Saturday, November 22, 2014

On Being Intentional...

Earlier this week, I was working with our Teaching and Technology Cohort, a group of educators from Edina and Hopkins. At one point, I asked everyone to close their laptops. My point was twofold:

  1. I wanted them to really pay attention to what I had to say
  2. I wanted to model for them good teaching practice in a 1:1 environment, that when you DO have something important to say, you should have the screens closed, so that you have more of the student's attention.
Despite three requests at one point, some of the adults in the room either didn't hear me, or ignored my request. It reminded me that for this group, I hadn't worked as hard at setting up norms with them, and practiced those norms as we were developing our learning community.

This year, our district has moved from encouraging all students to have a device for their learning to requiring that all students have a device for their learning. To help staff prepare for this, we put together this planning guide, as well as a "Road Map," for the first 6 weeks of school. 

On the Road Map, I talked about the importance of each teacher setting up norms and expectations on how students would be utilizing devices in class, as well as practicing transitions with their students, getting devices out and putting them away. The main point was to get them thinking about intentionality as they incorporated student devices in their instruction.

As the year has progressed, I believe we have made a fairly smooth transition to 1:1. As I walk around the district, students are utilizing their devices to access content, collaborate and create, the goals of our digital age learning framework. Overall, it has enhanced learning for students. 

Unfortunately, we have also seen some students struggle to stay on task, and use their devices to play games, stream video, and get distracted. For some, this has affected their learning. 

Our policy around filtering to this point has been to block based on the Children's Internet Protection Act. Our philosophy has leaned more towards an open policy and an understanding that as a learning organization, we need to help our students become self-regulating, so that they leave our system with that valuable skill. This week, based on feedback from parents, administrators, staff and even students, we modified that policy. Yesterday, I sent out the following message to our staff:

Recently we have heard staff, students, parents and administration note that games and streaming media have been a distraction and have negatively impacted student learning. Because of this, we will be blocking student access to the category Games on our network filter. In addition, we are sending home a message to parents this afternoon that includes a note that if they do not want their kids accessing Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming media, that they should consider changing the password.
We know students have been finding distractions in the classroom prior to eLearning2: doodling, looking out the window, note passing, etc. and that they may gravitate to other distractions once these categories are blocked. We have been operating under the philosophy that we are a learning institution and that self-regulation is a skill that we want our students to have when they leave our system. Given the number of people raising concern lately, the secondary administrators felt we should move in a different direction.
Even the best filter is not impenetrable, and staff in the classroom still need to remember some of the best practices that we discussed at the beginning of the year.
  1. Walk around the room.
  2. Be intentional about when students are using devices in your class, and when they should put them away or close the lid.
  3. Have a plan for what students CAN do with their device when they have completed work in your class.

These changes will hopefully mitigate barriers to learning as we move forward with eLearning2.
As noted, students have been finding a way to be distracted in classrooms long before the introduction of personal devices. As educators we need to remember to be intentional about how those devices are used in class, be they slate tablets, pencils and notebooks, or electronic devices. We also need to remember to set clear expectations and recognize that our role isn't to police, but to guide them toward responsibility.
I like these two short and sweet sets of rules. The first was shared by Dave Eisenman and folks from Minnetonka:
Be Respectful, Be Responsible,  Be Focused,  & Be Present
The second are from Doug Johnson, Technology Director at Burnsville:
Privacy - I will protect my privacy and respect the privacy of others.
Property - I will protect my property and respect the property of others.
a(P)propriate Use - I will use technology in constructive ways and in ways which do not break the rules of my family, church, school, or government.
Good words to remember and live by. Since I sent out the notice to staff, I've had 3 "Thank you," e-mails and one concerned that a simulation game that he uses will still work when we get back from break. With this barrier in place, I hope that our staff do not get complacent, and work to find ways to enhance their learning environment and engage students in learning, intentionally!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Finishing Up Connected Educator Month, or Is It the Beginning?!

As I've mentioned in a previous post, October is Connected Educator Month. Yesterday, I had an experience that reminded me of the power of sharing, making connections, and opening up the door to possibilities.

For the last two years, my district has been involved in looking at what our schools will look like in the years to come. We have done studies at the Birth-Grade 5 and Secondary level, and have some pretty cool projects underway.
Yesterday, the Communications department sent out a link to a video they created to share one of the shifts in learning, personalizing learning.

I decided to ask for some feedback on the video from Will Richardson, who was the keynote speaker at our district kickoff a few years ago, and someone whose opinion I respect. What followed, was a good back and forth conversation that I captured in Storify below:

So I went and checked out what Michael Schneider had shared about the "Mosaic Collective." Talk about student centered learning! Check out the video below:

Pretty amazing! And done in a public school. I think this is one of the more innovative programs I've seen. I quickly shared that site with some of our administrators, to help form some of the work we are doing.

