"The teacher is the chief learner in the classroom."
- Donald Graves

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reflections on EDLD_5363

how I learned to stop obsessing and love collaboration

In this post I am going to reflect on a couple of things having to do with my continued studies in Lamar University's masters program. First, I want to talk about the web conferences and secondly, I want to talk a bit about how the program has helped me to become more connected to people and aware of how to communicate with them.

I attended a roughly half the web conferences during this class and found them generally helpful. During the discussions I was able to get some clarifying information and, hopefully, on occasion provide some myself. I could tell there were a number of new students this time and I think I was able to help them better understand the program in a limited way. The give and take of the discussions allowed the participants to get to know each other at some level. Much of the discussion centered on how to complete assignments and sharing links to information to help each other complete assignments. 

However, I also became somewhat disillusioned with the conferences as they would often quickly become, in my opinion, too focused on what had to be done to earn points and not about the learning that was taking place. I understand the need for many people to get the best grade, we live in a society where an A on anything equates with competency. But, at times, the discussions became so focused on semantic details over exactly how to get maximum points, that the learning just couldn't happen. Instead of sharing information and collaborating to solve problems, the main focus became how to get an A. I really believe that we need to move past this what do I have to do mentality and wrap our minds around what can I make or create that will help someone else learn as a measure of competency. Doing the work will get you an A without actually learning anything new. This obsession over the grade detracts from the learning.

I also found the conferences a way to connect with other students and in fact made some valuable connections to a few students who I now follow on twitter. We have continued to share and even establish a professional relationship due to the introduction provided by the weekly web conferences. This, for me, is the essence of why I'm in this program. I'm at a stage in my career, where I need to look at the next phase, perhaps outside of the classroom, but definitely connected to other educators regardless of where I am in the next few years. In this class, as well as the other ed tech classes I have taken at Lamar, the opportunity to connect, learn and collaborate with other professionals with similar interests has been the most valuable aspect of the experience.

reflection on collaborating to produce the video Fraction Ma'am

By collaborating with a group of professionals I was able to be a part of the video embedded below. We used gotomeeting.com for our initial meeting and were able to not only get to know each other, we arrived at many decisions during this face to face meeting. We used this format on two other occasions to meet and discuss our progress and solve problems during the production. We also used our Google doc to keep each other informed of changes and meet the requirements of the course outline. This document served as a clearing house for our ideas as well as a running record of changes and additions to our project. Throughout the project we used email to communicate with each other and set up meeting times. We also shared documents through this vehicle. 

I was fortunate to be able to join a wonderful group of young professionals. We had a great energy and collaborating with them was easy. While we didn't always see the project in the same way, we grew to trust each other with our parts of the project. The deadlines were met and I think we created something that has value outside of this course. As someone who generally preferred to work alone prior to being involved in these collaborative efforts, I appreciate the opportunities made available to practice and learn the art of collaboration. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

No Man is an Island

how I learned to tell a story

I approached this week's assignment in EDLD_5363 Multimedia and Video Technology with some trepidation. Tell a personal story? You mean a personal story about myself? Are your kidding me? What am I going to find in my life interesting enough for someone else to want to watch? More importantly, how far do I want to go with this before I need therapy. (Or the viewers need therapy, there is a distinct risk of that.)

Then I watched some of the examples. And I was blown away. The stories were so powerful. But I still didn't think I could produce anything nearly as concise and meaningful, certainly nothing about my life has ever been worthy of a movie.

I thought about what to write for a couple of days and read some of the scripts posted by colleagues. And then the pressure started. The scripts I read were absolutely fantastic. There was no way I could ever do anything like that.

I've always considered myself a creative person, I like to think I have a vision - an eye - if you will for design, composition and writing that conveys meaning. I was a journalism and mass communications major. I worked for awhile as a free-lance writer after leaving a job in a printing company. I pride myself on being able to "get it" when someone else is being clever.

But that doesn't mean I could ever actually create a meaningful story. I posted my script on the discussion board and got some good feedback. Then something happened. I starting thinking about all the other stories I could tell. And I changed my mind. I wrote a new script, posted it, and had it reviewed. Again the feedback was positive. I began to think that I could actually produce a short video that had meaning. The video is posted here. I'll let you decide.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Technology Plan

The task this week was to present a school district technology plan. Fortunately, I was on the committee that developed the plan; however, that didn't make the assignment any easier. I retrieved the final plan as submitted to the Arkansas State Department of Education and read through it. As I was reading, I remembered that Dr. Abernathy had said that the presentation should be tailored for a Rotary Club, Kiawanis Club or other meeting, not just an outline of what the plan entails. I decided to create a presentation without all the technical information; but rather I focused on a synthesis of the plan and how it is focused on meeting the requirements of NETP and especially the needs of students, teachers, administrators and parents in the district.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blueprint for a Connected Classroom

