Category Archives: Teaching Learning and Assessment

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

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/

ISTE 4: Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?

The Standard

ISTE for Teachers Standard 4 states that “teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices” (ISTE 2008). To me that seemed like quite a charge. It’s a huge responsibility for teachers, but it is one that is essential in the 21st century. Initially I was planning on investigating how primary teachers demonstrate to their students that they are ethical users of technology and I wondered how that positively impacted students? When I started researching and thinking about how teachers could be empowered to be responsible and ethical users of technology, I began to realize the vast quest that this standard entails. Like many of our modules in the Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University, I think that is the point of our assignment and our research. We are working toward a M.Ed. but we are also embodying the charge of the school of education at SPU, part of the mission is “to equip educators for service and leadership in schools and communities by developing their professional competence and character, to make a positive impact on learning.” I think that part of the reason we are focusing on standards that are very broad is to prepare us for conversations we will have with teachers and other stakeholders in the future as we become technology leaders in our schools and districts.

Try Different

Maybe we can’t just try harder, maybe we need to try something different?

Technology PD and Teachers

Recently I found myself in a PD for Code.org this week and while listening to the presentation and participating in the PD, I was thinking about the ethical use of technology by teachers and how it relates to how we teach digital citizenship to our students. I had a realization and thought that made sense to me. I don’t think that districts can expect teachers to be examples of ethical users of technology unless they are willing to invest in some kind of PD to encourage teachers to be aware of the lapses, blind spots and disconnects in the ethical use of technology. As users of technology, and teachers we are all over the place in our use and struggle to grasp content in any technology PD. Therefore, I think that slowing down and building in a focus on ethical use to every PD would aid in the process of teachers demonstrating this ethical use to students in the classroom. Are there standards that explain how to demonstrate ethical use in an elementary school? What does this instruction look like in primary versus intermediate grades? I mostly found resources for teaching digital citizenship to students, as expected. There is definitely room for improvement there in my own classroom as well as in my school. Using an LMS as a safe environment that mimics social media is one strategy (Hertz, M.B., 2011). Engaging videos like Follow the Digital Trail with Pause & Think are great for primary students. I guess in my research I came to realize that while teaching digital citizenship is necessary, I struggled to find how we can encourage and empower all teachers to teach it. They have to know that it matters! I think certain groups in every school could help to transmit that message with some slight modifications to common practice.

The Current System, Slightly Modified

Teachers who are motivated and fluent users of technology can be examples for students. It seems that most districts, based on my experience, as well as the experience of colleagues I’ve talked to in this program, expect librarians to be the main instructors responsible with informing students about the expectations for digital citizenship. Therefore, librarians would be the ones who receive PD related to digital citizenship from technology coaches or coordinators. In my building we have a technology team but most of the professional development is actually done by the administrator or the coaches and leadership team members. What if districts invested in these teams and encouraged them to demonstrate ethical use of technology to the rest of the staff? I imagine that doing so might help it to trickle down to students. In my building this seems like it would be a good start. Or, could a technology team at a building level provide the necessary PD yearly to encourage ethical use from teachers? I think it is possible but it would take a district level commitment that I have yet to see or hear about from others. Additionally I think that districts could continue to empower a larger number of students to be ethical users of technology by offering optional technology classes taught by a district level technology employee or a motivated teacher in order to focus on ethical use and integration of technology into learning.

This week I’m also reflecting on my own use of technology. What is my use like at school and at home? How are the two related? Where can I improve to be a better example? What are the primary reasons that I even use technology? I’ll continue to think about those questions and make it a goal to build in new habits when I identify a lapse or blind spot.

My notes from readings:

Other Questions and Conclusion

Is video PD a reliable way to help teachers remain current on ethical use of technology? Thinking about my role as a technology leader in my school I realize that my example in the ethical use of technology matters. I also think that administrators can influence a teacher’s ethical use of technology by becoming an example and referring to ethical use. Teachers are definitely busy, it is a challenge to fit in anything extra, but building in new habits can be a good investment for our own ethical use and examples for students. I think that teams in each school building could start off by being the example for how to do this to the general classroom teachers. Again, as I have said in past posts, I’m really just scratching the surface for ISTE 4. 

A Promising Resource

One resource that I came across really seemed say a lot that resonated with what I know and have learned about technology through my own use and through PD was about preparing teachers for technology integration. I don’t know that it is entirely relevant to this post on ethical use and how teacher promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility, but it is a resource I will likely return to later. The article by Jacobson, Clifford and Friesen makes me excited to see how new teachers will be trained to integrate technology into their teaching, and perhaps with an increased focus in the university, these new teachers will be prime examples of digital citizenship for their students. However, in the meantime this paragraph might fit where we are currently at, and hopefully it motivates reluctant adopters to give it a try:

“Learning and teaching with technology is hard, it can be overwhelming, and the field is always changing. The way in which preservice teachers reacted to the ICT Program of Studies and building web pages is much like the reaction of many class room teachers and faculty members when they grapple with how to integrate technology and the curriculum. It is also the way that experienced technology users venture into an area that is unfamiliar to them. Because the field is changing so quickly, everyone is in some sense a beginner. And everyone has exactly the same starting place where they are, at the moment. While where you are will change with experience and the acquisition of skills and knowledge, there will always be new skills, new knowledge, and new starting places for us all (Jacobson, Clifford, & Friesen, 2002).

I think this is an attitude we should all strive to have in our approach to technology, ethical use and the integration of technology into our classrooms.

