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

 

The potential for micro credentialing in support of adult learning

As much as instructional leaders and Professional Development instructors know about best instructional practices, we often fall back on traditional “sit and get”, lecture style delivery methods, powerpoint marathons and packets of information when working with adults. It’s easy to see why in some cases. We assume adults can handle getting their information that way and that they’ll pay attention because it’s related to their job. We are often pressed for time, and need to communicate information quickly and we assume that adults will be interested to learn because we are trying to help them become better teachers.

But the reality is, we aren’t hitting the mark. The pressure of standardized testing has certainly had some negative consequences but it’s also put a spotlight on data. It’s made it clear that the traditional ways we’ve been teaching our students aren’t working for all of them. The fact is, we are failing some of our kids and need to change our teaching practices and our education systems. The growth of technology that’s happened at the same time has opened up possibilities and at the same time put pressure on our institutions to think differently about our instructional practices, our ways of delivering content, the ways students can show  mastery and evidence of their learning and it’s provided us the opportunity to have access to learning on our own schedules. The question is, why don’t we allow teachers to learn that way too?

Knowles (1984) identifies characteristics of adult learners that we need to revisit as we rethink how we can take the best parts of what we know about learning and bring that to new ways for teachers to learn too.

Autonomous and self-directed: If given the right tools,  teachers can often self identify their own learning needs. It may be useful for newer teachers to also have the support and insight of their principal or mentor teacher to identify needs as well. Although evaluation tools like TPEP in Washington State are used punitively by some districts, it is possible instead to use those tools as a mechanism to identify learning needs for teachers that will directly impact student learning. Once those needs are identified, we can help teachers by providing resources and tools to facilitate their own learning needs. Online courses and tutorials, personalized professional development, work inside PLC groups, and learning from other teachers can all provide avenues for teacher to learn on their own.

Respect for the foundation of life experiences and knowledge: Teachers enter the profession with a variety of experiences both in and out of the classroom. We know students learn better when they can connect their learning to prior knowledge and the same should be true for adult learners. Our Professional Development opportunities need to take into account the expertise in the room and help teachers make connections to their experiences. We need to respect and honor what those experiences bring to the table while still expecting a growth mindset and a willingness to at least entertain new ideas.

Goal-Oriented: Most adults will focus better and pay more attention to something they’ve chosen to learn because they are trying to learn something that will help them achieve a personal goal. We need to give teachers choices in their professional development so they can develop skills to help them reach goals that are important to them.

Relevancy- oriented & Practical: This all goes back to purpose. People don’t retain learning well if they don’t understand the reason they are learning. I’ve stopped getting frustrated by teachers who ask me questions that make it feel like they aren’t listening or paying attention to the email’s, trainings, resources, etc. that I’ve give them. People need to know things when they are ready to know them. If it doesn’t feel relevant and practical to them at the time it’s taught to them they won’t retain it or take the time to try it out. The trick is in finding ways to increase readiness and create the conditions for the learning to be needed so it is relevant for teachers. If I figure out the trick I’ll blog about it some other time.

ISTE Coaching standard 4b asks coaches to “design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning and assessment.“ Many districts have been successfully using technology to address some of these issues. Video tutorials, online PD courses, badge based learning, webinars and other alternatives for learning are becoming a more integral part of professional development options. One option I’ve been interested in learning more about is micro credentialing. Micro credentialing “offers an opportunity to shift away from the credit-hour and continuing-education requirements…toward a system based on evidence of progress in specific instructional skills.”  (Sawchuck 2016) I like the idea of a mastery based system that requires more of teachers than just “butts in seats”. Micro- credentialing allows teachers to be recognized for their expertise. One program in the Kettle Moraine district in Wisconsin involves peers in evaluating the evidence of learning from fellow teachers and approves the micro credential. Although I love that idea, I would think it would be challenging to sustain over a long period of time.

Christopher Pappas (Pappas 2014)  applied Knowles theory to eLearning and suggested that adults need to have a chance to absorb knowledge instead of just memorizing it; “ the subject matter should offer them the chance to fine tune skill sets and acquire (and retain) practical knowledge by doing, rather than just memorizing.” Micro credentialing also offers the chance for the hands on, practical and relevant learning that can benefit teachers and ultimately our students.

References

Pappas, C. (2013). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles – eLearning Industry. eLearning Industry. Retrieved 9 February 2018, from https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles

Pappas, C. (2014). 9 Tips To Apply Adult Learning Theory to eLearning – eLearning Industry. eLearning Industry. Retrieved 9 February 2018, from https://elearningindustry.com/9-tips-apply-adult-learning-theory-to-elearning

Sawchuk, S. (2016). Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?. Education Week. Retrieved 9 February 2018, from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/03/30/can-micro-credentialing-salvage-teacher-pd.html