A Blueprint for Connecting Students to Learning
Advances in technology create unique opportunities for education. At the speed of light, students, teachers and parents are connecting via the web to collaborate, communicate and create learning opportunities that did not exist a few years ago. While physical space occupied by a classroom may remain the same, the evolution of the virtual space continues to change. This paper will attempt to draw a blueprint for an elementary classroom in five years.
Classroom in the Cloud
Few technological advances have had more affect on the classroom environment than the cloud – an interconnected web of servers holding a wealth of information. Innovations in content delivery, progress reporting and monitoring, and stakeholder communication brought about by the economy of scale derived from cloud-based systems will continue to connect students to content, parents to their child’s educational experience, and teachers to data, resources, and students. Software resources once prohibitively expensive are now available to teachers to aid in differentiating instruction, creating collaborative environments, promoting inquiry, and developing student-centered environments where “the most resilient and effective forms of learning happen(s) when there's motivation, engagement, social support, and when the learning is real-world, intergenerational, and connected to young people's lives in a meaningful way.” (Ito, 2013)  In five years differentiated, self-paced, inquiry-driven student classrooms enabled by cloud computing will be the rule and not the exception.
Open Content
Open access to web resources and content via apps, web 2.0 tools, wikis and blogs creates the necessity for ubiquitous and diverse web-enabled devices. In this future classroom wireless connectivity with sufficient bandwidth enables teachers and “students opportunities to take advantage of the most up-to-date technologies in the classroom.” (Nelson, 2007) While some would argue for standardization i.e. teachers and students all using an identical device, (Piehler, 2013) which does have distinct advantages for professional development and lesson planning, a more likely scenario is one where a variety of devices – tablets, laptops, and mobile devices – coexist in the same environment at least until districts implement standard device environments. (Piehler, 2013)  It would seem more likely that diverse device environments born from BYOD initiatives will become the norm, requiring educators to rethink digital literacy and move from device dependent skills to a broader concept of web-enabled skills that are device independent. In five years, having a web-enabled device – any device – will be standard in all elementary classrooms as pedagogy becomes more reliant on web-based content.
Game Based Learning
Games, whether apps, web 2.0 or proprietary, offer students immediate feedback, opportunities to think critically and problem-solve, experiment, and experience failure in a virtual world. (Gee, n.d., Barab, n.d., Raymer, 2011) Games played across a wifi network also provide opportunities for collaboration, goal-setting, strategic planning, and communicating with a high level of user engagement. (Raymer, 2011, Chatfield, 2010) Educators have known for years that games engage students. What technology has brought to educational gaming is the ability to differentiate instruction and provide opportunities for higher-level thinking that engages each student. Games also provide glimpses into how students think, providing educators with a valuable assessment piece. (Parisi, 2012) When coupled with project-based learning, gaming immerses students in content providing opportunities to become experts in their fields. Furthermore, many Common Core State Standards are predicated on providing tech-rich content to develop mastery in 21st Century skills. Games facilitate these skills, target areas for enrichment and intervention, and personalize the learning experience. In five years, an elementary classroom without some degree of “gamification” will not provide the best environment for meeting the needs of diverse student populations.
Diversity will be found not only in student populations. Creating technology-infused classrooms, especially 1:1 device to student classrooms, is prohibitively expensive for many districts. Even with the development of inexpensive, durable internet enabled tablets, (Bonnington, 2013) the cost of providing each student with a device is an obstacle to creating the connected elementary classroom. For many districts the investment in infrastructure alone will require considerable capital. One solution is already in the pockets of many students – cellular phones. (Higgins, 2013) Increasingly elementary students are receiving hand-me-down cell phones from parents to use for entertainment. In many cases, these devices no longer have cellular service, yet can connect to district password protected wifi networks allowing for filtered access to web-based content. These essentially free devices provide a viable option to creating the 1:1 classroom environment found in many district’s technology plans. In five years, students will connect to the web via a variety of mobile devices to collaborate on lesson, discover content and for assessments.
Learning Analytics
Big data and learning analytics have become ingrained in the culture of education as governmental officials, administrators, parents and teachers incorporate data to inform instruction. Technology tools simplify data collection and analysis; however, current reliance on computer labs to administer assessments strains the capacity of these labs and leaves them available for little else than assessment data collection. Contrary to these standardized, corporate, proprietary applications, a significant number of web apps have been created in the past few years to assess students and collect data. Many of these apps are game-based and more engaging for students than the electronic bubble tests they are subject to in computer labs. Student information is readily accessible and available in “real time.” In five years, there will be a movement away from formal, standardized lab-based assessments and toward more “on-demand” assessments of learning.
Personal Learning Environments
Education is experiential. The experiences of students in connected environments engage them in learning on a personal level allowing them to construct knowledge in a way that is meaningful. (Siemans, n.d.) Educators will facilitate learning between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., but the physical space of school will no longer define learning. Organized around connected learning theory, schools will “leverage various experiences, interests, communities, and contexts in which learners participate - both in and out of school - as potential learning opportunities.” (McCrea, 2013)  Student assessment will center on what a student can create or curate – providing artifacts that illustrate learning has occurred though the production of a product. (Blending High and Low Tech, n.d.) Learning will become more cooperative. Teachers and students will of necessity learn from each other in a connected environment. An elementary classroom in five years will be a diversified, personalized, and engaging learning space where students and teachers are connected to content, each other and the world through digital media.

