Module 5 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency and demonstrate a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

But first, a brief anecdote:

They said the meeting would focus on “technology.”

We sat together (after a day of trying to help adolescents learn new things) and listened to step-by-step instructions on how to use each of our school’s tech tools.  The attendance tracker, the grade book, the google suite. 

To tell you the nasty truth, this busy, tired, first-year teacher was pretty annoyed.  I had lessons to plan and papers to grade, but was forced to sit there while a relatively small group of my colleagues learned how to pin tabs in a web browser, initiate a Google hangout, etc.  I didn’t need what they needed. I had hoped that this “technology” meeting would equip me with tools I might use to make English Language Arts come alive for the brooding teens I love so much.  But my colleagues – I really do love them very much – weren’t ready for any of that.  They wanted to know where the shared documents are hiding on the Google suite (Oh, well, you can find them under the “shared with me” tab.)

Here’s the problem with keeping teachers up to speed on technology: we all start in different places.  One colleague at my school is blazing a trail for kids with special needs to design and create products using 3D printers. At the other end of the spectrum, one dear teacher-friend of mine sincerely believes that data is deleted when she toggles between different sheets on Excel. The rest of us find ourselves scattered between these poles.

Standard 5 asks teachers to commit to their own ongoing growth in technological proficiency, and it asks them to demonstrate a vision of this for others. The vignette above shows, I think, both how overwhelming this can feel and how necessary it is. So here’s my personal question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency while demonstrating a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

And here are the partial answers I’ve picked up over the first 3 quarters of my first year:

“A classroom educator’s primary job is understood to be covering the assigned content and ensuring that students test well. Many educators do not have the information, the time, or the incentives to continuously improve their professional practice” (39).

1.) Beginners aren’t exempt from leadership, especially when it comes to technology.

While I might not lead the school in tech integration, this is a realm in which I can make a contribution.

At first, It was tempted to shrug off parts of this standard: “exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.” Who am I to exhibit any kind of leadership, especially when the guy down the hall just printed a chess set?! And I just got here!

But it was unfair of me to take this stance. I work with a bunch of knowledgeable sweethearts, and any success I have achieved in my first year was made possible by their help. Coworkers have shared curriculum, advice, planning methods, and grading systems. Some of the teachers who’ve been so helpful to me are the ones who asked about how to access shared documents and pin tabs.

I take for granted that these things come easily to me. If I’m intimidated by ISTE Education Standards, I can’t imagine how it feels to be the person who’s still a little overwhelmed by the Google suite. One way that I can begin to demonstrate vision for technology infusion is to first share my excitement and my knowledge of these little tricks.

There are a ton of knowledgeable and experienced teachers who are afraid of the bigger changes in ed tech because they’re struggling with the “regular tech” that new teachers [use]. The support needed among my school’s faculty requires relational initiative; while I’m not a world-class tech expert, I am pretty friendly. One easy step toward demonstrating a vision for technology infusion is to help even the playing field among faculty members by sharing my excitement and knowledge about these little tricks.

2.) Comfort with the technology of daily life does not automatically boost student learning.

This module’s reading pointed out that “Young teachers are similar to their students in that they… are comfortable interacting with digital devices and accessing the internet as their students are. Still, this does not mean they understand how to use the technology of their daily lives to improve their teaching practices” (44).

While it’s true that technology integration feels more obvious and organic to me than it does to some of my more seasoned teacher friends, comfort with technology does not automatically translate into increased student learning. The standard doesn’t ask me to be handy with a computer, it asks me to “make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.” If I want to leverage technology to support student learning, I need to explore “existing and emerging digital tools.” Fortunately, independent professional growth is easier than ever before. In her post about standard 5, my friend Marjorie shared about a curated list of teacher tech tools, available at ala.org.  They’ve even organized their suggestions into categories:  Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Manage & Organize, Social Networking & Communication, Content Resources, Curriculum Collaboration.  After just a few minutes of poking around, I found two resources I’ll likely use in an upcoming unit on the history of the US Presidency.

3.) Modern technology promises to make Professional Development easier than ever before.

I can see why some teachers roll their eyes at professional development. As my vignette above illustrates, trying to bring a diverse staff up to speed on a topic as broad as “technology” seems like an impossible task. With so many different levels of knowledge, experience, and willingness, it’s difficult for education leaders to help teachers “develop” together.