Then I took a look at what Jake shared about the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. A private model, but similar philosophy.

I loved how my reaching out to Will led to connections with Michael and Jake. By being a connected learner, I have been able to gain some new insights into what is possible, and share that with others. While Connected Educator Month may be coming to an end, my hope is that last night's conversation will be the beginning of some successful connection and collaboration with Michael and Jake in the future.

On Tuesday, we had the first meeting of our Edina-Hopkins Teaching and Technology cohort. The first class is titled Collaboration for Community with a Global Perspective. One of the goals of the class is to help the students develop connections with other educators around the world, and to grow their personal learning network. I hope this serves as a model to the possibilities as they move forward in their work.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Connected Educator Month: Paul Oh-Connected Learning for a Connected World

Paul Oh
On October 10, 2014 Paul Oh, from the National Writing Project, presented a talk on Connected Learning at the University of Minnesota. I had a chance to interview Paul a few years ago for an EduWin Podcast, and it was great to finally meet him in person and hear his thoughts on connected learning, and education. The event was co-sponsored by the Emma Birkmaier Critical Literacy and Urban Education Speaker Series, the Learning Technologies Media Lab, the U of M Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Minnesota Writing Project.

Oh started out his talk asking two questions:
  1. What was an interest you had as a young person that you were passionate about? 
  2. Was that interest recognized in the school you attended?

The room was evenly divided as to whether they had the opportunity to pursue their passion in school. 
He provided examples where people have taken an interest in a topic and followed their passions outside of the typical school curriculum. 

  • For those younger, was it related to “Harry Potter.” HarryPotter Fan 82,000+ stories from 37,000+ young writers. The statistics on the right show just how popular this site is with people interested in writing.
  • How many were able to listen to "You Can't Touch This," in school? How many were able to write their own hip-hop lyrics, or create their own dances?
  • Could you play “Super Mario Brothers” in school? Oh asked us to guess how many units of the game have launched? 40 million +! Few made it into schools. Videogames were not for school. How many schools ban video games now?
  • In an ode to Minnesota and the upper midwest, Oh asked, "how many got to make hot-dish in school?"
For Paul, his passion was Comic Books, specifically, Spiderman.
He loved the stories and the illustrations, and tried to emulate them in his writing and drawing. He loved the rhetorical methods authors used to create “cliffhangers.”
He went to some conventions with his friends, and met people even more passionate than he was, dressed in the costumes of their heroes. Together they were trying to guess what would happen in the comic book story, and share a common bond.

Today, online, sites like Comic Book Resources, allow people to connect and share ideas and ask questions about comics. There were 27,000+ posts since April just about Batman. How many places can you find that much writing about a given topic? 

Networks allow us to connect and collaborate over our passions.

Minecraft is another example. Every 24 hours, 6,000 people sign up for Minecraft.

Oh quoted Will Richardson, who shared how his son had a problem using Minecraft and developed a group to solve problems and share ideas.
Most of these passions are explored outside of school rather than inside of school.
Oh talked about how these passions were often looked on as distractions from the “real” purpose of learning. He noted that who owns and directs the learning can have a big impact with this:
Teacher Led vs. Student Led

Oh asked, "What if we deeply understood how people learn today: curiosity, experience, connections?"

In our district, we have tried to set up some opportunities for students to follow their passions and interests through projects like the Apathy Project, the 9th Grade Government Service Learning Project, the 10th grade Pre-AP English Passion project, and May Term. While the basic framework for the tasks is teacher led, students have autonomy regarding the topics and how they will design and demonstrate their learning. Adding the component of the student taking action and developing a shared purpose is what  Service Learning is all about! 

What if we designed for learning in a connected world?

Oh believes that education is struggling to learn its role in this connected world. This world needs Connected Learning, an approach to learning that is at the heart of the digital media learning initiative:
Goal: Give young people the ability to take advantage of the affordances of the networked world.

  • ·  Massive number of connections exist across networks
  • ·  More like a matrix where people change jobs and move in different paths
  • ·  Current education model is only designed for a single path
  • ·  School is the only node In most people’s ecosystem
Peer groups, social media, employers, videogames, interests, Websites, civic institutions, Mentors all play a critical role outside the school to factory model. How can we connect these?
Connected Learning attempts to make these connections between the places where learning happens, even in school, under the support of a mentor.
Oh believes public schools are still a critical part of this network.
Connected Learning
In School………....Out of school
Online………….....Real World
Connects Learning

Connected Learning is NOT:

  • About shiny digital places.
  • Don’t Fetishize the gadgets!
  • It’s about the learner and a mindset about ethnographic research.
Learning is experience connected to the world 
Connected Learning is…

Institute of Play- Student Charles Rabin photos showing that everyone is unique. Systems thinking. Learning can happen anywhere!
Take charge of your own learning, follow your passion!

