Archive for the “pedagogy” Category

Technology can do a lot of things.

Some are faster ways to do tedious things (like repeated calculations, making graphs, or maintainig draft versions of writing).  These are helpful.

Others provide flashy ways to present ideas (like web sites, presentations, and publications).  These can be incredibly powerful.  They can also be painfully mis-used.

But there is a part of technology that we have only begun to tap into that is transformational.  There are things technology can do for us now, that simply were not possible before.

Technology can connect us to anyone.

Watch this.

(you most likely have seen this Connectivism video at either Wes Fryer’s blog or Jenny Luca’s)

Pretty powerful.  And technology allows us to do that now.

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Both administrators and teachers are busy.

(Phew, I got that out of the way.)

Many of the ideas we share in the edu-blogosphere revolve around new ideas (for education) and new practices.  Embedding technology into the classroom no longer means making sure that students word process, do spreadsheets, and “do PowerPoint”.

Thank goodness.

Instead, we now want teachers to understand that best practice technology use should be “transformational” (Alan November’s word).  The use of technology should be to do things we couldn’t do without a computer.  Kids should be collaborating, communicating, and managing information in ways that simply weren’t possible before.  Even using technology to provide efficiency to allow for greater depth of reflection and understanding is powerful.

We know this.

But teachers are busy.  How can they begin to learn and know all of these practices?  Who will “develop” their skills with technology and learning?

The tech folks?  Sure, but it’s an uphill task and let’s not forget that “busy” thing.  If teachers are expected to spend time developing their pedagogy involving technology one of two things need to happen:

  1. They get it.  They see the need and they believe they need to learn it so that their students will learn.
  2. It needs to be made clear that this is valued by their administrators.

I wrote before about the need to get administrators on board with the necessary shift in education.  This is important to school-wide change.

But administrators are busy too.  How can they possibly keep up with best practice?  They can’t know it all, but they can know enough to ensure that they are fostering positive professional growth in their faculty.  Using their supervisory role as an opportunity to see what teachers are using technology for and sharing what they value by asking questions, teachers are more likely to reflect upon their use of technology and make changes with the help of their tech people.

I recently presented at the EARCOS administrator’s conference on this very idea.  Titled, “Looking for Learning – How supervisors can foster best practice technology use,” I shared various best practice “things to look for” in how a teacher is using technology in their classroom. (I’d share the slides, but in doing it “presentation zen”, without the talking, they don’t read particularly well – a curse of “the zen”.  I did include a handout on my presentation wiki, but forgot to tell my audience.)

The goal: give administrators enough knowledge to do more than check off a box that indicates whether a class was “using technology” or not.

Give them enough knowledge to ask reflection-provoking questions and professionally grow their faculty.

Photo by Stephen Poff
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Here’s what I presented…

Physical space:

  • Does desk layout foster collaboration (kids on computers are isolating enough)?
  • Can a teacher move around and see all computers and all students?

Classroom Management:

  • When the teachers wants attention, do they have students lower the lids (so simple, yet so under-used)?
  • When students are working, is the teacher in front of the room only able to see the back of the laptops? (walking around checking on student understanding and work has ALWAYS been best practice)
  • When beginning class with instructions and learning outcomes, are the teachers saving time by having their machines logging in?

After sharing these simple tips in how teachers use physical space and manage a class of students on laptops, I offered some key suggestions for what can be different with best practice use of technology.

Great pedagogy with technology can provide:

  1. audience
  2. voice
  3. connections
  4. collaboration
  5. communication

All ultimately leading to important learning.

I then shared several questions for that post-observation conference:

  1. In what ways did the technology enhance the learning?
  2. Who were the students’ audience?  What feedback will they get?
  3. What other audiences, could enhance the learning?
  4. What technology skills did you expect students to have in order to be successful?  Did they have them?
  5. What technology skills did you expect students to acquire if successful?  Did they get them?

Equipped with these questions, administrators share the thinking that goes into best practice technology use.  They encourage reflective pedagogy and consideration of what matters when selecting technology to enhance a lesson.

I hope it struck a chord.  I hope it leads to better instruction and more importantly better learning.

