What does it Mean to Advocate for Technology?

As coaches and administrators we are aware that technology skills are important for our students. Computers are everywhere…in our pockets, on our desks, on our laps, in our clothing, cars, airplanes, farms, factories, restaurants, and doctor’s offices… you get the picture. We want our students to be competitive in the world, and be “college and career ready” when they leave our schools which, most would agree, takes at least some fundamental familiarity with computers. Why is it then, that in spite of 1:1 computer initiatives in our schools, better wifi access in more places and more tech savvy teachers than ever before, we still aren’t producing enough computer science graduates to fill the available jobs nor have we seen student achievement rise to the levels we’d hoped. I had hoped it was as easy as a cry for more advocacy for technology, support and training for teachers. As I was researching, however, I realized that the real answer is not necessarily more people advocating for more of those things, although it can’t hurt, but in advocating for the right things…changes in teaching practice and changes in attitude.

In the early years of computers in the classroom we thought technology was the answer to our education woes. It was going to change everything about how we teach and how students learn. They were “set to revolutionize the traditional teacher-centric lecturing style and to unleash the potential for improvements in teaching quality and efficiency.” (Falck, Mang, Woessmann 2017)  Unfortunately, the promises of technology to revolutionize teaching and to increase student achievement have largely fallen flat. This same study Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement (Falck, Mang, Woessmann, 2017) posits that the “null’ effects on student achievement could be caused by “a combination of using computers for activities that are more productive than traditional teaching methods, thus improving student outcomes, and using computers in ways that substitute more effective traditional practices, thus lowering student outcomes.”

In the study they talk about the “opportunity costs of time”. Each day teachers are given a certain amount of time and they have to make decisions about how each of those minutes is spent. If they spend minutes on technology in ways that enhance learning and provide opportunities for exploration and creativity that aren’t  possible with traditional teaching methods then they are spending in ways that will likely increase student outcomes. If, however, they choose to spend technology minutes on things like drill and kill practice or electronic worksheets that are not as effective as other teaching strategies such as collaborative work, discussion, design thinking, communication, etc. the use of technology is actually lowering student outcomes because the opportunity for deeper or more effective learning is being lost. It all comes down to purpose. Why is the technology being used the way it is?

I’ve been advocating for years for technology to be used to “transform” teaching and felt that we will never really be able to change student outcomes for the better until we stop doing the same ineffective teaching that we’ve held onto for years and started to fundamentally rethink how we teach and what we expect students to do as learners. But I’ve been advocating for technology use in a broad way and have been happy with the low expectations we have of teachers using technology in our classrooms because “at least they are using it.” Maybe true advocacy is not allowing it to be ok that time being spent with technology is having a negative effect on student learning because it’s replacing good teaching strategies. Although I’d want to focus obviously on the transformative ways technology can impact student learning our schools need to have bigger discussions about the things that don’t work as instructional practices and help teachers make the connection that those same ineffective practices are equally ineffective when you add technology.

It think advocacy for the transformative power of technology will have to come through in the passion I bring to my communication with teachers and administrators, by modeling change and a growth mindset but most of all, by being a part of the bigger discussion around ensuring all teachers are using the best, research based, instructional practices to teach kids. If technology is the right tool to support those practices then I’ll be there to support, teach and guide teachers. But we have to be ready to let go of technology time and instructional practices that are not effective in helping our students learn.

References

  • Falck, O., Mang, C., & Woessmann, L. (2018). Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement. Oxford Bulletin Of Economics And Statistics, 80(1), 1-38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obes.12192

What teachers need to learn about professional digital citizenship

The ISTE standards for Educators outline how educators can help model, support and teach digital citizenship for students. They are, as we’d hope, responsible use standards that focus on the things we do want teachers to do with technology. It uses words like “positive, socially responsible contributions”, “establish a learning culture”, “mentor students”, and “model and promote management of identity”. (See the graphic below for the full text of the Educator Standards.)

I am in full agreement that teachers need to be part of educating students about digital citizenship. In many districts it’s been a task turned over to librarians. For a long time libraries were where technology was happening and often the only place students had access to technology. However, in an age of 1:1 one devices, teachers are now in a better position to be able to address issues in the moment, spy out and use those teachable moments to teach students or reinforce digital responsibility, and they are there when the technology is being used. Librarians are still amazing resources for digital citizenship and digital and media literacy instruction. But what if we could take the task of teaching students those skills off the librarians plates and instead have them teach teachers those same skills?

