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.

 

Course 2 Final Project: ISTE-inspired Responsible Use Agreement

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Image Credit: The Daring Librarian via Compfight cc

These past few weeks I had the privilege of collaborating with Claire Wachowiak. We both felt that our schools would benefit from revamped Responsible Use Agreements and embarked on a collaborative journey to improve and redefine this form for the 21st Century School. In my previous blog posts I’ve revisited the idea that something needs to change in the curriculum and/or the school’s technological vision to ensure teachers are providing space for students to understand and practice both Connectivism and Digital Citizenship. I’ve also explored the importance of properly defining ‘screen time’ so we can avoid Device Blaming & App Shaming and get on with using technology as a tool, not a replacement for the teacher. However, rather than wait for this much needed change to begin, we decided to see how we could embed some of these key networked and digital literacy outcomes (based on ISTE standards) within our revised Responsible Use Agreement.

Both of our schools have developed fairly standard Responsible Use Agreements, which address expected behaviours regarding the device and its content. However, I felt they failed to really define other important elements of the whole digital citizen. To go back to an important point in Jeff Utecht’s Reach: the line between Digital and Networked Literacies is a fine one. If we are to properly prepare students for the future, we need to ensure that students, parents and teachers are aware of Networked Literacies and the responsibility of becoming network literate as a digital citizen. As Jeff Utecht puts it: Networked Literacy is about understanding connections. In order to understand connections, we need to ensure EdTech is being used to facilitate these connections in the first place.

Extension.org is an excelent place to begin understanding more about Network Literacy.

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Image: Screenshot from eXtension.org definition Network Literacy

The example below of an existing Responsible Use Agreement demonstrates the breadth of ‘responsibility’. It really focuses solely on information, images and personal details, but completely ignores the positive expectations for using technology for connectivism.

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Futhermore, it’s easy for parents and students to sign and return, but they still may not be clear on the purpose of EdTech devices in schools and at home. Many parents simply tick the box that they will monitor their students’ use of devices at home, yet several incidents emerged this year that proved they had not followed these guidelines. Often, it is then left to the schools to educate and resolve issues that occur using school devices or platforms, outside school hours.

I understand this school’s choice to cover a wide breadth of expected User behaviours online and using the device. However, it focuses solely on the respect and property side of EdTech use, rather than encompassing all aspects of networked and digital literacy. Furthermore, we felt only including the parents and students in this agreement demonstrated an incomplete representation of all stakeholders in the child’s relationship with EdTech. Therefore, we also added a third and fourth stakeholder in the Responsible Use Agreement: The Teachers and Administrators.

Many teachers presume since the device is in the classroom, it will lend itself to autonomously teaching the children, and thus they will (through osmosis) become digital citizens. This is not the purpose of having iPads in the classroom…they are meant to be used as a tool, not as a teacher. If we expect the students to be using the devices responsibly, the teachers and admin need to be accountable for how the devices are being used, and ensuring they are being used as a tool to create and/or to practice specific networked or digital literacies. Common Sense Media provides a plethora of activities, iBooks, videos etc to engage students in these conversations as well as practice digital citizenship. Meanwhile, the ISTE standards provide excellent guidelines and benchmarks for students, teachers, admin and coaches to to practice, model and advocate for digital citizenship throughout the school community.  It is also up to admin to be aware of the purpose of devices so they can remain consistent when issues arise.

We believe if all stakeholders sign the same document, while also referring to the ISTE standards, then a common language and common vision for EdTech use can be fostered within a school.

Here is our final Revised Responsible Use Agreement with ISTE Standards