Our reading talked about the ways in which educators can personalize learning for our students (page 41), but the personal possibilities apply to teachers, too. We can leverage online trainings and resource sharing in order to meet individual teachers or departments in their area of greatest need. Schools can give their teachers access to webinars and tutorials that allow teachers to become proficient on the same tools at their own pace. (Oh! Look! I’m “demonstrating a vision of technology infusion” right now! I’m doing it!)

References:

AASL. (2016).  Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2015. Best Tools for Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/websites/2016

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology.  November 2010.  Transforming American Education:  Learning Powered by Technology.  National Education Technology Plan 2010.  Retrieved from: https://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf

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Module 4 Reflection – for EDTC6433

ISTE 4 deals with digital ethics and etiquette.  In a world where students have unprecedented access to both information and interaction, teachers must promote and model respect for the intellectual property and emotions of the masses.  My question for ISTE#4 is: How will I address/acknowledge digital dangers and promote and model digital citizenship in a one-on-on school setting?

In this module’s required reading, Ribble and Miller point to lack of empathy and audience size as two problematic features of internet communication.  The diminished emotional component of web interaction only adds fuel to the dumpster fire that is every adolescent’s deficient empathy (I love them! I cannot tell you why!).  The perceived distance between online life and real life make cyber bullying and plagiarism feel like small secret short comings.  It would be easy for a kid to feel like no one gets hurt by this stuff.

That’s why we have to teach them that cyber bullying does hurt people, can lead to bigger problems; that turning in an essay or a graphic made by someone else is like depositing their money in your bank account.  It’s stealing.

I’m addressing this in my classes.  I teach in a unique school with a one-to-one teacher-to-student ratio.  One of my students has watched me shudder at a nasty comment or two directed at groups I’m part of or people I love. The uniqueness of my teaching situation allows me the opportunity to talk through how comments spat out in private land on real readers.

A few of my students came to our school because they struggled with the social pressures of a larger school setting.  Even in the context of a personal teacher-student interaction, it’s helpful to have reliable, well-researched resources to lean on.  I’m a fan of the Ophelia Project, not only because of the free resources they provide, but also because the organization’s history has encouraged one of my students. They’ve provided lesson plans and a particularly helpful one sheet that have helped me think through what kids need to learn about cyber bullying.  The Ophelia Project resources agree with the major points from our required reading (as well as the ALA’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner, posted by a friend) in a handy format.

 

References:

AASL.  (2007). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.  ALA Guidelines and Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/AASL_LearningStandards.pdf

Miller, T. M. & Ribble, M. (year). Educational leadership in an online world: connecting students to technology, responsibly, safely and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17: 1. 137-145. Retrieved from: file:///E:/ARC/!Winter%202016/EDTC%206433/M4/Educational%20Leadership%20in%20an%20Online%20World%20-%20Copy.pdf

CYBERCOOL: 15 positively powerful lessons to teach digital citizenship and stop cyberbullying.  2010.  The Ophelia Project.  Retrieved from http://www.opheliaproject.org/cyber/CyberCoolMiddleSchool.pdf.

Cyber Bullying OneSheet.  (2011).  [OneSheet displays basic info on characteristics and contributors of cyberbullying.]  The Ophelia Project.  Retrieved from http://www.opheliaproject.org/facts/Cyberbullying%20OneSheet.pdf.

Module 3 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #3 – How can I model and facilitate digital literacy for my 6th grade ELA students?

“Digital Literacy” – What’s that?

There are several definitions and alternative labels for digital literacy floating around in the education technology conversation.  I am thankful to Karon Dragon and Wasnieswski Ewa of the University of Alberta, who have provided the following summary:

Ranieri,  Calvani  and  Fini  (2010)  would  define  digital  competence  as  “the  capability  to  explore and  face  new  technological  situations  in  a  flexible  way,  to  analyze,  select  and  critically  evaluate  data  and information,  to  exploit  technological  potentials  in  order  to  represent  and  solve  problems  and  build  shared and  collaborative  knowledge”  (pg.542).  Martin (2009)  defines  e-literacy  as  “awareness,  skills, understanding  and  reflective  evaluative  approaches  to  operate  in  an  information  rich  and  IT  supported environment” (p. 97).

Flexibility, source analysis and evaluation, information synthesis, problem solving.  Awareness, reflection, evaluation.  Fortunately, much of this is already reflected in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Digital literacy is the term we’re using to adjust our notion of literacy according to how much more literature there is to be understood and sorted out.

