Posts Tagged technology
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post on The Components of a Digital Age Learning Ecosystem. Now, it’s becoming commonplace for district leaders to consider the digital resources and tools that they provide their teachers and students as the ecosystem that supports teaching and learning. When thinking about that ecosystem from a digital standpoint, reflect on what holds it together. What supports those platforms and enables them to easily share information and data? This connectedness or glue is provided by interoperability, which is most effectively and seamlessly enabled by open standards from IMS Global that any developer or edtech provider can use to ensure and validate effective integrations.
As a teacher in the classroom, it is essential that the instructional digital toolkit works together like pieces of a puzzle without a lot of wasted time and frustration. One challenge can be making sure that all of the students are able to log in to the various programs easily and securely. An open standard that is used throughout the edtech industry is OneRoster. It keeps student information safe, enables edtech suppliers to provide one-click access to programs, and ensures that students and teachers are provided with the appropriate district-provided digital resources for their classes and courses.
This may sound like a dream scenario to many teachers who are currently struggling with multiple usernames and passwords for their students that vary with each application. Teachers who are provided access to all of their technology tools directly from their district may be unable to select only those programs that implement OneRoster. However, it is possible for teachers to advocate for the use of the OneRoster standard. School and district leaders can require that their edtech providers support and implement the standard and insist that their products are OneRoster certified by IMS Global. Schools and districts can also join IMS Global and collaborate with other educators and edtech partners to improve the open standards as a community of leaders.
Being Digital on Day One of Learning means that as soon as students enter the classroom, they are ready to begin utilizing the digital resources available to begin learning. By facilitating easy and equitable access to technology tools and platforms, districts can ensure that they are making the most of their investment and providing teachers with the support necessary to focus on the instructional needs of their students instead of having to focus on the technology. By using technology resources that are OneRoster certified, districts can more effectively realize how to be digital on day one of learning.
To see an example of OneRoster in action, click here.
As teachers begin to shift toward greater personalized learning experiences for students, their initial steps build upon what they already know from face-to-face instruction. Districts usually provide teachers with easy to use Learning Management Systems (LMS) that can facilitate new learning opportunities with technology. However, the greatest potential of learning with technology tools is that teachers and students can transform the traditional learning environment, processes, and products. Just providing teachers with an organizational tool, such as an LMS, will not lead to transformative practices. Teachers need on-going support if they are to truly transform their classrooms into ecosystems for digital age learning.
A Model for Redefining Learning
The SAMR Model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura provides a guideline for explaining the digital transformation. The four levels within this model are Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. At the Substitution level, teachers merely replace the traditional methods of instruction with digital tools, so instead of reading a printed textbook, the students are printing out their own pages from an online textbook. Instruction is at the Augmentation level when the use of technology benefits a commonly performed task, such as, having students submit their work within an online dropbox instead of having to turn papers in to their teacher in the classroom. At the Modification level, there is a significant change between what happen’s in the traditional face-to-face classroom and the digital age learning ecosystem. An example of this type of instruction is to design an authentic project and to share it in order to receive immediate feedback from others. Finally, instruction reaches the level of Redefinition when something is created that could not exist without the use of technology tools, resources, and access. Furthermore, the ideas and products are also student-generated.
Digitized learning encompasses the first two levels of the SAMR Model – Substitution and Augmentation. Compare the Assignments in the above illustration. The Digitized Learning Assignment has the students reading from an online textbook instead of a printed textbook. Rather than writing answers to the chapter questions on paper, the students are writing answers in a document file on a computer. They are told exactly what to create for their end product – a slide show that lists facts of information. Then they are submitting these products within an online dropbox. There are some benefits to this instruction. Namely, all of the student work can be organized online, and they can access the required information and complete the Assignment asynchronously. However, the level of instruction involved requires no creativity or critical thinking.
To prepare students for an ever-increasing digital world, they need to engage in robust digital learning experiences. In the Digital Learning Assignment in the above illustration, the students are reviewing a variety of multimedia content so that they can learn from multiple resources and points of view. They are asked to reflect on that information to develop an opinion and to create a product that defends their opinions based on evidence. This requires a high level of critical thinking. They have to share their product for feedback and to incorporate that feedback into a finished, published version of their project – providing them with a more authentic audience for their endeavors. By focusing on this type of assignment, the digital learning is more likely to reach the Modification or the Redefinition levels of instruction.
Review some of the learning experiences that your are providing for your students that involve technology. Consider what level of the SAMR Model are you addressing with your instructional tasks. One simple way of moving to more truly digital learning experiences, instead of solely digitizing learning, is to provide open-ended assignments that encourage students to make choices. Until they have more practice and experience, students often prefer digitized learning activities because they require less effort, and we have taught them how to succeed by following basic directions. Districts and schools can assist teachers by providing the necessary digital resources, a sustainable digital curriculum, consistent professional learning, and achievable expectations. Likewise, multiple opportunities for on-going feedback, support, and collaboration with a variety of digital tools and content can help your students become effective and creative digital learners.
When you see a student with a personal mobile device in the classroom, what do you think is happening with that device?
