Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Down the 21st Century Rabbit Hole

One thing that frustrates me beyond belief is that we continue to talk about 21st century skills in the year 2016.  We talk about how to prepare our students for 2020.   Ladies and gentlemen, that is 4 years away!

Who remembers this video from 2010:

That was 6 years ago!  Will these innovations exist in the next 4 years?  Probably not.  But the vision will remain.  

We are consistently witnessing major breakthroughs in technology that are changing and shifting our environments.  Devices keep getting smarter.  The world is changing.  Unfortunately, a majority of classrooms still look like this:
Kansai University, Japan, School, Classroom, Inside

Meanwhile the most innovative offices in the world look like this:

Chartboost HQ in San Francisco complete with a dedicated game room with ball pit and giant lego wall

How much farther along would we be if schools became incubators of innovation?  Students don't need to memorize and regurgitate facts.  There's this thing out there called Google.  Need to fix something - go look on YouTube.  

I'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water here.  We need to know the facts that make our world operate in order to dream - but how does worksheet after worksheet make that happen?!

We need to re-think education.  We need to re-think our way of thinking.  We need to remember what it was like to be a kid.  We need to find ways to encourage that kind of creativity in collaborative ways that does not stifle or inhibit forward thinking.  The potential is there.  How will we bring it to the forefront and continue to prepare students for a world that we can only dream of today? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Preparing for 21st Century Assessment

I read the post and after my stomach stopped churning I started wondering what are we really doing as educators?  We continue to beat the drum talking about change and 21st century learning and yet our methods of assessment continue down a tired and bureaucratic path designed to produce a workforce that is already outdated.  With no disrespect to Shyla Nott or the rest of the fine folks at the Global Educator Institute who really do some fine work, the following is a "tongue-in-cheek" parody (with hopefully a ring of truth) which offers an alternative approach to assessment.  Please do read the original article Classroom Preparations for Testing Season because there is some great advice there to deal with our reality.  But in an alternate universe...

Classroom Preparations for the Real World

It’s that time of the year again–gearing up for publishing student e-portfolios. For months your students have been preparing— creating ways to learn new vocabulary, creating digital posters, designing interactive videos.
You’ve supported them through guided facilitation, collaborative exercises, differentiated instruction, connections with global classrooms and honest encouragement.  Examples of their work are displayed throughout the room and some of it has already been posted to the web.
But now, in anticipation of the year end celebration of learning, it’s time to upload it for the world to see. What stays, and what goes? How will they complete their final edits?

Do a walk-through

Before publication is in full swing, ask your students to evaluate each others final products and discuss digital citizenship and personal branding. Determine as a group what should be shared and why. This will reinforce what made the work authentic and personal while providing an understanding that the work was done and the life lessons it served. This activity should help reinforce certain topics, helping students to remember them for the rest of their lives.
*After publishing, determine as a class what information should be replaced or whether new information is needed for the next class of students.

Promote and encourage sharing of ideas!

Share as much of the students work as possible that may assist future students and allow them to build upon the foundation that has been laid before them.  Here are a few examples that school personnel should consider when preparing for publication:
•    Digital Posters, maps, charts, and displays that define, explain, or illustrate terms or concepts
•    Screencasts of Mathematical formulas/theorems
•    Conceptual mindmaps and storyboards for digital productions
•    Word lists and word clouds of written work to analyze content
•    Recorded On-Air Hangouts
•    Blog posts that have demonstrate understanding of knowledge
•    Videos that displayed process and scientific method
•    Writing formulas

Other considerations

There is no manual for 21st century learning.  Every setting should be different and reflect the needs of that group of students.  Learning environments should be open, adaptable and comfortable.  Noise and interruptions should be frequent and expected. Students should have room to move and collaborate.  Materials should be provided as needed for effective completion of tasks. 

Global-Friendly Displays

There are various ways to display portfolios effectively.  Blogs, Sites, Edmodo groups, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr are all great places to start that will make the students work much easier to find later on.
With just a few changes we can see how alternative assessments like globally published e-portfolios can really demonstrate how we are changing the educational landscape one classroom at a time.

I'm curious.  How do you prepare your classroom for 2025? And how are you assessing your progress?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What Makes Presentations Pop?

