Implementation vs. Integration

Should schools be implementing or integrating technology?

This question was first presented to me by a member of the IBO at the 2015 ECIS Tech Conference in Munich. What do these words mean and how do we define them?During this conference, I had the privilege of working with fellow Coetail Coach @chezvivian who documented the IBO’s presentation on her personal blog. Vivian eloquently synthesises the IBO’s stance and the implications of confusing these two similar terms:

Just like in Coetail, the IB wants us to start with the question, “What is the learning?”. Then we need to plan for the learning.  The plan for the learning should drive the question of what hardware and software.  Not the other way around. We wouldn’t want our curriculum to be driven by transitory things like what devices we’ve bought and what apps they support.  The devices and apps will be obsolete in a few years time.  The learning we want for our students should last for a lifetime. During the session, this importance was discussed when we differentiated the Integration of Technology from the Implementation of Technology i.e. hardware & software  (ibid p.14).  The integration of technology should always drive the implementation of technology and not the other way around.  This is something that we’ve always discussed as part of Coetail. (Chez Vivian)

I’ve been pondering these terms ever since, as I feel many schools are definitely doing one, but not creating the support needed for the other. It’s easy for a school to decide on a budget, purchase devices and software, and say the word “integrate” to teachers. But is there a shared understanding of what that looks like? And if not, who is responsible for developing this vision?

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As with any vision, it needs to be understood at the top level. George Couros, the Principal of Change, writes:

Sometimes in education, there are shifts in what we have done and what we need to do, to support our students.  There are a lot of things that will never go away in education (like the importance of relationships in learning), but there are shifts in our world that mean education will have to a) be a part of the shift, b) lead the shift, or c) be left behind. 

The shift is happening now, and schools are at risk of being left behind. Or worse, leading their students down a path where the focus is on the flashy hardware, rather than on the learning. It is more important than ever that schools reflect on where they are, and where they want to go. Technology is evolving at an even quicker pace and many schools are simply buying new tech without considering why. Furthermore, simply hiring EdTech coaches to ‘tick the box’ won’t necessarily promote school-wide change with tech integration; there needs to be a school vision for tech integration to guide coaches too.

Edutopia recently published an article titled An Open Letter to Principals: 5 Leadership Strategies for the New Year 

These 5 strategies are fantastic guidelines for any school trying to fine-tune its vision for tech integration:

Strategy 1: Make No Excuses

Strategy 2: Model a Vision for Excellence

Strategy 3: Embrace 21st Century Pedagogy and Curriculum

Strategy 4: Breathe Life Into Professional Development

Strategy 5: Stay Connected

This fifth strategy is most important for leadership to remember. To properly integrate technology in classrooms, admin need to understand and be a part of the connectEdness of online professional learning networks.

If we are to expect school-wide changes with technology, school leadership needs to understand the difference between implementation of tech devices, verses integration using such frameworks as SAMR and TPACK.

I am waiting for the Big Shift to be led, not simply haphazardly participated in. I am looking to contribute to a culture of learning that begins at the top with school leadership and trickles down to the teachers and students. I’m hoping for action to replace reaction. As Edutopia author,Eric Sheninger, concludes with this powerful point:

Change begins with a no-excuse mentality. Don’t waste one more minute pondering what could be. There is a revolution going on right now in learning, and it is up to us to lead the way. (Edutopia)

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Coding: A Blast from the Past

Coding: The Way of the Future or a Blast from the Past?

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As 2015 draws to a close (and Course 4 does as well), I’m drawn to the trends in tech integration moving simultaneously toward and away from the future.

I am gearing up for an exciting 2nd Annual Launch of Hour of Code at our school. While this worldwide initiative may seem ‘new’ we are actually going back to the basics of computer programming…something which used to be part of the curriculum, that now schools are desperately trying to make room for again. What excites and intrigues me about this year’s HOC studio, is the ‘introduction’ to JavaScript, which actually originated 20 years ago (Wikipedia).

Last year they only had ‘blockly’ options for students to explore coding, and it’s great that they are allowing students a chance to see under the ‘hood’ of the blockly pieces what the actual code looks like.