In the above illustration, what is the student doing? Here are some possibilities…
- conducting research
- creating a project
- texting a parent, friend, or teacher
- watching a video
- playing a game
- reading a news article
As educators, we could argue the instructional merits of what is happening with the smartphone that the student is holding. Many of our initial thoughts and concerns are framed by our own perceptions and experiences of how we personally use technology.
I read a heavily circulated article this week that detailed some research from the UK on the banning of students personal technology tools. This research revealed that students perform better on standardized tests when their schools ban the use of personal mobile devices. Apparently, this improved performance was due to the lack of distractions. Obviously, I can’t argue with the research, but I do have several questions and thoughts related to the focus of this study and the topic of banning students’ technology tools.
Q1: Why is there so much importance placed on student performance on standardized tests when we have to learn to thrive in a nonstandardized world?
I understand the importance of accountability, and in education, we keep trying to find just the right assessment that will tell us whether or not teachers are effective and students are mastering the appropriate content and skills. However, in our globally connected work force, many of us are faced with choices on the job that challenge us to be creative, communicate well, and think critically. A standardized test should not be the only form of measurement to assess student learning and skills in the conceptual age when they need to generate new ideas for solving problems.
Most students carry mobile learning tools in their pockets. These are the tools they will carry with them in the real world, and these resources should be maximized for success in that complex world.
Q2: How will students learn how to manage distractions and develop the self-discipline to utilize personal technology responsibly when it is banned from school use?
Of course, students¹ personal technology tools can lead to distractions; likewise, students can be distracted by anything that removes them from the tedium of traditional teacher-directed instruction – even their own thoughts. In order for students to learn how to use their devices responsibly, they need to be nurtured and guided with some strategies for learning with these tools; for focusing during a conversation; and for completing tasks at hand. We have all seen adults who have difficulty using their devices responsibly, but most of us are self-taught in their use. By bringing their technology tools to school and with the support of their teachers, students have a greater potential for developing new responsible habits.
Q3: How do schools think they can successfully ban student devices?
With the influx of mobile technology tools, including those that are meant to be worn, there is really no logistical way to successfully ban student devices from school. Students will have the devices in their pockets, bookbags, and even on their wrists. A more sustainable approach is to focus on the responsible use of technology, and the first step in this process is to develop a learning community that acknowledges and respects student access to their devices. It is also important for educators to be prepared with digital resources and curriculum so that students have something to do with their devices when they bring them to school. Learning how to ask the right questions that inspire student inquiry is essential for mobile learning.
Now, note the thought bubble in the illustration…
What do you suppose that the student is thinking?
It is homecoming week for instructional technology in Georgia; otherwise, this event is known as the Georgia Educational Technology Conference – GaETC 2013. This is the time when educators from around Georgia and beyond come together to explore innovative new ways to utilize technology to create exciting learning opportunities. I will be collaborating with colleagues and friends in instructional technology and extending my personal learning network (PLN), and I will be co-presenting two workshops and one additional session throughout the week.
I am including all of the links and information for my sessions in this post. Select a title of a presentation for an outline and additional resources. For all of my presentations at GaETC 2013 (@GaETCconf), I encourage everyone to backchannel ideas, questions, and comments to the hashtag #gaetc13 in Twitter. I hope to add you to my PLN by the end of the conference!
Workshop: Transforming Learning with BYOT
Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 1:00PM-4:00PM – Room: Board Room 3
Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 1:30PM-2:30PM – Room: Salon A Marriott
Thursday, November 7, 2013, 9:00AM-12:00PM – Room: Board Room 3
It is exciting to have the opportunity to attend the Mobile Learning Experience 2013 in Tucson, Arizona from September 16-18! In addition to collaborating with colleagues and friends in instructional technology while extending my personal learning network (PLN), I am honored by being asked by Tony Vincent and the Arizona K12 Center to present two sessions and deliver the keynote on Monday, September 16! I have long been inspired by Tony’s work, and his Learning in Hand blog shows the true learning power of connecting students with digital age tools.
I am including all of the links and information for my sessions and the keynote to this post. Select a title of a presentation for an outline and additional resources. For all of my presentations at Mobile Learning Experience 2013 (@mobile2013), I encourage everyone to backchannel ideas, questions, and comments to the hashtag #mobile2013 in Twitter. I hope to add you to my PLN by the end of the conference!
Session 1: The First Five Days of School with BYOT
Monday, September 16, 2013, 2:00PM-3:00PM – Room: Canyon I
Session 2: The Quest for the Magic App
Monday, September 16, 2013, 3:15PM-4:15PM – Room: Canyon I
Monday, September 16, 2013, 6:30PM-7:30PM – Room: Grand Ballroom
When do you begin teaching responsible use? It should start at birth. Many parents begin creating the child’s digital footprint before the child is even born by posting the ultrasound photo on social media. Ideally when the child enters school you would expect a child to know how to share, take turns, listen to other opinions and know the difference between right and wrong and some understanding of social norms for public and private behavior. In reality we realize that some children come to school unprepared with some of those social skills and so we nurture and model and teach appropriate behavior until these become internalized.
