacy techniques to enhance student understanding. I chose this infographic because it has a lot of the information, which the students will be learning about in this unit such as endangered species, threats, types of consumers and habitat ranges. It acts as a great resource for unit specific vocabulary. It grabbed my attention because I like the balance of text and imagery. In particular, I like the limited text and how that is supported by excellent visual imagery. In addition to sharing this infographic as whole class, I will also share it through each student’s individual science folder in their google drive. This way they can return to this infographic as a resource.
I also spoke with a fellow teacher about how to improve the way I am teaching non-fiction reading to the students. She suggested that I begin with a content related video or infographic and have the students watch that first and then introduce the reading. Expose them to the concept and vocabulary and then bring out the reading and use the reading strategies to break the article apart in terms of comprehension. I see this infographic being effective in this purpose and will use it on several occasions before reading.

As my time in Coetail progresses, I am definitely starting to see the power of how technology can be used to help students gain deeper understanding. I am starting to see technology as a complimentary resource to student learning. I am still cautious about opening the flood gates to everything technology, however this week was interesting in letting me see some technology tools with purpose.

Digital storytelling in Math and Science

One of the greatest benefits of the technology movement is providing students with the possibility of having global access with respect to sharing knowledge and receiving feedback. We are in a very exciting time where students have global access and the opportunity to use this global platform to move understandings forward. Digital storytelling is a great tool to foster this possibility. Once the purpose for global sharing has been identified, digital storytelling is an effective way to deliver the knowledge, receive feedback and improve our understandings. Currently, I am using digital storytelling (trying to) in math and science class. I am using the concept of digital storytelling and applying it to math and science projects. For example, in math class, students are using the math they are learning to answer a question they are curious about. One student wants to use decimals, fractions and percents to answer, “Am I eating a healthy, well balanced diet?” Digital storytelling provides the opportunity for the student to create a video explaining how she used math to answer her question. She can tell a story about how she collected data, converted the data, compared her data and used the mathematical concepts to support whether she is healthy or not and how she can improve her health. Digital storytelling offers the student a chance to explain her thinking, explain the purpose of learning math and celebrate hard work. Her video then can be posted on the internet and shared with fellow peers, receive feedback and be used as an idea to be improved upon by some other student or used as an exemplar to promote curiosity and stimulate other math questions waiting to be answered.

I end my post with a caution. As a teacher, I have seen many moments where students rush to the I-pad or other technology tools to create digital stories, make videos and the like and the end products are very poor. All of these technology ideas have the possibility for greatness, only if time is taken to map out our ideas (with paper and pencil), think critically about what we want to say, have purpose, be relevant to the real-world, debate and challenge our thinking in a discussion and receive feedback before using the technology. Then, digital storytelling has the power to create change. The mistake we make in education is to rush to the technology rather than patiently mapping out our plan. If we rush our thinking, then technology becomes simply a pretty little toy.

I have attached two examples of student storytelling of various topics in math and science.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

How to present Creativity?

In my classroom, I don’t use presentations as a form of delivering information to students or as a teaching tool. It is nothing personally against using them, I feel it is more of a disconnect between presentation slides and my personality. As my father describes me when I have something important to say, I tend to walk the prairie rather than get to the point. I have always found presentation slides constricting to my inner ‘go where the conversation takes me’ approach. That said, it is equally beneficial to have my thoughts organized and my objectives clearly stated and sequenced for the benefit of the audience.

Currently, I am offering parent learning sessions at my school. The purpose is to teach parents about the learning approaches used in the classroom and to educate them about the strategies and skills we are trying to teach their children. I thought I would take advantage of this course and use the knowledge gained from this week’s readings and throughout this course to create a presentation for one of my parent sessions; CREATIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM. I want to go from a google doc level of organization to having my audience experience the zen feeling of presentations! At this stage in my digital learning evolution, I am not ready to open google slides and create a zen experience. Currently, the readings have started me thinking about the importance of the context of my presentation. What am I trying to say? What do I want parents to leave understanding? What is the big picture? Without a clear understanding of the context, any presentation is bound to fail or at least come shy of potential. So, I need to be clear about context.

The second thing I discovered is presentations should be simple. Veering towards the side of simplicity rather than complexity is the goal. I like this idea. Too often I find material on the internet and in presentations to be too busy; too cluttered. More is not always merrier! When developing my presentation, I will have simplicity in mind.

