Reflection on Teaching Adults

This winter quarter (2018) I co-taught a course called Learning with Technology at Seattle Pacific University. It was a course for pre-service teachers from a variety of different disciplines. We had students who were already teaching and going back for their Master’s degrees, some that were student teaching and others that were somewhere in between. The description of the course was as follows:

This course addresses research and promising practices related to how to use technology effectively for student learning. During this course we will address the ISTE Standards for Students, focusing on how students use technology for creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.

After meeting with meeting with my co-instructor, Dr. David Wicks, we set out to design a course that addressed the new student standards and expose students to one of the many tech integration tools that they could use to evaluate the quality of technology enriched instruction.

The QUEST model

Quest ModelThe QUEST model (Wicks 2017) was used to design the learning modules related to the Student Standards. This model is inquiry based and aligns nicely with the Student Standard 1. Empowered Learner, which asks students to “leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by learning sciences.”(ISTE 2016) We posed questions from the standard each week and asked them to come up with, and post, their own question to a discussion board in the Canvas course. Since they came from such diverse experiences, we asked them to try to focus their question on their own content area specialty so that it would have some relevance to them and make the resources they found more useful in their daily practice.

During the Understanding phase they were asked to do their own research to answer their own question. Not only did they have to practice digital literacy skills such as searching and curating content but they were actively engaged in the Knowledge Constructor student standard as they “made meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others” and “critically curated a variety of resources using digital tools”. (ISTE 2016). Once they’d found research and resources that helped them answer their question they posted them to a discussion so that their thinking was made public to the group. Because they were making that learning public they were also experiencing Student Standard 2. Digital Citizen because they needed cite their sources and “employ effective research strategies”.

In the Educate phase they interacted with each others posts and posed more questions or suggested solutions to others. We also tried to do a Google Hangout every other week so that students could learn more about the standard and ask questions of each other and the instructors. This was meant to be a collaborative learning process. It allowed them to stretch their thinking outside their subject area expertise and allowed them to give feedback or share resources that would help others answer their questions. This kind of collaboration is part of the student standard 7. Global Collaborator that asks students to “use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others.” (ISTE 2016)

After this step, they were asked to share their final solution and related resources that addressed their question. They did this on a personal blog that they were using as an ongoing portfolio of their work. They had been put into PLC groups to create job alike groups (as much as possible) so that they only had to comment on three other classmates posts but they were expected to comment on each others final blog posts. This is a way for them to teach others and share their work with a larger audience. This helped them experience Student Standard 1.b “Students build networks” and to practice 6. Creative Communicator as they had to “communicate clearly and express themselves”. (ISTE 2016)

Reflection on the Model

After having experienced the QUEST model as a student myself in the Digital Education Leadership program I will say that this kind of learning has a high learning curve for some students. Many of us come from traditional teaching and learning models and are used to being told what to think by the instructor. This model asks students to truly take ownership of their own learning. There are rubrics and check lists in place to help guide the structure of the posts and the type of information that should be included but the question is unique to each student. For some this was a little unsettling at first and they asked a lot of questions that were mostly related to “am I doing this right?” Eventually, they settled in. Both David and I had vacations early in the quarter which, unfortunately for the students, meant that they didn’t get immediate feedback on their first module very quickly. In retrospect, the first module is the most vital to respond to so that they are confident they are meeting expectations. I wish I could go back and do that differently.

As for the model itself, it was very freeing for me as a student to focus my energy on the questions that interested me or were relevant to my job as a coach. I think that the students in our class valued that flexibility as well by the end of the quarter. We did run into some difficulties with finding a good tool for students to interact with the recording of the Google Hangouts if they were not able to attend in person. They used YouTube to comment in so everyone could see their questions but it was not ideal. It would be nice to find something that could be embedded in Canvas to keep everything in one place. The other challenge was with Canvas. It did not make it easy for students to provide evidence that they’d commented on each others blogs. We had them cut and paste their comments into a Canvas group discussion but that also added an extra step for the participants.

The Individual Project  – Evaluating Technology Integration

One of the challenges with technology in my own district right now is not necessarily getting teachers to use technology but in getting them to use technology purposefully and with good quality design that engages learners and moves away from just recreating traditional learning experiences digitally. The largest part of my work in this class was designing the individual project. We wanted to our students to have the experience of looking at a lesson through the lens of technology and evaluating it based on a model. We chose the Triple E Framework (Kolb, 2017) as a model partly because I like the simplicity of the rubric and the questions and because it is focused on developing quality learning experiences that have a technology component rather than focusing on the technology as the centerpiece of the lesson.

The project was divided into 5 phases. The first phase was to find a lesson that they could use to evaluate using the rubric. We left the selection of the lesson pretty wide open and encouraged them to find something in their content specialty area or something they had used or were thinking of using with their students.

The next three phases asked students to use the rubrics for Engage, Enhance and Extend, which are the three E’s in the Triple E model, to evaluate the lesson based on the three questions that are central to each area. They used her None, Somewhat and Absolutely scoring system and then wrote a reflection on what they learned about their lesson using the rubric and some guiding questions that I posed.