Resources:

Follow the Digital Trail. (n.d.). [Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/follow-the-digital-trail

Hertz, M. B. (2011, October 12). Teaching digital citizenship in the elementary classroom [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-mary-beth-hertz

Jacobson, M., Clifford, P., & Friesen, S. (2002). Preparing teachers for technology integration: Creating a culture of inquiry in the context of use. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 2(3). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/volume-2/issue-3-02/current-practice/preparing-teachers-for-technology-integration-creating-a-culture-of-inquiry-in-the-context-of-use/

Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital edge. Education Digest, 77(8), 14–17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=f5h&AN=83515505&site=ehost-live

Ribble, M., & Northern Miller, T. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137–145. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1011379.pdf

Seattle Pacific University School of Education. (2017). Retrieved from http://spu.edu/academics/school-of-education/about/four-commitments/conceptual-framework

Simsek, E., & Simsek, A. (2013). New literacies for digital citizenship. Contemporary Education Technology, 4(2), 126–137. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED542213.pdf

Venosdale, K. (2012). Try Different [Digital Print]. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/bcXwrr 

Module 3: Collaboration with Parents, Student Motivation, and Success

Collaboration and Success

This week we were looking at the ISTE Standard for Teachers, #3 and specifically it seems to deal with parent communication or collaboration with parents, peers or the community. So based on my interpretation of the standards and conversations we had in our class that led me to two related questions. How does collaboration with parents, peers, or community members support student success and innovation? How can asynchronous collaboration or communication be used to increase parent, peer, or community involvement in the classroom as an aid to student success? Those two questions are obviously big questions, with complicated answers, but I think it is something teachers are constantly considering. As teachers we have limited time with students. Taking into account the different subjects, changing classes in middle through high school, state testing, other required assessments, daily interruptions to the regular schedule, not to mention absences, appointments and behavior challenges and the giant chunk of time we think we have is whittled away like a piece of stone for a sculpture. Without vision and laser focus it turns into nothing more than chunks of rock on the floor, signs of a missed opportunity. I know I have had years like that as an elementary teacher. I reflect on my year with a particular class or my work with a specific student and ask, where did the time go? It is difficult to measure what I have accomplished and I can be left thinking about missed opportunities.

In that respect partnering with parents and other members of the community to aid student success is particularly interesting to me for a couple reasons. First, if partnering with a member of the community or a parent does in fact provide additional motivation to students then it would likely lead to increased student success during the school year. I would likely see results in the classroom. There have been rare instances where I’ve felt like this has worked, or almost worked. One instance was this year. I introduced a student to a series of books and he started reading them like crazy. He went from reading fiction reluctantly to being a ravenous reader. He read nearly 20 short chapter books in just a few months or so. I was excited and I thought I had clearly communicated that excitement with his parents. However, I didn’t know that at home his parents were saying that the books he was reading were too easy for him. They were concerned that he needed to be reading more difficult books. Instead of partnering we ended up battling about appropriate level of reading for this student. Honestly, I just wanted him to be interested in reading so I didn’t push the issue too much, and he is still finding books that interest him. He is just reading more slowly as he tackles more complex texts. This week I’ve been reflecting on that story and I can’t help thinking that it was a missed opportunity. It might be that because parents in my class were not more familiar with the reading curriculum, this particular parent didn’t understand that there is complex work to do in a text in spite of the level of that text.

The second reason partnering with parents or other community members is so interesting and intriguing is that it provides a path for students to continue their learning outside of the classroom and beyond the school year. Robby Desmond writes in his blog post about some exciting possibilities that could come from partnering with parents. His perspective is that of an online reading tutor, but I think that his enthusiastic approach to involving parents should at least cause us to reflect on our own involvement of parents and community members. He suggests that exposing parents to the goals of lessons and a curriculum then parents will become a part of the learning process (Desmond, 2013).

An added benefit of involving parents and authentic learning is shared by actual students in the video about Expeditionary Learning (EL) at King Middle School. The school is unique of course, embarking on a 4 month investigation that is supported by teachers of different disciplines allows for deeper learning. Students are designers, creators and problem solvers. Through this project they use many of the categories of skills for deeper learning (Kabaker, 2015). It is hard to say whether it is because the EL approach to learning in general or specifically because of the parent integration at the end of the project but two of the students who are highlighted in the video reflected on their presentations in a way that seems to show that they positively affected performance. “This is live, you’re showing what you’re learning to other people, which kind of gives you something more back I think.” said Emma Schwartz. “You have to be clear and concise. Giving presentations is so important because it really arms you with skills that you will need later in life” shared Liva Pierce (EL Education, 2013).

Portland Maine Problem Solvers from EL Education on Vimeo.

At King Middle School, an EL Mentor School, teachers have swapped traditional curriculum for an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving, with a little help from some robots.

Do I think that it is possible (or even helpful) for parents to know absolutely everything that is happening in my classroom? I don’t think many parents want that. I’m not even sure how to provide that kind of access based on my current teaching. I feel torn between providing more information to parents to extend the learning like Desmond suggests and reluctant because parent involvement is never universal.

Ultimately I think in order to provide some kind of consistent communication that is beneficial to parents, teachers and students it needs to be a school wide implementation. I find that my communication is usually lacking often because of a lack of time. Maybe I haven’t given it enough of a try to see the way it can transform learning. In her article Linda Flanagan provides some ideas that really resonate with me as an elementary teacher. She says, “To make outreach more attractive to teachers, schools need to make communication central to the teachers’ work, not just an add-on to their growing list of responsibilities. In practice, that means making time during the school day for teachers to contact parents, Kraft says (Flanagan, 2015). That would help. In the meantime I have seen some beneficial aids to communication in recent years, Flanagan mentions text message based communication in her article and I think that Remind.com is a tool that is doing a great job of connecting parents and teachers through text messages. To me parent communication is one of those measures that is tricky to quantify. I know it positively impacts students but I’m still left searching for the best way to reach parents in a meaningful way while focusing on all of the other responsibilities we have as teachers.

