Resources for Meaningful Tech Integration

The Problem Okay, let’s be honest from one educator to another. When it comes to technology, have you ever felt like once you learn something new the educational world is already moving on to the next and greatest? Or have you ever just shrugged off the current technology trend and chosen to stick with what is familiar and comfortable when it comes to teaching? Perhaps you are trying to use different forms of technology, but feel like the technology is more of an expensive toy than actually enhancing and redefining the learning experiences? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are not alone. “New, often more effective technology is created so quickly that teachers don’t feel like they can keep up with the onslaught” (Foltos, 2013, p. 134). Teachers also confess to having “stepped to the side” to avoid the steamroller of education and technology. A study was done by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers that concluded only half of teachers felt adequately prepared to integrate technology into instruction and 1/3 of teachers asked students to use technology in problem-solving and research a few times a week (National Education Association, 2008, p. 17-18). And for those who are attempting to integrate technology, sometimes we end up doing basic substitution for other tools. The technology is not actually transforming learning, merely supporting traditional teaching methods. Where Do We Go From Here? Let’s start by redefining the term technology integration. Les Foltos (2013) proposes a new definition for technology integration in his book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration: “Technology supports and enhances 21st-century pedagogy and content” (p. 146). So what should our focus really be on? Pedagogy, content, and student learning. The teacher’s first job is to design learning activities that feature solid content and effective pedagogy (Foltos, 2013, p. 146). After the learning activity is created THEN teacher and/or students can help choose the technology that will best help them accomplish the task. “Too often, teachers still plan their lessons around technology instead of putting learning first” (Foltos, 2013, p. 136). Annie Tremonte, a digital learning coach in Renton, Washington uses this analogy when working with teachers to highlight how we can become overly focused on technology: “No one ever said ‘Wow, Elmer’s glue is amazing. How can I design a whole lesson just around Elmer’s glue?’ Yet oftentimes we start with the technology we want to use and try to build a lesson around that. Why?” Coaches can help teachers focus first on student learning, and then choose the technology that helps students achieve those goals. A key question to consider is how can technology enhance or accelerate learning? Another way we can push for meaningful tech integration is by collaborating with coaches to develop relevant techno-fluency skills. Coaches can assist teachers in choosing the right type of technology by first asking them to define the task students will be doing, or the 21st-century skills the students will be working on, such as communication or collaboration. This will help you narrow your search for different types of technology to use. Coaches can then help research, model, or collaborate with the teacher to learn the new piece of technology. Teachers can also involve students when choosing appropriate technology (Foltos, 2013, p. 135). By having more proverbial “tech tools” in their toolbox, teachers can integrate tech in a more meaningful way. There are various tools and resources educators can use to keep technology-integration conversations focused on pedagogy and content when redesigning lessons. SAMR Technology is not this magic fix-all. If you employ technology, but are still teaching traditionally, nothing will change.  As Foltos (2013) put it: “Adding technology hasn’t changed traditional teaching and learning, but it has made poor pedagogy more expensive” (p. 143). Here’s how the SAMR continuum can help teachers avoid this pitfall. The SAMR model was created in 2010 by Ruben Puentedura and outlines four levels of technology integration. Substitution – replacing traditional activities and materials with digital versions. In other words, there is no change to the content, just the way it is delivered. Augmentation – substitution with some functional improvement. So the content stays the same, but teachers can enhance the lesson with various forms of technology like comments, hyperlinks, and embedded multimedia. Other examples of augmentation are gamifying your quizzes with Socrative and Kahoot or using virtual bulletin boards, like Padlet, for student collaboration (Terada, 2020). Modification – the technology significantly alters the task. Redefinition – learning is transformed by offering students opportunities that were impossible before. Some examples include global pen-pals, virtual field trips, or connecting with an expert for an interview, or getting feedback on your work. Teachers often focus on the first two levels, especially now during distance learning. Teachers replace traditional materials with digital ones: converting lessons and worksheets to PDFs and posting online, or recording lectures and videos for asynchronous learning (Terada, 2020). And this is good practice. We cannot be at the Redefinition level all the time. “It’s tempting to think of SAMR as a mountain to be summited. But good technology integration isn’t about living at the top of the SAMR model; it’s about being aware of the range of options and picking the right strategy—or strategies—for the lesson at hand” (Terada, 2020). TPACK The TPACK model focuses on three forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). All three are essential in teaching. A highly effective teacher has a deep understanding of the subject matter being taught, is well versed in various methods of teaching and learning, and also has experience working with technology and knows how to apply it in order to enrich students’ learning. These three types of knowledge should be