Category Archives: Digital Age Learning Environments

Screencasting in the Classroom: Using Video for School Based PD with Staff and Students

Community Engagement Project

For the final project in EDTC 6104 – Digital Learning Environments I’m reflecting on my Community Engagement Project. Using screencasting in the classroom for instruction with students or PD with staff members. I attempted to identify a learning need for a community of educators and design a workshop and presentation to distribute the content through a presentation at a local conference. I initially had a difficult time thinking of an area where I was comfortable and capable of providing PD or exposure to a specific topic for a group of K-12 educators. Eventually I settled on the topic of screencasting. I decided to apply to present this project at a local technology conference, NCCE. When I was thinking about the length I knew it would be between 30 and 60 minutes based on the topic and what I had to say luckily the conference application helped, since there was a choice for a 50 minute spot or a 2 hour spot. I went for 50 minutes.

Engaged and Active Learning

A focus of our class was active and engaged learning in a digital environment. It was a challenge to incorporate into PD especially since I am used to sit-and-get style of PD. I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting on how to adapt and update PD to a more engaging style, but putting it into practice has proved to be difficult. One way I’ve attempted to engage learners is to provide freedom, and that is a great draw of video, you make videos that fit the purpose according what is needed in your class or by your staff. I hope participants will be engaged because they are able to apply this learning to their individual classrooms and plan videos for their students or staff. Another idea was to incorporate flipped learning content into the session. I decided that trying to get participants to record their own screencast before coming to the PD would hopefully help spark an interest and facilitate buy-in from participants. I also decided to try to gather the recorded videos together along with a description to create a library of screencast and video resources that would hopefully benefit teachers for use in their classrooms or job. To get participants involved in the session I attempted to have them script and record a screencast toward the end of our time. In planning for this, I have some concerns because I’ve heard conference wifi can be unreliable at times and video of course requires more bandwidth.

I really hope that the idea of a library of screencast videos would serve as a springboard for teachers recording more videos, or using videos linked through this Google site in their own classrooms. I will be interested to get feedback and track the use over time through some sort of analytics. As I was thinking about adding one more website to teachers taxed brains, I became concerned that mine would not stand out. I don’t have any answers, and I realized I have no way to remind anyone that it exists. I’m hoping that if my training is valuable and the videos recorded by others are shared this will become a valuable site for the teachers that visit. Who knows, maybe it can be used by my school district in some way. Right now, as you can see below it is just beginning as a basic Google site with four different pages focused on gathering and sharing screencast videos and my presentation.

The main page from the screencast collective website.

Content Knowledge Needs

During this quarter we focused on the ISTE Coaching Standards, and specifically standard 3. We covered the standard extensively and because of the time we put in reflecting and applying standard 3, I felt that my project meets many of the indicators for standard 3. I had difficulty explaiThis is the draft website showing my presentation resources. ning other content knowledge standards that are me by using screencasting for student learning and staff PD because the application is so broad. However, I can reflect on how I have used screencasts and instructional videos in my classroom in the past and share the content knowledge I have incorporated and what standards those videos could address for students or staff. I was looking back at some of my instructional videos tied to 4th grade math standards and I found that instructional videos for two chapters on fractions covered nearly all of the common core state standards for fractions for 4th grade. Instructional videso do differ from screencasts in my experience in recording however, and I have not yet made such a clear connection to standards in my own screencasts. I find that I often use screencasts to allow for more time to focus on standards within a lesson or in class because they help explain how to use a tool or how to navigate within a tool that will be used often in class.

Teachers Needs

One benefit of choosing to focus on screencasting and video is that it can be used for a variety of purposes. The skill of recording screencasts can be focused on student needs or the needs of teachers. I was able to record videos that I used for both purposes which I felt could be beneficial to share with other teachers. Teacher needs are vast, and we are stretched in many different directions. Recording a video can be one way to alleviate some of the pressures felt by teachers because it allows some basic needs and directions to be explained outside of the instructional block, or frees the teacher to focus attention on complex standards or deeper thinking.

The shared screencasts page from the screencast collective website.

Collaborative Participation

In past classes and in our class on on Digital Learning Environments we’ve been studying about engagement and professional development and best practices around engagement. So, naturally I want to make the professional development I’m providing as engaging as possible to those in attendance. From past investigations I should know how to do that but I found that knowledge very difficult to put into practice! I found that there were outside factors that limited my ability to provide the type of collaborative participation I wanted. Our class often discussed the constraints of the wireless network at large conferences, so when leading a PD session that is focused on videos posted online, naturally audience participation in the form of making their own videos is limited. Honestly, because of those limits I find myself more understanding of the typical forms of PD we experience as teachers. That being said, I don’t want my desire for transformation of PD to end here. I hope that in my upcoming classes and in my new job this year I will be able to continue working to transform the type of PD teachers experience. It is great to hear about things that are working across the country from our readings, as well as reading and hearing from classmates about their experiences in providing meaningful and differentiated PD opportunities. I still have a lot left to learn, in fact I’ll never be finished learning as all teachers know, but I feel that I’m on a great path that will hopefully benefit others along the way.

