Category Archives: Digital Learning

The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

Overview Being an English teacher, I have had the chance to work closely with my school librarian over my five years of teaching.  I somewhat selfishly… As technology brings changes to the learning environment, this also alters the roles educators play in how they guide students and facilitate learning experiences.  This changing role is particularly […]

EDTC6016 Module 4 Resolution: Building Relationships Between Educators and Administrators on a Foundation of Trust

Overview

What does a successful marriage, a first-time skydiver, and a educator/administrator relationship have in common?  They all rely on a foundation of trust. A marriage between a couple who lack trust in one another will likely end in divorce.  A skydiver who lacks trust in their instructor or equipment may plunge to their death.  An educator who lacks trust in their administrator or an administrator who lacks trust in their educators may drastically limit the opportunities for growth for themselves as well as their students.  While this third scenario may not be as immediately consequential, the long term effects make for an environment with little respect, learning, and integrity.

My master’s cohort has spent the last several weeks looking in depth at ISTE standard #4 for coaches, outlined below.

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation – Performance Indicator B

Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

After all I’ve studied on this standard, I felt a bit “burnt out” when I originally read this week’s triggering question:

“What role should administrators play in professional learning programs and how do we advocate for their involvement and adequate professional learning support for technology-based learning initiatives?”  

I immediately thought of the necessity to differentiate professional development, but I’d covered that in a previous reflection. I then thought of the value of teacher voice and formative assessment but I’d done that too.  Luckily, my professional learning circle helped steer me towards a realization—most of my research and reflection has been based on how to plan and deliver great professional development.  What I had neglected to look at was the groundwork administrators and educators must lay to create an environment for powerful professional learning opportunities.  This led me to look at the necessity of building trust between administrators and educators as I studied the question:

Before teachers and administrators can collaborate together on professional and technology-based learning they must establish a relationship of trust.  How can they build this trust and what might stand in their way?

Characteristics of Trust

In her Edutopia article “When Teachers and Administrators Collaborate” Anne O’Brien, deputy director of Learning First Alliance explains that “trust alone does not guarantee success, [but] schools with little or no trust have almost no chance of improving” (O’Brien, 2014). So how do we build trust?  To begin, we must understand what combined characteristics create trust…

How do Educators and Administrators Build Trust?

Future Questions

  • What elements, aside from trust, are necessary as part of building a framework for effective professional development?
  • Gordon, J. (n.d.). 11 Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-buiild-trust.html

Resources

Alrubail, R. (2015, March 19) Administrators, Empower Your Teachers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/administrators-empower-your-teachers 

Brewster, C., & Railsback, J. (2003, September). Building Trusting Relationships for School Improvement: Implications for Principals and Teachers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/trust.pdf

Gordon, J. (n.d.). 11 Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-buiild-trust.html

OBrien, A. (2014, November 20). When Teachers and Administrators Collaborate. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/when-teachers-and-administrators-collaborate-anne-obrien

Module 3 Resolution: Collaborative Learning Strategies for Professional Development

Overview

After many conversations with educators and administrators, collaborations with my digital education leadership master’s cohort, a few months of pouring over professional development research, and reflections on my own experiences I can confidently say that most educator professional development opportunities are lacking in one way or another.  A few repeated sentiments include: most PD is just not relevant to my classroom, or, I know it’s going to be a waste of my time, or, it’s just filled with a bunch of top-down jargon, how is it best for students?  This makes me sad.  Professional development should be an opportunity to observe, reflect on, and apply best practices in teaching. Educators should leave a PD session empowered, not deflated. So, how can we make professional development more inspiring and engaging?

To answer this, I began by taking a deeper look at a few of the common issues with professional development.  I also looked at ISTE coach standard four indicator “B” which states that coaches must, “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment” (2016).  

After understanding some of the the issues and standards, I had a framework to begin unpacking my triggering question on this topic: What collaborative learning strategies help create effective professional development opportunities?

What’s the Problem?