I’ve been searching for a few months to try and find some resources to teach teachers about digital citizenship. I don’t mean how to teach them to teach their students, I’m talking about teaching teachers the things they need to know to keep themselves safe, protect their own digital reputations and become ethical consumers of digital information. I’m not sure its the same as just picking it up by osmosis as they are teaching students. It seems unfair but teachers, like a lot of public figures, are more in the spotlight than many other professions such as an accountant or a scientist. They work with children. There is a higher standard expected of teachers, especially in their interactions with students and parents. It’s not even enough to keep your professional and private lives separate online when everything is so searchable. So, I’d like to find some ways that I can help teachers understand their own professional responsibility when it comes to issues of social media, copyright, account privacy and other issues that could  affect them and their professional reputations.

Let’s take the ISTE for Educator Standards and see what teachers might need to know in order to be able to model and teach the standards and protect their digital reputations:

Standards 3a & 3d

These two standards are about positive relationships online and managing one’s digital footprint. We want teachers using social media. It’s hard to stay relevant and connected without a social media presence anymore, but we do need teachers to know how to keep their presence appropriate and manage their digital reputation. One interesting resource I discovered was Childnet International. Their  Social-Media-Guide-teachers-and-support-staff has some good advice about things like when it’s appropriate or not to “friend” students on social media, setting privacy settings on social media accounts and managing your professional reputation. Their online safety calendar 2017-2018 has links to video and print resources for teachers and checklists to help teachers manage their digital footprint and their social media sites. Their INSET Training also discusses issues of reporting and monitoring student behaviors. There are lots of good resources here that I will spend more time learning about and finding ways to incorporate into training for teachers.

There is also the issue of training teachers to take a closer look at the privacy policies of websites that they ask their students to sign up for. We have a responsibility to watch out for the welfare of our student’s data when they are too young to do it themselves. Becoming more familiar with what to look for in online agreements is essential. The document from the government: Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices seems like a good place to start to learn more about protecting students.

Standards 3b & 3c

The areas of being critical consumers of online content and the ethics of intellectual property rights have more in common with good practices for students but it’s incredibly tempting to “borrow” things from the internet for that lesson coming up in 15 minutes. Teachers need good instruction on copyright and fair use. Many districts are also helping teachers understand and define intellectual property rights in regards to teachers creation of content that they want to sell online. We may need some more open conversations with teachers about what belongs to the district and what belongs to teachers.

Training for teachers is beginning to take more shape in my mind. Using these resource I can hopefully get a good start on it anyway.

References

ISTE | Standards For Educators. (2017). Iste.org. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices. (2014). Washington DC. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Student-Privacy-and-Online-Educational-Services-February-2014.pdf

School Pack for Online Safety Awareness. (2017). Childnet. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.childnet.com/resources/school-pack-for-online-safety-awareness

 

Local Collaboration Project: The Landmark Games

The Landmark Games

This was a fun project that I did for my Global Collaborative Project for EDTC 6103 as part of my Digital Education Leadership program.

Phase 1: Connection

I decided on the Landmark Games because it tied to the Ancient Civilizations units the 6th grade classes were studying and I knew I had some awesome teachers from my Future Ready Teacher Cohort that I could count on to help me out with the project who would be willing to take a risk.

I initially sent out a global e-mail to the cohort:

The links were to various resources they could use to look at projects or video conferencing options so, in case they weren’t interested now, they could possibly take a look later.

6 various 6th grade teachers, plus a few librarians and other cohort members contacted me back. Since I had the most 6th grade teachers I chose them for the project. I did get video cameras to two librarians who were going to have their 1st grade classes meet and share stories by Skype and I’m going to work with one this spring to look at Mystery Skypes as well.

I followed up with the sixth grade teachers and added a few others I thought might be interested in playing:

In the end we are scheduled to have 4 teachers from 3 schools participate on June 5th and 6th (see execution phase for changes to the original plan)

Phase 1: Connection Reflection

I believe this project relates to ISTE Teacher Standard 1d: Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments. Not only will the students have to work together to collaboratively come up with clues to their own landmark but they’ll have to problem solve together to try and figure out the clues to identify the three other classes landmarks. Mysteries of any kind are generally more intriguing to students and they’ll need to use their background knowledge of the cultures and geography they studied to find the answers.

In ISTE Teacher standard 5a I think this project could be a big step to getting schools to work together. My Future Ready Teacher Cohort members work together once a month but then never see each other. I’m seriously considering getting them all webcams next year just so they can talk face to face in order to collaborate. Our district is very spread geographically and this could be a very interesting way to get them “participating in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.”