Resources

Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning. (2017, June). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/07/2017-Infrastructure-Guide.pdf

Differentiating Professional Development for Teachers

I’ve been an Instructional Technology TOSA for 3 years. I love teaching teachers and sharing my passion for technology in the classroom with others. What I haven’t been fond of, is trying to find the right way to offer PD. We’ve tried the district wide invites to trainings after school and gotten 3 people to show up, we’ve done building level training by teacher request and gotten 3-5 people, we’ve modeled in classrooms, we’ve sent out newsletters, made videos, trained select teachers in the buildings, created building leaders, worked with year long cohorts to develop human capacity, etc. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made huge strides and seem to narrowing in on the things that work best for us and we continue to try to adapt and make changes to meet our teachers needs but I’m not sure we’ve hit on the answers to a few critical questions. In light of the new ESSA definition of professional development, it’s time to take a new look at answering these questions:

  1. How do we scaffold learning for teachers? – I like the idea of professional development being broken down into three phases: Knowing, Doing and Experiencing. The Knowing is understanding the why of using a tool, a instructional  strategy or process. It gets to purpose and gets teachers excited about how something can help their students or change their teaching. The Doing is the skill building, what skills does a teacher need to do that project with their students or use that strategy? If they are excited enough about the why, the hope is that there will be some motivation to learn the skills needed to successfully implement and that they’ll seek out some of that learning if you make it available to them. The Experiencing is the elusive transferability of those skills to other projects and building the confidence and automaticity with a tool or skill that will make it easier to take a risk with other tech learning.
  2. How to we make it relevant for teachers? – Large group tech trainings are almost destined for frustration on the part of some participants. Either you are moving too fast or too slow for someone and half of them know what you are covering already and are waiting for something new. How do we keep it relevant and personalized  for all learners in a training without having to do everything one-on-one.
  3. How do we make it hands on? – I think part of this is making sure that our teachers are experiencing rich, tech infused PD… as a student. They need that perspective and they need to see trainers model what it can look like to use technology to teach with all the strategies they know are best practice as well as model dealing with the occasional troubleshooting issue. We can’t have more “sit and get” sessions to teach blended learning. It just doesn’t make sense.
  4. How do we make the learning sustainable over time? I run into teachers at grade levels between 3rd and 9th grade who feel that they have to teach Powerpoint because the students “don’t know how to do it”. I’d argue that the older students probably do and just need a reminder or their friends will help them figure it out. The bigger issue is how do we help students revisit skills regularly enough that things like Powerpoint are just tools that a student pulls out of their pocket when the teacher gives them a choice of how they want to present their learning. And how do we do the same thing for teachers with our PD so that they aren’t “relearning” a tool every time they need to use it.

There is a model called H.A.C.K. Model of Innovative Instruction out of the Doceo Center  of Northwest Nazarene University. They’ve created a system for teaching using something similar to the SAMR model that stretches the Professional Development for teachers out over time and pushes them to use the same tools to provide more and more choice and sophistication for students. The short version is that they would teach teachers how to use one tool in their classroom until they were comfortable with it and then move onto another. Once they had two or three under their belt, they’d start learning to teach students to make choices between the right tools for the job and apply them to new projects. Eventually, they’d lead them to teaching the students to use the same tools to mix, remix or create their own projects. The tools don’t necessarily change a whole lot through the year but the way they are used might become more sophisticated. If we could start doing something like that with teachers and teaching them some core technology skills and tools appropriate for their grade level, maybe we could continue to encourage them to use those same tools in new ways. It’s something to think about.

Community Engagement Project – Differentiating Instruction for Teachers

The conclusion I came to after the thinking I’ve done this quarter in my Digital Education Leadership Program is that we have to find a way to start looking at how we can differentiate professional learning opportunities for teachers. I’ll acknowledge that there are differences between K-12 students and Adult Learners, although, as I posted in a previous blog post (Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders) the differences aren’t as wide as you’d think. They still need choice, they would rather do than listen, they don’t want to waste their time learning something they already know or that doesn’t apply to them and they want to talk to each other, collaborate, and engage with the learning in different ways.

I choose to submit my workshop proposal (Differentiating Professional Development for Teachers)  to NCCE 2018 because it’s local and I’ve presented before. Talking to my colleagues at that conference has become part of my professional development for the year and I’d like to get more involved. I chose a 2 hour workshop model because I want to model what I’m suggesting about differentiated Professional Development. I’d like the chance for my participants to experience that kind of PD as a “student”.

I’m using Canvas because my district is using it and the “how to” videos I’m hoping to host in KyteLearning.com, which is a new video learning platform our district is beginning to use to provide on demand training for a variety of common software tools as well as custom content we’ll create for our own uses.

The topic I chose to model with is a PD around the topic of Video/Web Conferencing. I chose it because it’s applicable across grade levels and content areas. I’ll start with a discussion around the new ESSA definition of professional development. There will be lots of opportunities built in for interaction by the participants because I’m curious if their understandings of the legislation are different than my interpretation.

When we are ready to model differentiated PD the participants will have the chance to take a quick quiz which will guide them one of three pages in the Canvas course I created. The beginning group will watch some videos about the basics of video/web conferencing and how to set them up. The second group will have had some previous experience or knowledge and will spend their time with me talking more about their experiences, how to prepare students for a successful conference and they will work together to come up with some video conference ideas. The third group will hopefully have done a video/web conference before and will participate an independent group to discuss how to use video/web conferencing to redefine projects and lessons, how to get students more involved in planning and hosting them and will also work on planning some lesson ideas to share.

All the groups will be actively contributing to a shared doc where they can leave their contact information if they want to work together after the workshop to collaborate with teachers in other districts to actually put some of their ideas into practice. The ideas will also be there to look at later.

As an added bonus, we’ve been talking a lot this quarter about accessibility. I’m putting a module at the end of the course that will contain some resources for creating accessible content. It’s under construction but I did create this first video that is closed captioned.