The interactive video above was created using Google On Air Hangout HaikuDeck and EdPuzzle. Sometimes achieving an end goal requires "mashing" a number of different technical resources together. This presentation is a continuation of a session which by year's end I will have conducted for my district, at IETC and at the ICE Conference entitled "Presentations That Pop". Feel free to follow the link and explore the full presentation. I thought the interactive video would be a good review for attendees of those sessions and would also provide me with authentic feedback regarding what participants had garnered from the session. While designed specifically for educators, the content in both the presentation and the video would be appropriate for middle and high school students
I mention a number of resources during the presentation including the mindmap tools popplet.commindmeister.com and bubbl.us. Additionally I reference paletton.com
which is a wonderful tool that helps create color schemes for presentations, graphic design and website development. This was my first experience creating interactive video and I believe it has a great deal of potential not only as a way to deliver content; but, also as an extremely effective method of formative assessment.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Constructivism and Multiple Intelligence Reflection

Howard Gardner’s work has been an integral part of numerous educational theories since Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was published in 1983.  I remember my copy in college being full of annotations and highlights because the idea that human knowledge was more than rote memorization appealed to me.  The concept that we have varying levels of ability in each of Gardner’s intelligence classifications explains the need for differentiated instruction perfectly.  In a recent interview with the Huffington Post he stated that “two major educational implications” of Multiple Intelligences are Individuation and Pluralization.  The first suggests we need to address the needs of each specific learner and the second offers a method of accomplishing that goal by presenting the material in a variety of ways. (Lynch, 2012).

It is not surprising that a visionary like Sir Ken Robinson would address the importance of Multiple Intelligences and encourage educators to recognize the child as a whole instead of forcing  the student to conform to a system which typically values Verbal-Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical modalities that can be assessed through standardized testing.  As educators, it is imperative that we encourage, celebrate and accommodate a child’s strengths instead of labeling them as weaknesses when they do not fit the traditional model of learning.

While my current role as a district technology coordinator does not give me daily access to the classroom, the past decade has afforded me a number of opportunities to offer professional development to teachers throughout our district.  I always have music playing as participants arrive.  I have found this strategy can set the tone for a session, activate the senses and heighten linguistic acuity.  I have begun integrating essential questions and discussions into my presentations to provide opportunity for honing both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.  During a recent half day workshop I used a Google extension called Move It to interrupt the presentation at set intervals with a prompt to perform a certain exercise.   This hopefully triggered a response from the bodily-kinesthetic learner who needed to get up occasionally during a 4 hour workshop!  All of this is done in a subtle way to model different techniques they can use in their classrooms.

When I have the opportunity to work directly with students, I provide a number of resources and let them decide on how to express their knowledge.  One of my favorite projects was co-teaching a 10-week digital storytelling unit with at-risk learners.  As we discussed the various stages of creating a digital story, I shared a number of tools from which to choose, which gave them a great deal of autonomy.  Additionally, the students had to take on roles (e.g., production manager, script supervisor, director of photography, etc) which in retrospect allowed them to utilize, explore and expand on pre-existing intelligences.

While these techniques seem to be effective in a traditional environment, I am uncertain they would work in an online or distance learning scenario.   As the article The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning states, “little has been done to study MI in the online classroom.” (Riha, 2009)  It would be feasible to tap a number of Gardner’s intelligences in this scenario; however, even with the advent of media, I imagine it would be challenging to incorporate Spatial-Visual, Bodily-Kinesthetic and Musical intelligences within these environments.  My personal experience with this cohort has made me more aware of my intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences.  I have become more adroit at self-reflection and collaboration thanks to the inspiring posts, discussions and projects.  

The concept of constructivism appears to be an extension of differentiated instruction.  I have always felt we need to return to the Socratic approach wherein the instructor asks questions aimed at inciting dialogue allowing “students to realize for themselves the weakness in their thinking” and construct new ideas based on this knowledge. ("Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning")  The 21st century educational design needs to focus more on sparking creative thought, rather than creating lock step curriculum designed for an Industrial Age.  As Socrates may have once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” (“Quote Investigator”)

With this in mind, I have found the blog posts from Ewan McIntosh regarding constructivism to be completely engrossing.  The underlying theme seems roughly based on the concept of design thinking which is structured in a way that provides “enough flexibility with enough specificity to ground its ideas in the lives of their intended beneficiaries.” (McIntosh, 2012)  Throughout the posts we see that dialogue, autonomy and facilitation lead to quality innovative work.  I particularly enjoyed the video Designing the Unknown which focuses on C-K theory and demonstrates how an open and Socrative process can allow for pre-existing knowledge to add attributes within a conceptual space and generate many new and innovative ideas.  It seems that constructivism achieves the desired outcome of differentiated instruction without requiring the instructor to provide  a number of approaches to achieve a specific outcome. Instead, wide scale essential and existential questions are asked that help students “know what they didn’t know”. (McIntosh, 2015) allowing for new ideas to develop and evolve.