Phase 2: Design

I sent out the first iteration of my Global Collaborative Project proposal to them in this form:

OK, I think we’ve got 6 players (although I haven’t heard for sure from Larisa or Lane) from three different schools. That’s probably a good enough number so that it’ doesn’t take forever to share clues. Here’s what I’m thinking for the actual activity day (it’s from my project proposal). Once I get cameras and Skype set up we’ll have the 7 of us meet by video chat to test it and firm up details of the project and decide on the reflection questions. I’m working on that for next week. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions. I want this to be workable for you. Let me know if there is anything that doesn’t make sense. You’ll be able to keep the webcam for other projects but may be asked to share within your building until we can start getting more available.

Timeframe: Late May. One class period will need to be spent on prep, choosing their landmark, creating clues and choosing roles prior to the game. The actual Skype sessions will happen on one day in three sections that I’m hoping we can keep to 30 min each, especially if we use a collaborative doc.

Activity details:

  1. Prep: Each class will need to choose an ancient landmark from one of the areas they’ve studied this year. They will create 3 clues that fit the following criteria: 1) one coordinate (latitude or longitude), 2) at least 1 relevant associated historical date (could be in the context of a historical event) from the time period the ancient landmark was built, 3) hemisphere related clue. If subject matter such as math or history is used to give clues, it should fall within the reasonable knowledge area of the students studies. Clues should be fact based as much as possible. The Landmark must exist or have existed at one time in history on planet earth. This work needs to be done prior to Landmark day.
  2. On the Landmark day, the classes will meet on Skype in the morning. They will have 2 minutes each to introduce their class to everyone (could be video, student presentation or something to share a little about their school). All students will have nametags on to save time having to introduce individuals.
  3. Each class will have approximately 3 minutes to share their clues. Students can take notes but someone in the class will be adding their clues to the collaborative doc at the same time so no time is wasted having to repeat the question so everyone can write it down.
  4. The Skype session will end and the teams will have 60 minutes in their own classes to investigate, research and come up with additional questions for the other teams. Each team should come up with more than one question so if someone else asks it they can move to the next one. Each classroom can ask 5 questions but they can choose who they want to ask. If they want to focus on only one or two teams they can ask more than one of a particular team. The questions will be added to thecollaborative doc so everyone has access after the question phase. The teams will also need to answer the questions of course.
  5. The second Skype session will end and the students will have until the end of the day to finish their research and put together their guesses. The guesses will go into a separate collaborative doc that only the teachers can see.
  6. Toward the end of the day, we’ll get together for one last Skype session and each class will have 5 minutes to share their Landmark. They can create a poster, a video presentation, or just share. The reveal must include the following: 1) Picture of the landmark, 2) Three things that are historically significant about the landmark, and 3) Explain why they chose it. If there is time, they can add info about famous people or events related to the landmark or any other information they learned that they want to share.
  7. We’ll tally the results and see who was able to figure out the most landmarks. Perhaps there will be donuts for the winning class 🙂
  8. Students will take a short reflection survey at the end to give myself and the teachers some feedback.

I asked the Technology Director to order me 12 webcams so that I had some available for the participants. I wanted to get them out early enough that we could Skype for our first meeting, both for practice and because we were in a time crunch at this time of year. At this point I heard back from two of the teachers who didn’t feel like they had the time to do this project from my original 6.

I wish you could have seen our first Skype call. I wish I’d thought to take pictures. They were having a great time talking to each other and it was so much easier to do it this way than to ask all of them to meet me at the main office or for all of us to have to get to one school. It was an efficient way to meet.

  1. We picked a couple of sets of dates as options May 30 and 31st and June 5th and 6th. Eventually, just because of scheduling, we had to go with the 5th and 6th.
  2. We talked about the project and made some adjustments to better fit their schedules. We decided to do 2 Skype calls. One on the first day at 10am to share clues, we’d post the questions for the other classes by 1pm and answers by the end of the day in a collaborative doc and they Skype again the following day at 10am to share the answers.

These changes better fit the teachers busy schedules and saved us a Skype call.

We also discussed roles and norms, although this will partly be a learn as we go experience. One of the teachers has done a number of Mystery Skypes and shared a list of “jobs” he had for his students.

Phase 2: Design Reflection

No plan ever survives the first go round intact. This is what the original project morphed into based on teachers feedback:

We are getting closer:

Timeframe: Either May 30 and 31st or June 5th and 6th. Please return this e-mail and let me know which one works.