I’m excited about the possibilities although I suspect it will a lot of work at first as I’m figuring out how to make this a reality for PD in my own district. I’m hoping that as the conference rolls around in February I’ll have a much better feel for how this actually will work and can share some of the things I learned with the workshop participants.

Module 3: Troubleshooting for All

Introduction to ISTE 3E and 3G

This week for my M.Ed. Digital Education Leadership program blog post at Seattle Pacific University. I’m reflecting on a different part of the ISTE coaching standard #3. For this module we are considering indicators E and G of Standard 3. Initially those two indicators and topics seemed unrelated but I think they really do overlap more than I first thought. Initially in considering the role students and teachers play in troubleshooting technology versus collaborating locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community I decided to focus on troubleshooting. However, I think the two may be more connected than I originally considered. The question that chose to investigate was related to my school district. I wanted to know what tools or resources they had in place for teachers and students who need to troubleshoot technology so that they feel empowered to troubleshoot on their own. I also want to consider what technology coaches can do in order to encourage teachers to troubleshoot on their own.

Empowering Teachers

The first step that I see in helping teachers to become empowered users of technology who troubleshoot their own problems is encouraging them to begin to do that work. Perhaps even before providing that encouragement technology leaders will need to provide some modeling or sharing how we troubleshoot our own technology problems. I will plan to write a bit more about this later in my post. In order for teachers to be successful troubleshooters of their technology, however, they will likely need scaffolded help. In many of my previous readings and posts related to PD the idea that good teaching for students and  adults is the same has come up repeatedly. That is why I believe that some explicit teaching around troubleshooting is necessary for teachers. In my past experience working with teachers and collaborating in general the collective intelligence is far superior to the ideas of one person. Therefore, my hope in continually exposing the district staff to the idea of troubleshooting a device on their own and modeling with the  resources I use is that it will lead to a culture where it is natural for teachers to troubleshoot their own problems more often. My second hope is that by devoting a small amount of time to troubleshooting consistently will aid in creating of a community of resources related to troubleshooting to build a repository of solutions and resources for finding those solutions across an entire school district.

Troubleshooting Help – Some Resources

The next part of my research into troubleshooting tools involved actually looking for tools that were used in my district as well as other tools I could find around the web. I was able to find some pretty good resources but many, as happens with technology, seem outdated.

The first thing I noticed when looking for tools to help with troubleshooting technology within my school district is that there is a troubleshooting and PD website that does exist! It is just like what I was hoping to find, a place where collective intelligence is leveraged for the benefit of all. I was happy to see that they have a fairly advanced page with many working links that includes resources in a variety of formats. I saw documents, slideshows and videos depending on the topic you choose to learn more about. Some offered explanations or PD but others were basic directions on how to use a tool that would likely work for troubleshooting. Another positive aspect of this website is that it utilizes tools and resources that are already available from the web as well as incorporates tools and resources created by the technology leaders from within the district. I think this provides a good mix of showing teachers what is available and encouraging them to create and share their own knowledge. In addition to this webpage there is another page offered by the district that is an instructional technology blog. On the blog there is also a combination of different types of information. Some link to PD or other district websites and some are setup type tips that would be helpful to a teacher or student who was troubleshooting their technology. One point of interest for me is whether or not these resources are widely shared across the district or in trainings and how often they are updated. I hope to find out when I attend the new employee training later this month.

The next resource I wanted to share that I discovered in my search this week is from Pace University in the state of New York. Pace has an interesting idea in their website that is for troubleshooting all about computers for teachers or students. They have attempted to put the most important technology issues on their site and then further divided that into five subsites. The layout is great, and I like the subsites as well as the visuals on the homepage of the site. It would likely still be useful if it was current, but much of the information appears to now be out of date. I actually had a pretty difficult time finding a technology troubleshooting website, especially one made for teachers because I think much of this work has been taken on by districts, and probably also because so many specific problems can be solved by searching the web. Searching the web is one basic way to troubleshoot many technology problems but I wanted to provide two resources that might be more focused and powerful than a general web search. I want to talk about product forums and support pages. I’m choosing to discuss Google Forums and Google Product support because I use a Google account at work and students in my district use Chromebooks and have G Suite accounts.

Google Forums and Support

Google product forums is an extensive website that revolves around all of the products Google offers and allows users to ask questions and get answers from community members, volunteers or Google employees. I’ve found that each time I use the forums I learn something new, often in addition to the solution I was looking to find. As you can see the forum has an extensive list of products. Google Forum Homepage

I was look there today and was reminded that I can use the shortcut ctrl + ? to bring up the help menu on a Chromebook. One great reason to use these forums if that you often get specific step by step support tailored to your problem, or you can find past posts by searching that explain the exact topic you are trying to solve. Another similarly useful resource is the Google Support website.

Google's Product Help WebsiteFrom what I can see the support website is more general whereas forums are for more technical or specific problems. I’m not sure, so if you happen to know please provide a clarifying comment! The great thing about support and forum type of websites is that all major technology companies seems to have them. Whether you prefer to use Microsoft, Apple or Google products and services each of those three major companies has these dedicated websites. Now you don’t even have to go to the Apple Store! I think that because we do so much of our work on specific devices from one of these large companies, and because so much is now done online the best troubleshooting for most people will probably come from a major forum or product support website.

