Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Technology, Our Schools And Learning - Using Technology in The Classroom

(The following narrative was presented to the school board on the initial discussions related to developing the 2014-2015 School budget. This narrative preceded the talks related to budget considerations involving technology.)

Technology, Our Schools, and Learning

While the world around us has significantly changed, our k12 public schools have, for the most part, adhered to our 100 year old definition of education. That definition describes schools for a time when access to knowledge, information, and teachers was scarce, restricted to what we could find in our local libraries and communities.

We live in a world now where 2.5 billion people have become connected in just under two decades, a number that is expected to double in the next five years. Marc Andreesen, the inventor of Netscape, the first popular Internet browser, describes our shift due to technology in no uncertain terms, “The spread of computers and the internet will put jobs in two categories: People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.” In the near future, for many of our students, jobs will come not through answering an ad, but through being found online by companies looking for specific skills.

The National Council of Teachers of English take on defining 21st Century Literacies defines successful participants as being able to:
  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology; 
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Two Main Themes

I. Using technology to facilitate student learning. 
This is just as much about teachers using technology to teach as it is student using technology to learn.

II. What students should know and be able to do with technology by the time they enter high school.

Using Technology to Facilitate Student Learning
Strategies for EL and special education focus on differentiating instruction to students, focusing on strategies that engage and play to the student’s strengths. These include common strategies such as the use of visuals. The use of technology amplifies this strategy and facilitates the use of visuals and multimedia in the form of audio, video, and interactivity. Digital resources and instructional content can be easily shared and distributed and collections of these tools can be built up fairly quickly. We know that these specific strategies benefit our small subgroups but are just as important for general education population.

Other examples of technology facilitating student learning include improved remediation options using resources such as the Khan Academy; and improving the logistics of teacher-student and student-to-student workflow via digital tools such as Google Apps. This can result in a reduction of physical materials such as paper, minimizing the logistics required in collaboration and peer review tasks, and increase opportunities for assessment and self reflection. The assessment and evaluation process can more easily include digital components, digital portfolios, and formative assessments that can be easily distributed, recorded, and evaluated at much more often intervals than in classrooms without technology.

Technology augments and amplifies a teachers skills, but is not a substitute for an experienced teacher. Decision-making and interventions in complex, dynamic high stakes environments, such as our public schools, requires skilled professionals with the right tools.

Orchestrators of learning empowered by technology have many more options for fulfilling their charge than teachers who do not use technology. They can:
  • Keep students deeply engaged in learning -- connecting personally relevant content, customized options for difficulty level, alternative learning pathways, and choices for support and guidance
  • Improve students’ understanding of complex concepts by bringing animations, simulations and visualizations into learning -- and yes, videos of expert explainers.
  • Increase the quantity and quality of feedback during learning, at precisely the time that adjustments and adaptations made by either the teacher or the technology can make a difference in learning outcomes
  • Provide students’ access to people, courses, materials, data sets, research and primary source documents available online and often for free
  • Enable students to connect and participate globally as they engage in problem solving with other learners around the world
  • Put the same technology tools professionals use in the hands of students for writing, publishing, organizing, producing, researching, composing, visualizing data and more.

What We Want Students To Be Able To Do With Technology 
(This is an attempt to create an elevator pitch regarding what we would like students to be able to do with technology. The District Technology Plan is much more detail. What follows is four main ideas that can be easily remembered and shared. Within those four main ideas are many subtopics.)

1. Students are able to navigate digital content and respond at all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy in an developmental age appropriate manner.

2. Students will be able to demonstrate their learning by creating original digital content.

3. Students will be able to safely navigate their digital world, understand ethical and responsible use, and build supportive digital ecosystems for lifelong learning.

4. Students will be able to communicate the importance of technology and the fundamental components of our digital world.

(Anderson & Krathwohl, (2001), This figure illustrates the cognitive process dimension of the revised version of Bloom's taxonomy in the cognitive domain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BloomsCognitiveDomain.svg

Brynjolfsson, Erik and McAfee, Andrew, (December 11, 2012), Jobs, Productivity and the Great Decoupling, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/opinion/global/jobs-productivity-and-the-great-decoupling.html

N.A. (2013, Feb. 22) NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment, National Council of Teachers of English. http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/21stcentframework

Richardson, Will and Mancabelli, Rob, (2013), Preparing Students For A new World of Work in the 21st Century, http://www.brightbytes.net

Stanislaud County Office of Education, (2013) ttp://www.stancoe.org/SCOE/iss/common_core/overview/overview_depth_of_knowledge/dok_chart.pdf

Friday, November 15, 2013

Managing iOS Student Devices Remotely with VPP and Apple's Profile Manager

Next week is the annual CETPA conference (http://www.cetpa-k12.org/) and I’ll be doing a couple presentations with Burt Lo (@trubol) on managing student 1:1 iPad deployments using Apple’s new Mac OSX Server and Profile Manager. In case you can’t make it, or you want info in advance to see if you should attend...or in case the network were to die during my presentation, #RealReason, I’ve gone ahead a created a video tutorial.