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Screenshot from Hour of Code Studio

 

The BBC explored this trending in ‘coding’ recently in its article Coding The Future: 

Programming is changing briskly.Coding in the cloud is one trend likely to carry on, spreading collaborators across continents. So also is the explosion of new languages, like Facebook’s Hack scripting language or Apple’s Swift, alongside classical tongues like C and Java. We’re likely to learn to code younger, and differently. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) child-friendly programming language Scratch has 6.2 million registered users.The Internet of Things, driverless cars, and drones will all yield more programmable platforms – but will coding for your cappuccino maker drastically change programming? And what will the coding workplace be like, when today’s Raspberry rugrats have grown into tomorrow’s programming prodigies?

Currently, I run a Digital Design Club for Grades 3-5 and already I am looking at multiple platforms for students to explore design and coding. Many of them are already familiar with Hopscotch and Scratch, but more so for the interactive games they can play. There still seems to be some gaps between the principles of coding, and the animations/games created through coding apps and platforms.

One way I’ve tried to help students grasp what coding/programming truly means is through ‘unplugged’ coding: using non-tech tools to teach a tech-based concept. Last year I started Hour of Code club for grades 1-3 and started the club with a variation of a lesson from Computer Science Unplugged. The first activity I modified was ‘Image Representation’ or what I called ‘Pixel Coding’. I tuned them in using Pixar animated characters and talking about the word Pixel. Many of them were familiar with the term from Minecraft so were immediately engaged. Then students had the opportunity to practice ‘coding’ an image. Below is a screenshot from the lesson I did with students:

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Students were most engaged in this activity because it was a concrete way to understand how each image on a screen is constructed.

Although we are moving towards more globally connected classrooms, I find it interesting that we are reverting to ‘old school’ skills such as the basics of computer programming. Now that so many programs are realistic, there is something exciting about go back to primitive basics and understanding how it all works. It makes me realise how progressive everything is and how important it is to maintain connections to where we (and technology) evolved from.

SO to answer the question: Will education as we know it change because of technology? Education is always and has always been evolving…the same way our world has been and is evolving. As this clever Edudemic post illustrates, education has been evolving since education first existed:

Classrooms have come a long way. There’s been an exponential growth in educational technology advancement over the past few years. From overhead projectors to iPads, it’s important to understand not only what’s coming next but also where it all started. (Edudemic)

It frightens me that there are movements against technology, in such schools as the London Acorn Schools :

According to school rules, children are not allowed television at all before the age of 12, after that they are allowed documentaries that have previously vetted by parents. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 – at home and and at school – and computers are only to be used as part of the school curriculum for over-14s. (Guardian)

In my opinion, this seems like an extreme response to a reality that is only going to be that much more shocking when children finally do have access to films, TV and the internet. Rather than teaching students strategies for coping with digital spaces and showcasing the positive aspects of a connected classroom, they are turning media and technology into ‘forbidden fruit’. Furthermore, there is an even greater need for young adults to be digitally literate, with strong skills in multi-literacies such as information literacy, tech literacy, and media literacy. 

If we want education to prepare students for a technologically rich world, we need to embrace what currently exists in our reality. We need to ensure students have a chance to practice citizenship in digital spaces and also apply time-management strategies in their personal and school lives.

 

Re-thinking Design Tech: Making MakerSpaces

I recently had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ECIS Tech Conference at Bavarian International School in Munich Germany.

My workshop was centred around Technology in the Early Years, and highlighted key apps and devices teachers could use to support a play-based environment. One of the greatest research-based platforms I found is the TEC Center. Below is my Google Presentation which draws on some theories from Chip Donohue’s most recent book Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years:

Sonya TerBorg also created a visual notes drawing on the key take-aways from my presentation (Photo & Image used with @terSonya’s permission):

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Three key presentations and workshops inspired me to explore the possibility of setting up maker spaces at our school to further promote creativity and the design process in the PYP.