I hope we all continue to professionally grow.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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I am at the EARCOS Admin Conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

I have just come out of the room after presenting the I.T. Curriculum 2.0 presentation that Justin and I developed a year ago and its newest iteration.  Was a great turn out and a wonderful conversation.  People offered terrific insight and questions and it is an awesome reminder how smart the people running schools are.  And it’s an honor to start a conversation with them about rethinking how students learn and what they need to learn.

(Click on the Presentations tab to get to my wiki to see notes and resources from the presentation.)

What’s additionally cooler though, is having a colleague like Jeff who live blogged my whole session to his audience and created a back channel conversation on all of those thoughts.  Thanks Jeff.  Check out the unbelievable conversation that happened online, live as I was presenting.  Talk about shared learning!

Next presentation on Tuesday, 13:45 my time which I believe is GMT +8.  Looking for Learning – How supervsiors can foster best practice technology use.  The more I’ve been talking with administrators, the more I see that this is something a lot of schools want to know more about.  I’m excited.

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Com’on sing with me now, “message in a bottle…message in a bottle…”

Justin, Kim and I have been invited to join Dave Carpenter and Jeff Utecht for an S.OS. Podcast. The Shift Our Schools podcasts look specifically at how, why and what schools need to do to answer to the shift that is happening in technology, the world, and hopefully in education.

This particular podcast, we will be focusing on the question, “How Do We Connect Technology and Classroom Instruction Seamlessly?”

We’ve presented at Learning 2.0 in Shanghai and ETC in Kuala Lumpur on our work at ISB on moving towards an embedded curriculum focused less on tech skills and more on the 21st Century skills that you read so much about in the edublogosphere. We wrote about our thinking in our blogs and as guest bloggers on Dangerously Irrelevant. We’ve put up our work to share and collaborate with in wikis, initially in newliteracy and then as an ISB21 team.Now we are excited to take questions, speak to solutions, and tackle issues that relate to implementation on these very Big Ideas.


Hope you can come by and tune in.

SOS logo

From their site:

SOS is a biweekly podcast produced by educators in the Asian region discussing the latest conversations in the educational blogosphere as well as deep thinking about education and the changing nature of learning. Join us on for the live broadcast. Listeners will have an opportunity to Skype into the conversation “on the fly” as well as listen to an archived version via iTunes.

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It’s been a while since my last post.

What can I tell you? It’s been busy.

There always seems to be this guilt that hangs over me when I don’t post for extended periods of time. Like I am letting down subscribers…luckily I don’t have too many (thank you, those of you who are here!).

But not having posted does not mean that I haven’t been involved and getting stuck in. (I also post tech how-to’s on another blog, Talking Tech.)

I truly enjoyed a geek session with colleagues, listening to the Warlick keynote from the K12 Online Conference. We, like many, were active in the live chat which was very rewarding.

Even got a little mention on the 2 cents blog, which was pretty cool. Though, appropriately, it was for something a student said to me, rather than any epiphany I’ve offered.


In that same chat online I shared a cool NYTimes opinion piece on Facebook from the students’ perspective. Paraphrasing:

We adults take this networking thing too seriously…it’s all supposed to be fun with our friends.

Definitely a good read.

Then working at home last week, I was twittering at the right time to catch Chris Lehmann’s invite to join his class at SLA in a UStream conversation – a terrific experience that Chris posted about. His students are articulate and offered the best description of the difference between a project assessment vs a test.


Tests are what the teachers thinks you’ve learned based on what they covered, but a project is based on what you need to learn.

(Only more eloquent than that.)

The point was well-made. Students own the learning they do in authentic, open-ended projects. For tests they do what they need to, in order to get a good grade.

And all of this got me thinking…

I worry about getting too far removed from the classroom as an Ed Tech guy or as an administrator. Away from the classroom, we lose touch with the wisdom of our students – the insights into how they see the world and the openings for us to be their educators.

We concern ourselves with the big goals and forget the small goals. We don’t have, often enough, the conversations that allow students to connect with us and us with them. The conversations that show how much we value them and their thoughts.

I think that ALL educators in and out of the classroom need to remember and embrace that they are more than “content delivery devices” or even information facilitators. There is a human connection that must be made with students.