The third thing that stood out from the literature was the importance of understanding your audience. Who are they? What questions will they come in with? How will they see the topic? Will they see creativity with curiosity and a smile or will they panic and see it as moving away from the prevalent traditional teach and test method? The more we understand our audience, the better equipped we become at using the technology to address their needs more directly and with greater accuracy and impact. For example, I can see that presenting on creativity would look very different to an audience of teachers than to an audience of parents. That is my next step. What are the tech tools in the world of presentation, which will allow me to effectively target the right audience?

Returning for a visit to the old school.

 

When I saw this photo, I loved it. I immediately placed it in my classroom because it represents the balance; the other side of the scale. I understand that technology is here to stay and will only become increasingly more present in the classroom and in learning in general. At our school, we have I-pad integration in the classroom, we share files electronically through google docs, we research on the internet, we blog and then there is all the social media stuff too. I think it is very important to balance this world with the world of old school; the times when I went to school or when my parents went to school. The old school is the paper and pencil way of thinking. It is about putting our ideas and thinking on paper. Taking the time to physically write out our thoughts, organize them and make sense of them.The picture of the crayons is meant to remind students that before they engage in technology usage, they need to think about what they are using it for , what they want to say and how will they say it. They need to first, grab a pencil and brainstorm on paper; sketch out their ideas and how they will present their ideas using the technology. Too often, I see students simply go to their I-pad, find an app and begin making their presentation. 9 out of 10 times the final product is not good at all. There is an incredible race to simply get to the I-pad rather than sit and use paper and pencil to map out thinking first. The technology is not the learning, it is the presentation of learning. Students need to storyboard their ideas, write out their thoughts or sketch an idea. Technology is a wonderful tool but must be balanced with old school thinking.

I seem the same issue with reading non-fiction texts. Students who use their technology to read articles seem to comprehend less than students who print out the article, grab a pencil and physically interact with the article. They write in the margins, they write definitions, draw pictures and summarize text on the page and in their own words. The physical interaction of writing is building a stronger connection with the material. Rather than be distracted by moving pictures, flying texts, hyperlinks and swiping up and down, students simply have a paper and pencil and their brain.

I believe the tide is shifting too quickly towards an ‘all is good attitude’ towards technology and that we need to stem the tidal flow to a more balanced approach where we incorporate a healthy portion of physical interaction with learning (paper and pencil) with the usage of technology.

The new, shorter attention span

After reading the articles and visiting various websites of varying content, I realized that the key to designing a web-based resource or attempting better navigation or more aesthetically pleasing is the purpose of the site. What do we want visitors to get out of visiting my website? Do I want visitors to try and learn about a specific content; to delve deep into it or do I simply want visitors to be what Michael Agger calls , “information foragers”. It seems for most websites, the design is meant to enforce the foraging style of information seeking. A very shallow approach to learning. Designs seem to be focused on promoting the efficiency of information gathering; allowing visitors to skim and scan for information fluidly. With the amount of information accessible these days, I can see the importance of having sites be extremely effective in terms of navigation and moving readers to the key information. Design is about enhancing the visitor’s visit by reducing time needed to find information.
I also feel that as we enter more and more of a technology world, we will be required to express ourselves through technology and to explain our ideas via the internet. Therefore we need to begin teaching the importance of how to communicate effectively on the web. What message do we want to say and how will we say it? I think George Lucas says it well in his article on Edutopia, “We have to ask, What is important for the kids to learn? The old idea of education as a way of storing facts is not that significant because nobody can store the number of facts there are. Every year it seems to double. Instead we need to teach students how to tell a story. It’s not enough to learn geometry; you have to learn how to build a house. We need to treat the language and grammar of the screen exactly the way we learn writing or music or painting.” I agree about it being storytelling. In order for students to be able to effectively storytell on the internet, we need to teach how to do it. The how is not only about the purpose of what they want to say, but how can we teach them to keep the reader’s attention and invest the time. It appears that our population is growing incredibly more impatient and if we do not find the information we are seeking immediately, we abandon our search and move on. We scan somewhere else! If it does not entertain us, we move on. If the visual design is uninteresting, we move on. If the color scheme screws up my emotional experience, or there is too much information, we jump ship and swim to another page. Notice that this has nothing to do with the content’s meaning; the purpose. Aesthetics are very important if we ever want visitors to stay on our pages long enough to actually learn about what we are trying to say.