3D for a Cause: Presentation by Sarah Woods

This thought-provoking workshop focused on ways to better integrate using the Design Cycle with students. Sarah focused on the International Baccalaureate (IBO) Middle Years Program (MYP) Design Cycle as an example but it could be modified for a variety of age groups and curriculum frameworks.

Sarah began by discussing how she gets her students excited about design, by presenting them with a problem first. Since I work at a PYP (Primary Years Program) school, this mirrored my philosophy of inquiry-based teaching, by beginning with the ‘why’ first. She described how she engages students by having them brainstorm 100 problems in 7 minutes. She emphasised that these could be vast or small and they need to be problems with no solutions yet. Allowing students the freedom to let their imagination run wild with the various problems they may encounter day-to-day addresses a variety of Learner Profile characteristics as well as promoting communication and group work skills. Once students have their page of problems she has them narrow down their selection to be their focus for the next project. Sarah emphasises that students should start with paper and have their idea mapped out clearly before they begin to explore the software. Nearly half of the design cycle is ‘Investigating’ and ‘Planning’ so she also explains to students that they will be making several designs, and perfection is not the goal. 1

The tools she focused on in this workshop were primarily software for 3D printing. Sarah believes these 3D printers allow students to revisit and improve their design. Some of the software she recommended for Primary and Middle Years students were 123Design and Tinkercad. Since ‘Evaluate’ is another key component in the MYP design cycle, the students spend a significant part of their project time assessing ways to improve and make

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Sarah Woods shares key software for 3D printers, which can often cause frustration and test patience, but ultimately build design and problem-solving skills.

One way Sarah has empowered students to properly assess the success of their product is through shapeways.com, a space to sell and share their products. This opportunity also allows students to understand basic economics as their supply and costs fluctuate depending on the need/want for their product.

Our current school has recently purchased two 3D printers. While the IB Primary Years Program does not include a design cycle yet, we are looking at ways to bring design in through the PYP Units of Inquiry. Currently, there is a large void of science and design technology in the IB PYP and often it is left up to teachers and curriculum coordinators to find where science and design ‘fit’ with the school’s curriculum and the units. There are numerous links to math through the use of such software as Tinkercad, it’s just that many teachers don’t have experience or confidence putting students on software they are unfamiliar with. One of the main take-aways from Sarah’s workshop was that it’s up to the teachers to put the problems in the students’ hands, rather than scaffolding the solution for them. She emphasised the importance of letting students teach each other, and suggested the software be a homework assignment so that valuable class time can be spent on the design process. The skills students learn by cooperating together to solve a problem (such as how does this software work) are much more transdisciplinary than a direct-teacher approach which doesn’t provide any opportunity for students to work together and learn from each other. Introducing new software and devices such as Tinkercad and 3D printers are excellent ways to naturally embed these important problem-solving skills that will promote lifelong learning in all students.

Make Space for Makerspace: Presented by Mark Shillitoe

I was deeply inspired and impressed by what’s happening at Etoy GEMS World Academy, in particular with IT and Makerspaces. Mark Shillitoe highlighted the different programs that were implemented this year, and how the physical space has been transformed into an engaging learning space for students. Mark emphasised the importance of inviting “curiosity and wonderment into your school”, as Kath Murdoch encourages us to do.

Mark expressed that this quote is what drove his vision for edTech at the GEMS Etoy campus. He focused on developing the idea of #techxture when thinking of the role of IT in schools, remembering that edTech is not just about balancing screen time. Mark described the importance of addressing the notion of screen-time with teachers and parents, and differentiating different kinds of screen-based learning.

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Sample Pop-Up Makerspace created by Mark Shillitoe for ECIS Tech Conference

From my experience, this has been the biggest struggle as an edTech coach; understanding that passive screen time and creation-based screen time have very different learning results. Mark added a new element to screen time, the physical connections we can add on to iPads, using new technology like Makey-Makeys. These new tools are simple circuits that allow any conductive object to become part of a functioning circuit.