interwoven in the 21st-Century Classroom. While there is a natural overlap between the different types of knowledge, the goal is to be in the middle, where a teacher is effectively employing content, pedagogical, and technology knowledge all at once. This video does a great job explaining TPACK more in-depth and provides some real-world examples. Lesson Design Matrix If your school hasn’t gone through the process of establishing norms of effective instruction, check out the Learning Design Matrix. It was created by Les Foltos with the help of various educational leaders, coaches, and teachers. The goal is to create a mutual understanding between staff on what effective instruction looks like. The Learning Design Matrix can be used as a checklist that coaches and teachers can refer to when designing lessons. The bottom right box outlines the qualities of effective instruction when it comes to technology integration. I appreciate this resource because it can be a helpful tool and doesn’t focus on the technology itself, but how the technology can be used to collaborate, create, and empower students. Coaches can use this resource when working with teachers to design new curriculum or improve existing lessons regarding technology. ISTE Student Standards Lastly, educators can utilize the ISTE Student standards to keep technology focused on developing 21st-Century Skills. The ISTE standards “are all aimed at integrating technology to help students develop critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills, as well as developing creativity and innovation” (Foltos, 2013, p. 143). These are exactly the kinds of skills our students need to be successful in the real world and should be at the center of the target when it comes to integrating technology. Summary While technology can become a powerful part of the learning journey – it should not be the focus. Pedagogy and student learning should always come first. Les Foltos says it beautifully: “Coaches must understand that best practices in technology integration are really best practices in 21st-century learning. Technology integration is all about the interrelationship of pedagogy, content, and technology. And technology is the least important of the three elements in this equation” (2013, p. 151-152). Whether teachers are feeling overwhelmed with keeping up, simply avoiding it, or poorly using technology, coaches can help. By redefining technology integration, collaborating with teachers to build capacity, and then using existing tools and resources, coaches can guide teachers in how to effectively use technology to transform student learning. Works Cited Common Sense. (n.d.). Introduction to the TPACK Model [Video]. Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/videos/introduction-to-the-tpack-model Edutopia. (2007, November 5). What Is Successful Technology Integration? Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin. Foltos, L. (2018). Learning Design Matrix. Peer-Ed, Mill Creek  Mkoehler. (2012, September 24). TPACK Explained. TPACK.ORG http://www.tpack.org/ Spencer, John. (2015, Nov. 3) What is the SAMR Model and what does it look like in schools? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC5ARwUkVQg Terada, Youki. (2020, May 4). A Powerful Model for Understanding Good Tech Integration. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/powerful-model-understanding-good-tech-integration Header photo by Good Studio, Adobe Stock

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Developing a Shared Vision and Culture That Embraces Technology

The Foundation Having both a clear vision and a healthy school culture are essential foundations before adopting new and innovative practices. According to ASCD, school culture is the way “teachers and other staff members work together and the set of beliefs, values, and assumptions they share.” These beliefs and values have a huge impact on instructional decisions and student learning. So if a school is adopting a new technology initiative, school leaders should take the time to create a shared vision and culture for using technology. If teachers believe in the positive influence technology can have on student learning, then there will be forward momentum by staff working towards a common goal. Likewise, a school should have a strong and prevalent mission and vision statement. Aguilar (2015) argues that a school mission and vision help educators to feel that they are on the same page and that it offers direction when decisions need to be made. A shared mission statement and vision “motivates, unifies, and guides all stakeholders in their day-to-day operations” and comes “alive in the hearts and hands of those doing the work” (Aguilar, 2015). Creating a Shared Vision and Culture How do coaches inspire educators and create a shared vision and culture for using technology? How can principals, teacher leaders, and coaches ensure staff buy-in? Below are some helpful tips to consider when working with your school’s staff. Laugh. Try and include humor in your staff meetings – look up comic strips regarding teaching and/or technology. There are a lot out there. It is a great way to break the ice and create a more laid-back and comfortable environment. Ask for opinions. Asking teachers what they think creates buy-in. If teachers get to help create the school’s technology vision and culture, they will take more ownership. Communicate that every voice counts. When creating a shared vision, make sure to give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. “When more students are involved in the class, their confidence increases, and they will drive their learning proactively rather than passively letting the teacher own the experience” (Piotinsky, 2019). While this statement was talking about students, I think it can apply to adult learners as well. Here is one activity you can do with your staff to allow them to express their ideas. Chalk Talk (Foltos, 2013, p. 106-109) There is only one rule: no talking. Participants discuss their ideas using chalk, whiteboard markers, pens, digital devices, etc. This keeps the conversation from