Empowering Students

Since the resources I’ve listed above are all free to use without any password protection or other restrictions I see no reason why those same sites should not be shared with students. If we are looking to empower students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers then troubleshooting should be a skill they acquire. It has been my experience that my former students are some of the most eager people to troubleshoot technology problems. When I reflect on my classroom practice from past years, I think if I had strategically provided them with these resources they would have been even more independent in their use of technology and in finding solutions for problems. I also wonder if more students would have demonstrated competency in troubleshooting. Explicit teaching and modeling can be used here with students and teachers alike. As I said above, there is a connection between encouraging local and global collaboration and confidence in troubleshooting. If you use technology sometime you will encounter a problem. Our students will continue to use technology just as students across the world will use technology. Students will collaborate with others who are far removed from their learning environments, when problems come up they should have some strategies for solving those problems. As Lindsay (2016) states, students should develop global competencies in order to be prepared for the global jobs they will be competing for tomorrow. Let’s work to help our students be prepared to compete globally by helping them become proficient users of technology. 

My Thoughts for Teachers Leaders

The way forward could help to shape classroom cultures, mindset and the entire environment of  a school or district. If we are willing to be patient, resist the urge to provide answers, model our own troubleshooting with both staff members and students, and encourage flexible solutions to problems then an important shift can continue to happen. Our goal as technology leaders should be to help spur this change. Change can happen, especially if we provide staff and students with some resources that they can use to move past the initial stage of just giving up. If we want students to persevere in their lives, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same in front of them and in front of our own colleagues? Certainly we need to test, prepare and do our best to ensure that our instructional time is spent instructing, but next time you have a technology hiccup maybe we should stop and think about what our reaction and solution teaches those around us. I would also encourage you to model if possible or share some resources that you use to troubleshoot technology to other teachers in a PD or in an informal setting. Finally, if you have resources from your school district or from another website that you would like to share with others below, please comment.

Resources

Computer Troubleshooting for Teachers and Students- Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2017, from http://webpage.pace.edu/ms16182p/troubleshooting/home.html

Edmonds – Instructional Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/a/edmonds.wednet.edu/imd/home

Google Product Forums. (n.d.). [Forum]. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!home

Google Help. (n.d.). [Forum]. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from https://support.google.com/

Lindsay, J. (n.d.). How to Encourage and Model Global Citizenship in the Classroom. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2016/07/how_to_encourage_and_model_global_citizenship_in_the_classroom.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding “Learned Helplessness.” Retrieved August 2, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller 

Teaching Technology Troubleshooting is Like Teaching Math

Teaching Technology Troubleshooting is a Lot Like Teaching Math

I was sidetracked on my way to researching how to provide teachers “preventative strategies” to make the use of video, audio and social media tools more trouble free. I came across this blog post by John Spencer. In his 11 Reasons Teachers Aren’t Using Technology he makes the point that what holds teachers back isn’t always lack of skill or motivation but “What they lacked was a belief in their own ability to create tech-integrated lessons.”  It struck me that no teacher, even a great one, who doesn’t have some confidence in their ability to create the lessons themselves will ever get past the troubleshooting phase. They may try it once or twice but but may give up once things go sideways, as they often do with technology, even if they were given a list of troubleshooting tips or some training on how to prepare for technology. I think those things are valuable but by themselves are not going to truely make someone comfortable troubleshooting technology issues.

I’ve also observed that troubleshooting is not just about following a list of steps. There is an understanding of how technology works  that comes partly through practice and increasing confidence. You can tell someone to check the internet connection if their web pages aren’t opening but  they won’t necessarily know why they are doing it or when looking for the wifi symbol in similar situations would be a good thing to try. It’s similar to teaching students the algorithm or the P.E.M.D.A.S mnemonic for division without them ever really grasping the conceptual knowledge behind division. It will be more of a challenge for them to transfer their division “troubleshooting” skills to dividing fractions or finding ratio and proportion without that conceptual understanding. At least not with the long term retention we’d like them to have. The same is true for troubleshooting technology. Understanding that mobile devices need wifi and what kinds of problems can be traced back to that connection can speed up the troubleshooting process.

I tried to think back to how I learned about technology in the hopes that it might give me some insight into how I learned my troubleshooting skills but that didn’t help. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. As Rogers’ work on the Diffusion of Innovation (Rogers 1971) states, the early adopters are risk takers and are willing to fail and they often have the social capital to influence others. I know who those teachers are in my district that I can hand almost any technology too and they’ll figure it out and help others get excited. We couldn’t do it without them.  They troubleshoot fairly instinctively. None of the early adopters I talked to could really pinpoint how they learned it. They just get it. I don’t know that we can always teach that.

I think we may need to take a two pronged approach to help the rest of the right side of the adoption curve:

Troubleshooting as a Hardware/Network/Software problems

Let’s face it…sometimes stuff just doesn’t work. Devices need updates, websites disappear, plug ins are out of date, someone forgot to plug in the cart last night, or there is just something weird going on. Some of those are purely in the realm of the technology department and someone needs to be called in, and others can be handled in class. I didn’t have time to create one but I can envision creating a If this…then that type of sheet or poster that could go into classrooms or be attached to our computer carts to give teachers some quick troubleshooting steps to try. I’d model it after the Problem Solving Board idea  on AskATechTeacher.com. Jacqui Murray has created some great resources for teachers and regularly posts about new technology and how to teach any number of cool projects and basic skills.

Where we can, we need to help teachers learn to diagnose problems. Perhaps an interactive checklist of steps that we could ask teachers and students to use to identify where in the process the problem is occurring. Each question could be clicked on for troubleshooting possibilities.