Mark shared some of his own struggles implementing the Maker-mindset at his school, and came up with the idea of Pop-Up Makerspaces. These makerspaces didn’t infringe on busy teacher schedules, and provoked curiosity among both students and staff. He set up these spaces during break and lunch times and many of the makerspaces were self-discovery focused, meaning any student or teacher could approach and try to figure out the task. Throughout the 2-day conference Mark had set up his own version of Pop-Up Makerspaces and invited conference participants to try out new technologies such as Makey-Makey Dance Mat Pacman and Minecraft using Raspberry Pi.

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Students use Makey-Makey to create a banana keyboard. Photo Credit: CTJ Online via Compfight cc

The idea of Pop-Up Makerspaces is very relevant in my present school context. Currently, we are limited for space, and while a Makerspace would be ideal, proposing the idea of a moveable or Pop-Up Makerspace seems more likely to be approved by administrators. I find a lot of new technology could in fact be taken on by student leaders, and perhaps introducing these spaces to students first, and having them feed back to their classrooms and teachers would be a more engaging and lasting way to introduce the Maker-mindset into teaching and learning. Once teachers can see the science and math links that naturally result from utilising Makerspace tools and coding software, opportunities for curriculum amendments will follow.

UNIS CoLaboratory: Workshop with Francesca Zammarano
This workshop began with a provocative and entertaining clip from the movie Apollo 13, showcasing the moment NASA needed to make a “square peg fit in a round hole” using just the materials the astronauts were presented with on board the shuttle. Francesca Zammarano used this clip as a spring board for discussing the possibilities for creative problem solving using everyday items and basic materials.

This year, UNIS has redesigned their computer lab into a functional and creative Maker Space for students, which they are calling a CoLaboratory. The philosophy behind this space is to help promote 5 key ‘maker traits’: curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, courage and vision. According to Francesca, the space is more about development of self and less about the stripping of wires and understanding circuits. In this space, students learn what it means to fail and understand that learning comes from failure.

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Francesca took us through the the costs and process of redesigning their IT lab to be a useable space for creation. It was about a $30,000 USD investment to transform the room and add key components such as: whiteboard tables, a tool wall, storage wall, and working space. She detailed the importance of maintaining a ‘safe to fail’ attitude within the CoLaboratory, and she explained how she has students “make friends with failure’” and chant the phrase “Safe to fail!” before the begin projects.

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We were then introduced to a variety of simple, creative projects that students were encouraged to explore. Francesca would present the students with a bunch of materials and ask them to either solve a problem or create something that would accomplish a task. Some of the resulting creations from the CoLaboratory ranged from a simple ‘scribble bot’ (using a BeeBot and markers) to sewing plush animals using conductive thread to explore basic circuitry concepts.

As my current school moves more towards an embedded design and technology curriculum, I see a lot of potential in re-thinking our current spaces and implementing more open-inquiry tasks for students to learn these important skills and concepts.

The second part of this workshop included building simple circuits from scratch using button batteries, copper wire, LED lights and cardboard. We were given instructions for building a simple multiple choice answer board, which could be used to assess any curricular area.

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Materials provided for second part of the UNIS CoLaboratory workshop

 

One of the educators leading the workshop was the French teacher, and he initiated this idea in his classroom to engage students in learning basic grammar rules such as masculine and feminine pronouns.I can see many connections to all disciplines in the PYP, particularly for formative assessments. This simple way of embedding problem-solving and basic science skills is an excellent example of teaching science through other subject areas. Furthermore, it empowers students to be makers and creators, which further develop skills such as confidence, resilience and promotes design thinking.

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My simple circuit created from scratch using the instructions from the workshop (I just needed to add the wires).

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Sample circuit-board game created by 4th Grade UNIS student for French class

One of the greatest take aways was seeing how in just a few months her school has transformed and evolved their curriculum to include key elements of design and problem-solving skills. Francesca shared the revised the UNIS Design Tech curriculum (link) to include characteristics of ‘maker’ students as well as design-thinking skills.

Showcasing Learning through Blogging: UbD Course 1 Final Project

Week 6: Reflections

As one of four EdTech coaches at our medium-sized international school, I had the privilege of co-coordinating a two-day Tech Conference, featuring Jeff Utecht as our Keynote speaker. The research, planning and coordination of this event is what led me to join this COETAIL cohort and a lot of my tensions outlined in my various blog posts highlight my own attempts to shift the learning landscape of our school in my short time here.