being dominated by a small minority of outgoing teachers. Teachers can draw lines to link ideas, highlight or add stars for emphasis, or include follow up questions on certain ideas. This is a great way to flush out ideas and give everyone a space to contribute. Emphasize growth. The school vision regarding technology should encourage staff members to try new things and be risk-takers. Educators need to move out of our comfort zones to grow. However, this can be hard when there is the “added pressure of high-stakes testing and emerging models of teacher evaluations” (Marcinek, 2014). Principals need to encourage teachers that they are looking for small baby-steps. Nothing crazy. They can assure teachers that it is okay if the wifi drops, or the lesson doesn’t go as planned during an observation. The focus should be on the process toward the learning goals or objectives (Marcinek, 2014). Coaches can also support a risk-taking environment by being upfront about their own mistakes in the classroom or by being vulnerable during staff meetings and professional development. We all are on a never-ended continuum of learning and perfecting our craft. Without mistakes, we won’t get better. #failforward Personalize professional growth plans. Once the vision statement has been created collectively, teachers should be empowered to pursue tech-related goals that are interesting to them. Perhaps that is using technology to make learning activities more engaging, collaborate with students and experts outside of their schools, or create tech-infused performance tasks that demonstrate their learning. Choice and agency is a powerful way to increase ownership and engagement. Dedicate time. Once the school’s technology mission statement and vision are created, staff should spend time collaborating and reflecting on how they are working towards the shared vision. By dedicating and protecting this time, you communicate to staff that it is a priority. If there is never a time and place to do this work, the school’s tech mission and vision will be lost. Carrying It Out…  How do you carry out the shared vision? How do you define 21st-century learning and evaluate lessons for effectiveness? Once you have a technology mission statement and vision, it is helpful to give teachers and staff the practical tools on how to carry out that vision for 21st-century learning. Les Foltos (2013) outlines a helpful process coaches can use with their staff in order to establish a “norm” of effective learning. Start by having your staff collectively create a portrait of a graduate and discuss what skills students need when they leave your school. This will give your staff an idea of what the ultimate goal is. Next, discuss what are the traits of effective instruction. In other words, what do we (the teachers) need to do in order to equip students with the 21-century skills they need to be successful. Some items that may be on your list are: Help students develop communication and collaboration skills Work through a problem-solving process Encourage student agency and give choices Have students analyze and synthesize information After a list has been written by the staff, connect those traits of effective instruction back to research. This is an important step so that teachers’ and coaches’ thoughts on traits can be grounded and justified (Foltos, 2013, p. 109-110). This list can be turned into a checklist that coaches and teachers can refer to when planning new lessons or evaluating existing lessons for effectiveness. That way everyone is on the same page and knows what the norm is. “The norm for effective instruction is a road map that describes what teachers need to do to improve their practice and specifics on how to shape teaching and learning activities to reach their goals” (Foltos, 2013, p. 105). With the help of educational leaders, coaches, and teachers, Les Foltos created the “Learning Design Matrix” that provides a shortlist of the various qualities of effective instruction. Your checklist of effective instruction can become a powerful tool, but only if teachers are given the dedicated time and space to collaborate with coaches or other teachers to develop these instructional skills. The checklist may also be overwhelming for teachers, but coaches can work with them to choose small, specific goals that are more manageable. For example, amplifying student voice with the use of technology or have students engage in active learning. Creating a shared vision and staff culture for embracing technology is a big feat. However, it is paramount to ensure staff buy-in. Once teachers share in the vision, pedagogy and instructional practices will begin to shift which will have a direct impact on whether our students are ready for an ever-moving, fast paced, digital society.  Works Cited Aguilar, E. (2015, July 16). Cultivating Healthy Teams in Schools. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/cultivating-healthy-teams-schools-elena-aguilar ASCD (n.d.). School Culture and Climate. http://www.ascd.org/research-a-topic/school-culture-and-climate-resources.aspx Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin. Foltos, L. (2018). Learning Design Matrix. Peer-Ed, Mill Creek  ISTE Standards for Coaches (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches Marcinek, A. (2014, May 20). Tech Integration and School Culture. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tech-integration-and-school-culture-andrew-marcinek Plotinsky, M. (2019, October 10). Creating a Classroom Culture of Shared Ownership. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/creating-classroom-culture-shared-ownership

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Redesigning Math Courses for Distance Learning

