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

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]

2015: Back to the Future Syndrome

It’s 2015: Is the future finally here?

Rewind to 1992: Picture two Canadian kids (ages 8 & 10), sitting in pyjamas, watching Back to Future II (on VHS, naturally) and the moment it’s over, rushing to the family garage to craft our very own Hoverboards from old boxes.

I know I’m not the only 80s kid who’s been impatiently anticipating 2015…and now that it’s finally here, feeling pangs of nostalgia and disappointment that most of what Universal Pictures promised did not actually materialise into every day life.

Ok, well maybe some things did materialise but how accessible are these new technologies, and do they exist because of an actual need …or simply because an imaginative screen-writer made it up? Gawker explores the 14 things Back to the Future actually did get right, which does give me hope that one day every child will cruise around on their very own Hoverboard (thank you Hendersons!)

Let’s take a look at another video produced from around that same year:

Were Apple’s predictions as outrageous as a Hollywood script writer’s? To what extent can we anticipate changes that are predicted before their time?

The first time I saw this video was at the Apple Distinguished Educator’s Global Conference this past July 2014. And my reaction was complete disbelief at how spot-on Apple was in predicting the changes education would see at the turn of the century: video conferencing, collaborating ‘online’, mobile touch-screen devices, project-based learning, inquiry & design cycles..and the growing need to connect and network outside classroom walls. I’m sure those watching this video back then were unconvinced that it was anything more than an idealistic pipe dream, like much of the technology envisioned by screen-writer, Bob Galefor Back to the Future II.

When I think about predictions for education, such as those outlined in 21 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 2020 (written 5 years ago) I find myself experiencing a mix of excitement, anticipation, and pending disappointment. I mean, how often does what’s predicted truly materialise? Why are we stuck anticipating the future when it’s actually already here?

CC Nati Devalle flickr.com
CC Nati Devalle flickr.com

 Cardboard Hoverboards vs. The Real Thing

There was something real about the cardboard Hoverboards my brother and I used to play on. In our minds, they were flying. They took us anywhere and everywhere we wanted…without even having to leave the backyard. We truly believed we would grow up in a world where everyone had a Hoverboard, and it wasn’t a question of how, but when. Had we not seen the film, explored the possibility of a flying skateboard, could we (and other children) have ever embarked on this imaginative journey, which is now being realised by a kickstarter campaign?

Since the turn of the century (already 15 years ago) there’s been a lot of talk about 21st Century Skills, Classrooms,  Learners, Schools. Yet despite the research and projections, many schools seem to think these are ‘for the future’ and not right now. Why is this? What is the difference between a Hollywood film predicting the future, Apple predicting advancements in tech, and credible educators, researchers and experts predicting the changes in education as whole? According to Shelley Blake-Plock, some of the ’21 obsolete things for 2020′ include the following:

  • Desks: The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.
  • Differentiated Instruction as a sign of a distinguished teacher: The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.
  • Fear of Wikipedia: Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.
  • Paper: In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

While I’m sure the article was meant to provoke educators (and did it ever, if you scroll to the comments section) I couldn’t help reading it, smiling, and thinking…could all this really happen in 5 years time? My gut says no, but the creative cardboard-hoverboard-maker inside me thinks What’s stopping us from trying?

In 2008, Sir Ken Robinson delivered  an infamous lecture on the need for Changes in Education Paradigms . RSA modified this lecture into a conceptual visual-note style film:

If these ideas have been around for 3/4 of a decade, why haven’t more schools changed their focus and embraced these changing paradigms? If experts have been researching, advocating and predicting the need for these changes, why haven’t all schools adopted a standard set of 21st Century Skills, such as those so clearly laid out by ISTE?

My experience in four IB international schools (in four countries) since 2007 has shown me that more than ever schools need resources and support to create a cohesive program for digital citizenship education, throughout the school. The ISTE standards already offer this, and are a comprehensive collection of outcomes schools can adopt. These “are the standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age and are widely recognized and adopted worldwide. The family of ISTE Standards work together to transform education” (ISTEMost impressively, they support development for all levels of an educational institution, not just for students but for all stake-holders in a child’s education…including teachers, coaches and administrators.