Collaborative Learning Strategies for Professional Development

In exploring great teaching strategies I relied a bit on my own experiences and a lot on two excellent resources: The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies from the blog Cult of Pedagogy and PBS’s Teaching Strategies Resources menu. I sifted through these resources and choose ones that most closely addressed the issues outlined above.  I made an effort to limit the number of strategies that I shared to a few that I have tried personally, as a teacher or as a learner.  With that said, I highly recommend checking out these two sites and seeing what more they have to offer!

Resources

Bishop, D., Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R., & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State: Project Evaluation Report. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Gonzalez, J. (2015, October 15). The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/speaking-listening-techniques/

Moersch, C. (2011). Digital Age Best Practices: Teaching and Learning Refocused. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://digitalis.nwp.org/sites/default/files/files/94/Digital%20Age%20Best%20Practices.pdf

PBS Learning Media (n.d.). Teaching Strategies: Resources for Adult Educators. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://kcts9.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/ketae/

Module 2 Resolution: A Model for Professional Development Considering Adult Learning Principles

Image adapted from UCBHCA: Training of Facilitators Manual for the Functional Adult Literacy Training Manual

Overview

Throughout my studies on digital education leadership, and specifically what it means to be an effective instructional coach and to design great professional development, I have continually been reminded that many of the teaching and learning practices used with K-12 students are effective with adults learners as well.  In fact, this point has been the resolution to most of my inquiries over my graduate program studies.  So, over these last few weeks I have been both delighted and intrigued to get to look at what sets adult learners apart from adolescent learners.

What Makes Adult Learners Unique?

I touched on adult learning in my last blog post, but to recap, the most prolific commentary on adult learning, also known as andragogy, comes from the adult educator Malcolm Knowles.  Knowles narrowed his theory of andragogy down to six major principles (Knowles, 2015). He claims that adult learners…

  • Are motivated and self directed.

  • Bring life experience and knowledge.

  • Are goal oriented

  • Are relevancy oriented.

  • Are practical.

  • Like to be respected.

The Australian Catholic University does a great job of summarizing each of these principles, but I was left wondering how this differs from students.  To address this inquiry, I found another great resource, from the Nebraska Department of Labor’s professional development site.  Below, I include a screenshot of an interactive infographic that details what sets adult learners apart from children.

I found the first point especially interesting–that children base what is important in their learning on what they are told to study.  If a teacher says the material is important, students will often believe them.  Contrarily, adults want to know the value of what the are learning and specifically how it will be valuable to their teaching.  I highly recommend all interested parties check out this resource!   

Adult Learning Principles in Professional Development

In studying about adult learners I quickly realized that there are so many great resources already available it would be superfluous to make my own. Instead, I choose to search for a model for professional development that is designed with the adult learning principles in mind.  I didn’t have to go far, as my own school district is currently preparing for a Learning Improvement Day (LID) that takes these principles into consideration.  In fact, the following slides are from the recent facilitator training.

How does the LID consider adult learning principles?

  • Adult Learners are goal oriented: our LID revolves around the Lake 8, which are the eight instructional components of student learning.  Each professional development session is aligned with one of these standards. The infographic below details the Lake 8 standards.

  • Adult learners are relevancy oriented: the LID consists of several sessions and participants get to choose which ones to attend.  The sessions are grouped by grade level (elementary or secondary) and, while some are subject specific, many apply to various subjects.  

  • Adult learners are practical: the goal of the LID is to leave teachers with instructional tools or resources they could implement in their classrooms the next day.  The goal is to keep each session quick and provide time to work.  The LID site also includes links to presentation materials and suggestions for future PD for those who want to extend their learning.

What’s missing?

It is unfair and inaccurate to judge just how effectively my district’s LID day accounts for all of Knowles principles until during and after the session.  The follow three principles cannot be determined yet and should therefore be the priorities of the facilitators when designing and implementing their specific professional development session.

  • Adult learners are motivated and self directed.
  • Adult learners bring life experience and knowledge.
  • Like to be respected.

Future Inquires

  • My goal for this blog post was to be reflective rather than to judge or evaluate.  However, I am curious to know if and how my district intends to assess how effectively the learning from the LID is implemented into instruction.
  • I keep reading that effective professional development is ongoing.  How could the LID be extended?