Nearpod  Nearpod is an ingenious platform that allows teachers to create tech-infused lessons. I believe Nearpod can help teachers deliver quality instruction during distance learning that is also fun and engaging for students. You can find Nearpod online or by downloading the free app. There are synchronous and asynchronous options for teaching. On their website, Nearpod advertises: “Easily synchronize and control live lessons across all student devices. Seamlessly use your favorite web conferencing platform for distance learning settings.” However, there is also the option for asynchronous lessons that can be assigned to students so that they can access them anytime and anywhere. Perhaps you’ve also been trying to figure out how you can still differentiate to meet your diverse student needs? It would be easy to assign individual lessons to students after you have tailored the content to accommodate your student. Keep reading to learn more about this awesome tech tool.  What Makes Nearpod Stand Out in the Crowd  With Nearpod it is possible to find or create interactive lessons in minutes. In your lessons, you can embed videos, quizzes, polls, sways, Phet simulations, FlipGrid discussions, and mini slideshows (just to name a few!). There are various ways to keep students engaged during the lesson by allowing them to actively participate. For example, you can include interactive whiteboards for students to participate by drawing or showing their work. Or add virtual field trips to your lesson so that students can “experience” real-world examples and see places from around the world. You can also record your own voice over each slide or activity so that it feels like the presentation is happening right in your classroom. The audio recording tool is a great way to give students directions, encouragement, and support as they move through your asynchronous lesson. Another helpful feature is the ability to embed a website right onto a slide. That way students don’t have to go anywhere else to do their work. When you go to that slide in your lesson it will automatically load that webpage and students can interact with it just like they normally would online. Nearpod has great tools that you can use as formative assessments throughout your lesson, such as quizzes, polls, and the student draw tool. You can monitor student work on your teacher dashboard and give students timely feedback. If you choose to assess student’s learning by giving a quiz, they will be automatically graded for you and analytics provided. Creating Lessons  “Upload and tech-enhance your existing materials or customize over 7,500 pre-made, standards-aligned lessons for all K-12 subjects.” Nearpod.com When creating Nearpod lessons you can use your own Powerpoint, Google slides, or PDFs as the basis for your instruction. After uploading your files, customize your lesson by inserting videos, interactive polls, or quick quizzes to keep students engaged and assess understanding.  Another really cool feature for Google users is to use their new Google slide add-on feature. After installing this add-on in Chrome, you can use the Nearpod tools while working in your Google slide presentation. All of the changes will sync automatically with your Nearpod lesson. If you don’t feel like designing your own lesson, feel free to scan the thousands of premade lessons and edit it to fit your needs. Another bonus for teachers is assignments can be integrated with your Learning Management System whether you use Google classroom, Microsoft Teams, Schoology, or other various platforms.  Nearpod Activities  “Classroom communities stay connected with collaborative activities and formative assessments like virtual reality, polls, collaborate boards, and game-based quizzes delivered through one seamless learning experience.” Nearpod.com Nearpod has a range of activities designed to increase student engagement.  Collaborate: Students are prompted with a question and they can respond with text or pictures. It is a great way to conduct a live discussion or brainstorming session.  Time to Climb: A gamified quiz. Start by adding your own question and a picture if you’d like. Next, fill in the multiple-choice answers or use images (great for pre-readers). One bonus is their additional options for older math students, such as the use of exponents or square roots. Teachers can set questions on a timer or easily edit their work by dragging questions or multiple choice answers around to rearrange. I found it very user friendly. However, the biggest drawback is that it is only multiple-choice questions, instead of having a range of choices like true/false or extended response.  Bell Ringer Writing Prompts: Teachers can write a prompt and include an optional reference image or timer. You can allow students to submit text or audio recordings. I thought the audio recordings were really cool, especially for young students who have a hard time typing or for accessibility for other students who need additional support.  Polls: Survey your students and receive feedback instantly. You can display the results for your class, choosing to either show or hide student names for privacy. This would be a great way for students to self-assess and provide teachers with quick feedback on who they need to pull and re-teach. More resources: There are other resources available for teachers include engaging Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons or brain breaks. If you want to try out Nearpod with your students check out their youtube channel, sign up for a webinar training, or access their collection of free pre-recorded webinars to watch on your own time.   Redesigning Your Math Course with Nearpod We are all on a steep learning curve as we dive into distance learning. However, I think we’d all agree that traditional teaching methods are not as effective in a digital learning environment. Therefore, it is time to change it up! I watched this video from Edutopia on a highschool in Washington D.C. that had thrown out lecture-based teaching and replaced it with a self-paced, mastery-based approach to learning. I thought this flexibility would lend itself well to distance learning. Therefore, I started to brainstorm how Nearpod could be used to design an engaging, individualized digital learning environment for students that also allowed for student collaboration. Here’s my proposal: Online Instruction  Teachers design asynchronous Nearpod lessons they students can access and complete at their own pace. This seems like it would lend well to a distance learning environment since every family’s schedule is different.  