The final phase was to put it all together, tabulate the scores and write a reflection on the process of lesson evaluation using this model. We also asked what, if any, suggestions they would make about technology tools, resources or strategies they might use to improve the lesson.

Reflection on the Project

I discovered a couple of things. First, they needed either an example, a checklist or some more explanation of what type of lesson they should look for. Some students chose lessons with very little technology included in them in the first place. When they were evaluating using the Triple E rubric they were hesitant to score it low in areas that asked for technology or had a number of areas that they could not score at all because there was not enough technology included in the lesson. If I taught this again I would add some supports into that phase that would help them pick a lesson that would make the job of evaluation a little easier.

Overall they did a nice job reflecting on the lesson and the process. I am not sure they had enough tools in their toolbox to be able to adequately suggest tools and enhancements to their lessons, however. Although Dr. Wicks often included a tool in our Google Hangouts that was related to the standard, it might be worth considering working in some more hands on work with tools as part of the course. It would give them a broader range of knowledge of the types of tools that would be available to them if they were teaching to either the standard or as a part of redefining a learning experience. I am not quite sure how to do that without making the time spent on the class unreasonable but they could be creating artifacts with various digital tools to show their learning around the solution to their question as opposed to just a written reflection in their blog post.

_________

References

 

ISTE | Standards For Students. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students

 

 

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Retrieved from https://www.tripleeframework.com/

 

Leveraging Technology to Change the Professional Development Landscape

My question related to ISTE Coaching standard 4b is “how do we provide technology rich professional learning programs” for teachers. Just as things have been slow to change in education, it’s been equally slow to change in professional development. We often still model traditional lecture style models that don’t embrace available technology tools or don’t utilize them in ways that mirror the blended, personalized, transformative learning environments that we want for our students.

In the conclusion of The National Educational Technology Plan there is a call for the following changes to Professional Development for Teachers:

  1. Provide pre-service and in-service educators with professional learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy and enable them to create compelling learning activities that improve learning and teaching, assessment, and instructional practices.
  2. Use technology to provide all learners with online access to effective teaching and better learning opportunities with options in places where they are not otherwise available.
  3. Develop a teaching force skilled in online and blended instruction.
  4. Develop a common set of technology competency expectations for university professors and candidates exiting teacher preparation programs for teaching in technologically enabled schools and post-secondary education institutions.

Each of these items require changing the structure of our Professional Development  toward, mastery and evidence based learning as well a providing teachers with the tools to personalize their learning and experience technology rich learning environments as a student. As the saying goes, “you teach the way you are taught”. We won’t develop new teachers who naturally think and teach differently until we produce a generation of students who had the chance to learn differently. The first step will be to shift the experiences our current teachers have in pre-service and inservice trainings so that they know what it looks and feels like to be part of a transformative, tech infused learning experience.

Transforming teaching practice is bigger than just including technology. There are certainly larger questions about pedagogy and what we can learn from the learning sciences research that will have a huge impact on teaching and learning in the future.  Jennifer Graff suggests in her paper Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments (Graff 2013) that there are three drivers that technology brings to the change process. First, it can open up opportunities to improve teaching and learning that weren’t available before. We don’t have to rely on just the experts in our districts for learning. Webinars, MOOCs and video conferencing and online learning can provide teachers with access to amazing experiences from experts in their fields. Secondly, adults without digital literacy skills will be at a disadvantage and she suggests will “suffer from a new digital divide” of adults who can function in a digital world and those that can’t. Finally, technology is an integral part of functioning and accessing “higher order competencies” that make it possible to be productive in today’s society.

She used ‘Morel’s Matrix” to evaluate technology in education based on the four stages (emerging, applying, integrating, and transforming) to look at a number of areas but the one that stuck out to me was the one on Professional Development. Transformational PD involves integration, innovation, self-management on the part of the learners and involves a personal vision and plan (Graff 2013).   

When you put that together with the recommendations of the National Technology Plan it seems like there are four main things that an Technology-Rich professional learning environment needs to have:

  1. Clarity of Professional Competencies and Expectations – It’s difficult to develop personal vision and plans as a teacher if the overall direction is not clear. If organizations can develop professional competencies, teachers (both pre-service and inservice) would be able to set achievable goals and work towards mastery. Once mastery is achieved, it would be easier to set more innovative goals with the confidence of having the skills and abilities to meet them.
  2. Teach skills the same way they’ll be used; integrated into content areas and using blended and personalized delivery methods. Teach to the ’why’ first. Model professional development that teaches content and best instructional practice with the inclusion of technology to support and enhance the learning so that teachers understand why it’s useful. If it’s something that they’ve experienced that makes a powerful difference in their learning they will be motivated to learn how to do it so they can offer the same experience to their students.
  3. Use technology to provide choice, learning flexibility (i.e. time, place, duration, learning styles) and access to quality learning opportunities.
  4. Make use of professional networks and learning communities to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom or school and to access innovative ideas and resources.

 

References

Conclusion – Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/conclusion/

Groff, J. (2013). Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments. Oecd.org. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/Technology-Rich%20Innovative%20Learning%20Environments%20by%20Jennifer%20Groff.pdf