For example,we live in an era where parents have some model for the “sex talk” because most people participated in such a conversation(s) as a child. There are multiple books and blogs and other resources to help parents with how to handle this issue. But who among us as parents has a model for ongoing digital citizenship conversation? Most adults have developed their knowledge of social media through experimentation without guidance, yet we wouldn’t want our kids to learn about sex in that way! So, this is an area where the school has a responsibility to step in and join with families in the work of teaching digital citizenship.
From the beginning of a child’s school career, learning about responsible must be an everyday, ongoing, just in time experience. Where would a school find resources for this kind of instruction? One powerful tool for schools AND parents that we recommend is Common Sense Media.
In addition it seems that when issues occur where a young person makes a mistake, the initial reaction leans towards banning whatever device, app or website was involved as a solution. While this is a quick way to deal with the immediate issue, it misses the larger need to educate students on how to live in a world of the open Internet. Students need to learn what it means to responsibly make use of these tools. And it means that we need to know what to do when we end up in the wrong place, when we mess up, or make a poor choice. How do young people learn to “course correct” without some guidance from the adults in their lives?
Forsyth County Schools has begun to address the way we deal with issue by moving away from the traditional Acceptable Use Guidelines that include a long list of “thou shalt nots” and has replaced them with the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines. These guidelines include 5 statements outlining behaviors all members of the FCS community will exhibit regarding digital citizenship. We started to recognize that we had been focusing on the 5% of students who might not follow directions and were making all of the “rules” to deal with their issues. Our goal in transforming the Acceptable Use Guidelines into Responsible Use Guidelines was to focus on the 95% of students who are going to do the right thing.
The district will begin its sixth year of its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative in the 2013-2014 school year. At the onset of implementing BYOT, it seemed necessary to control the devices and applications the students were using in order to ensure safety. There was some concern about what would happen when students brought their own technology tools to school, and the district leaned heavily on its filtered network as a measure of control. The big A-HA moment came when students brought devices to school and generally used them responsibly and safely, and the few issues that arose were identified as behavioral concerns to be addressed rather than being technology problems. The district outgrew its one-size-fits-all Acceptable Use Guidelines and began its quest to develop the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines. Some goals of this effort were to have consistent home-school communication and support; to provide some flexibility to local school communities; to teach digital citizenship within the context of students’ personal devices,; and to encompass the growing diversity and different expectations of our learning community.
Here is a poster that we have developed to express the five traits and expectations of the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines embedded within the overarching concept of TRUST:
We TRUST that the new school year with the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines will have a renewed focus on digital age learning and citizenship. To review the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines, please visit http://www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/responsibleuse.
A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is in its fifth year of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). The first year was spent on developing the infrastructure, and the last four years have focused on piloting the initiative, developing personal and professional capacity, and eventually spreading the practice of encouraging students to learn with their personal technology tools throughout the district. I have been so impressed with the dedication of our teachers to transform their classrooms with BYOT! In this series of posts, I am sharing some of their experiences from different grade levels in their own words.
Guest Post by Jennifer McCutchen (
Eighth Grade Teacher – Little Mill Middle School
My BYOT Transformational Journey
Using technology in the classroom was a paradigm shift for me as an educator. I can tell you it was hard to let go of the idea that I needed to somehow take all of my knowledge and transfer it to my students. After quite a bit of self-reflection and the BYOT initiative in our district, I came to understand the true meaning of becoming a facilitator of learning. I shared with a colleague that, as teachers, our job is a lot like a parent teaching our own children to ride a bike. As parents, we know how to ride a bike, but until our own children try it out on their own, they will never learn. It doesn’t start very pretty, there may be bumps and bruises along the way, but very quickly our children ride the bike…and do it well! The same can be said of my own classroom and using technology.
I began my journey by letting go of the fact that I am not going to be an expert on every device that walks into my room. Where I am not the expert, there is a student who is in every class! They love to be the expert and are eager to help each other. I asked students to find apps that they felt like were helpful to them to accomplish tasks that I would normally ask them to simply write and turn in. Students showed my apps such as “Show me” and “Skitch” where can draw my diagrams from the board, and then use them to make their own about different concepts. I could see a shift in how students communicate results in the lab. Students create lab write ups with rich discussion posts on WikiSpaces. They were now able to capture video to show chemical reactions. They could use voice overs to explain what happened in their own lab. They began sharing and analyzing student work; applying what they were learning to other situations. They asked such enlightening questions of each other, and made comments that I had never thought of! They compared data points on graphs, and analyzed why and how their results were alike and different than others. I could see the “light bulb” go off for students regarding human error and the scientific process.
A student summed up BYOT saying, “It used to be that just you (the teacher) saw our work, now everyone sees it. I want mine to be the best.” Peer pressure can be a great motivator, and combining it with technology makes it even greater!
I have learned to leave fear out of my classroom. I have learned to look at technology as a tool that allows students to learn more, do more and become more than they had been. My classroom has become an inviting and exciting place to learn, not just for my students, but for me, too!