References

ACU (Australian Catholic University). (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://www.acu.edu.au/staff/our_university/faculties/faculty_of_health_sciences/professional_practice_resources_for_supervisors/interprofessional_resource_library/Facilitating_Learning/knowles_principles

CAV: January 13, 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/lkstevens.wednet.edu/learningstrategiespd

Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) – Training Manual: Unit Two: Facilitating Adult Learning: 2.1 Characteristics of Adult Learners and Qualities of a Good Instructor. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/en/d/Jh0414e/5.1.html

LSSD Professional Learning Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://lifeinthetechlab.com/LSSD/plp/
Professional Development: Key Differences. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://nelearn.myelearning.org/mod/page/view.php?id=423

Module 4 Reflection: Developing a Peer Coaching Toolbox

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One major “ah ha” moment I have had during my master’s program research in digital education leadership is that good teaching is good teaching.  By this I mean that many of the best practices we use in our K-12 classrooms are equally effective when creating professional development for teachers. This quarter, my cohort has had the chance to look deeper at peer coaching and I recently had a similar “ah ha” moment; good coaching is good coaching.  Specifically, efficient coaching strategies for educators are, at their core, very similar to those used in other fields of work. I have used this perspective most recently as I have conducted research for my module 4 triggering question:

What are a few essential resources to add to my “peer coaching toolbox” that will help create valuable conversations while ensuring I don’t come across as critical?

Asking “what makes a great peer coach” without limiting my search to only educational coaching led me to countless resources, some gems and some that were easy to pass by.  As my intention is to create a “toolbox” of peer coaching resources, my resolution to my research was to synthesize some of the best information I came across into a document (shared in the “resolution” section). While sifting through resources, I attempted to really focus on the second part of my question, “[to choose tools that] create conversations that don’t come across as critical”. What follows is only the start to my peer coaching toolbox and I intend to build on it as I learn and gain more experience.

Resolution

Peer Coaching Toolbox

Overview of Resources

Since most of my peer coaching toolbox is made up of resources created and shared by others, rather than simply created by me, I didn’t think that a quick link in the “references” section gave due credit.  Below I include a brief overview of the resources I used to create my comprehensive toolbox.

  • EDTC 6103 Course Materials: this quarter it has been a bit difficult finding resources that top those provided by my professors, David Wicks and Les Foltos.  All that they have provided is already part of my toolbox, but for the sake of this module resolution I tried to narrow down to just a few resources that I found most valuable in general.  Some which I included are the learning activity checklist and tips on listening and asking probing questions.
  • Peer Coaching Resources: this resource was a gem and exactly what I was looking for to help address my question!  This was actually created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and, as far as I can tell, is for nurses, specifically those working in nursing homes.  That being so, I still found that just about all of these resources are equally relevant to peer coaching for teachers, or most professions.  I liked that they included several ready-to-use resources and among my favorites were ones on setting goals, establishing a clear plan for peer coaching, active listening, and activities for reflection and seeking feedback.  While not included in my toolbox, I really appreciated that they included a document that lists common peer coaching roadblocks along with solutions.  This is something I would like to develop later on!
  • How Google is Making Work Better: This episode of the podcast The Hidden Brain talks with Laszlo Bock about how his research on a successful workplace, outlined in his book Work Rules has been applied at Google.  In this episode, Bock and host Shankar Vedantam discuss leading theories on what creates an effective work environment.  
  • What Makes a Good Sports/Fitness Coach: when I looked at how to be an inspiring coach, I came across many resources for sports/fitness coaches.  While I didn’t come across many tangible items to add to my toolbox, I did appreciate that many of these resources seemed to focus on encouragement, positivity, and the attitude of the coach, which seemed a vital point to consider when selecting other resources.

Future Questions or Inquiries

  • What resources am I missing? Is there an element of peer coaching that is totally neglected?
  • I started this module intending to look at questioning strategies for peer coaches.  I ended up straying from that topic though because I feel like that’s already been done by many of my classmates and there are some good materials in our course documents.  In the future, this is something I would like to revisit.  
  • I want to look a bit further into how to include feedback and reflections into peer coaching opportunities.