Years ago, I heard or read that so much of teen difficulties come from the fact that they are undervalued in society. In pre-Industrial Revolution days, they were working the farm, contributing to the family. Valued. But now, they have little to nothing to make them feel “of worth”. This was a main argument for Service Learning in schools and I am all for that.

I also think that educators have the power to make students feel valued and worthwhile EVERY DAY. In the way we treat them, the way we listen to them, and the way we ask them what they think.

Chris did this with the students on UStream for us, but I imagine he and the SLA faculty do this all the time with their students. When asked what they valued about being at SLA, these students did not speak of the technology or the technological prowess of their faculty. They spoke of the connectedness and self-worth they felt with their teachers, who genuinely cared about their learning and their well-being.

I can’t say it any better than that.

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Will Richardson has a much larger readership than I do, so if you find his post through me, something is amiss. I loved what he said at the end of his post on a recent cover story from Business Week on “The Future of Work” which he shares highlights from.

I wonder how many teachers are getting ready for the new school year by developing a deeply collaborative curriculum, one in which they model for their students not just connections with other teacher/learners but co-creation of knowledge, in whatever forms that takes. I wonder how many of them are being supported in that effort. We have the capability to create these types of environments; what we need is to provide more and more opportunities for teachers to connect and learn with other educators and professionals from around the globe.


Is anyone someone asking their students to co-create knowledge? Where is the support coming from? When will our curriculum not focus on content knowledge, but rather on the co-creation of new knowledge?

Thanks, Will.

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A colleague of mine just passed this article on from the Associated Press (through the Post-Gazette). I recommend reading the short article, but in case you don’t, here’s the gist: Laptops in classrooms are engaging students and supported by teachers in Pennsylvania as part of their “Classrooms of the Future” program.

And why is it working in Red Land High School when the NY Times tells us it isn’t working in Liverpool, NY?

Pennsylvania’s program places special emphasis on training teachers to use the technology and know how to incorporate it into their lesson plans, Ballen said.

Note the focus on training teachers. I posted on this need just the other day in my response to the NY Times article.

“They have laptops at home, iPods, cell phones … and then we have them open up a social-studies textbook and ask them to outline a chapter,” [Superintendent] Frantz said. “They’re not learning the way they’re living.”

The same article goes on to say that conservative lawmakers are resisting growth of the program in order to further analyze results. Fair enough, but again, should they also look at what makes a common sense idea work, as well as judging a program on poor execution (like in Liverpool)?

I plan on writing more on the idea of laptops for school use, but not to take home the way they do in the 1:1 scheme. More on that in the next post. Just wanted to get this article out there.

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Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant posted a simple question the other day.

Given the realities of our modern age and the demands of our children’s future, is it really okay to allow teachers to choose whether or not they incorporate modern technologies into their instruction?

The comments that followed this particular question from his readers are worth reading.

Here’s the thing…it isn’t about whether technology must be included in children’s educational experience. It’s actually about the THINKING SKILLS that must be included.

There is no doubt that students live in a digital world. That they behave and think and communicate in digital ways. And including technology in their schooling will probably serve to engage them and make their education seem a little more relevant.

But they need more than that.

21st century learners need thinking skills. They need to be able to find, process, and evaluate information that is EVERYWHERE and always accessible. They need to be able to participate in an interconnected, wired world in effective and responsible ways. They NEED to be taught how to manage/handle/thrive amidst all of the information that is out there and continuing to grow.

massivechangeOur allegiance to English, Science, Math, and Social Studies as core curricular ideals and the end-all-be-all in student learning needs to make room for higher order thinking, questioning, and information literacy.

I am not arguing for the abolishment of those subjects (though a part of me thinks that they continue to drive our curriculum because they suit us the teachers, rather than our intended audience, the students – see another McLeod question on this). I do think, though, that major curricular overhaul is needed and schools need to consider an overarching or interwoven curricular piece that embraces the skills that 21st century learners need.

Going back to the original question then, No, it’s not okay.

To accomplish these thinking skills and to get students to evaluate and understand the world they are in and the world we will be sending them off into, technology needs to be there. Technology is the tool for information access. Technology is the tool for communication of ideas, thoughts, opinion, fact and bias. Technology is the tool from which a massive discussion of ethical behavior continues to emerge. How can we not include technology in children’s education? If we don’t include it, what are they learning?

photo by Yuan2003, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

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