For example, these 5 might be the main steps:

  1. Turn on the computer
  2. Check for wifi connection
  3. Log in with district credentials
  4. Click on the icon or tile
  5. Open the browser

If you couldn’t do one of the steps (you might have to use the list on someone else’s computer), you could click on it to get a list of options. For example:

  1. Turn on the computer
    1. Try plugging the device into the extra power supply and give it a minute or two and try turning on again.
    2. Make sure the power button on the cart was turned on.
  2. Check for wifi connection
    1. Make sure the ethernet cable is plugged into the marked port in the classroom
    2. Ensure that the cart is turned on
    3. Look for the wifi icon in the lower right of the screen
      1. If it’s not on, click on it and choose the Mobile Lab network and click Connect

I suspect, if you could get people to use it, that it wouldn’t take long for the troubleshooting steps to start making sense. Simplicity and repetition would be the key.

Troubleshooting the Human Element

I once heard about an acronym that sums up this type of problem P.B.K.C (Problem Between Keyboard and Chair). Sometimes names get misspelled or students have trouble typing an entire web address or they just don’t click on the right button.  A blog post by Scott Meech, “Scaffolding Your Lesson Plans – Lesson Learned from Traditional Teaching” brought up a very good point related to teaching with technology:

As I began to utilize technology in my classroom, the more it was apparent that I had to have a similar outlook with my non-tech experiences.  Too often I would ask students to use technology by creating a project and then not revisit those skills in some fashion.  I didn’t scaffold the learning throughout the school year and develop their skills by building upon previous activities. Students created some amazing documents, videos and podcasts, but I noticed that this didn’t always translate into long term learning with technology.

That thought gave me a little epiphany. We don’t do that with teachers either.  We offer one and done courses on technology skills that sometimes neglect to connect to relevant content in their classrooms and we don’t revisit or scaffold that learning for them. He goes on to say that teachers need to learn to use the technology well themselves if we expect them to teach students to use it.

So, what if we started by picking one program we really wanted students to learn to use and concentrated for a whole year just on that tool. We could offer various levels of PD around the tool but we’d keep coming back to it. We’d use the database of who has attended training to follow up and offer more advanced classes (both in person and online) to encourage teachers to continue learning about the tool and how it could help their students. If we modeled troubleshooting as part of that learning and revisited problems they had in class so they could share their solutions and learn from one another. Hosting troubleshooting forums in internal social media forums such as Yammer, would allow teachers to contribute when they’ve encountered a similar problem or just search on issues to see if someone has already posted a solution. This would be a great place for the early adopters to step up and monitor those forums.

Resources

Murray, J. (2015, May 23). #81: Problem Solving Board. Retrieved August 07, 2017, from http://askatechteacher.com/2015/05/27/81-problem-solving-board/

Meech, S. (2011, October 21). Scaffolding your Lesson Plans – Lessons Learned from Traditional Teaching! Retrieved August 07, 2017, from http://www.techlearning.com/default.aspx?tabid=100&entryid=441

Spencer, J. (2012, July 14). 11 Reasons Teachers Aren’t Using Technology #edchat #edtech. Retrieved August 07, 2017, from http://www.spencerauthor.com/11-reasons-teachers-arent-using/

Be Prepared!: Troubleshooting by Looking at Current Issues and Problems in Education Technology (ISTE Coaching Standard 3 E&G)

“Be Prepared!” I’ve never been a Boy Scout, but I’ve always liked their motto: “Be Prepared.”  And as I was considering this week’s prompt, “Given the opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate globally, how can we help them develop strategies to troubleshoot and resolve issues that can come with increased use of emerging technologies … Continue reading "Be Prepared!: Troubleshooting by Looking at Current Issues and Problems in Education Technology (ISTE Coaching Standard 3 E&G)"

Module 2: Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection

Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection

ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches

This week for my reflection on ISTE Coaching Standard 3 we were using this question to frame our investigation: How do we evaluate, select, and manage digital tools and resources for teachers and students that meet accessibility guidelines and fit within our institution’s technology infrastructure? I decided to focus on part of that question with my own investigative question. I asked: What is an effective process to evaluate, manage and select digital tools that solicits feedback and buy-in from teachers and administrators? This week I didn’t choose to focus on accessibility guidelines because when I read the standard it wasn’t something that initially stood out to me. Over the two weeks I’ve seen what my colleagues are going to investigate and I think I will come back to accessibility in another post, hopefully in the near future. Also I know that one project I will be working on this year is working to help make sure all websites of my new district are ADA compliant. That will be new learning for me and I’m excited to put what I learn into thoughts in a future post.

This week I decided to focus on the structure of technology adoption and approval of apps, software, websites, add ons and other forms of instructional technology that affect teachers and students. I’ve only worked in one district so I have limited experience, but it sounds like in talking with colleagues and some informal surveys my previous district was ahead of many others in their processes for approval of technology use. The one thing I always thought about was that the process you were supposed to follow and the website to check for approval was difficult to get to and not known by everyone. That is part of the reason that I wanted to write about this topic. So that led me to insert the idea of buy-in into my question. I was not really shocked to learn that “nationwide 51% of teachers select up to half of the education technology they use” (Johnson, 2016). I was never sure was our district technology portion of the website under advertised or if teachers just weren’t interested in whether or not the district supported a tool and if it was ethical to use with students. Is it something that they saw as important? Additionally, how many administrators were asking teachers about the technology tools they used with students and whether or not they were approved by the district, protected student privacy, made an impact on student learning? Those are some questions that are still lingering for me even as I try to record my leaning around this standard and topic.