References

Goldburg, A. (2016). SPECIAL: What makes a GOOD COACH? Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www.competitivedge.com/special-what-makes-good-coach

How Google’s Laszlo Bock Is Making Work Better. (2016, June 7). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/480976042/how-googles-laszlo-bock-is-making-work-better

Peer Coaching Resources. (2015, August). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.alliantquality.org/sites/default/files/Peer_Coach_Resource_508_FNL.pdf

Quinn, E. (2016, April 5). 9 Qualities of a Great Sports Fitness Coach. Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.verywell.com/what-makes-a-good-coach-3120792

Reeder, E. (2011, March 4). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://pimarsc.pbworks.com/w/page/37053775/LessonActivityChecklist

Setting the Stage: Establishing an Environment for Peer Coaching

A photo by Julia Caesar. unsplash.com/photos/asct7UP3YDE

“Leap, and the net will appear.” (Zen saying)

Overview

This fall I began my fifth year of teaching, a milestone in many ways. While I am still at the beginning of my career, I am no longer a “new” teacher.  I have greater confidence in my instructional strategies, classroom management skills, and collaborative relationships.  I no longer have slight dread while wondering how am I going to make it through the year but now find myself asking how can I shape myself into a phenomenal educator?  As I have been wondering this, an answer has presented itself in my module one explorations for my digital education leadership program.  This quarter, my cohort is looking at the role of peer coaching in the professional learning environment.  While my learning has been very general so far as I am just delving into this dynamic topic, it is clear that great educators are shaped by great educators.  So, if I am to become great and help others do so as well, I must work to create an environment that successfully integrates peer coaching into professional development.  

I start this exploration with a strong advantage as I get to learn about peer coaching from Les Foltos, an expert on the topic and one of my professors for the quarter.  In his book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, I was struck by how frankly Les explains that creating a successful environment for peer coaching requires educators to be extremely vulnerable.  In his introductory chapter he explains that, when confronted with a peer coaching opportunity, the learning partner hears, “my coach is asking me to open the doors of my classroom and to demonstrate want I know and what I don’t know.  My coach is asking me to take risks and make mistakes in public” (Foltos 2013). While I am eager to get into the intricacies of models for peer coaching, this point stopped me in my tracks.  It made me realize that, before I can understand what meaningful peer coaching looks like, I must first look at what elements are essential to establishing an environment where peer coaching can happen.  Without a safe learning environment, educators will not feel comfortable being vulnerable and therefore cannot open their doors to peer coaching opportunities.  

What is essential to creating a successful environment for peer coaching?

As is often the case, when I began exploring essential elements of a successful peer coaching environment, I was met with an overabundance of information.  After skimming through multiple blog posts, educator resources, and scholarly articles, I started to see many overlapping ideas and decided that, rather than reinvent the wheel, I would synthesize my findings into a comprehensive list.  Below are what I found to be the leading tips on creating a successful environment for peer coaching.

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What topics relating to peer coaching will I explore in the future?

All that I have learned this week has been both fulfilling and overwhelming.  Now that I have gotten to dive into the topic of peer coaching, I am aware of how much great information there is out there to explore!  Since this week’s blog post only scratches the surface, I wanted to take a moment to mention a few ideas that have started to spark in my head which I would like to look at deeper in the coming weeks.

  • Now that we have created an environment where peer coaching can be successful, how do we get teachers to “open their doors”?
  • What is the role of an instructional coach?  
  • What behaviors and strategies should an instructional coach master in order to be effective?
  • My school district currently has nine full time secondary level instructional coaches.  How are their roles defined?  What are the next steps my district is taking to create an environment for peer coaching?
  • How can we make time for feedback and reflection more valuable in professional learning opportunities?