Barab, S., (Edutopia.org., n.d.)  Big Thinkers: Sasha Barab on New-Media Engagement. [video]  Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-sasha-barab-video
Blending High- and Low-Tech Worlds with a Maker-Driven Agenda: A Few Moments with Kylie Peppler (n.d.) Retrieved on November 2, 2013 from http://dmlhub.net/newsroom/expert-interviews/blending-high-and-low-tech-worlds-maker-driven-agenda
Bonnington, C. (January, 2013). A Cheap, Rugged Tablet Is Your Kid’s Next Fixation. Retrieved on November 2, 2013 from http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/01/kids-tablets-ipad/
McCrea, B. (2013, January 15).  5 K-12 Technology Trends to Watch in 2013. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/01/15/5-k12-technology-trends-to-watch-in-2013.aspx#OiA0h1DdUkPweyqo.99
Nelson, S. (2013, February 7). McAllen ISD Distributes 22,000 Mobile Devices to Students And Teachers.Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/02/07/mcallen-isd-distributes-22000-mobile-devices-to-students-and-teachers.aspx#mJycaQF6MhMp7lJs.99
Parisi, L. (2012, May 12). Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Lisa  [video] Retreived from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/national-survey-and-video-case-studies-teacher-attitudes-about-digital-games-in-the-classroom/
Piehler, C. (2013, January 28). Is BYOT Just a Bridge to 1-to-1? Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/01/28/is-byot-just-a-bridge-to-1-to-1.aspx#ajezhQH6c81OtkXM.99
Raymer, R. (2011, September). Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=2031772
Siemens, G. (Edutopia.org n.d.) The Changing Nature of Knowledge [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMcTHndpzYg
Gee, J.P., (Edutopia.org n.d). Big thinkers: James Paul Gee on grading with games. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-james-gee-video
Higgins, J. (2013, August 7). More schools use cellphones as learning tools. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/personal/2013/08/07/views-shift-on-cell-phones-in-schools/2607381/
Ito, M. (2013, January).  Connected Learning: An Agenda for Social Change. Retrieved from  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mimi-ito/connected-learning_b_2478940.html

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Connecting Purposefully via Networks

This week I took a different tack to finish my assignment. I decided to create a short video to introduce viewers to a couple of networks that I found interesting and that I could use in my own practice to find new ideas, learn new techniques and perhaps share some of the things I've been doing with technology. These networks are dedicated to a narrow purpose or area of interest. While social networks like Facebook, twitter, linkedin, and Google+ can be used in much the same way, the networks I chose were both created using the .ning web 2.0 application that facilitates the creation of a web presence for the network that can be used to curate content by network members. 

I chose to present The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution as one of my sites largely due to the impact that having an interactive whiteboard has had on my teaching. Prior to incorporating this technology, most images were static or crudely done on an overhead projector. An interactive whiteboard is a dynamic tool that is easy to customize for various content, able to project audio/video content that can be manipulated, and accessible by students. I use this technology daily, and have for the past four years, to present new information and engage students with content in an active way. As Jerome Berg stated in his interview with Lainie McCann in one of this week's videos, the interactive whiteboard is a "wonderful way to have [students] engaged, have them building. They're building their understanding through active encounters with content." (Berg, 2008) However, when you have used a tool for a period of time, it can be easy to always use it in the same way. The main reason I chose to explore The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution is that with familiarly comes complacency. I have used this tool in much the same way for a long time and have developed proficiency with it, but I know there is probably so much more that can be done with this technology. Joining the Interactive Whiteboard Revolution network offers the opportunity to learn some new uses for this "old" technology to impact the educational experience for my students. 

The second network I chose to explore and present is Literacy in the Digital Classroom. I chose this network because literacy is of paramount importance to students of all ages and harnessing the power of digital tools to teach literacy is a cornerstone of the Common Core State Standards. Books are no longer sufficient to teach students the depth of content required by these standards. They need to be augmented by digital content. Many of the standards require the inclusion of multiple sources of information and the Internet is, by design, multiple sources of information. Joining this web network provides the opportunity to discuss, learn and share various strategies to not only meet standards, but also to engage learners at the level necessary to become literate in the 21st Century. Also, I have always felt literacy to be one area where I am never certain if I am providing the best instruction for my students. There are so many different ways to teach literacy. By joining this network, I am sure to find new, interesting, and engaging ways to teach literacy to my students. 