Making an Improvement

So what could districts do to streamline this process? What could they do to include more administrators and teachers and spread the word about approved and supported technology tools within a district? One idea I like is to have a building technology team. It could be incorporated into the leadership team but if an administrator made sure that the team occasionally revisited approved technology and communicated that with staff members perhaps there would be more widespread use of those tools. Of course, administrators would either have to be given new information from the technology department or remember to review that information themselves. I think building it into a method of communication that already exists within the district infrastructure would make the most sense and be the least burdensome to all.  

Many of my other ideas come from two resources that I came across. The first resource is my professor for this class Ellen Dorr, she has worked with the technology team in her district to develop an impressive process and system of evaluations and surveys that lead to a recommendation from the school district along with a designated level of support that the district will provide for that tool.

Denver Public Schools also has a website, called The Academic Technology Menu, with a layout that seems easy to navigate for teachers and other staff members. I’ve included a screenshot of the main page below:

The main reason I thought to include the DPS resource is because it seems easy to navigate for teachers. Speed is key, the website has clickable headings that expand and lead to related web pages. If you click on a category like Math, you can even sort resources based on many different categories.

If you clicked on a main page heading like Curriculum & Content Solutions: Career and Technical Education you can even sort the results in useful ways such as by approval status, grade level, cost and type of technology. Those are some features that seems to make this website very friendly for teachers. I would think that the district worked hard to develop it in this way so resources would be easy to access.

One additional feature that I saw from Ellen and from DPS was a flowchart that explained the steps of the approval process. The unique feature that Ellen talked about and that I saw from DPS comes in the final section of the flowchart, where results are listed there are more than two options. As you can see there are tools that are not allowed, tools allowed with cautions, tools allowed and tools that are supported. The biggest clarification this gives, in my opinion, is that you can clearly see if a district will support a specific tool with PD or if it will not. Since some of my previous posts have been focused on what is next for Professional Development, I think that the mention of a tool being supported with PD or not is important for buy-in from teachers.

The last resource that I found to be relevant to my question of how to get the district, administrators and teachers on the same page with technology adoption and implementation was an article that isn’t actually about technology. The title itself is provocative, Listening to Teachers: How School Districts Can Adopt Meaningful Change. The article chronicles how a district in rural New Hampshire first listened to teachers then fully committed to professional development across the entire district to support and sustain the change that they wanted to see. The key takeaways for me were that administrators and teachers were able to attend the same professional development sessions in order to learn together. Then administrators were able to function in two roles simultaneously, they could coach teachers as well as evaluating them as they normally would. It doesn’t sound like it was an easy process for them but I think it would be valuable to have an administrator function as a coach (thereby non-evaluative) and separately as an administrator normally would. One other interesting point that was made is because administrators were so familiar with the problem based learning program they had implemented, they could collect student data that helped them to know if students were getting to where they wanted them to be. Additionally, they had identified behaviors they might see in students who were participating in a well run problem based learning classroom. I imagine that all of this learning could be equally powerful if a district focused on the 21st Century Skills or any number of outcomes that technology could help students and teachers to achieve.

Conclusion

If the ideal is that districts, administrators and teachers are all working collaboratively to identify and use technology tools in the most effective way possible in order to support student learning then I think that there is still work to do to achieve that goal. Having a clear process that is accessible to all teachers within a district is one important step. That process could be communicated in new staff trainings, reviewed at the start of each school year or made known to building level leadership teams to spread the process across the district. A flowchart for teachers to be able to see the steps of the process is helpful so they know whether or not to request an application or tool, and what will happen when they do. A district website that clearly displays approved and not approved tools is necessary so teachers know where to look for tools. Collecting feedback via survey or through another method is a key way to find out if a tool really is aiding student achievement. Student feedback is important as well, providing them surveys or another way to give their own feedback would help buy-in across districts. Finally, I think if a district is committed to a tool or resource then professional development should be required for all staff including administrators. Cohesion will be more far reaching if everyone understands key terminology, learning targets, processes for evaluating learning with technology like the SAMR model or knows the ins and outs of technology tools that have been adopted and supported by each district. These are some ideas that I think would allow all levels of a school district to work toward the common goal of integrating technology tools in a way that has a positive impact on student learning.

Resources

DPS: ATM Approval Process. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2017, from https://atm.dpsk12.org/process.aspx

DPS : Academic Technology Solutions Menu. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2017, from https://atm.dpsk12.org/

Johnson, K. (2016, March 15). Resources to Help You Choose the Digital Tools Your Classroom Needs – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-03-15-resources-to-help-you-choose-the-digital-tools-your-classroom-needs

Schwartz, K. (n.d.). Listening to Teachers: How School Districts Can Adopt Meaningful Change. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://appserver-ec711ff6.c.pantheon-dmz.internal/mindshift/2015/08/11/listening-to-teachers-how-school-districts-can-adopt-meaningful-change/

Selecting Digital Tools that Fit our Needs – EDTC 6104 Module 2

This week we continued to explore ISTE Coaching Standard 3. In particular, looking at how digital tools are selected and evaluated, followed by maintenance and management of technology-rich learning environments. So how do we evaluate, select, and manage digital tools and resources for teachers and students that meet accessibility guidelines and fit within our institution’s technology infrastructure?

Immediately my mind reflects on several experiences from this past year.  For the first time, I’ve really begun to advocate not just for my students, but for my school and community.  This has led to lots of unanswered questions, but also led to me slowly unpack the hierarchy for decision making in my district and begin to understand who I need to connect with to make a positive impact. Although teachers may have good intentions with adding technology in the classroom, without proper planning, collaboration, and support, it’s difficult to execute any program effectively.