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2011). Four Conditions Essential for Instructional Coaching to Work. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/four-conditions-instructional-coaching-elena-aguilar

Dupree, O. (n.d.). What is an Instructional Coach? Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://piic.pacoaching.org/index.php/piic-coaching/what-is-an-instructional-coach

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Gonzalez, J. (2016, September 25). How Pineapple Charts Revolutionize Professional Development. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pineapple-charts/

Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

Guest Post: Who Sits In the Big Chair? Reflections on Building Collaborative Partnerships with Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://yourinstructionalcoach.com/2016/09/07/guest-post-who-sits-in-the-big-chair-reflections-on-building-collaborative-partnerships-with-teachers/

Workshop Proposal: Giving Quiet Students a Voice with Social Tools

Rationale

Every classroom has them.  Students with great ideas who are just too shy to speak out, while a few dominate the conversation.  Give those students a voice in your classroom with technology tools that let them be heard.  In this workshop, on giving quiet students a voice with digital tools, you will learn about and how to use several different types of forums, polls and interactive assignment tools to increase participation and get those students into class discussions.  Use these tools as pre-cursors to classroom discussions to spark the flow of ideas and empower all students in your class!  This workshop also addresses tips for selecting, evaluating, and managing digital tools so you can feel confident that you are using the best tool for the task!  

This workshop seeks to address the following essential questions:

  1. How can I encourage quiet students to engage in class discussions and activities?
  2. How can I balance class discussions and activities so that more students are participating?
  3. How can I select, evaluate, and manage digital tools?

Workshop Structure

This workshop is best suited for a 90 minute session to allow time for collaboration and for individuals to experiment with the tools. It could easily be shortened, by only covering the presentation (or parts of the presentation), or lengthened, by giving more work time afterwards.  An approximate breakdown of the session is as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 1.56.26 PM

One point to highlight about this workshop is it’s collaborative learning element.  Creating a collaborative space is essential to experimenting with and troubleshooting digital tools.  As the workshop facilitator, I intend to keep the presentation short to allow time for participants to explore tools in teams and to provide opportunities for trial and error so they are more confident to use the digital tools on their own.  If possible, it would be beneficial to incorporate a flipped learning element where the participants could come prepared with a lesson or learning activity they would like to apply their new learning to.  To foster a collaborative environment, I have created activities on Padlet and Answer Garden which asks participants to reflect on their teaching and share digital tools and ideas relating to the topic.  Additionally, the presentation includes a think-pair-share activity to promote collaborative relationships during the workshop.

Presentation Materials

During the workshop I will share the giving quiet students a voice presentation, included below.  Participants will need computers, tablets, or phones with internet access so they can actively participate with the presentation.  I will need access to a projector, with either a laptop hookup or a designated computer attached that I can use to access the presentation.  If the technology does not come through, the workshop could easily be adapted to focus on discussing the essential questions and planning lessons or brainstorming ways to incorporate digital tools that promote engagement in discussion.

Content Knowledge Needs

The digital tools covered in this workshop can be used in just about any learning environment, regardless of age range or subject. That being the case, the specific student learning standards addressed may vary by task or subject.  However, this workshop topic most holistically addresses Common Core State Standards in English/language arts relating to speaking and listening. By twelfth grade, students are expected to prepare for, participate in, respond to, and evaluate discussions.  Taking advantage of digital tools that increase student engagement directly addresses this standard.

This workshop is also intended to address standards six and seven of the newly released 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.  Standard six requires that students communicate clearly and express themselves creativity through appropriate digital media.  Standard seven asks that students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning through collaboration.  As already noted, the digital tools featured in this workshop encourage wide participation in discussions and learning opportunities.

Teacher Needs Addressed

This workshop addresses several accessibility needs, including:

  • Rather than having the presentation simply displayed on a screen at the front of the room, participants will also have access to the presentation from their personal devices by using Pear Deck.
  • Participants can access the presentation using a shortened link available on the introductory screen.  They may choose to access it this way if they would prefer it to Pear Deck.
  • Using Pear Deck I can share notes from the presentation with participants once it is finished.  This way, participants can access the information for later reference.
  • The introductory video includes closed captioning for participants with hearing disabilities.
  • The location of the workshop will be accessible to all, regardless of disabilities.  
  • The digital tools highlighted in the presentation were selected because they were all free, available on any device, and easy to use.  They are also all applicable to any subject or age range. They are all web based, so students would need internet access to access the tools at home.