The tools we are using to manage hundreds of student devices consist completely of Apple software. We do use Passenger, http://macinmind.com/?area=app&app=passenger&pg=info, to help create our student user lists for OS X Server ($60 - see their licensing page.) The Apple software and hardware we are using consist of a Mac Mini server, 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, 250 GB SSD ($800), Apple Server OS X Server ($19 - http://www.apple.com/osx/server/), and Apple Configurator (Free https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/apple-configurator/id434433123.) (We boosted RAM in case we later want to use these Minis as app proxy servers.)

The key ingredient making this all work so easily are the changes to Apple’s Volume Purchase Program, VPP, and Apple IDs for students. More information about the new features can be found here: http://www.apple.com/education/it/vpp/. Currently Apple’s license allows for students under the age of 13 to have Apple IDs for educational purposes, however information regarding the process is currently limited. The iTunes user agreement states:

“This iTunes Service is only available for individuals aged 13 years or older, unless you are under 13 years old and your Apple ID was provided to you as a result of a request by an approved educational institution. If you are 13 or older but under the age of 18, you should review this Agreement with your parent or guardian to make sure that you and your parent or guardian understand it.”

It is recommended that schools communicate with parents as to the process and purpose for their child’s Apple ID, securing permission and consent before implementing.
The following (25 minute) video demonstrates the process for managing hundreds of iOS devices easily and economically.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Making with LiveCode - YouTube Playlist Broadcaster & Playlist Generator

It seems the answers to almost any questions these days can be found by simply querying Google. In the same way answers can be found in Google, Youtube videos, in the form of tutorials, can be found covering almost as many themes. One small drawback to using YouTube videos are the advertisements embedded within the videos and the sometimes unrelated video links that accompany the targeted video resources.

This weekend I worked on finishing up a little iOS app that hopefully well provide a way to utilize the useful video resources in YouTube and eliminate some of those niggling issues. My solution comes in the form of two iOS apps. The first is the YT Playlist Broadcaster and the second is the tool for generating the playlists. Both apps were created in LiveCode an authoring applications developed by RunRev. There are both commercial versions of the development tools and a free OpenSource Community Edition. Both versions create Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iOS and Android apps.

The YT Playlist Broadcaster utilizes both SQLite and mySQL database connections, was designed using the built in graphic capabilities of LiveCode and some additional imported graphics. LiveCode works in conjunction with OS X Developer tools to create standard iOS apps that can be deployed to an iOS device during development for testing and then distributed either through iOS Enterprise Developer license models or through the iOS App Store.

The YT Playlist Broadcaster allows a teacher to create a playlist of YouTube videos and eliminate the advertising and linking videos normally associated with YouTube videos. Students can take notes on the iPad while watching the assigned videos and videos can play full screen when not in note taking mode.

The iOS app used by teacher to create the playlist has been designed for simplicity. Teachers can create a playlist document, provide a short summary of the playlist and then add only the short unique address associated with the targeted YouTube videos. When playlists are complete the teachers simply supplies the unique playlist number identifier to the student which then can be plugged into the YT Playlist Broadcaster to access the video resources.

Later this month I will be presenting with @trubol (Burt Lo) at the annual CETPA conference in Pasadena. Be sure to check out our session on developing apps with LiveCode on Thursday at 3:30 in the Hands On Lab, Room 103.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall CUE Conference - Our Maker Session Featured in Conference Round Up

The annual Fall CUE Conference was last weekend and as usual, was a great opportunity to learn and interact with colleagues. I helped present a session on the Maker Movement in schools and we were covered in a later post reviewing the conference. You can read the review here:  http://www.centerdigitaled.com/news/How-the-Maker-Movement-Can-Motivate-Students.html

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Teacher Expectations

I'll be working for five days in July with 30 teachers on some professional development in the area of student learning (and technology.) Many of the things I will be sharing and they will be learning will be unfamiliar in the sense of them using these tools in the classroom.

Part of the resources I'm creating for this event will be an eBook (teachers will be learning to create eBooks too). I'm working on a page describing teacher expectations, which, by the way, I have not shared in this format with my boss, though she may see this now, which is fine.

 I would like to see what you think in terms of whether or not I'm on target? Am I off base? Do I need to be more clear, etc.? What do you think?