Day 1:

10am   Skype

1pm Have your 5 questions posted to the collaborative doc

3pm Have answers to your questions posted to the collaborative doc

Day 2:

Make your guesses in the teacher shared doc

10am   Skype to reveal answers

Activity details:

  1. Prior to Day 1:  Each class will need to choose an ancient landmark from one of the areas they’ve studied this year. They will create 3 clues that fit the following criteria:
    1. One coordinate (latitude or longitude – the idea is to give them the general area, don’t make it so specific that it gives it away!!),
    2. At least 1 relevant associated historical date (could be in the context of a historical event) from the time period the ancient landmark was built,
    3. Hemisphere related clue. If subject matter such as math or history is used to give clues, it should fall within the reasonable knowledge area of the students studies.
    4. Clues should be fact based as much as possible.
    5. The Landmark must exist or have existed at one time in history on planet earth.
  2. On the Landmark day, the classes will meet on Skype at 10am that morning. They will have 5 minutes each to introduce their class to everyone (could be video, student presentation or something to share a little about their school). Please have students wear nametags to save time having to introduce individuals.
  3. Choose one student to add the clues to the collaborative doc so no time is wasted having to repeat the question so everyone can write it down.
  4. The Skype session will end and the teams will have until 1pm in their own classes to investigate, research and come up with additional questions for the other teams. Each team should come up with more than one question so if someone else asks it they can move to the next one. Each classroom can ask 5 questions but they can choose who they want to ask. If they want to focus on only one or two teams they can ask more than one of a particular team. The questions will be added to thecollaborative doc so everyone has access after the question phase.
  5. The teams will have until the end of the day to post answers to the questions they were asked. And they have until the next Skype session to post their guesses.
  6. Day 2: Prior to 9:30am each team needs to make their guesses into the collaborative doc that only the teachers can see.
  7. We’ll get together for one last Skype session at 10am and each class will have 5 minutes to share their Landmark. They can create a poster, a video presentation, or just share. The reveal must include the following: 1) Picture of the landmark, 2) Three things that are historically significant about the landmark, and 3) Explain why they chose it. If there is time, they can add info about famous people or events related to the landmark or any other information they learned that they want to share.
  8. We’ll tally the results and see who was able to figure out the most landmarks. Perhaps there will be donuts for the winning class 🙂
  9. Students will take a short reflection survey at the end to give myself and the teachers some feedback.

The links to the collaborative doc are embedded in the text and the I sent it to them as part of the meeting notes in an Outlook Calendar invite.

I think this project will help teachers with ISTE Teacher 1c: Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning and creative processes. This type of activity will give the teachers some good formative assessment on what they students learned about the Ancient Civilizations they were studying. The quality and depth of the clues they are able to generate and the questions they are able to ask about others landmarks will be interesting.

ISTE Teacher standard 2a: Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity. I think that an activity like this that is collaborative, requires some more in depth knowledge of their topics and includes video conferencing with a different audience than they are used to as well as having to share in different ways than they are used to can up the ante in terms of relevance and learning. When you are sharing with another audience there is always more of an impetus to make it look good and the student’s will have to adapt quickly if they realize they don’t have enough information to make guess the first time and have to ask more questions. I’m excited to see how they react to this project.

Phase 3: Execution

The project won’t be executed until just after the deadline but I’ll include pictures and the survey results hear as soon as we are done on June 6th.

Phase 3: Execution Reflection

I think I can make connections to the ISTE standards 3 and 4 even before the project is completed but I’ll make adjustments if anything surprises me.

I think a lot of the success of this project will hinge on ISTE 3c: Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media formats. Skyping will be brand new to three out of the four teachers. They’ve already practiced communicating by Skype (and I’ve heard they’ve been playing with it just between themselves already). They know intellectually that this is new to their students as well and it will be distracting at first but I’m not sure they know what that really means in terms of communication with their students about behavior, norms, etc. We did talk about it, and I will remind them but I think they’ll learn a lot about how to teach video conference communication skills through this first project.

4c: Promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information will need to be a big topic for discussion prior to this event. I’ll be sending out a reminder to staff prior to the games about digital citizenship reminders as well as reminders about logistics. Hopefully, they will prepare their classes in advance for the project.

Phase 4: Reflection

In terms of my own relationship to the ISTE Teacher standards I think this is one of the ways I can exhibit my own leadership (5b). I’m demonstrating a possible way to redefine a lesson related to their content area in a tech infused way. I may have given the teachers the starting point but they shared in the process of defining and redefining some of the processes and time frames to better suit their needs and students. And, I’m hoping, that they will try this again next year and include more teachers now that they know how to work with Skype and have survived one project. I think they’ll find other ways to use the cameras next year and I know these particular teachers will find ways to share with others.