We live in a time when it has never been easier to connect with people and ideas. The Internet has made it possible to learn from diverse experts across the globe. To not make those connections seems a waste of resources and, in my opinion, shows a lack of commitment to the profession of education. 


McCann, L. (Host). (2008). CUE Live 2008: Use of an educational network for google earth project. Retrieved on November 17, 2009, from http://www.blip.tv/file/725529

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Teaching Through Forty-One Years of Change

An interview with Veteran Teacher Sandra White

Forty-one years and counting: Interview with Sandra White
Paul Stolt
Lamar University

Author Note
Saundra White has been teaching in public schools in Arkansas for 41 years. Her current teaching assignment is in 4th grade. She also teaches education courses at Northwest Arkansas Community College. Ms. White is one of the first teachers in her building to implement her district’s new BYOD program in her classroom.
Teaching, instructional practices, and strategies
Education has changed considerably since Sandra White began teaching in 1972. Changes in teaching, instructional practices, and strategies have been most profound during the past 15 years of her career as computers, Internet access, and World Wide Web content  began to be steadily incorporated into pedagogy.  These newly wired classrooms required new teaching and instructional practices to meet the needs of students. One of the “huge” changes mentioned by Sandra White is that textbooks are no longer the primary source of information. “We used to have to use textbooks and we got so excited when there was a new adoption because we got some new information. We got to go to those things to get new textbooks for the next few years.” (White, S. 2013) Textbook adoptions are regulated by state statute with contract periods no less than three, nor more than 5 years for “courses subject to rapid knowledge-base changes.” (Zinth, 2005) Sandra White has taught long enough to witness 8 to 14 textbook adoptions in rapid knowledge-base courses. She now says that “[textbooks] are a thing of the past. Absolutely! We use them as a resource, but knowledge is at these kid’s fingertips and it’s fast and there’s plenty of it.” (White, S. 2013) Teachers and their students are no longer dependent on a three to five year cycle or a textbook publishing company for information. Internet delivered information has changed the definition of rapid knowledge-base changes.
Access to the vast resources of the Internet requires teachers to adapt instructional practices. As the web developed and evolved from a relatively static depository of information to an interactive repository of information, instructional practices changed as well. Ms. White recalls that: “Fifteen years ago, we were excited to have a list of websites to send kids to. That was our first change. We had these neat websites to go to and now it’s just anything and everything.” (White, S. 2013) Opening the web to schools created a need for students to learn to read and think critically. Instructional practices had to include lessons in not only reading for meaning, but also how to evaluate information for veracity. Unlike content in the carefully vetted and edited textbook, students had to be taught to be critical consumers of information found on the web. “That’s exactly right,” Ms. White continues. “[Students] have to realize they have to scan it with a fine toothed comb because it may be truthful and it may be not.” (White, 2013) New strategies for teaching have developed to meet this need for creating students with critical thinking skills.
One of those developments is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. These standards require students to use a variety of resources in all subject areas to acquire the “knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed” (“About the Standards”, 2012) in college courses and the workplace. Ms. White acknowledges that teaching strategies have changed due to the new standards.
There’s a whole lot more to research in science and social studies and so much more non-fiction tied into the content of science and social studies. You’re not just teaching the content, as you are teaching how to find the content, research and communicate. You’re teaching reading strategies and that’s because of common core. And research, I mean my kids are constantly doing research - small research projects - to find out information. I may I introduce them to a topic, but they find out more. I don’t have to stand up there and throw out knowledge to them. They can find their own knowledge and then report it and present it. (White, 2013)
Clearly, Ms. White believes that strategic changes in teaching have resulted from the implementation of the new nearly nation-wide standards. And students have changed as well as they respond to new opportunities for learning.
Characteristics of students
Students’ skills as researchers, constructors and disseminators of information and knowledge have never been more of a focus in education. Students are “connecting to information sources and learning in multiple ways.” (Siemans, nd) Learning has become less about knowing who to ask for information and more about “knowing where to find information.” (Siemans, nd)  Students are also more tech-savvy and harder to engage with traditional methods. As Sandra White states: “We were losing them, we were just sage on the stage standing there giving all the knowledge out to them and they had to basically absorb it or not.” (White, 2013) Students were losing interest in being depositories of knowledge, especially when access to knowledge no longer required another person. While students’ chronological ages have remained constant, their technological ages have advanced exponentially, challenging teachers to move into the role “of coaches and role models, because . . . many of the didactic aspects of teaching are not needed anymore, because the information is so prevalent.” (Gardner, nd) Sandra White has seen a change in students in recent years. “I think they’re engaged more. I think the engagement of kids is much more a motivational thing to keep them motivated.” (White, 2013) She credits technology and less teacher-directed instruction with this increase in student motivation.
Major Teaching and Learning Theories
Motivating students to learn has always been a basic tenet of educational theory. On the subject of teaching and learning theories, Ms. White was justifiably perplexed; a lot of theories have come and gone during her 41 years of service. She said she “had no idea – probably Skinner” when asked about theories prevalent when she began her career. Harvard Psychologist B.F. Skinner’s Behaviorism contended that formal education “depends on the teacher creating optimal patterns of stimulus and response” (Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. 2012) Skinner also posited that: “Teaching is the arrangement of contingencies of reinforcement under which students learn.” (Kalantizis, M., & Cope, B. 2012) From the perspective of 2013, it is hard to imagine how Skinner’s theory might adequately meet the needs of students in a connected classroom.
Ms. White would not return to those days, preferring the changes in teaching, instructional strategies, learning, student and student-centered instructional theories spawned by the Internet. After witnessing over 40 years of changes in teaching and learning, primarily since wide-spread inclusion of Internet access and World Wide Web content, Sandra White offers a long-term perspective of education in a digital age. When asked whether the changes were good or bad, she quickly replied: “They’re good. I like them a lot.”