Workshop Proposal

The main points of the workshop are addressed in this post.  The full workshop proposal is included below.

Frameworks for Selecting, Evaluating, and Managing Digital Tools

Overview

The Association for Educational Communications and Technologies defines educational technology as “[…] the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Januszewski et al. 2008).  While mostly straightforward, this definition begs the question of what processes and resources are deemed “appropriate”, who determines them as such, and what is the process for doing so?  The “who” seems easy enough–according to ISTE coaching standard 3 it is the role of the technology coach to “select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning”.  Additionally, coaches should create collaborative spaces for teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources (2016). So, if it is the role of the technology coach to facilitate tool selection, how is this done?  

The “how” was much more tricky to answer. I know that technology coaches in my district share digital tools amongst one another and with staff, but I don’t know that there is much of a process besides, “I found this cool, maybe you would too?”  I’m sure many educators have come up with mental checklists for what they do and don’t want in a tool, but I have never been in a scenario where that was openly discussed.  In considering this, I choose to explore the question “What frameworks and tools are available to educators to select and evaluate digital tools?”  My ultimate intention is to start a conversation within my district on our process for selecting and evaluating tools.  To support this, I have compiled some of the main points I have come across in hopes of creating a foundation to start this conversation.

Selecting

In the rapidly growing atmosphere of digital learning, it can be extremely difficult to know where to begin when looking for a digital tool.  As is outlined in my Coggle mind map, one great place to start may be a website, such as the EdSurge Product Index or Common Sense Education.  These sites offer reviews of digital tools by educators and allow users to sort the tools based on subject, standard, platform, and cost, among several other factors.  With or without a specific tool in mind, a few ideas to consider are to…

  • Start with the end in mind.  What standards are you hoping to address?  What do you want the learners to produce?  Does the tool help you reach the intended outcome for the lesson or activity?
  • Ensure all learners have access to the technology. Do all students have access to devices?  What tools work well on those devices?  Will students need access to the internet at school?  At home?
  • Check your district’s technology policies.  What tools are aligned with your districts’ policies?  Does your district already subscribe to tools perform the given task?  Are there restrictions on which tools you can use?
  • Keep in mind learners that need accommodations and modifications. What digital tools will help you better address students who need accommodations and modifications?  Will the tool be valuable for these learners, or will it present new challenges?
  • Make a Checklist. While you may have heard about a really cool tool on social media or from a colleague, don’t forget that you need to choose one that works for you.  It is all too easy to try to force use of a tool because it is exciting, only to realize later that it was not appropriate for the task at hand.  It may be useful to make a checklist of the first factors you need to consider when looking for digital tools to help maintain focus.

My “checklist” is included below, which is from my recent blog post on selecting and evaluating digital tools.

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Evaluating

In addition to helping you find great digital tools, sites like the EdSurge Product Index or Common Sense Education provide extensive ratings and reviews and have therefore done a lot of the evaluating for you.  If their rating system is compatible with yours, you may be ready to experiment with the tool.  For a more individualized tool evaluation system, LearnTrials, an educational technology management system, is an AWESOME resource.   This site allows users to create a library of the digital tools, approve or deny tools for use, write reviews and ratings, explore new tools, and collaborate with other educators.  I see this as a great fit in my district as it could create a platform for teachers to keep the tools they use organized and share them with one another.

Another possibility for evaluating digital tools is to use a rubric or checklist. One of the best rubrics I have come across is the one below, based off of the SAMR model and created by Andover Public Schools Digital Learning Office.  I don’t know how realistic it is to assume that individual teachers would consult a rubric each time they looked at a new tool, but it could provide a good frame of reference.  Rather, a rubric may be more appropriate for a committee to use when making a group decision on whether or not a adopt a new tool.