Resources:

Desmond, R. (2013, March 12). Asynchronous Teaching, Helping Parents, and the Connected Teacher [Blog]. Retrieved from http://rossier.usc.edu/95468/

EL Education. (2013). Portland Maine Problem Solvers [News Video]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/68323188

Flanagan, L. (2015, November 17). What Can Be Done to Improve Parent-Teacher Communication? [Blog]. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/11/17/what-can-be-done-to-improve-parent-teacher-communication/

Kabaker, J. (2015, February 11). Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/2015/02/11/supporting-deeper-learning-in-the-classroom/

 

Deeper Learning and Formative Assessment Module 2 EDTC 6103

Deeper Learning for All

This module asks how a teacher can best design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments from ISTE Standards for Teachers #2. I am becoming more and more passionate about the idea of making learning relevant for students through the use of digital tools. I’ve always had a desire to make learning relevant for students, (Why do I teach right?), but in my exploration of technology integration over the past 5 years or so and more acutely since I started my M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership I’ve felt an urgency to make learning relevant through the use of technology.

Everyday I see the negative effects of students who are not totally engaged in learning. No matter how much I think that the learning matters to them, and in spite of my desire to communicate the authentic connection that many standards in fact do have to students lives, still they are unable to fully connect to their learning. I am convinced that technology can empower teachers to help students make authentic connections with their learning. Additionally, I am convinced that through careful planning, intentional integration, a refusal to settle and a focused desire to make learning meaningful teachers can make changes to the learning environment that will positively impact their students. I’ve seen too many videos and read too many articles related to personalized learning, challenge based learning, design thinking and project based learning to think that these approaches do not positively impact students. So today and during this module my desire was to find out how can I go about beginning the process of transforming my classroom or at the very least one subject into a more powerful and more authentic learning environment for students.

I wondered, how can teachers begin to transition from dispensers of knowledge to co-constructors of knowledge with students while moving toward empowering students to discover their own knowledge through personalized learning, connected learning or other authentic learning experiences? What are some initial steps that can be taken by teachers to move toward a learning environment that engages students in investigating their own interests related to content standards? Really these questions are focused toward my own practice. How can I move toward breaking away from traditional teaching in order to harness the power of “deeper learning approaches [that] are more effective than traditional lecture-style models of teaching,” (Adams Becker, Freeman, Giesinger Hall, Cummings, & Yuhnke, 2016).

I knew this was a lofty question, but I decided to give it a try. After investigating for the limited amount of time that I had, I have a few ideas. My thinking is definitely still in process, but I’m starting to piece it together. Maybe the most exciting advancement is that the more co-workers I talk to about the prospect of starting a project related to deeper learning, the more I’m finding are interested in the same thing!

The Ostensible First Step for me

Changing the environment

The traditional classroom environment is boring. I’m no interior designer, but even I am not inspired when I step into a traditional classroom. I believe that a classroom probably shouldn’t look like it did when I went to elementary school close to 30 years ago. I know that not all of us can work in newly remodeled schools, but what can we do to change the environment nonetheless? I want to begin changing my classroom environment. I think that the video on Flexible Classrooms that I found from Edutopia offers some good insight and suggestions for teachers.

According to Lisa Molinaro, the principal of Woodbrook Elementary School, the first thing that needs to happen for Albemarle teachers to successfully create a flexible classroom is: “The teacher must have a vision for his or her room. The teacher must be willing to say, I’m going to throw out some of this stuff. I don’t need this traditional schooling equipment,” (Flexible Classrooms: Providing the learning environment that kids need, 2015). Some ideas that I have to try for my room are, increase the types of seating that I have, as well as add flexible book shelves that can be moved to create work spaces, nooks, or in order to open up the room.

“We’re really looking at how we support kids working collaboratively,” Fisher says. “And we can’t do it if we’re isolated in rows and every kid is an island,” (Flexible Classrooms: Providing the learning environment that kids need, 2015). With collaborative learning in mind, I will develop a vision for my own classroom. 

Possible Next Steps

As I change my learning environment, I can begin to focus on modifying my instruction as well. Of course I’m constantly changing my instruction, but a drastic change that would enable deeper learning seems daunting to me. Honestly, I couldn’t find a lot of information on what to do next. I do have some ideas based on the resources I found and investigated but it is simply my own interpretation of what would work best in my school, my classroom and for my students. From what I have read thus far on deeper learning, that is the best way to start.

I have slowly, over the past two years, often unknowingly, integrated concepts of personalized learning into my math instruction but I still struggle to make math meaningful for my students, especially those who feel that they are not good at math. I know a couple areas of focus persist that are seemingly unrelated to deeper learning. I want to continue to ensure that my students develop a growth mindset and model that for them. Also I want to encourage students to make real world connections to the math we are learning. Finally, I want to begin to design a project based learning assignment for the end of the year that will use the variety of math concepts we have studied during the year.

I read in many resources about the importance of knowing your student population when deciding about what technology will work for them or, which learning style is best for students. I think that age matters. What works for middle elementary students? That is something I will continue to investigate.

Also one definite next step came from sharing my ideas with other teachers. I found that many of the instructional coaches at my school are very excited to delve into deeper learning. That gives me some support in taking on this work in my school and in my classroom.