Zinth, K. (2005) State Textbook Adoption.  Retrived on October 11, 2013 from http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/57/75/5775.htm
About the Standards. (2012) Retrieved on October 11, 2013 from http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards
Siemens, G. (nd). The Changing Nature of Knowledge  [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMcTHndpzYg
Gardner, H,. (nd) Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Digital Youth. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-howard-gardner-video

Kalantizis, M., & Cope, B., (2012) Skinner’s Behaviorism. New Learning: Transformational Designs for Pedagogy and Assessment. Retrieved from http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-6-the-nature-of-learning/bf-skinner%E2%80%99s-behaviourism/

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Preachin' to the Converted

Final Reflections on EDLD_5364 Teaching with Technology


I will be honest and admit that there were many times during the past five weeks where I found myself skimming the text and not really reading closely. Much of what Pitler, et. al. had to say wasn't new information to me. Since integrating iPads into my classroom three years ago and transitioning to project-based learning for nearly all content delivery, I have discovered many of the tools listed in the text on my own or through my connections on twitter. Members of my PLN include educational innovators like Lisa Nielsen @innovativeeEdu, Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher, and Will Richardson @willrich45, who inspired me to go "all in" and create the student-centered, connected, tech-integrated learning environment I manage today. 

In the forward to Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, Will Richardson writes that:  
In every subject, in every grade, we need to be able to offer our students a variety of learning experiences that are steeped in the rich potential that these tools now offer, not just in terms of productivity but in terms of the creative and inquiry-based learning that we know works best for students. (Richardson, 2012)
I believe this is not a vision of the future of education, but the reality of now. Students are no longer content to sit and git; web 2.0 tools and the Internet are so intertwined in their lives that we are doing a disservice by not creating the connected, collaborative learning environments argued for by Will Richardson.

I do not mean to suggest that the readings were inconsequential to my learning during this course. While skimming through the text may not have provided much in the way of new information, it certainly provided validation for how I have transformed as an educator. I have to admit to a certain amount of pride and a sense of accomplishment when I read recommendations such as "communicate learning objective to students and parents." (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012, p. 18), "Engage students in the feedback process" (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012, p. 38), and "Use cooperative learning consistently and systematically" (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012, p. 74). These recommendations are are already in place in my classroom. Through the course I realized what I had yet to do continue the transition to a connected, collaborative, constructivist classroom. Along with validation came the realization that more can be done. 

Learn as a Learner

I will be the first to admit that I never cared for group projects when I was in school. I always felt that I could get the project done more quickly without the "help" of others. Having completed a couple of projects now with a diverse team, I understand the value of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and the importance these skills have in problem solving. Having to engage with other people, work through disagreements, build consensus and compromise leads to a better end product and a deeper understanding of what we are asking students to do and why. We had to practice the social/emotion skills identified by Linda Darling-Hammond as essential in project-based learning environments. Our real, authentic work required us "to be able to figure out how to relate to one another, how to divide tasks, how to solve problems, how to probably run into dead ends, pick up the pieces, reorient and go in a new direction.(Darling-Hammond, nd) Do as I say, not as I do is no longer a valid argument. I believe in the end we produced a web site that not only met requirements but, more importantly, required us to use the skills we know are essential for students to possess.