Coming from Asia, where I previously taught at 1:1 schools, I was baffled at how traditional my new school was, especially with regards to the use of technology. The first 4 months I related quite a lot to Annie and Claires perspective on our roles as EdTech Coaches. Even after several smaller EdTech PD workshops I was still often referred to as “the Technology Teacher” and was told my role is to “teach technology” to students. Some of this is still the truth, as many students are unfamiliar with how to use iPads in a classroom setting, and re-framing their thinking and teaching them specific skills to use the device has been a large part of my role this year. The fact is, there is a mild fear surrounding the use of these devices, and hence students have very little practice with them. So I made it my goal that this EdTech Conference would be the beginning of the end of Technophobia in our learning environment.

The IT team and I were looking forward to re-shaping our school’s vision of technology. We’d even created a hashtag for our school, which did initially prompt several teachers to join Twitter.

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The title of our conference was Create Innovate Apply, and teachers were given time throughout the two days to meet in teams and reflect on a collaborative Google Presentation how they might ‘Apply’ their learning from the various workshops offered by Jeff and staff at our school.

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The final product was a multi-media reflective piece created using some of the suggested apps in the Tech Playground (a ‘dabble’ space set up with 10 iPads & creation apps):

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Four weeks later, it’s still too early to tell how much of a lasting impact those inspiring two days will have on teachers and their respective opinions about technology in the classroom. The reflective presentations by teachers showed renewed enthusiasm for taking risks with technology as well as many new ideas forming. Some teachers expressed a lack of practical application ideas, and wanted more time to ‘dabble’ in the Tech Playground. Overall, I sense that many teachers would have benefitted from more than just two days of new perspectives on 21st Century Learning (in fact, a COETAIL cohort might just be the answer!) Still, one of the most successful outcomes I experienced from those two days were the result of my 90-minute workshops on Blogging & ePortfolios in the PYP. I’ve decided to use this workshop as my UbD Final Project because I experienced first-hand the shift in teachers’ perspectives about blogs, just over the course of those 90 minutes. Both sessions began with fearful questions about consistency across grade-levels, parents comparing their students and fear of student work being ‘public’. After much discussion about the convenience of hosting students’ digital creations on one platform as well as creating a space that belonged to students (and empowered them to create and share) I saw the fears begin to slip away. The three weeks following the conference had me booked back-to-back with teachers wanting to introduce Easy Blogger Jr to their class and/or setting up blogs in their classroom. It was incredibly rewarding and further proof that teachers at our school were interested in showcasing learning and connecting with other classrooms, they just needed to see how it could be implemented in a purposeful way. I will know this project was successful if by the end of the school year (June 2015), all primary classrooms have at least a class blog, and if half of them have connected beyond our school community. This will create a strong starting point to kick-off even more global collaborative projects come September 2015.


 

Workshop: Showcasing Learning through Blogs & ePortfolios

My 90 minute workshop was broken down into two 45-min halves. The first 15 mins was an open discussion about blogging, what it meant, and allowing participants to voice their fears and concerns around privacy and sharing. I then defined blogging and went in depth about the 3 main kinds of blogs a teacher may have in his/her classroom:

  • Teacher’s Professional Blog
  • Shared Class Blog
  • Individual Student Blogs

I then discussed how blogging can enhance literacy and help promote a positive digital footprint. This was accomplished by referring to George Couros‘ post entitled 5 Reasons Your Students Should BlogI modified the five reasons to suit the audience and their students. I also made references back to a Sylvia Duckworth‘s Visual Notes Image on George Couros’ 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classrooms, to link back to the point that blogging isn’t a separate task but rather a tool to support and promote 21st Century Skills.

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Screenshot of one of my Keynote Slides from my Workshop

The final 40 mins or so allowed teachers to play with the iPad app and set up their own Blogger Accounts for their class. The tutorial I provided (also below) allowed teachers to work on this independently, asking me for support when needed. This allowed me to walk around the room and address teacher questions. I also provided a PDF Handout with hyperlinks to examples of different kinds of blogs and some of the educators referenced throughout the Keynote Presentation.