Course 2 Final Project Reflection

For my final project, I chose to develop a Responsible Technology Use Agreement. With colleagues from my current school as well as from my previous international school, we developed a Middle School Technology Use Agreement. The agreement we created has many sections similar to those we researched in various other technology use agreements written by either individual schools or school districts in North America and internationally. Our agreement is Middle School specific and includes the responsibilities the students must perform in order to meet the standards for proper technology use. For me, the most interesting part was discovering how few agreements involved sections dedicated to the parent community. Parents are a crucial component to the success of creating positive digital experiences for students. I strongly believe they play a more important role than schools because they are their children.

We recognize the importance of parents. A unique aspect to our technology agreement was specific language we incorporated for the education of the parents such as a common glossary as well as specific expectations placed on parents. We also believe, the success of any technology use agreement needs to involve an opportunity to educate parents on technology, how their children are using it and how the school uses it. Parents need to be educated about technology and how their children use it, hence the sessions our agreement offers to help educate the parental community.

Rather than simply stating what the student responsibilities are, we wanted to more clearly state what the schools will be doing to help ensure students learn about technology and how to develop positive digital profiles. Our agreement states lesson plans and the technology area they focus on. This provides accountability for the school as well as the students. I think students , parents and the school need to be equally responsible and accountable for proper technology usage and our agreement addresses this key point.

 

Infinite Possibilities

I simply want to respond to this week’s post question with an example I am trying to do with my grade 6 math and science students in terms of using technology and the internet in a positive way. I truly believe that technology is opening up the door to unlimited creative and innovative possibilities and is a wonderful platform for students to explore their potential and share their learning globally and in ways, which have positive global impact. In my class, we are creating math and science video tutorials. It is sort of like a student driven Khan Academy. The purpose behind these videos is to show students that they have the power to positively effect the learning of others and to have global reach in terms of affecting student understanding. The videos are entirely made by the students and are for the purpose of instruction. They are tools to help other learners grasp concepts being taught in math and science. Providing students with the opportunity to teach other children is not only a great way to build their own understanding, but also to improve the understanding of others.

                             

Whose job is it to teach the children?

Whose job is it to teach these digital citizenship skills?

I think LeeAnn Lindsey, who is a technology infusion and professional development coordinator clearly states the challenges with teaching students about digital citizenship; it is more difficult for students to learn from mistakes, it is difficult if not impossible to keep pace with new technology and those involved in technology such as technology educators, classroom teachers, school administration and parents are not on the same page regarding technology usage. So, before we talk about who should teach our children about digital citizenship, I think we need to accept a few realities about the challenges of technology. First, we need to accept the fact that the growth of technology is too fast to keep pace with. We need to stop pretending we are in control and have the ability to set guidelines and privacy settings which keep us safe. We can’t and we need to accept that fact.

Secondly, Lindsey’s point in the video regarding all those involved must be on the same page is very important. Before we begin teaching our children about digital citizenship, we all need to be on the same page about how we view technology in terms of its purpose.

If we are not consistent in our delivery, than our children’s understanding of technology will be scattered at best.

We need to have many more discussions amongst the adults involved before we begin teaching our students. I would go as far to say that I do not believe schools are ready yet to teach digital citizenship.

However, we live in a world where we rush into things without taking the required time to set it up correctly. We can be an impatient society and in the world of education, there are lots of moments where we dive head first into a pedagogical approach without checking to see if the swimming pool even has any water in it! I think we are rushing our dialogue with students about technology. We need to observe them more and simply engage in discussions rather than establishing guidelines of safe practice which will possibly be irrelevant in a short span of time. If we accept the fact that we can’t keep pace with technology, then let’s take a step back; a pause to simply observe and have discussion. With that said, I do believe we need to prioritize the discussion topics with students and start with the idea of permanency regarding technology. Mistakes are more challenging because once it is posted, it is posted for life. Children need to first understand this foundational principle of technology.

As a parent and an educator, I see both being involved in educating children about safe use of technology, however I will tip the balance of responsibility much more towards the parents. These are our children. We know them. We are the ones they should feel most safe with and therefore we are the ones who should be having discussions about technology with them. When we discuss with our children, we need to do so with open ears and at least a little empathy of what life as a pre-adolescent must be like. As hard as this is for me to accept, I cannot simply come up with a couple of technology rules and consequences for breaking those rules and then sit back and pat myself on the back for great parenting. Technology is not going away and I can’t control it. All I can do is have real conversations with my daughters, teach them some realities about technology, ask them questions and then create a budget envelope and start putting money away for the therapy I will need later.