You can find the draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11NX-7I5xEDfi4IFuIDoNZazHFgDRtnhNk6vHgD5fGgE/edit?usp=sharing

Friday, June 14, 2013

Five Days of Google Apps - Sylvan Getting Googley

Just wrapped up five straight days of professional development for 27 of our teachers (including coaches and a board member) on Google Apps for Education. We covered the basics (Docs, Slides, Sheets), Drive, Groups, Forms, YouTube, Screencasting, Chromebooks, Google +, Sites, Draw, Photo Management, Blogger (& threw in KidBlog even though it’s Wordpress), Google Analytics, Google scripts, the Google Ecosystem and Chrome Store, specifically Sumo Paint, a little loop editing in Audiotool as we were a little loopy by Friday afternoon!

Teachers were very spent by the end of the week, ...

I’d like to thank all the educators that have shared their Google resources online as I borrowed and stole as much I could, with a special shout-out to @ucdjoe :)

In the spirit of sharing, the following are the five Google Docs I used as agendas each day.

Sylvan Getting Googley - Monday
Sylvan Getting Googley - Friday

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Parents Today - The Lost Generation in Learning and Schools?

In my opinion, our new world environment has changed the demands put forth on education to adequately prepare our children for their future.The education of our children is our community’s responsibility. Particular members of that community shoulder more responsibility, as I believe they should. One key component of this community are our parents. The generation today that is our current parents could be thought of as the “lost” generation as it relates to school and learning. Why? They did not grow up with technology and they attended schools where, for the most part, technology was relegated to “words per minute” and Microsoft Office skills. They have no foundation for how technology is used in today’s learning environments, and because of this, are at a loss for supporting their children’s efforts in addressing problems and solutions that require tools and strategies that are foreign to them. I’m also inclined to believe, from my experience, that this weakness crosses all socioeconomic and cultural lines. It is not just a problem for minorities or folks in low socioeconomic environments. It is a problem for the 99%. What can we do to support these key stakeholders, our parents, in our evolving education system to ultimately support success and lifelong learning skills in their children?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Teaching With Technology != A How To

Some would say that for at least the last ten years, teaching has been heavily scripted to address the State Standards and No Child Left Behind. It has been so scripted that I have heard from folks in other districts that teaching in some case, for example the teaching of language arts, has boiled down to following a tight pacing calendar and essentially reading from a script in the adopted textbook. This has resulted in flat achievement scores and an increase in support remediation for those students that do not get the content the first or second time it is presented to them in the classroom. In addition, students entering the workforce, or entering higher education, are often left with basic academic skills and no knowledge of how to apply those skills. They lack critical thinking skills, communication skills, and their focus centers on finding the “correct answer.” They wait to be told what they should do next as opposed to being able to ask questions, research answers to those questions, share their thoughts with others, and elicit feedback to improve their original ideas. These challenges voiced by industry and are not solely the result of poor K12 institutions as higher ed shoulders some of the blame and often produces similar results. Talk to any recent graduate about the difficulty of finding work, and listen to industry and their inability to find employees that possess the necessary skills for the current workforce: creativity, imagination, critical thinking skills, collaboration, synthesis and development and you will hear the same message. We are failing to prepare our students for the world they are inheriting. Our world now requires individuals to be connected, collaborative, and possess participatory set of characteristics. Our world is no longer one which will support an individual who learns for the first 22 years of their life and is then set for life. Our ever changing world requires that individuals continue to learn, unlearn, and create themselves over and over throughout their lives, year after year.

In some respects, teaching with technology have less to do with technology and more to do with improving our listening, assessing, and creative abilities. Assessment in this regards does not mean increasing the number of bubble-in standardized assessments we give our students. Assessment means using our professional skills at diagnosing the learner’s difficulty and being able to prescribe a strategy to address those deficiencies. It requires that teachers can acknowledge individual interests in their students, connect in a meaningful way, and creatively wrap those interests around practices that improve the student’s deficiencies. Up to this point in time the tools and strategies we have had at our disposal to help in designing solutions that address student deficiencies has been limited.

In the “good ol’ days” technology required hours and hours of tinkering with the beige boxes and even then you were limited to what you could achieve. Fortunately for us, technology is becoming consumerized. It is less a black art done by geeky people with broken glasses and bad haircuts. Now the power of technology is available to the toddler at the touch of their finger.

Beyond the cost of technology, and even that has been reduced greatly since the days of the black & beige boxes, the real challenge has nothing to do with the physical technology. The real challenge of teaching with technology is the mental aspect. It is the ambiguity of not knowing where a student might stumble, discovering their deficiency by careful analysis and then expertly designing a solution. In the past those solutions were limited due to our tools. We now have the ability to look at multiple solutions, shared with us by our own created support networks, presented in ways we have not thought of, and with the ability of delivering those solutions to the student in a manner that has not been available to us in the past. Examples of solutions could be in the form of, in this case at the substitution level by a teacher (SAMR Model), discovering a YouTube video that provides the same direct instruction to the student in a new light, or in another example by having a student discover their own disconnect by utilizing the student’s metacognition skills and self-recording themselves using an app like Explain Everything.