Integrating Assessment into Deeper Learning

During this module I was reminded that a plethora of formative assessment tools that are moderately easy to use do exists. I chose to focus on Socrative, but in my investigation and through talking to classmates I was reminded of a few other relatively easy to use resources. Some ideas I want to keep in mind for formative assessment are Plickers, Google Forms, Seesaw, Recap and a few more. I did find a video by Richard Byrne that most closely resembled my idea of a simple formative assessment. In the video from his blog Richard explains how to use a feature that was added to Socrative sometime around 2013. He suggests that you can take a quiz and add possible answers students would enter in order to create a self-grading quiz, (Byrne, 2013).

Here are the answers I attempted to account for…

That is exactly the type of thing I was looking for! I wondered if that same quiz could integrate a reflection or short answer question. I found that it was possible to combine a self grading quiz with a reflection question, or so I thought until I saw the grading form. As you can see in my attached spreadsheet that shows the results, it didn’t work perfectly on my first try. According to Socrative, none of my students got any answers correct, but when I went back to check there were 12 out of 17 who had correct answers, about 71%. I know I must have done something wrong, but I was hoping it would be so easy that I’d get it right the first time. Still in spite of this setback, I do think that Socrative is a great formative assessment resource, and the self-correction tool is one I will learn how to use correctly. I also am really happy that I’m not limited to just multiple choice or questions that will not facilitate deeper learning. I’m glad that reflection can be demonstrated through the same tool.

This post is another of mine that doesn’t end with a “solution” that is as clear as I would like but there is evidence that the difficult work is worth beginning. One idea that keeps coming back to me and pushing my to change my thinking is this quote from the Horizon Report: “deeper learning occurs when students are provided with greater flexibility and choice so that their passions can guide them,” (Adams Becker et al., 2016). I will work to use my classroom environment, technology and formative assessment to enable and encourage deeper learning. 

Resources:

Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummings, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition. The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Basye, D. (2016 10–23). Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=124&category=In-the-classroom&article=Personalized-vs-differentiated-vs-individualized-learning&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=EdTekHub

Byrne, R. (2013, April 19). Video – How to use the new features of socrative [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/04/video-how-to-use-new-features-of.html#.WP2D4FMrLUp

Flexible classrooms: Providing the learning environment that kids need. (2015, August 4). [Video Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/flexible-classrooms-providing-learning-environment-kids-need

Free online resources engage elementary kids. (2012, June 13). [Video Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/tech-to-learn-free-online-resources-video

Roc, M. (2014). Connected Learning Harnessing the Information Age to Make Learning More Powerful (pp. 1–11). Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ConnectedLearning.pdf

Module 1 EDTC 6103 Video Integration into Google Classroom

During the Spring quarter in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. program at SPU we are investigating the ISTE Standards for Teachers. Our first module asked us to reflect on and investigate ISTE Standard 1. The standard led to the question; how can teachers use their knowledge of content, teaching, learning and technology to advance student learning, creativity and innovation in face-to-face and virtual environments? This question connected with a topic related to one of my posts from last quarter.

I thought it would be fitting to investigate how a teacher can use their knowledge of subject matter and technology to facilitate student learning using Google Classroom through video or screencasting.

Again I’m thinking about how well chosen video can aid instruction, provide direction even encourage reflection by students. In addition to video, I wonder if screencasts done by a teacher would lead to some of the same outcomes?  Finally I wonder how a teacher’s use of technology might lead a student to reflect on their learning using the same technology, or through commenting on a video? Can student learning be advanced through these methods?

From my research it is easy to find advice on what tools to use to make screencasts or videos, or statements that say that instructional time is increased but data on student learning is harder to find. The idea that in a 1:1 classroom teachers could save instructional time by having students watch screencasts or instructional videos at home or at another time in order to avoid explaining procedures and directions does make sense to me based on my experience in an elementary classroom. However, it might take even more planning in a school without 1:1 devices. I don’t work in a 1:1 school, however through BYOD and computer or iPad carts it could be possible to move our 3:1 ratio up to 1:1 on certain days or at certain times.

These are my notes from module 1

So how does using a screencast or video in Google Classroom relate to instruction? One piece of advice that is often repeated by an instructional coach at my school is that the lesson is just an invitation. That is good advice, it is always good to remember more teacher talk does not necessarily lead to increased learning. With that in mind I think that using a screencast or a short video to give instructions or possibly a series of directions could in fact benefit a student’s understanding. Even creating a lesson recap, which I will talk about a bit later, would support the idea that students don’t have to be with me at all times in a lesson to further their conceptual understanding of concepts. Suppose an ELL is able to go back to and replay directions as needed? Wouldn’t that give them additional time and chances to process the language which might lead to an increased understanding? Obviously other scaffolds are needed, but repeated exposure is a start.

More reading notes

Related to my use of Google Classroom, I am specifically interested in cataloging video within the stream. I have begun using classroom in one subject area in my day in an intermediate elementary classroom, but I’m finding that the stream is becoming difficult to navigate for students. I came across a post by Alice Keeler that might help to solve my problem. In her blog post she suggests creating an additional class to use purely as a video resource. The class can be called a video library so that students know exactly what they will find in that stream. There she suggests posting videos for instructions that are about 30 seconds in length and linking them to assignments in the other class. 30 seconds! That seems tough, but it makes sense because she adds, even in a 1 minute video it can be tough to find that one spot. If I’m talking about ELL students again how much more difficult would understanding become for them within a longer video. She also suggests creating a playlist of videos to explain a larger concept, or a set of directions with each video being under a minute long. A couple takeaways for me are to create shorter videos for instructions but also to create shorter videos to explain content. Another related support for navigating the classroom stream is the ctrl + f function. In trying to find a way to search the stream I found that there is not really a way to do that yet apart from ctrl + f. This is a topic that could be taught to students and recorded in a screencast to help them navigate more efficiently. The Google product forums are a great place to look for advice related to the use of Google Classroom.