Life Long Learning Skills

As I mentioned earlier, I have already learned the power of being a part of a connected community of learners. These connections provide me with opportunities for discussions that could never be possible without using technology. It is interesting how well I know people who I have never met, and quite possibly will never meet, in person. Yet their contributions to my learning are as important (in some ways more important) as my colleague across the hall or in the classroom next door. For me this is the challenge that lies ahead, how to create a face-to-face analog network as valuable as the digital network. My digital network "gets it." Unfortunately, many members of my analog network, simply do not. Mired in the past, and beholden to traditional ways they carry on with teacher-directed activities aligned to a summative assessment. Even when they do incorporate technology it is largely teacher-directed. The challenge going forward is aligned to ITSE Technology Facilitator/Teacher Leader Standard VIII. It will take "leadership and a strong vision . . . to push technology use into less familiar, but promising constructivist contexts. (Williamson, J. & Reddish, T., 2009 p. 179) Currently, I am leading by example, but realize that that may not be enough. It may be time to step up to the pulpit and lead not a revival, but an intervention. 


Darling-Hammond, L. (Edutopia). (December 10, 2007). The Collaborative Classroom: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/linda-darling-hammond-sel-video

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., &  Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. (2 ed.) Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning

Richardson, W. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. (2 ed.) Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning

Williamson, J., & Redish, T. (2009). ISTE's Technology Facilitation and Leadership Standards. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's Taking So Long

As I worked through the resources this week, I realized that I kept looking at the publication date on the article, book or video. I found myself calculating the number of years since these brilliant (at least to me) people published and wondered why it is still so difficult to persuade colleagues to incorporate technology in their teaching. Each source offered credible arguments on not only why change is needed in teaching and learning, but also how technology resources purposefully implemented creates students prepared for the future. 

Some were down right visionary, like Arizona State University Professor James Paul Gee who argues that the continuous assessment of gaming promotes problem solving in a way that is impossible to replicate in the real world, yet ultimately applicable to real world problems by freeing learners to take risks. (Gee, nd) His argument that the educational system that produces "privileged people who know a lot of facts but can't solve problems with them is on it's last legs" (Gee, nd) is now half a decade old. Another group of students has spent over a third of their education subject to sit, git and spit pedagogy with predictable results.Ostensibly, the research-based, teacher-directed, data-driven programs in favor today purport to improve student achievement - i.e. raise test scores; yet, scores remain stagnant for capable student populations and sub-populations are subjected to instruction designed solely to bring them to proficiency within a narrowed curriculum.

This sentiment is echoed by Indiana University Professor Sasha Barab who argues for re-positioning education to take advantage of technology to give students learning experiences with purpose. (Barab, nd) He argues for a purposeful pedagogy focused on acquiring information not for acquisition but application thereby shifting the paradigm of education away from consumption toward production.
So it's a very different kind of positioning, where, instead of treating these kids when they come in as people who are ignorant in their job, and education is to get them smart enough to demonstrate some sort of high score on a test, our goal is to position them as really empowered kids who get to feel: what is it like to try on the role of a scientist, and to see themselves as people who could possibly have that future. (Barab, nd)
The only way to create a learning environment that empowers students to the degree Sasha Barab advocates is by incorporating technology into students' daily educational experiences. 

I believe Harvard Psychology Professor Howard Gardner, considered by many to be the architect of differentiation in education, sums up the reasons why education practices and educators are so slow to change. In order to bring about substantive change the role of teacher must evolve into one that is not centered on the "didactic aspects of teaching [that] are not needed anymore because the information is so prevalent." (Gardner, nd) Simply put, teachers have to be willing to give up control over knowledge. This is a very challenging prospect for many traditionally trained teachers for whom control is equated to learning. When they are the source of knowledge, they know the student is being taught what is going to be assessed on the test. Unfortunately, this mindset perpetuates a system that doesn't promote problem solving or allow students to develop the skills necessary for a rapidly changing world. It is, and will be for the foreseeable future, difficult to convince colleagues to embrace the new educational possibilities born of digital innovation until they see time has run out on waiting for the future. The future is already here.

Edutopia.org (Producer). (nd). Big thinkers: James Paul Gee on grading with games. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-james-gee-video

Edutopia.org. (Producer). (nd). Big Thinkers: Sasha Barab on New-Media Engagement. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-sasha-barab-video

Edutopia.org (Producer). (nd). Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Digital Youth. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-howard-gardner-video

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Seemingly Monumental Mind Shift

The reading and videos this week really spoke to me on a personal level. Each article or chapter read and video viewed seemed to be illustrating the same thing: that learning environments infused with technology are ideal for reaching all learners. Incorporating technology and adaptive technologies into a classroom provides the greatest opportunity for learners to connect with knowledge, collaborate to create understanding, and connect with content in real, meaningful, and personal ways. Furthermore, engaging students in project-based learning activities connected to a purpose allows learners opportunities to take ownership of their learning. These opportunities mimic the real world. Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond states it is critical to educate the whole child socially and emotionally to prepare them to be functioning adults. Adults function in "contexts where we work in groups on hard problems that need creative solutions that require problem solving." (Darling-Hammond, 2007) Unless children are given freedom to experiment and learn social and emotional resilience in a cooperative, compassionate and caring atmosphere such as a school, they are unlikely to acquire the resiliency necessary for a complex world. Seymour Papert, Director of the Epistemology and Learning Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology argues that experiential, purposeful learning is nothing new and educational theorists such as John Dewey and Jean Piaget made the case for project-based learning in the 19th century. (Papert, nd) With knowledge technologies removing limitations on access to content, it stands to reason that Dewey's activity derived understanding and Piaget's communication constructed, interactive cognitive development model should be the basis of pedagogy in the digital age. Technology integration "puts kids in a position to learn what they need," (Papert, nd) and in the process construct meaning, acquire valuable life skills, and develop resiliency.