Just look at ISTEs Standards for school leadership:

  • Visionary LeadershipEducational Administrators inspire and lead
    development and implementation of a shared
    vision for comprehensive integration of technology
    to promote excellence and support transformation
    throughout the organization.
  • Digital Age Learning Culture: Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture
    that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging
    education for all students.
  • Excellence in Professional Practice: Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and
    innovation that empowers educators to enhance
    student learning through the infusion of
    contemporary technologies and digital resources.
  • Systemic Improvement: Educational Administrators provide digital age
    leadership and management to continuously
    improve the organization through the effective
    use of information and technology resources. 
  • Digital Citizenship: Educational Administrators model and facilitate
    understanding of social, ethical and legal issues
    and responsibilities related to an evolving digital
    culture

How many more years of 21st Century research, projections, lectures until society as a whole demand these expectations of a school community and leadership team? We’re 15 years in already.

While researching links to include in this blog post it was incredibly encouraging to learn about schools that have been embracing these shifting paradigms. International schools like UWCSEA & Shekou International School (who both were winners of 21 Century School-of-the-Year) are paving the way forward both from a technological perspective and overall philosophy for what the future of learning looks like. It’s evident looking at these examples from UWCSEA and SIS  that they value a lot of the ideas outlined in both ISTE and Blake-Plock’s article.

Over 2 years ago, George Couros, wrote a concise post about 8 Things to Look for in Today’s ClassroomIt has since been synthesised as a visual note-taking masterpiece:

george-couros-8-classroom-look-fors

Image by Sylvia Duckworth from Balancing Act

Not one of these principles for a learner-focused classroom mentions technology or devices explicitly. Rather, this visual depicts the very skills practice we could be facilitating through the use of technology.

If I were to link these 8 indicators with tech exemplars it may look something like this:

Voice: Blogs, Join an online network, Twitter, Sign a petition for change

Choice: Multiple platforms/apps for publishing, multiple devices, visual/audio/text creation

Reflection Time: Blogging, ePortfolios, Tell About This App,

Opportunities for Innovation: Documenting learning and creating a film/stop-motion to show the process; turning a simple retell/summary into something innovative 

Critical Thinkers: Comment on blogs/articles; create an opinion-based multimedia piece in response to something students learnt/read/watched

Problem Solvers: Student tech ambassadors, helping with trouble-shooting; Students have ‘dabble time’ with a new app and learn how to use it without any direct guidance

Self-Assessment: Students look at exemplars and establish criteria for a multi-media eBook; Create criteria for blog posts & commenting; Peer-peer feedback;

Connected Learning: Using Twitter as a way to connect with other schools & students; sharing learning via blogs; joining collaborative projects like #ifyoulearnedhere

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 13.30.07

Cardboard Prototypes Are Better Than NO Prototype

So what is it about education that makes the majority so hesitant to move beyond what we all grew up with? Are we getting ahead of ourselves and anticipating a future in education that only exists somewhere like Universal Studios? Will all schools ever fully embrace the need to change or only those willing to build a model from cardboard scraps first?

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 14.01.41

I think the real change in education lies with the individuals who follow through with the projected ideas. The ones who jump at the opportunity to try out the weird, new gadgets, connect with other schools & teachers, and take risks in their own classrooms. While we wait for the decision-makers to adopt comprehensive standards like ISTE, for the self-proclaimed tech-dinosaurs to pick up an iPad and dabble, nothing is happening but the passing of time. The fast approach of the future. So, while we wait, there really is nothing stopping you or me from implementing these principles into practice. We can take ownership of our current learning spaces and ~ through inspiration, trial and error ~ create a ‘rough draft’ (or cardboard cut-out) of what it could look like one day in all classrooms globally. Taking advantage of professional learning networks like Coetail and Twitter empowers all of us to maintain the idealistic standards for a digitally innovative classroom, even if it seems far-fetched at the moment. Seeking out opportunities for connecting and collaborating with schools and teachers who are already implementing 21st Century ideals, even if our immediate community hasn’t fully adopted them, brings our classroom and the education paradigm one step closer to it’s next shift. For how can anyone truly envision the change without seeing it first as a prototype?