Another idea for using video or screencasts to introduce new concepts or recap previous lessons. This approach can help you flip your classroom which allows for an increased amount of rigorous or collaborative work to be accomplished during class (Fiorentino & Orfanidis, 2017). I think of teachers in my school who are asking students to complete complicated multi-step projects over an extended period of time, similar to what we read about during this module challenge based learning (CBL), project based learning (PBL) or design thinking processes, they could begin to integrate Google Classroom as a way to post directions through video, text or screencast to allow students to focus on difficult or collaborative tasks while at school, instead of taking time to read or listen to directions. Directions could even be shared in advance and watched for homework.

In my school I think that many teachers are inspiring student creativity in many different ways. I’ve seen teachers engaging students in a poetry unit that culminates with a poetry slam where students present their own original poems to a wide audience of parents, staff and community members. I’ve also see a unit about Greece culminate with Greek days, where students try to replicate the ancient Greek culture and engage in some of the oldest olympic events as a grade level tracking their performance and comparing results as a class. Finally I’ve seen students in my school take their learning around simple machines in science and culminate the unit by building Rube Goldberg machines using a combination of simple machines. Many of these projects would definitely fit into the CBL, PBL or design thinking processes. I wonder if any of these teachers have used these processes to complete these projects? If not, would any of those frameworks improve their projects?  Maybe some professional development focused in those three areas would allow teachers to get even more out of the amazing projects they have created. Perhaps focused integration of technology would lead to increased student learning or understanding. In the very least teaching students about how they can use video to record and improve upon their design processes would begin to use some of the 21st century skills that they will need to be successful in the workforce. It is even possible that if teachers use Google Classroom to present their projects it could increase efficiency and lead to greater outcomes for students.

Teachers can make videos or screencasts to support content instruction, minimize whole class directions, or to encourage reflection during and after instruction or throughout the process of PBL, CBL or design thinking processes. Students could also make videos or screencasts as a way to demonstrate learning, especially after a unit. These videos and screencasts will likely lead to increased understanding by students. I am still looking for definitive evidence to support the idea that reflection through technology would advance student learning but it seems like something I could investigate in my own classroom through the use of commenting within Google Classroom, or video reflection. Instruction that is implemented through Google Classroom frees up the teacher to work with struggling learners or to check in with students for an extended period of time as they explore a concept in class. Finally through media students can access the content of the classroom from anywhere at any time which would allow for more collaboration or exploration in the classroom leading to increased learning outcomes.

All of this leads me to believe that a logical course of action for my classroom is still to encourage students to find academic content on YouTube. Then I will post those videos within my Google Classroom stream that is specifically dedicated to video and link those assignments in my original classroom. Then continue to create my own content related videos or screencasts. I will also use videos and screencasts to teach students how to use the Classroom stream more efficiently and as a recap to lessons that are taught in class. Eventually I would even be interested in creating a flipped classroom if only in one subject as a starter in my elementary classroom. I see all of those concepts as supports that will aid in student understanding. Ultimately I think all of those supports will lead students to become more creative in their demonstration of learning as they see how I use video in new ways. Finally, I will encourage students to reflect through comments or through their own videos that they will in turn post in our Google Classroom stream which will lead to the collaborative construction of knowledge.

Resources

Brown, P. (2016, February 17). 7 ways to spark collaboration and imagination in your classroom [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-02-17-7-ways-to-spark-collaboration-and-imagination-in-your-classroom

Fiorentino, J., & Orfanidis, D. (2017, March 14). New G suite apps to boost your effectiveness. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/new-g-suite-apps-boost-effectiveness-jacqueline-fiorentino-danielle-orfanidis

Harmon, E. (2016, November 1). Searching within the classroom stream [Public]. Retrieved from https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/google-education/pK3Y5HItlMs;context-place=topicsearchin/google-education/searching$20within$20the$20stream

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers

Juliani, A. (2013, January 23). 10 commandments of innovative teaching. Retrieved from http://ajjuliani.com/10-commandments-innovative-teaching/

Keeler, A. (2016, August 29). Google classroom: Video playlists in a video library [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://alicekeeler.com/2016/08/29/google-classroom-video-playlists/

Individual Project: The Literary Essay as an Online Review

My individual project is the last blog post of this quarter in the Seattle Pacific University Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. program. In this post I will reflect on the process of backward planning using the understanding by design (UbD) format and reflect on what facets of understanding my students may display at the end my set of lessons. Most of what I write will be speculative since I am currently in the middle of teaching this unit and have not yet gotten to the focus lessons highlighted in the unit plan.

The UbD lesson format is time consuming when considering planning an entire unit, or even lessons in a unit. I find the work to be valuable based on how I anticipate my teaching will go when I deliver the lessons however, I found that adapting the curriculum to align with the UbD format is more time consuming that my typical planning. However, I do not want to discount the fact that planning is a process that is accelerated with additional practice, especially when adopting a new format or teaching a new unit. For me this unit is completely new, and I haven’t practiced the UbD format since my undergraduate degree, so the format could in fact be one that I begin to use again with additional practice. Also, I anticipate if I was planning one lesson in place of part of a unit it would require slightly less time. This project did offer me an excellent way to integrate digital citizenship instruction into a unit that otherwise has very little technology integration by asking students to publish final essays in a blog format and asking them to respond to each other’s work via online comments. I anticipate that both of those modifications will provide additional engagement for students in a unit that they appear to enjoy even without technology integration.
The six facets of understanding are a description from Wiggins and McTighe (2005) about what it means for students to truly understand. I will attempt to reflect on how my students will understand this content and unit based on the UbD formatting of the lessons. At the end of this unit I anticipate that my students will be able to demonstrate all of the facets of understanding because of the highly engaging content and the level of differentiation that can happen when each students is writing about a book they have chosen to read.