Accessibility

Although accessibility generally applies to providing access to students with disabilities, I also see accessibility pertaining to access and the digital divide. During the International TESOL Convention this Spring, I attended a workshop on Speak Agent, a new program that targets academic vocabulary for ELL students. What I initially appreciated about this product, was that it was designed by former ELL teachers. I was so excited to see a resource designed by people who understand my student population! As they walked through their program, a question arose about video options. Why don’t they have videos for students to watch?  Their response reminded me of a sad reality, the digital divide.  The speaker responded us that they wanted all students to be able to access content on their site, regardless of bandwidth, citing too many communities still lack high speed internet. Working in a school with old computers without built-in cameras, this served as a reminder that not all public school children have access to the same programs in schools due to devices or internet speed.  

Stepping out of the classroom, we have a huge discrepancy nationally between access in rural vs urban communities.  Living in the city, I can recommend to families to take advantage of the library for free wi-fi or computer access.  Rural families may not have that option. The US Dept of Commerce found that only 52% of rural adults without a high school diploma use the internet. This is great contrast to national average of 75% (US Dept of Commerce, 2016). In 2016, the first national survey looking at low-income connectivity found that 41% of immigrant hispanic families solely rely on mobile phone internet access, with an additional 10% not even having that (Rideout & Katz, 2016).

Selecting Digital Tools

Therefore, as educators, we must be intentional with the tools we select, time allocation, and student needs. So as a teacher who is trying to add more devices and tools to my classroom, where do I even begin?  Luckily, one of our readings this week helps guide me to get started.  In Molly Zielezinski’s article,

What 7 Factors Should Educators Consider When Choosing Digital Tools for Underserved Students? she highlights what every educator should consider before jumping in (see below).

Coming from a district with over 90 schools serving 53,000 students, I understand it’s hard to find a set list of digital tools that will work for all classrooms. So in addition to the 7 factors above, how can I become more involved in decisions made in my building or at the district level?

Earlier this Spring, I was asked for advice on Summer School curriculum for reading.  Last year my school opted into a reading intervention program that was great for small group, but did not fit our student needs and became more of a hinderance than a valuable resource. This year, I wanted to ensure my team that we would not make the same mistake. One day after school I received an email from my principal about a 60 day free-trial to an online reading program.  Sounds great, right?  The timeline would fit and we wouldn’t have to spend anything!  However, within minutes of playing around as mock students, we found flaws in the loading speed, and a few other glitches.  Rather than spend more time looking into it, we quickly dismissed the program and continued to look for other options. There are so many digital tools out there, it can seem overwhelming.  Most have free trials to get you hooked.  But no one wants to spend hours/weeks on various trials before selecting a tool for their classroom.  So how can we screen the tools to find what we need?

Evaluation Rubrics

We use rubrics to assess students so why wouldn’t we use rubrics to assess digital tools? Just like my students who sometime struggle to name what they are doing, yet can point it out on a rubric, I feel I need rubrics to help me identify what tools can/can’t do to weigh out the pros and cons. As a teacher new to EdTech, I struggle to think of all the vocabulary that express my needs.  Fortunately rubrics do exist! In 2015,  A Comprehensive Evaluation Rubric for Assessing Instructional Apps published a comprehensive rubric that can definitely eliminate time spent wondering about whether or not to adopt new programs. The rubric includes 24 dimensions broken into 3 domains: Instruction, Design, and Engagement. The entire set of rubrics is daunting for one teacher to use, however, for a team deciding on tools to invest in, these rubrics offer a clear vetting process. Individual teachers can use the rubrics to pinpoint specific factors. For example, three areas that I often question are feedback to teacher, media integration and cultural sensitivity.  These are included on the rubric as:

What’s Next?

As I begin to prepare for the upcoming school year, adding technology into my instruction is what I’m most excited about.  That being said, we’re adopting a new reading/writing curriculum which I have yet to preview.  Understanding that all lessons need to be intentional, this means I have a lot of collaboration ahead of me.  First I need to know which grade levels I’ll be supporting, meet with the Gen. Ed teachers and administrators to clearly define my role. Now instead of trying to justify based on my own experience, I have a toolkit to share. I look forward to using the 7 factors and rubrics to vet tools with my colleagues as we plan for the year ahead.

Resources

Lee, C-Y. & Cherner, T. S. (2015). A comprehensive evaluation rubric for assessing instructional apps. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 14, 21-53. Retrieved from http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol14/JITEV14ResearchP021-053Yuan0700.pdf

The State of the Urban/Rural Digital Divide. (2016, August 10). Retrieved July 23, 2017, from https://www.commerce.gov/news/blog/2016/08/state-urbanrural-digital-divide

Rideout, V. J. & Katz, V.S. (2016). Opportunity for all? Technology and learning in lower-income families. A report of the Families and Media Project. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Zielezinski, M. B. (2016, July 10). What 7 Factors Should Educators Consider When Choosing Digital Tools for Underserved Students? – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 23, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-25-what-7-factors-should-educators-consider-when-choosing-digital-tools-for-underserved-students

“All Aboard!”- Accessibilty Guidelines and Digital Leadership Coaching

Equal Access [to Digital Education] for All! When looking at the prompt for this week’s EDTC6104 question, I was struck by a seeming discrepancy in the text of the question for the prompt and that of the coaching standard itself (ISTE coaching standard 3, indicator F). The standard/indicator calls for digital education leaders to “collaborate … Continue reading "“All Aboard!”- Accessibilty Guidelines and Digital Leadership Coaching"