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Related Videos to Support the Blogging Workshop

A tutorial I created for teachers to set up their Blogger Account:

Video Walk-Through of Easy Blogger Jr. (By the EasyAppCompany)

Demonstrating Literacy Links with Blogging in Grade 1:

A condensed version of my Blogging Keynote presentation to Teachers:


 

Teachers in Kindergarten through to Grade 5 have begun to set up their blogs in the four weeks since our edTech Conference. Several specialist teachers have asked to join class blogs so they can also contribute using the Easy Blogger Jr app. This is evident on Grade 1N Blog (the first exemplar blog created by Rebecca Navarro‘s class) where both the teachers and students post their learning.

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Below is a copy of my Final UbD Project. 

(Teacher self-assessment rubric below)

Teacher Self-Assessment Rubric: 

While I don’t plan to introduce the rubric this school year, I will bring it to my IT team and discuss possible ways to introduce it next year should admin agree for all classrooms to host blogs as part of the learning space. I’ve decided to use numbered ‘Phases’ rather than subjective criteria descriptors (Beginning, Developing, Consolidating etc.) that may pigeonhole teachers or cause them to feel inferior if they haven’t attained a specific standard. The Phase system allows teachers to moderate their progression and have ownership of their development as they explore blogs with their classes. Once the staff exhibit more confidence and greater understanding the rubric could be modified (with staff input) to accommodate different language to be assessed against. I envision these rubrics as something for teachers to have in their possession, rather than admin/coaches.

Device Blaming & App Shaming

“We banned Minecraft in our house because my child was addicted to it, so I don’t think it has a place in the classroom.”

“Kids already use iPads at home, why should they use it during school?”

“Where can I fit actual teaching in if all they’re doing is learning technology?”

Sound familiar? I must have conversations like this at least once a week. I’ll admit that 4 years ago, I wasn’t so clear myself on the role of technology in the classroom, especially when working in a 1:1 environment. But through my own dabbling and expanding my PLN, I was inspired and motivated to bring my classroom up to par with 21st Century Schools. So while I empathise with teachers, admin and parents who consider themselves digital immigrantsit is up to the individual to (as this Coetailer put it)  Grow Smart or Go Home (Coetail Blog).

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Image from: Technapex

Going Back to Basics

It’s hard to believe the article Shaping Tech for the Classroom, written nearly a decade ago, still rings true in many classrooms today. As I mentioned in my previous post, Back to the Future Syndrome, it’s frightening how far into the 21st Century we are, with many of the same initial resistance to shifting educational paradigms.

While researching this Tech Evolution image above (which I initially saw and retweeted on Twitter a few months ago), I came across a pertinent article that describes how educators can shift teaching today to meet the needs of learning for tomorrow. Sam Gliksman details how we need to adjust learning in the classroom to reflect the 8 Pillars of 21st Century Learning listed below. I’d like to consider looking at these 8 pillars through an EdTech lens, to better illustrate how tech as a tool can promote these outcomes in students of all ages:

1. Play: Problem-solving as a skill can only be learned through exploring and experimenting. Could giving students ‘dabble time’ on iPads, coding programs and offline tech (such as BlueBots, Raspberry Pi) promote this pillar while also addressing transdisciplinary skills?

2. Create: What will students be expected to create 5 years from now? 10 years from now? What will university and job applications look like? How could digital creativity transfer to analogue creativity?

3. Socialize: According to Mimi Ito  students are already socializing in digital spaces. They have ‘friendship-driven participation’ and ‘Geeking-Out participation’..what is our role in educating appropriate behaviours in these spaces? What opportunities for digital citizenship practice exist by embracing these changing social norms?

4. Discover: Teachers are no longer the experts. How can technology promote curiosity and drive students to take initiative and become experts themselves? How can we dissolve classroom walls so students become life-long learners?