I believe the concept of constructivism could have major impact on the future of education, provided the institution can get out of it’s own way.  These open and innovative  environments allow the teacher to remove themselves as the “sage on the stage” and instead take on the role of “guide on the side”.  This insures that “collaborative learning is a process of peer interaction that is mediated and structured by the teacher” and generates thinkers as opposed to workers. (“Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin”)  Many of these environments are also often student driven by design.  The challenge then becomes how to evaluate and assess the success of these programs in a standards driven world?  I am hoping to find some of the answers to that question in a session I will be hosting at EdCamp: After Dark  that will explore the idea of a “reThink Thinking and Learning Symposium”.  This is a thought I envisioned while reading Ewan McIntosh’s posts and would be designed and promoted as a day that would bring educators, students, parents and community leaders together for a day of candid discussion about what works and what could be improved upon when it comes to learning.  I cannot wait to see what my colleagues think of this concept!

Lynch, Ed.D. Matthew. "Living Legends: An Interview With Howard Gardner, Part I." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Jan. 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-lynch-edd/howard-gardner_b_1192229.html>.

Riha, Mark, and Rebecca A. Robles-PiƱa. "The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning." Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 5.1 (2009). Web. 3 Feb. 2016. <http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no1/robles-pina_0309.htm>.

"Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning." Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index_sub4.html>.

"Quote Investigator." Quote Investigator. Web. 07 Feb. 2016. <http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/28/mind-fire/>.

McIntosh, Ewan. "Design Thinking 2: Immersion - Don't Give Students a Problem to Solve.." Ewan McIntosh | Design Thinking, Education & Learning. 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2012/01/design-thinking-2-immersion-dont-give-students-a-problem-to-solve.html>.

McIntosh, Ewan. "Unknown Unknowns. #ungoogleable Thinking for #28daysofwriting." Ewan McIntosh | Design Thinking, Education & Learning. 8 Feb. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2015/02/unknown-unknowns-ungoogleable-thinking-for-28daysofwriting.html>.

"Constructivism and Social Constructivism in the Classroom." Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php/Education_Theory/Constructivism_and_Social_Constructivism_in_the_Classroom>.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Clark / Kozma Media Debate: A Reflection

As I read Richard E. Clark’s original article “Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media”, I kept wondering what his thoughts would have been regarding the printing press which enabled the first mass produced media in the form of print, created greater access to knowledge “and has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.” (Dewar, 1998)  I couldn’t figure out if Clark was a luddite opposed to media itself or simply fearful that we would become reliant on media as a tool for content delivery without instructional design.  His contention that it is “not media but variables such as instructional methods that foster learning” (Clark, 1983) certainly suggest the latter.  
Quite honestly, in the late 20th century these were legitimate concerns.  Educators were attracted to the shiny new object in the room.  I witnessed it first hand as a college student during some of my earliest practical classroom experiences and watched students become attracted to the novelty of media delivered content.  I can certainly understand how Clark would state “media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition.”  (Clark, 1983) However, with 21st century learning, media allows students to effectively drive the truck and as content creators have more say in the intellectual payload that is delivered.  
This new reality changes the way knowledge can be acquired and promotes the dynamic and adaptive nature of medias three aspects which Robert Kozma outlines as technology, symbol systems and processing capabilities. (Kozma, 1994)  Although the article, “The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues” was written in 1994, it was obvious that Kozma had a vision of learning as “an active, constructive, cognitive, and social process by which the learner strategically manages available cognitive, physical, and social resources to create new knowledge by interacting with information in the environment and integrating it with information stored in memory.” (Kozma, 1994)  In essence, the concept of multimedia as an educational tool is much more than minor statistical correlations as Clark would have us believe.  Rather, through multimedia, “students are likely to find many ways to connect their new learning to their existing representations.” (Kozma, 1994)  Today’s students are not only able to manipulate the aspects of media, they are able to design the aspects of media which provides ownership of learning.
I believe there are two schools of thought in today’s educational landscape which have people convinced that media improves learning.  There is the political component that blanketly puts multimedia devices in the hands of students under the misperception that just by providing digital natives with the proper resources, will automatically improve student test scores.  This is the kind of logic thought that plays directly into Clark’s argument and is doomed to failure.  The divergent and likely more accurate theory is that by providing a student with the tools necessary to engage with and create knowledge changes the very structure of education and gives students ownership of their learning.  This requires establishing an environment fostered by forward thinking educators who are willing to facilitate learning through innovative and opportunistic instruction which encourages creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.  
Innovation is often met with resistance and it is vital to employ strategies that shift the public mindset.  The best way to demonstrate the impact and success of using media in education is to promote and publicize what great educators are doing with it in the classroom by publishing student work and demonstrating cognitive success.   Media itself allows us to break down the four walls of our schools and interact in ways previously unimaginable with the world around us.  It is truly an amazing time in education and I hope media will continue to play an integral part of our journey through 21st century learning.  

Dewar, JA. "The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead." The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead. Rand, 1998. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P8014/index2.html>.

Clark, R. E. "Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media." Review of Educational Research 53.4 (1983): 445-59. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Schneider, Daniel K. "The Media Debate." - EduTech Wiki. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/The_media_debate>.