Students will be able to explain content and in explaining themes within a text, or character traits shared across texts, they will apply that knowledge to life and to real people which will allow them to interpret the actions of individuals.

Additionally after this unit students will become more empathetic because they will understand characters and people are multidimensional, they are not just one way. This understanding will allow students to see the big picture within a text, to understand the theme, or grasp what the author is trying to teach throughout the text. Finally students will relate the learning back to their own lives. They will wonder how they themselves are like characters in their books, or they will realize that they cannot fully understand a theme or character because they themselves do not have the life experiences necessary to understand in the way that others would.

Then in coming to that understanding I hope again that students would feel empathy and seek out different perspectives or feedback on their own thinking in order to better help them understand people and life.

The Literary Essay as an Online Review by James Bettis

Link to new window: https://jamesbettis.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/IndividualProject-JamesBettis-1.pdf 

Module 5: Students as Creative Communicators and Contributors

My last blog post about the ISTE Standards for Students I had to choose to reflect on Standard 6 Creative Communicator or Standard 7 Global Collaborator. What a tough choice! Both standards are of course extremely important and given the time I would post about each, but with the time constraints and our quarter winding down ultimately I decided to focus on ISTE 6 Creative Communicator. The standard says “Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals” (ISTE, 2016). Within that standard there are four indicators. I chose to focus on indicator 6a with my research for this module. Indicator 6a says, “Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication” (ISTE, 2016).

During a part of our first quarter in Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program we looked at how technology could overwhelm in place of informing teachers and students alike if it was not used mindfully, purposefully and with clear expectations and learning targets. Even in my elementary classroom students use technology almost constantly throughout the day, much like I do, whether at home or at school. With that in mind I thought that a first step for my post this module was to get an idea of what resources or tools my elementary students actually know how to use. They all use YouTube as you can see in my survey summary picture.

Some technology tools my students use at home

That didn’t surprise me based on conversations I’ve had with my class this year and in past years. YouTube seems to be prolific among elementary students. However, when I followed up with a question about whether or not students post online, I found that a relative few post content often.

 

How often students post online.

So I moved on to the next part of my question. How can students use those tools to meet desired learning goals? Next, I looked for ideas of how other teachers have integrated technology into their classrooms. Since students are familiar with YouTube at home it is important to teach them how to use that resource in the classroom. I found many great articles, one from Edutopia that specifically dealt with YouTube in the classroom.

I don’t know that my students even equate YouTube as being a place where they can gain academic knowledge, so I’d like to show them that is possible. I found a couple great suggestions for doing that in the post “Harnessing the Power of YouTube in the Classroom” by Monica Burns. In her blog post Burns suggests two great ideas for teachers who are looking to get the most out of YouTube with students. First she suggests searching within YouTube channels, like Kahn Academy or other favorites. Second, she suggests using the advanced search option when you are looking for channels based on certain keywords, (2016). Those are two first steps that could be taught to my 4th grade students, which will enable them to get more out of YouTube at school. After they see the academic uses for YouTube, I anticipate that they will want to contribute based on their own learning. Moving students from consumers of media to producers of media is my goal with a focus on teaching them to become critical consumers of media is likely a part of this process.

Getting back to ISTE 6, I think that many students would in fact choose to use YouTube to express themselves in ways related to learning goals given the chance. I also can clearly see that my students are fairly diverse in their use of technology tools aside from YouTube. The reason I asked what tools they already use, was so that integrating those tools into the learning process would be fairly simple for them. However, I also see based on the survey results that there is room for me to expose my classroom to a variety of other learning tools, like screencasting, podcast making, blogging, or Edmodo, so that they can demonstrate their ability to create or communicate in a digital environment. That gives me someplace to go after exposing students to ISTE 6 and getting them familiar with the Creative Communicator standard.

In my investigation of ISTE 6 I’ve returned to some fundamental ideas that I think are important to my integration of technology in the classroom. Choice is good. I gave my students a survey so begin to see what they are familiar with, but it is nearly impossible to expose them to all of the possible resources in that way. Instead through careful planning I want to integrate a wider variety of tools in my teaching and make the connections to how those tools or platforms satisfy learning goals extremely clear to students. I tend to pigeonhole myself with technology tools in the classroom. Often I use what am I comfortable with or what do I always use out of habit. Perhaps my students do the same? Careful planning can help all of us. Mindful integration is also necessary, I am aiming to transform learning and turn it back to students, not just recreate standard practice digitally (Holland, 2017). At the elementary level I think it is important to continue to remind students that they can demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways whether that is though a standard blog, a video blog, or even a slide show. I think the video below by artandentertainment (2012) shows one way that students can incorporate YouTube into their learning goals.