Module 1: Blended Learning in PD

This quarter we will consider how to best create and support digital learning environments through the lens of a technology coach. In module 1 we are focusing on performance indicators a & c under ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches. Those two indicators ask how collaboration and classroom management can be used effectively to maximize the use of digital tools and resources in technology-rich learning environments by teachers and students, (ISTE, 2011). Indicator 3c asks coaches to “coach teachers in and model the use of blended learning, digital content and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators,” (ISTE, 2011). The part that stands out to me most as I transition into my new role is indicator 3c. I decided to continue my investigation into best practices in professional development, work that I started in my final post last quarter that can be read here (link). In that post I talked broadly about professional development (PD) and about how it could be improved to best serve teachers who integrate  technology into teaching. Here I will continue that work by focusing on how technology coaches can support teachers to through the PD.  Today my question deals specifically with blended learning, and asks how it can be incorporated into professional development for teachers so that they can begin to use it in their classroom. 

My reading notes are below:

Blended Learning in the Classroom

As I was reading about how to best incorporate the blended learning model into a classroom I read that the most effective way is to have technology integration that is perfectly matched to a curriculum. Karen Johnson writes that for Pamela Baack to commit to blended learning the school’s choice to use Zearn allowed all activities to be focused on the same goals, (Johnson, 2016, June 14). I think this is an ideal approach but in my experience it would be rare for teachers to have that option. Instead as technology coaches I think part of our work is to show, and maybe talk about, how it is an ongoing process to find a blended learning tool that works well within a classroom. That work is likely never finished.

In my research a lot of what I read about personalization of learning in a classroom through blended learning applies to adult learning as well. I often read about practices that are used with students being applied to PD. Two articles by the same author gave me a basic plan for how I might demonstrate blended learning to teachers within a PD session and they left me with many other questions to investigate.

Ideas for Blended Learning in PD

The first idea from the EdSurge article by Stepan Mekhitarian is to incorporate some blended learning into your demonstration or use of technology within the PD session. He does write that it shouldn’t just included for the sake of having it in there, it should be thoughtfully integrated and tied to the overall instructional focus and goal of the PD session. In other words, pick a tool “to further advance learning and progress toward the objective” (Mekhitarian, 2016, November 19). The author says this might look like using Google Docs to collaborate during a PD on questioning. Or collect responses from participants and use them in the activity. These both sound like fine ways to demonstrate integration of technology but they seem to be low on the ladder in SAMR. I would think they are at the Substitution level and maybe collecting survey responses instantaneously might land in the Augmentation or Modification stage. I still wonder what a more powerful demonstration of blended learning might look like for teachers.

The next suggestion is to co-plan and co-lead professional development with teachers to build capacity in those teachers as school leaders and instructional experts. This is an area where I see a lot of potential growth for my previous district  and I’m interested to know where my new district is at with this point. I see great potential in this area because many teachers have a wide range of technology skills and many no doubt have powerful and innovative applications of technology that they are using in their classroom however, in order to build this practice in teachers I think that there would need to be a more consistent focus on encouraging those teachers to present. In my previous district there were times where teachers were asked to share a PD because of an area of strength they showed, but the PD provided was sporadic and often seemed disconnected from the larger vision of the district or the plan of individual schools. I don’t yet know all that goes into planning PD for an entire district, nor do I know how much flexibility there is in sight based PD throughout the year but I hope to find that there will be an opportunity to co-plan and co-lead PD with teachers who are harnessing the power of tech to improve instructional outcomes.

The final idea suggested in the EdSurge article from Stepan Mekhitarian is to offer a place for optional workshops where teachers who use blended learning resources can gather to discuss and compare resources as well as continue to learn about resources that were introduced in a PD session.

In the second article Mekhitarian suggests some similar ways of incorporating blended learning models into PD for teachers. He adds a more explicit call for peer observation, which I think would benefit teachers in multiple ways including building a peer group around blended learning. Both articles have good points but I also would have liked a more clear example for many of his ideas. Hopefully as I work to provide PD for teachers I am able to record some ways that I demonstrate using blended learning and I can add those back to this post. In the end I think a clear vision and purpose for PD from administration will support teachers. This quote from Ellen Dorr resonated with me, “teachers are going to create strong learning environments for their students when they are involved in similar environments themselves–and it’s up to you to support them, administrators” (Dorr, 2015). Now I will have a role in that work.

Resources

Dorr, E. (2015, November 4). How Administrators Can Design the Best Learning Experiences for Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-11-04-how-administrators-can-design-the-best-learning-experiences-for-teachers

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved July 1, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, June 14). 6 Steps to Make Math Personal—Tech Makes It Possible, Teachers Make It Happen – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-14-6-steps-to-make-math-personal-tech-makes-it-possible-teachers-make-it-happen

Mekhitarian, S. (2016, November 19). Understanding Blended Learning Through Innovative Professional Development – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-11-19-understanding-blended-learning-through-innovative-professional-development

Strauss, V. (2015, June 15–500). Blended learning: The great new thing or the great new hype? Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/21/blended-learning-the-great-new-thing-or-the-great-new-hype/

The Worst of All Possible Worlds – ISTE Coaching Standard 3 and the Dystopian Future of Education?

“In a world…” And so begins the introduction to countless movie trailers.  We’ve seen them: psychological thrillers, sci-fi classics, action-packed blockbusters all use that famous three-word tag-line.  It’s become so ubiquitous that it’s become a parody of itself and is often used ironically or in satirical versions of these somewhat-esteemed genres.  And it’s a tag-line … Continue reading "The Worst of All Possible Worlds – ISTE Coaching Standard 3 and the Dystopian Future of Education?"