With this definition in mind, he first step toward modeling and facilitating digital literacy should be to acknowledge the skills kids already have. As UCLA professor, Patricia Greenfield, has written,

The informal learning environments of television, video games, and the Internet are producing learners with a new profile of cognitive skills. This profile features widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills, such as iconic representation and spatial visualization.

In other words, the amount of time kids spend on their devices gives this generation a set of digital literacy skills unlike any we’ve ever seen.  Educators can leverage those skills by creating lessons, visuals, assessments and build on and reward those competencies.  To use just one example, iconic representation is useful for routines and other classroom communication.  If we leverage the fact that kids only need a symbol where we previously needed an explanation, we can reserve class time for the other skills involved in untangling a world wide web of ideas.

Untangling is a useful metaphor for what schools have always endeavored to help students do.  We set out the Odyssey, or Hamlet – or, if you teach 6th grade ELA – The Giver.  And we help kids pull out certain pieces to take a better look (analysis) and then arrange them in a meaningful order that will communicate some conclusion (synthesis).  The new literacy is the old literacy; there’s just a whole lot more text.  So we have to start setting out more texts at a time.  Which means that some of the time we used to spend close-reading novels will be spent close-reading the internet.

One difficulty will be keeping their attention.  This challenge of keeping kids on task is significantly altered when the ratio is 1-to-1, but it isn’t necessarily new or unique – or any more difficult!  Fortunately, it is easier than ever to track and respond to student tasks (programs like LanSchool let you monitor student screens).  Feedback is also faster and easier than ever before; using OneNote Class Notebook I can read work submissions in real time, and respond with feedback without shuffling through a pile of papers or a row of desks.

While technology has made broadened the realm of and demand for literacy, it has also provided some tools that promise to help us teach literacy more efficiently than we could before.

Reference:

Dragon, K. and Ewa, W. (2012). “Relationships between Digital Literacy and Print literacy: Predictors of Successful On-line Search.” Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012. (PP. 1755-1758). University of Alberta, Canada.  Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/992608/files/39077567/download

Greenfield, P. M. (2009).  Technology and Informal Education: What Is Taught, What Is Learned.  Science  Vol. 323, pp. 69-71. Retrieved from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5910/69.abstract

 

Module 2 Reflection – for EDTC6433

I teach a Creative Writing elective. I chose to read Ellen Madden’s article on digital storytelling in search of a tech-savvy (ok, brag-worthy) instructional gimmick that might impress a room full of kids who would rather take their digital tech class again. But what I found was much more practical – and much more exciting – than a gimmick. Madden follows two teachers as they plan and implement a digital storytelling unit on The Outsiders. In this extremely practical overview of how we can use digital storytelling to target English Language Arts CCSS proficiency, Madden describes teacher approach, instructional methods, and the task of teaching the tech alongside the standards and the novel.

Let me explain why this is such a big deal. To start, here’s an example of something I’m trying to squeeze out of apathetic and underserved (but completely delightful) 6th graders in Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5 – Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

I want my students to be able to analyze one moment in an unfolding plot, and then tell me how it relates to the bigger picture. To comprehend a novel’s themes, students must drill down into key passages to analyze and make connections. So I might ask my students to analyze one chapter of the novel we’re reading right now, and tell me what that chapter contributes to the novel’s themes. How does the author use Chapter 9 to make some statement about friendship, or culture, or identity?

When I ask questions like this, I’m placing my students across the table from a text or author, in a posture of interrogation. This is great fun for a grown up with an English degree; I know what questions to ask. But many 6th graders aren’t great interrogators – they don’t always have specific questions about plot elements or character change. They aren’t interested in Socratic discovery. They are interested in making stuff.

In 2010, Grunwald Associates LLC reported that, “Teachers value digital media as instructional resources that empower them to engage student interest, promote creativity, and differentiate instruction.” It follows that, when I invite my students to create a digital representation of a text, I’m inviting them to sit next to – not across from – the author. Using a digital storytelling platform (my district uses Microsoft Sway) students look at the text and the author’s strategies as a co-creator.  This kind of creative imitation requires just as much analysis as interrogation, but it’s a great deal more accessible to kids. In other words, it’s fun.