Resources:

Artandentertainment. (2012, March 9). Audri’s monster trap. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMboI4cOAuQ

Burns, M. (2016, May 03). Harnessing the power of youtube in the classroom [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/harnessing-power-youtube-in-classroom-monica-burns

Holland, B. (2017, February 22). Are we innovating, or just digitizing traditional teaching [Blog post]? Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/are-we-innovating-or-just-digitizing-traditional-teaching-beth-holland

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). The 2016 ISTE standards for students. (Standard 6 creative communicator). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

Module 4: Computational Thinker and Mindful Teacher


Once again in investigating computational thinking and ISTE standard for students number 5, I was surprised at just how many different directions I could have gone in the search for answers on computational thinking. I was hoping to find some ways to integrate computational thinking into my classroom practice in order to build on the curriculum I already use. I was also hoping to discover how computational thinking might facilitate problem solving. I think that I came up with a partial answer to those questions at best. I found that first it was important to identify just what computational thinking entails in order to figure out how to integrate computational thinking into a curriculum or to find how computational thinking facilitates problem solving. I think that if teachers first have a basis for understanding what computational thinking is, then computational thinking will become a part of the classroom environment and be adapted into instruction for many K-12 teachers. It was reassuring to me to read that the description of computational thinking (CT) is still in flux, even after an article written by Jeanette Wing was published in 2006, since I was unfamiliar with the term computational thinking at the start of this module (Barr, Conery & Harrison 2011, p. 20). In a subsequent reading I found a basic definition for CT from Grover and Pea (2013) to include the following elements:

  • Abstractions and pattern generalizations (including models and simulation)
  • Systematic processing of information
  • Symbol systems and representations
  • Algorithmic notions of flow of control
  • Structured problem decomposition (modularizing)
  • Iterative, recursive and parallel thinking
  • Conditional logic
  • Efficiency and performance constraints
  • Debugging and systematic error detection

I did find that often those who are suggesting connections to CT for elementary or other K-12 teachers say that there a many connections between CT and curriculum we already use but most examples seem to be limited to math, or upper grade instruction. Some disciplines were completely left out, a colleague wondered, how does CT connect to the humanities? I’m not sure if he was able to ever answer that question. I think that maybe in the humanities, just as in elementary education we are in fact only scratching the surface for how we can integrate computational thinking into our practice. For me personally, having some concrete definitions in math did help me to understand how I could make those explicit connections, however I found myself thinking that I certainly have room for improvement within my practice. There were some chance happenings that I would like to build upon like my use of the word algorithm in describing the standard way of solving a multiplication or a division problem at the end of each respective unit. However, I wondered what does the word algorithm mean to students? Maggie Johnson (2016) says it well when she says “what is often missing in current examples of computational thinking is the explicit connection between what students are learning and its application in computing.” My investigation into ISTE 5 showed that I too am missing an explicit way to connect ISTE 5 and computational thinking to the curriculum I am already teaching. In my reading however, I did find that there are connections to be made. I think my goal regarding CT is to continue to build on those connections, make them specific to students and hope that another quote from Maggie Johnson (2013) rings true in my teaching “when something that students have used to solve an instance of a problem can automatically solve all instances of the that problem, it’s quite a powerful moment for them even if they don’t do the coding themselves.” I hope to be a bridge to students connecting their current learning to CT and in being that bridge I expect to see an increase in understanding that Maggie Johnson references in regard to the CT concept of translating a problem solving technique into an algorithm that is proven to be always true and a connection to ISTE 5d. 

Here is a charge that I would like to remember from Maggie Johnson that summarizes why we should teach computational thinking.

If we can make these explicit connections for students, they will see how the devices and apps that they use everyday are powered by algorithms and programs. They will learn the importance of data in making decisions. They will learn skills that will prepare them for a workforce that will be doing vastly different tasks than the workforce of today. (Johnson, 2016)

 

Resources:

Barr, D., Conery, L., & Harrison, J.  (2011). “Computational thinking: A digital age skill for everyone.” Learning & Leading with Technology, 38(6), 20-23.

Grover, S., Pea, R. (2013). “Computational thinking in K-12: A review of the state of the field.” Educational Researcher, 42(1), 38-42. DOI 10.3102/0013189X12463051

Johnson, M. (2016, August 03). Computational thinking for all students. [Blog]. Retrieved from https://blog.google/topics/education/computational-thinking-for-all-students_3/

Module 3: The Innovative Designer – Building a Tolerance for Ambiguity in Students

Background

I started off this module on ISTE 4 Innovative Designer wanting to discover some of the ways that coding, technology, makerspaces, or other innovation age technologies would allow students to demonstrate perseverance and increase their capacity to solve open-ended problems. In relation to those questions, I wondered how the above approaches to learning would help students to demonstrate understanding? I found that in order to begin to answer this question I might need to focus on just one technology. In my search for resources that included student voice to show understanding I found a piece that connects to the design process and closely resembled a makerspace.

The process

ISTE 4 Innovative Designer states that students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. Within that standard there are four indicators. I chose to focus on 4d which says students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems. As an elementary teacher tolerance for ambiguity and perseverance in problem solving both definitely seem like traits I would appreciate in my students. If my ultimate goal is to help my students develop into productive members of society then both traits are helpful. According to a 1999 U.S. Department of Labor report 65% of grade school kids would end up working at a job that had yet to be invented. Many innovative companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google didn’t exist when their current employees were in grade school (ISTE Connects 2016). As I studied the design process I started to better understand how those two traits, tolerance for ambiguity and perseverance in problem solving are extremely useful in today’s digital world as well as in many other professions that more and more often integrate the use of modern technology into environments that had previously relied upon more traditional technologies (2016).

In my search for answers to my question about student understanding being increased by innovation age technologies I found the book Design and Technology in Primary School Classrooms: Developing Teachers Perspectives and Practices. I read a chapter called Children Solving Problems? The chapter traces the a design process for a group of 10-11 year old students in the UK who use the curriculum for design and technology (CDT) (Frost, 2002). In my further reading it seems that CDT is similar to today’s makerspaces or project based learning here in the U.S. In the UK classroom conditions were not the same as typical U.S. classrooms but I still think that there are some valuable takeaways from the chapter. The goal for students in the classroom was to design a toy for a partially sighted child (2002). The classroom teachers allowed students to have a lot of autonomy in choosing partners and choosing their projects. Students also had access to many different materials and machines, much like they would in a makerspace today. Student interviews allowed readers a window into the thought processes of students as they worked on their toy as well as after the final product was complete. One fascinating phenomenon was that students seemed to fall into two categories.