In many of our schools, the idea of 1:1 technology projects, where the student has access to technology 24/7 is foreign. Many schools have no reference point for what this looks like in their environments. They have nothing to compare it to and as a result, they try to compare it to things they’ve done in the past or how technology is used in students’ homes currently. There is no common language for staff, school boards, or parents. For districts planning and discussing 1:1 technology projects, the challenge is creating that common language before actually being in the middle of it all, and continuing the language development while in the midst of it. It is similar to the commercial by EDS, Building Airplanes in the Sky,

The key to a successful 1:1 program is promoting those desired characteristics (creativity, imagination, critical thinking skills, collaboration, synthesis and development) in our students, while at the same time making an effort to improve our own skills. Some would suggest that we need to create collections of lessons that utilize the technology before we allow students to get their hands on the tools. This, in my opinion, shows a nearsightedness related to the idea that we would even know what the needs of our students are going to be that far in advance. That kind of thinking gets us back to doing things the way we have always done them, and in my opinion, goes against the whole principle of rethinking school. I do think we can build strategies in teachers regarding instruction, but I’m not sure creating actual lessons in advance of knowing our students would be helpful. In my opinion being able to effectively diagnose the learning deficiencies in our actual students plays a huge part in designing effective lessons. That can only occur when we have evaluated the students that are sitting in front of us, we have a network of educators we can share our ideas with, we are willing to try creative solutions with the realization that if our first solution does not work, we will learn from it, and try another.

Textbook image courtesy of  Wesley Fryer on Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/2366672802/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Students will...

(The following are student activities to address objectives and goals as they relate to 1:1 computing in K12. Specifically in the current draft, to address grade 6 next year.)

Students will...

  • take ownership of the device for the entire year.
  • access digital resources.
  • publish to an audience larger than their teacher.
  • share information.
  • collaborate with others.
  • contribute to the collective understanding.
  • collect a body of their work, electronically.
  • submit assignments, electronically.
  • access content targeted to their interests.
  • connect to events around the world.
  • contact primary sources.
  • communicate in multiple formats.
  • extend their learning day.
  • show evidence of their learning.
  • connect their parents to the school and their efforts.
  • share device with parents for parent education.
  • create content designed to be shared with others and to promote learning.
  • demonstrate keyword and Boolean search routines on the Internet, and evaluate results.
  • demonstrate a knowledge of copyright, be able to cite information in their own work, and have the opportunity to publish their own content to the greater body of knowledge.
  • use interactive ebooks and multimedia resources to explore literature and standards.
  • share strategies their teacher has modeled in class for staying safe in the real world and the digital world.
  • model proper and safe behavior with each other in class through lessons that require them to collaborate together and demonstrate best practices.
  • explore the use of social media tools, understand the concepts of social etiquette online, copyright and sharing, and how to safely use technology to further their interests.
  • be able to identify locations in their community via digital maps, and understand the relationship of their community to the larger world around them.
  • be able to describe community organizations, businesses, museums, art galleries, schools, government based on multimedia resources shared by their teacher.
  • be able to understand and share data about their community population based on data collected by community and government.
  • create blogs about a community organization and share information about those organizations, the needs they address and the services they provide.
  • be able to share aspects of stories, videos, recordings shared by their teacher that contain problems and solutions.
  • be able to describe the action story characters take to solve problems.
  • be able to solve simulated problems utilizing technology and problem solving strategies (seek collaboration, locate experts, build teams, define the problem, ask questions, etc.)
  • be able to analyze past real world events (history/Literature) and identify the characteristics of strategies used to develop a solution.
  • be able to identify current real world problems, use technology and problem solving strategies to develop a solution, and share out their process and solution.
  • allow parents to see portfolio and electronically subscribe to their child’s portfolio.
  • allow parents to receive targeted parent education on their digital device.
  • allow parents to view district systems on their digital device.
  • record school events and performances for parents who miss events due to work.
  • interact in classroom dialogue by contributing in non-threatening learning environments.
  • receive feedback from teacher without being singled out or embarrassed.
  • incorporate the arts, design, music, visual arts, photography into their demonstrations of learning.
  • understand logic and procedural thinking using app development examples.
  • access their work from any location with Internet access.
  • allow their parents to login to parent portal via their device.
  • communicate about school to parents supported by the device
Compare the above student activities with the CommonCore State Standards beginning at slide 18, 

Do the activities above support the CCSS in the slide deck?

CC licensed image courtesy of  flickingerbrad @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/56155476@N08/6660001925/sizes/m/in/photostream/