Madden describes how the process of digital storytelling can be broken down into meaningful pieces which more explicitly reveal different elements of the story. The process begins with personal preference and individual goals – students choose the scene they find most compelling, and set out to convey that scene’s unique tone.  Students also manage their own learning throughout the process as they work to meet mini-deadlines, continually evaluating their progress.  Teachers can leverage these deadlines to blend instruction with assessment by explicitly tying all this creative activity to the technical concepts of characterization, setting, and juxtaposition.  Most importantly, students learn literary concepts by rolling up their sleeves and interacting with the text in a personal way.  As students create alongside the author, they confront a sincere need to communicate their ideas well. They are compelled to look more closely at what the author is doing – how the bullets flying in the background highlight the life-giving quality of friendship (or whatever). Re-creating the tone of a scene requires students to choose and consistently fold in repeated contributions to that tone – the way an author does.  They learn what tone is by “doing” tone – this is the very definition of authentic learning!

Resources:

Maddin, Ellen (2013) Teaching Literary Analysis with Digital Storytelling: An Instructional Approach [PDF]. Retrieved from http://encompass.eku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=kjectl.

Grunwald Associates, LLC (2010). Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology. Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/992608/files/39077531?module_item_id=8641931

Module 1 Reflection – for EDTC6433

My triggering event question for this standard: How can I use technology to promote authenticity among my grade 6-8 Creative Writing students?

The question I claimed to be researching was specific enough, but as I read articles looking for an answer, I spiraled out of control.  There’s a lot of jargon out there.  How can I be sure that implementing these technologies in the classroom will benefit students?  Education tech definitely sounds cool; kids will probably like this stuff, but will they learn more?  Or, to more specifically return to my question, will technology help my creative writing students begin to write more significant, more important pieces?  Will technology motivate better writing?

Three sources have shaped my thoughts on this question:

SAMR Duckworth Illustration

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

First: Angela Duckworth’s illustration of what’s called the “SAMR Model” clarifies that there are different levels of technology integration.  My quest for the right educational technology needs to be informed by this spectrum of integration.  Is the app or program in question a mere substitute for pen and paper?  Substitutes about, and these may not deliver the increased engagement and achievement they promise.  Duckworth’s model helped me pinpoint the level of integration I’m aiming for.  If I’m going to ask my students to work with something other than Microsoft Word, I want reasonable assurance that the technology will not merely enhance, but transform their writing experience.

So began a second movement in Module 1: the quest for statistical evidence of transformation!  As I mentioned, there’s a lot of jargon out there.  But I can’t assume that every article using the word “catalyze” promotes a learning technology that will transform a learning experience. Fortunately, a groupmate posted Marzano’s article on the use and effectiveness of interactive whiteboards.  While interactive whiteboards most likely won’t be the key to more authentic writing for my middle schoolers, the article highlights some valuable principles of technology integration that helped me sort out my thoughts on our Module 1 articles.  Marzano reports that “…using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement.” He unpacks the specific attributes of interactive whiteboards which boost learning, one of which is learner response devices (such as clickers).  These devices might be used as a substitute for the raising of hands or other formative assessment measures (thumbs up or down, fist-to-five), but thoughtful teacher application can make clickers a more transformative tool.

The resource most relevant to my question was shared by another classmate.  Writing Re-launched focused on using technology to transform writing instruction.  This article affirmed and powerfully justified some of the claims made in my earlier reading about the ways in which tech can increase motivation and engagement. The article (as well as several of my classmates) recommends requiring students to create and publish writing to a blog in order to raise the stakes on content and conventions.  This is a hard pill for me to swallow. My own bPortfolio makes me shut down; it brings out the very ugliest aspect of the writing process.  The pain.  (See timestamp on this post.)  So I hesitate to ask this of my students.

But as Greenhow et al have pointed out, I need to think about how kids express themselves these days. They aren’t finding their voice between the covers of their journal; they’re engaging in high-stakes identity formation on the world wide web.  Equally importantly, their jobs (or their graduate school programs, I’ll bet) will likely ask them to engage in dialogue over internet platforms as well.  Web writing is the most authentic (significant, relevant, real world) writing available.

So I’ll consider the blog thing.  Thanks for reading.

Reference: Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age. Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now? Educational Researcher. 38(4). 246-259.

Heitin, Liana. Writing re-launched: Teaching with digital tools. (2011, April 4). In Education week: Teacher PD sourcebook. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2011/04/04/02digital.h04.html