Kozma, Robert B. "The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues."SLMQ 22.4 (Summer 1994). Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/edchoice/SLMQ_InfluenceofMediaonLearning_InfoPower.pdf>.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

We've Broken Education

I need to climb up on my soapbox for just a moment to vent.  Those of us in the ed-tech world go around touting how great technology is for education.  But guess what?  It's not going to fix a broken system.  The spirit of wonder and learning has been shattered by the need to label, test and standardize.  We celebrate those educators who take risks and step outside the box.  Yet the leaders of education do nothing to explore what makes these individuals unique.  We need a system that is tuned into today's student and their unknown futures.  No Wordle, Animoto or Kahoot is going to fix that.
Say what you want about previous generations, but there was a simpler time when the stakes didn't seem as high.  A time before the digital age, filled with encyclopedias and yes even dioramas, where kids were genuinely curious about what made their world tick.  Now that information is a few clicks and Google searches away.
We need to get back to a time before worksheets.  On one of my kids recent homework assignments, the question was asked "Explain how you divided 12 counters into equal groups" His response was: "I read what the box said" and drew an arrow to the words "Say out loud: 12 divided by 3 is 4" REALLY?! Yet we send these worksheets home every night in the name of Common Core State Standards.  This has got to stop!  We need to cease the practice of providing students with all the answers expecting them to regurgitate knowledge and instead instill that since of wonder that seemingly has disappeared.  We need to stop trying to shoehorn kids into what we think the world needs to be when we have no clue what the world will look like in 10 years?!
So here's my question: How the heck do we do that?  I'll get off my soap box now and wait for your insightful responses.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Blogging for Engagement

Between course work, regular work, conference preparation, family / parental duties and triathlon training, I appear to have completely abandoned the idea of blogging.  This is not a good thing and I intend to change that starting now.

An interesting question arose in a discussion this week on GAFE (Google Apps for Education) ideas for the classroom.  A member of my grad school cohort suggested they would like to try blogging with their junior high school students.  However, they expressed concern for the students ability to stay on task.

I believe this is one of those moments when you need to take a leap of faith.  Students can surprise you! Especially, if they know their work is going to be published and commented on by their peers or "worse" complete strangers! I've seen it time and again where students panic after pushing Publish. Post or Send.  You've seen it too: "Oh no, I made a mistake!", "Can I get it back?", "Does it really stay on the Internet forever?"  Your students do listen to you - even if it doesn't seem that way - provided you have the conversation.

So how would I approach blogging with a class of junior high students?

  1. Have a conversation about publishing (including copyright and citation) and digital citizenship. Actually have a conversation!  That means not only telling them what you think they should hear but truly listening to your students concerns and addressing them appropriately.
  2. Set expectations.  Explain that you expect them to take their blogging seriously and that they are expected to respond to others post.  Let the golden rule be your guide and do unto others...
  3. Assign topics that are meaningful.  It's great to start off with the "What I did on Summer Vacation / Spring Break" because that's what they know and expect.  But, also give them insightful and important topics to consider.  Have them respond to a news article they read, create a tutorial on one of their hobbies and above all allow them to express themselves!
  4. Facilitate without impediment.  If your students have a tendency to get off task, analyze what is happening.  Are they really off task? Ask why? Are they looking for inspiration? Think about what you do when your mind gets blocked?  I'd guess you back off and do something else for a little while until you feel ready to come back and tackle the problem.  While we may go for a walk, students like to surf.  Blogging should be about personal engagement, self discovery and sharing.  Try not to impede the process.  If a student gets so off task or it becomes inappropriate, treat it for what it is - a classroom management issue and deal with it accordingly.
  5. Let the students own their work.  Once they have a handle on where their passion lies, you'll probably find they want to keep writing on that topic.  Let them! If they are writing about Minecraft or Taylor Swift, it may not be your "thing"; but, it is something they are particularly interested in and they are writing and meeting ISTE Standards for Students as well as a plethora of Common Core State Standards which should please you and your administration!
  6. Share their work! Create a classroom hashtag and let the world know your students have a voice. Post some of their work to your PLN each week and encourage positive feedback from your global colleagues.  This doesn't just apply to blogging but any published work on the web.  When students see "strangers" giving them praise, it boosts moral, self-esteem and encourages further engagement.  It also "keeps it real."  When it's not from someone they see everyday, it can have even more impact.
If you'd like to get started blogging with students I would highly recommend using BloggerEduBlogs or KidBlog.  They all have their special features and pros / cons that you should evaluate before choosing a platform.

As always, if this advice has been meaningful to you, please share it with your PLN on the social networks or leave a response below.

Cross-posted from the JMGubbins96 Reflection Blog
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