Future Questions

  1. I am eager to learn more about the tool selection process in my district.  Has a rubric or evaluation process already been put into place?  Who is involved in the tool selection process for the major tools we use, such as our online gradebook or our learning management systems.  How often do these tools come under review?
  2. How can I compile my findings on evaluating digital tools into a resource for educators that is easy-to-use?  Would a rubric be sufficent?  Would simply sharing online resources be enough?  Is it better to give a few options for tool selection and evaluation, or stick with one framework?

Resources

ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Educational technology: A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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

Teachers Know Best: What educators want from digital instructional tools. (2014). Retrieved August 3, 2016, from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Teachers-Know-Best_0.pdf

Technology Integration Rubrics – Andover Public Schools Digital Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/k12.andoverma.us/aps-digital-learning/technology-integration-rubrics

Zielezinski, M. B. (2016, June 25). What 7 Factors Should Educators Consider When Choosing Digital Tools for Underserved Students? (EdSurge News). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-25-what-7-factors-should-educators-consider-when-choosing-digital-tools-for-underserved-students

Selecting and Evaluating Digital Tools

Overview

When selecting digital tools to use in the classroom I often run into the same few issues:

  1. I get caught up exploring a tool I think is “cool” and lose sight of the objective, often trying to force use of a tool that isn’t the best for the task at hand.
  2. When I realize a tool isn’t appropriate for the task, often after exploring it for a long time, I have to start the process over, wasting valuable planning time.
  3. Looking for a tool in the first place can be daunting, there are so many great ones out there!

In order to help myself, and hopefully my colleagues, break this cycle, I have recently been exploring methods for making the process of tool selection more effective.  One great place to locate and review digital tools is Common Sense Media’s Education site (formerly Graphite).  This site offers both site and educator reviews of just about every digital tool relating to education that is out there.  The reviews can be categorized by subject, standard, or by top picks.  Since finding this site, my tool selection process has been greatly streamlined, yet my issues have not bene solved entirely.  To  aid in the tool selection process, I have put together the infographic below which briefly describes the four main points I consider when selecting and evaluating digital tools to use in a learning environment. While not all factors need to be met with every tool, keeping each in mind will help determine what tool is best for the task at hand!

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Review of a Digital Tool

Overview

Using the criteria outlined in the four points to consider, I chose to review the new Google Sites.  I choose this tool because it just became available in my district I think there would be a lot of use for it, both for educators and for students.  The new Google Sites allows users to create websites directly from their Google Drives and easily edit and embed content.  I am very excited about this tool and have started switching over my old class website to a new Google Site.  I intend on having students make their own sites for future projects too. Specifically, in the past I have had students create a theme poster project at the end of our short stories unit.  After sharing and turning them in, they ultimately make their way to the recycling bin.  If students share this information on Sites, they can easily share with others in, and out, of the classroom and archive their work when finished.  They can also include various media, collaborate more easily, and still maintain focus on aesthetics.  Using the new sites can totally redefine this project!

To get started, just go to your Google Drive, click “New” and then “Site” and prompted directions will walk you through the rest.  On the site ControlAltAchieve, contributor Eric Curtis includes a detailed article, titled “The Totally New Google Sites“, that walks users through the process of getting started!

Review

  • Appropriateness: Sites is easy to use! It allows users to seamlessly embed content, such as slideshows, videos, documents, images, and much more.  Sites is probably the easiest-to-use website creation platform I have come across–it is easy to navigate through the tools, simple to quickly edit and update, and made for collaboration! It would be appropriate for any grade or level of expertise. I see this tool working for a variety of tasks, enabling users to redefine how they share and present information.
  • Cost: Google Apps for Education is free but the business version has a fee per user. Like most Google tools, the new Google Sites is being rolled out in stages so it may not be available to you just yet.
  • Platform: As this tool allows users to create websites, they are viewable from any device that gets internet. Sites allows users to view their site from a computer screen, tablet, or phone, to make sure it looks great on any device!
  • Management Abilities: Users can choose who views their site (just their network or the entire web) and who collaborates with them on it.  Those viewing the site can subscribe, allowing them to recieve email updates when changes are made to the site.