5. Experience: Building on from the importance of discovery, what opportunities are there for students to gain experience in certain areas of learning through a variety of modes and using a variety of tools (analogue and digital)? How can experience foster Growth Mindsets?

6. Express: What are the different forms of literacy students are exposed to and how are we teaching them to ‘read’ these literacies? What opportunities are there for students to practice expressing different forms of literacy using different media?

7. Move: How can we merge outdoor learning with indoor learning? What role does mobile-technology play in bringing real-world experience to student’s learning?

8. Relate: What is most relevant to students now? Do skills like handwriting and long division play a significant role in children’s day to day life experience? What are they curious about and how can we support their understanding of technology, as something they encounter every day?

When I look at these 8 goals, I cannot envision a classroom without devices and apps to support each individual pillar. I see not just a change in the tools we use, but a full-on revolution in what education should look like in 21st Century Schools.

Device Blaming

Education has been evolving for centuries now, yet for some reason we are hung up on digital technology not fitting in with this ‘natural’ evolution and change. This Edudemic article details the different forms of technology teachers have had to adopt over time, and how each proved a necessary step to prepare students for the future. By continually resisting changes such as 1:1 mobile devices and virtual learning environments, how are we harming our students?

We’ve certainly come a long way but some things seem hauntingly similar to many years ago. For example, Thomas Edison said in 1925 that “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.” I’m pretty sure this is exactly what people are saying these days about the iPad. (The Evolution of Classroom Technology, Edudemic)

Is the device (tool) to blame? Or our resistance to it? Are we ‘teaching technology’ or teaching skills? Why are we still having these discussions 15 years into the 21st Century?

Kevin Makice

Image Kevin Makice

App Shaming

One of my greatest challenges as an EdTech coach are those conversations (debates, at times) of certain apps used in the classroom. While there are a wide range of fabulous creation-based apps available, many teachers expect the app to ‘be the teacher’, leaving children alone with the iPad and expecting meaningful learning to result. While many creation apps can be self-taught by students, after the initial dabble and experimentation time, isn’t it up to the teachers to ensure it is used appropriately? Similarly, we wouldn’t just give students a stack of paper and a pair of scissors day after day and expect them to produce something in line with classroom outcomes. There is a time and place for creativity, exploration and a time and place for scaffolded instruction. Initially, the free inquiry might be exhilarating and productive. However, over time, plunking students in front of the same tools (or app) may not result in meaningful creations, thus causing the teacher to resort to the old argument that the app is a waste of time.

I also think many of the misconceptions of app-use in the classroom stems from a general lack of understanding for the Prosumer environment we are trying to cultivate.  Of course there are hundreds of apps whose general purpose is consumption. However, it is up to educators, coaches and admin to promote a culture of creating, where the majority of apps bring students through Blooms Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking Skills. It’s been interesting to work with students who have iPads at home and, when provided one at school, watch them race to find the games and youtube videos. We need to differentiate iPad and app use in classrooms from iPad and app use at home. As educators we have the responsibility to set expectations for device-use; just as classroom social behaviours may differ from at-home behaviours, we should teach prosumer behaviours, even if it’s a consumer behaviour at home.

Mike Licht Schulkanab mit iPad, after Albert Anker

 

Image by Mike Licht

Moving towards 22nd Century Learning

The question shouldn’t be What’s right for right now? but rather What’s right for tomorrow? Many teachers and parents are stuck thinking that the way they learned is what’s best for their child today. However, if we’d learned the way our parents had (in my case, the 1950s and 1960s) how would any of us have been prepared for the digital age?

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Image: First Computer Wikipedia

I think we also forget that many of the students in our classrooms couldn’t fathom a world without iPhones, Skype and wifi. This entertaining clip from The Ellen DeGenres Show highlights just how foreign certain (familiar) objects are for young students of the 21st Century.

As most revolutions go, it’s the peaceful ones that truly promote lasting change. We can’t fight the resistance but we can model the potential. Ultimately it’s not about getting the world to love technology, but about having the world see how learning is enhanced through the use of technology. As Bob Dylan once sang, The times they are a changin’…and so must we.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7qQ6_RV4VQ[/youtube]