Video of my students engaged in project-based learning.
One of the reasons these videos spoke to me is that I witness the power of integrated technology on a daily basis. I am very fortunate to be able to facilitate learning in a 1:1 environment. When I received a grant two years ago to incorporate tablet technology into my classroom, I knew that simply passing out tablets and instructing students to launch an app to practice a certain skill was simply replacing a 19th century tool with a 21st century tool. I had to commit to a wholesale change in the way teaching and learning happens in my room. Project-based learning became the vehicle to transport me into a new reality. I now strive to turn everything we have to do to meet standards into a project-based opportunity. Often, the students are the ones actually devising the learning plans; I just provide them with the goal and outcome, and step back and see what they can come up with to meet the goal or objective. Vicki Davis said it best when she comments that "so many teachers think they need to know everything." (Davis, nd) I realized that I don't need to know everything, just enough to know how to set up the situation, and when to get out of the way. And let the learners connect with content, collaborate, problem solve, and create real, meaningful, deep knowledge and acquire the skills necessary for an increasingly complex world. 

Darling-Hammond, L. Edutopia.org (Producer) (December 10, 2007). The Collaborative Classroom: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/linda-darling-hammond-sel-video

Papert, S. Edutopia.org (Producer) (nd). Project Learning: An Overview. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-overview

Davis, V. Edutopia.org. (Producer) (nd). Harness Your Students’ Digital Smarts. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-teachers-vicki-davis

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Investing eBook

I created an eBook using the National Center on Accessible Instructional Material (CAST) UDL Book Builder web tool. I posted a brief reflection on my experience using this tool to my EDLD_5364 blog. Follow the link below to read How to Save a Million Dollars (maybe)


Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Tricks - UDL

I'll be honest, I have not really "planned" a lesson for a few years. I set goals and objectives, develop learning activities, and formative and summative assessments, I just have not gone through the process of writing it all down for every lesson or unit. When you teach for enough years some things just become part of what you do. And when you find something new you try and incorporate them too.

Recognition networks
Strategic Networks
Since I've become a 1:1 classroom, I've completely rethought planning, teaching and learning. Back in the day, I used to plan units sequentially, this is what I need to teach them first, second etc., here are worksheets and other resources needed, all in order to prepare them for the assessment at the end. I've totally flipped that. I start with the end in mind. Many times I don't so much plan lessons or units, as just identify the objective or the standard to be met. I've started many of my best units by simply putting the standard to be met on the interactive whiteboard, set the purpose, present the problem and let the kids determine how they're going to meet the standard and show that they've learned. Students have ownership of learning. They share their thoughts, I get valuable information on misconceptions, schema, interest in content, and how they plan to evidence their new learning, and we go from there. Let's just say the path to the objective isn't always a straight line, and almost never what I planned or had in mind.

Affective networks
This week I planned a lesson and a unit using the UDL template. It helped me to focus on the three UDL networks - recognition, strategic and affective - and, as I read back over my plan looking for evidence of the three, I realized that I had mixed them throughout the lesson. I feel good about that, I believe that shifting between the networks keeps the whole brain active and engaged. I probably won't spend this much time planning a lesson until next summer, but the principles of UDL will be present in the lessons I don't "plan."

images retrieved from http://www.cast.org/udl/

My UDL lesson plan

So You Want to be a Millionaire?
Paul Stolt
Personal Finance
Grade Level(s):
6 - 8
4 weeks
Subject Area:
Unit Description:
This project-based unit introduces students to the concept of investing to create wealth as opposed to saving for future wants or needs. It begins with a comparison between investing and saving. This unit is launched by an ebook that provides background information and sets the driving question: Is it possible to save a million dollars?
During the unit students will create portfolios of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. After an initial survey of personal likes and interests, the students will choose industries that match their personal interests. This will help establish the concept of ownership. Students will journal why they decided on the investments they choose and give reasons to support their decision based on their research.
Students will then create a portfolio of 2 stocks, 2 bonds and 2 mutual funds on the website http://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com/ and track the performance of their investments for 20 days, and record observations in their journals.
At the end of the 20 day cycle, learners will record their findings and create a presentation with present and projected future value based on three possible scenarios of their choice – continue investing a set amount, stop investing, and increase investments by a percentage at a set time period. Final projects will be posted to class specific wiki and shared with interested parents, administration and members of financial community.
Lesson Description for Day:
Launch lesson will introduce students to investing through the use of ebook, provide time for brainstorming, discussion, and student initiated questions, collection of group prior knowledge via Google form, and augment background knowledge with videos on investing.
State Standards:
TEKS (14) Personal financial literacy. The student applies mathematical process standards to develop an economic way of thinking and problem solving useful in one's life as a knowledgeable consumer and investor.
TEKS (13) Measurement and data. The student applies mathematical process standards to use numerical or graphical representations to solve problems. The student is expected to:
(A) interpret numeric data summarized in dot plots, stem-and-leaf plots, histograms, and box plots; and
(B) Distinguish between situations that yield data with and without variability.
CCSS WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
CCSS WHST.6-8.8 Gather information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and effectively.
RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Unit Goals:

The goals of this unit are as follows:

1.      Learners understand investing as a means to create wealth.
2.      Learners understand the effect of time on investing
3.      Learners apply research and mathematical reasoning to decision making process
4.      Learners analyze various investment options based on personal goals and record analysis for future use.
5.      Learners evaluate strategy and effectiveness in relation to investment goals. Learners share evaluations with peers for critique, comment.
6.      Learners create investment guide and summary of project.
Lesson Goals:
The goals of the launch lesson are as follows:
  1. Generate questions from learners related to investing.
  2. Determine level of learner schema.
  3. Generate reasons to invest.
  4. Create interest in investing among learners.

Anticipatory Set:


To create interest, show photos of celebrities along with their net worth. Ask learners how they earned their money and if it’s possible for everyone to use that method. Then show the number of millionaires in the United States. Ask learners how they think they reached that goal. Open the website http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2010/03/5-a-day-grants-you-millionaire-status/ on interactive white board. Learners should comment to social media document on their thoughts after reviewing the above website with learners.

(Optional: Have clean version of Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars’ I Want to be a Billionaire playing as students enter room.)

The launch lesson begins with a pro/con chart for saving money. What are some reasons to save money? Responses are recorded on chart, whiteboard, or through social media such as todaysmeet.com.

This is followed by asking what are some ways to save money. Again using chart, whiteboard or social media to record responses.
Finally, ask students to define saving and investing using the same methods for recording responses.
Once all responses are in, have a group discussion and look for common themes and address misconceptions. Close anticipatory set by directing learners to eBook: How to Save a Million Dollars (maybe) and help open accounts and explore scenarios on the two websites embedded in the book. This anticipatory set of activities aligns with UDL recognition, strategic and affective networks.


Introduce and Model New Knowledge:

At the end of the anticipatory set, students are directed to http://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com/ and http://www.daveramsey.com/article/investing-calculator/lifeandmoney_investing/#/entry_form

To explore and establish accounts used in future lessons.



Provide Guided Practice:

Guided practice consists of modeling the process for evaluating possible investment opportunities based on personal interest. Develop criteria for evaluation with student input. Show video A Teenager’s Guide to Investing http://youtu.be/G8FmnGkkkt8 after modeling the process, guide learners in creating accounts and starting research on companies. Model keeping an investment journal to reflect on learning.

(Video referenced above can also be used as an example of how a finished project might look.)



Provide Independent Practice:

Students use developed criteria to research and evaluate possible investment options to determine their investment mix of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. After a period of independent practice, learners should reflect on the process of creating a portfolio in their journals.



Formative/Ongoing Assessment:
Learner journal entries serve as formative/ongoing assessment of project. The anticipated due dates for required parts of the project will be displayed on a timeline displayed in the classroom. A rubric will be provided to students to guide journal responses.
Summative/End Of Lesson Assessment:
Learner final projects serve as summative assessment. Learners will post final projects to class Google site and present results to class, administrators and members of investment community.

Internet access
Student web access device – any operating system – minimum 3:1 ratio. Ideally 1:1 student to device ratio.
Unit could be completed in lab setting
Unit could fit into BYOD environment
Interactive white board
http://penzu.com/ on-line journal
www.google.docs.com used to create class web presence
www.blogspot.com blog site for keeping a journal
www.kidblog.com blog site for keeping a journal (posts on this site have to be teacher approved prior to going “live”)
www.evernote.com versatile site with a/v recording capabilities – great for special needs
www.bitly.com url address shortening application
www.qrme.com qrcode creation app
http://safeshare.tv/ filter app for youtu.be video content removes ads, etc.
www.youtube.com access to videos
featured video bibliography
Murarka, A. (2013) The Teenager’s Guide to Investing. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/G8FmnGkkkt8
Cunningham, J. The Investor Education Fund (producer). (nd). Funny Money Cartoon: Building Long-term Wealth (video) retrieved from http://youtu.be/23zghpS9034