Students participate in answering questions throughout the lesson with the “Draw it” tool. This is a great way for teachers to check for understanding and catch misconceptions quickly.  Since the lesson is not live, students can pause and rewatch parts as needed. When done, students will be required to complete a task to show mastery. Teachers can schedule “office hours” or collaboration time throughout the week for students to ask questions and work through questions together synchronously. Mastery-Based Grading Students progress to the next lesson when they demonstrate mastery. This part must be done independently by the students.   There are lots of fun tech tools that can be embedded in Nearpod lessons for students to show mastery. For example, teachers can use Nearpod’s own quiz feature or embed a Flip Grid discussion page for students to record videos explaining how they solved the problem. Or teachers can embed any website! For instance, check out Explain Everything. They have a digital whiteboard that allows students to demonstrate a problem and record audio. Or they could also complete a quick quiz on Quizlet or do an online Google form as an exit ticket.  Teachers can schedule one-on-one reteach sessions with students if needed and then students can try to demonstrate mastery again. This is possible because there are no live lectures-  the daily synchronous “classtime” becomes live sessions working with students. Critical Questions: Q: How do you effectively differentiate?  Perhaps teachers can create different Nearpod lessons for below, at level, and above grade level learners? However, this does seem like a large amount of work for teachers to create. Another option could be to let high students work through the “at level” lessons and then have an extension project for them to do. Q: Is there a cut off at some point so that you can move on to the next math chapter?  I recognize teachers may run into a problem with this mode of learning if students don’t participate or struggle with managing their self-paced lessons. One idea I had was to create a student pacing guide that students can refer to in order to gauge if they are doing a good job staying on top of their lessons (i.e. by the end of week two complete 4 lessons). Just like in a Gen. Ed. classroom, we will always have students that struggle with different concepts. I would encourage teachers to reteach concepts to students and allow them to repeat lessons until the end of the chapter. If they only completed 3 out of the 6 lessons, they would receive a grade for the standards covered and they would receive a “no mark” for the content they did not cover.  Q: How can we involve more collaboration for students?  I think we need more contact and community activities besides live office hours where students can ask questions and work through problems together. I love the idea of having an end of the chapter collaborative performance task where students have to use all the skills they’ve learned from the chapter to solve a real-world problem or authentic task. But at this point, I’m not sure what that looks like with social-distancing. I’d love to hear any ideas you may have.  Helping Staff Implement Nearpod I watched Nearpod’s webinar on “Implementing, Training and Supporting Teachers with NearPod”. They had some great suggestions for getting Nearpod off the ground at your school.  Start by modeling Nearpod for your staff during your professional development session. Then they can see the product through the lens of a student. This directly ties in with ISTE Coaching standard 4d: Model the use of instructional design principles with educators to create effective digital learning environments. Try and engage teachers the same way you want to engage students. Let them experience how fun it is to go on a virtual field trip or see how engaged learners are when using the“Draw it” tool. This will help teachers buy-in. Try and hook their attention at the beginning of the Nearpod lesson. Show a video or a funny meme. Ask “How do you feel today about this training?” and let teachers respond with the Draw It tool, Take a virtual field trip to the beach and talk about what you’re going to do for your summer vacation.  Use the Collaborate activity to pose an open-ended question or do a poll to ask staff if they are familiar with Nearpod.  Gage the direction of your training by getting live feedback from interactive activities. Use a poll in the middle of the training on which Nearpod activities they want training on since you don’t have time to cover them all. Could use Collaborate at the end to brainstorm ways teachers can use Nearpod in their classroom.  The objectives of your training should not just be to teach them about Nearpod, but also to motivate them to try using new technology. They are equally important!  Give teachers time to use Nearpod and begin to develop a lesson for math or their specific content area. Be available to help when needed or give feedback.  Create a Nearpod Planning Resource for teachers to use when creating a lesson.  Besides the webinar, Nearpod has other resources Digital Learning Coaches can use when introducing this tool to staff including a free Nearpod training lesson, facilitator guide, and audience checklist.  I’d love to hear about your experiences using Nearpod or your thoughts on individualized digital learning environments for students. Please comment below. Resources Basye, D. (2018, January 24). Personalized vs. Differentiated vs. Individualized Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/explore/Education-leadership/Personalized-vs.-differentiated-vs.-individualized-learning Edutopia. (2019, May 9). A Student-Centered Model of Blended Learning [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrR-KIoggf4 Implementing, Training and Supporting Teachers with NearPod [Webinar]l Nearpod. Retrieved from: https://nearpod.com/blog/resources/#instructionalVideo ISTE…

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