Resources

Browse All Reviews and Ratings. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2016, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/reviews/all

Curtis, E. (2016, June 13). Control Alt Achieve: The Totally New Google Sites. Retrieved July 29, 2016, from http://www.controlaltachieve.com/2016/06/new-google-sites.html

SAMR Model – Technology Is Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/msad60.org/technology-is-learning/samr-model

Redesigning Classroom Management Practices in a Digital Environment

Overview:

At the start of next year my district will be fully 1:1 with Chromebooks.  This means that all students above sixth grade will be assigned a Chromebook which they take to and from school during the school year and elementary level students will have access to Chromebooks during the school day.  While this increase in technology accessibility is met with great enthusiasm, many educators are also expressing concern over how to properly manage the technology and student behavior and this new digital atmosphere.  As a classroom teacher I share my colleagues’ concerns and as a technology mentor I have been eager to explore the topic of redefining classroom management in a digital learning environment.  Fortunately, my digital education leadership program through SPU is currently studying ISTE Coaching Standard 3 which states that “technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students”.  Components of this standard require that educators model effective classroom management strategies, coach teachers in online and blended learning practices, and expand choices for online professional development (2016).  In consideration of this standard, I have recently been exploring the question, “how must educators redesign both the physical space of the classroom and their classroom management policies to accommodate a digital learning environment?”.

Through my research I have found a melee of resources relating to my question.  Some resources focus on theoretical aspects of the changing learning environment and offer points to consider when designing instruction.  For example, in “Designing for the K-12 Classroom: ten influential elements to consider” contributor Caroline Bone briefly outlines the flipped classroom and blended learning models as potential frameworks for redefining traditional teaching.  She explains that the benefit of such models is that they “allow for more collaborative, group-based learning in class, with the teacher acting as a facilitator rather than the ‘Sage on a Stage’” (Bone, 2014).  These models, which are being used in more and more classrooms, offer greater opportunities for differentiated instruction and rely heavily on embracing digital education.  Many other resources I came across offered more concrete, “do this”-type advice on how to manage a digital learning environment.  One example would be Edutopia’s blog, titled “Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design“ in which contributor Mary Wade offers a detailed infographic of a 21st century classroom.  Along with her visual, Wade explains that the key elements of a modern classroom revolve around accessibility, mobility, inspiration, and respect  (Wade, 2016).

With so much information already available relating to my question, I choose to synthesize my learning into the eight main points I came across when considering how to redesign the physical space and classroom management of a digital learning environment.  These points, outlined in the infographic below, were designed in consideration of a classroom that is in a 1:1 setting where the district provides technology to students.  I attempted to keep the tips general enough so that they could still apply to a BYOD or shared-device setting.  Additional information on classroom management in a digital learning environment can be found in the links under “resources”.

Ideas to Consider when Designing and Managing a Digital Learning Environment:

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Possible Issues and Future Questions:

  • The “points to consider” that I have outlined are met to address current concerns in my district.  How will the digital learning environment continue to change as more educators embrace the flipped classroom and blended learning models?
  • These resources, while good for any classroom, relate more to secondary level. What different classroom management challenges might an elementary level teacher face in relation to technology integration?
  • As my district provides Chromebooks to students and uses Google Apps, I sometimes focus too heavily on tools and tips that only work for those platforms. What other classroom management policies might educators need to reconsider in a district that uses digital tools I am unfamiliar with?

Resources:

B’s Book Love : Don’t Hate, Integrate: How to use Smartphones in the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://bsbooklove.blogspot.com/2015/11/dont-hate-integrate-how-to-use.html

Bone, C. (2014, October 7). Designing for the K-12 Digital Classroom: Ten Influential Elements To Consider. Retrieved July 20, 2016, from https://designmind.frogdesign.com/2014/10/designing-k-12-digital-classroom-ten-influential-elements-consider/

ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Johnson, B. (2015, June 17). How to Manage Cell Phones in the Classroom. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/how-manage-cell-phones-classroom-ben-johnson

Wade, M. (2016, March 29). Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design. Retrieved July 20, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/visualizing-21st-century-classroom-design-mary-wade