A Positive Resolution

First there were students who seemed to excel at the task. The grade school boys, Simon and Nathan were very confident in their skills and their ability to solve problems. It was evident that they had to persevere in their design, they also preferred having the freedom to do things as they pleased. They were even critical of some design work they had seen from some high school boys, Simon was concerned that the teacher had provided the design while Nathan was concerned about quality and thought that he could have made a better pneumatic model car. “I don’t think they were good enough for boys that age. I think they’d be perfectly capable of making something better than that…I think the teacher may have drawn it on the blackboard and said ‘This is your idea…this is how you make it….do it like this and it will come out alright” (Frost 2002, p.92). Both boys admitted to enjoying tasks set by the teacher that still allowed them to choose what to do or those that allowed them to make up their mind of how to do it (2002).  Alison and Becky were two other students who were deemed successful by the study. The girls also said that they enjoyed tasks that were open and enjoyed inventing things. Both agreed that they would like to carry out their own project and Alison even said “that the teacher’s role within such a project would be: …to help you out…in difficult times….I don’t know….I don’t think we would need one. If everyone was sensible we wouldn’t need one” (Frost 2002, p. 93). Clearly again these students seem ready to persevere and comfortable with ambiguity in problem solving. I wondered after reading, what were these students like in the other subjects in a more typical classroom environment?

Neutral or Negative Resolution

There were a majority of students in this class who didn’t seem to experience the positive results of the first four. These students projects were characterized by uncertainty, lack of focus, fear, anxiety or aversion to failure. Some of these groups had great ideas like Adam, Steven and Joanne but they couldn’t move from their idea of a walking, barking dog, to a reality (2002). This group struggled because Joanne was made to be the leader of the group even though she didn’t want to be. Steven and Adam often stared off into space, watched other work or wandered the room instead of working productively on their project. Ultimately “after being denied the security of being told what to do by the teacher” or given any direction from her group members Joanne ended up taking the project home and soliciting help from her mother (Frost 2002, p. 95). It made me wonder if the reaction of these students was reinforced by the typical school environment. Or perhaps did their home environment cause some of the negative reactions to uncertainty? It was equally interesting that Joanne’s mother provided the pattern for a ragdoll. For these students “fear and anxiety were often related to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of doing things, and a non-acceptances of the teacher’s role as guide and adviser was apparent” (Frost 2002, p. 95). There were times when the teacher did intervene especially with Adam and Steven, and it seemed to make their difficulties even worse. “The children seemed to have learned to be dependent on the teacher, and unable to operate unless given direct instructions” (Frost 2002, p. 99).

Final Thoughts

The chapter by Frost seems to sort students into two categories, those who were successful and those who were not. Based on student responses it would be easy to draw that same conclusion. However, many other resources I consulted caused me to push back on that idea. I wish that instead of one isolated project I could see how these students understanding changed over time. All of the students were able to create a toy, not all were able to do it independently, but I wonder if that was a reflection on the clarity of process rather than the understanding or ability that students had. I wondered if students perhaps were not motivated because they didn’t have the complete freedom to come up with a problem that they were going to solve, instead it was given to them. Did they really empathize with the partially sighted student? The Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide from Stanford starts with empathy as the first mode in the design process. How can we authentically help students to empathize with unfamiliar people groups in classroom setting before embarking on a project?

Ultimately I think to help students become innovative designers we need to shift a lot of our thinking as teachers. As teachers we often feel caught in the catch 22 described by the following quote,

“If I wasn’t aware this was a piece of research, I think I would have given them a lot more help. Why? Because I don’t want them to fail, but as soon as I tell them what to do I am solving their problem for them—thereby compounding their failure. Process not product is the important thing! We have trained them not to think” (Frost 2002, p. 100).

This is a shift in understanding and action that will likely need to be undertaken by teachers through careful teaching of the design process. There were a few ways that the CDT process seemed to vary from the Makerspace movement that might help all students to be successful. First, individuality is acknowledged and “it recognizes that no two students will learn the same concepts at the same rate” (Kurti, Kurti, & Fleming, 2014, p. 9). Additionally if teachers can help students to see that failure really is a way to improve then perhaps the students like Adam, Steven and Joanne would feel that their final product was really just their first attempt at many that they could try until they truly achieved success (Lenz 2015),(Kurti, Kurti, & Fleming, 2014).  Perhaps all students would develop the kinds of learners who embrace ambiguity, who persevere to solve open-ended problems and who are innovative in their thinking and design. ISTE 4 seems to be a key competency that students will need to develop in order to be successful members of society in their future careers. As teachers, we need to shift our teaching, feedback and our own understanding of success to help our students become innovative designers, if we begin to do that I believe that we will see our students begin to experience a more complete sense of understanding.

Resources

Frost, S. (2002). Children solving problems? In L. Tickle (Ed.), Design and technology in primary school classrooms: Developing teachers perspectives and practices. (pp. 89-102). Florence, US : Routledge Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Institute of Design at Stanford. An introduction to design thinking process guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://dschool.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf?sessionID=e62aa8294d323f1b1540d3ee21e961cf7d1bce38

ISTE Connects. (2016, January 19). Here’s how you teach innovative thinking. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=651

Kurti, D. L., Kurti, R. S., Fleming, L. (2014) The philosophy of educational makerspaces. Teacher Librarian, 41 (5). Retrieved from http://teacherlibrarian.com/2014/06/18/educational-makerspaces/

Lenz, B. (2015, April 8).  Failure is essential to learning. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/failure-essential-learning-bob-lenz