Note in the video that there WAS a mentor assisting Charles. Charles also mentions the value in the act of publishing, not just taking the picture, but publishing to a wider authentic audience.

Oh mentioned a book he has been involved in, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.
“Educators need to see themselves as designers of learning context!” 
-Christina Cantrill
Examples of educators doing this:

Oh argues that a critical piece is the pedagogical shift toward connected learning in a connected world.
Expanding the notion of what it means to be literate today
Oh is hopeful that the Connected Learning Movement is truly showing signs of having an impact.
·         #WHGameJam is an example.

“We need to equate lifelong learning with lifelong playing, just like we equate classroom reading with lifelong reading.” 
-Chad Sansing

Educator Innovator-a network of networks working to connect educators around the world.

It was great to connect in “real life” with Paul and hear his thoughts during Connected Educator Month.  He concluded by sharing how higher education has moved towards connected courses-such as Howard Rheingold and Mimi Ito's Connected Courses: Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed as an example.

Oh ended by encouraging us to be an “intelligent medium for action!” quoting John Dewey from 1885!

Q and A

  • Oh mentioned the Trust Challenge, an effort to solve the problem of student data privacy and legal ramifications. The challenge is open till the beginning of November.
  • What is the relationship between connectivism and connected learning? Connected Learning recognizes many pedagogies that incorporates several principals of connectivism by co-constructing knowledge. Connected learning differs in that the focus is more on elements like civic engagement and shared purpose, which isn’t necessarily a component of connectivism.
  • What makes a great Makerspace? A great Makerspace would have many types of tools to play with and construct based on their interests, an chance to iterate, and  Time and space to reflect. 
  • How do we assess what happens in MakerSpaces? Often, it’s hard to pause in a maker space. Are there automatic things such as video/images as you’re making. Many times you are itterating after you’ve made it. (Has Apple ever had a "summative" evaluation of the iPhone? Will there always be ways to improve it?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Is Connected Educator Month: Connect For Yourself...Connect For Your Students!

These six Educational Competencies above have been identified as the core of the Next Generation of Edina Public Schools, the district I work in. When I look at each of these competencies, I believe that if we want our students to leave our district with these skills, we as educators have to have them as well. I believe that they are also the qualities of a "connected educator!"

October is Connected Educator Month, an opportunity for teachers to communicate, collaborate and share with other educators around the world in a variety of formats: chats, webinars, book studies, discussions and social media venues. Every day, the calendar is chock full of opportunities for learning and growing in all of the educational competencies above. This is the third year of Connected Educator Month. This year, it is being jointly sponsored by the National Writing Project's Educator Innovator.

Below are examples of how connected educators I know are demonstrating the educational competencies above. I encourage you to "get connected," and in turn, connect your students!

Effective Communicator & Collaborator
At South View Middle School, Dean Dahl and Meghan Haselbauer have collaborated on a Google+ Community and Hangouts on Air they call "Teachers2Teachers" where they focus on " the technology tools that support best practice, in our 21st century classrooms." These two connected educators have collaborated face to face with staff in their building as well, sharing what has worked for them in their classrooms. Here's a sample of their discussion on using YouTube in the classroom.

Responsible-Engaged Citizens
This past summer, several staff participated in an online course we offered, where staff could earn Digital Citizenship certification from Common Sense Media
For his projecct, High School Social Studies teacher, Nickie McKeever developed a series of lessons on Digital Citizenship for his World History and Geography course. He recognized that, "Since we do so much of our work online in this class, this will be an essential early-year activity to make sure we are setting appropriate expectations."
Ultimately, he has the students develop a "World History Digital Citizenship Bill of Rights." By taking advantage of online learning opportunities himself, McKeever is able to model responsible use when connecting with students. Here is his initial presentation and activities. McKeever noted that the lessons were successful, and he felt it didn't take that much time out of his regular instruction.

Innovative Thinker and Creator
Last year, Kindergarten teacher, Angela Gadtke was a member of our Teaching and Technology Cohort in Edina. During the Authentic Assessment course, Gadtke came up with a great way to flip her instructions for students on performance based math assessment. She took it one step further and had the students actually create digital artifacts of their math learning, both with pictures and video. Here is her reflection on the activity, and here is an example of what her students created:

Through her work, Gadke has connected with the developer of one of her favorite educational Apps, and now beta testing the app and is part of a consulting group for the company.

Globally Competent
Our district has defined "globally competent learners" as those who:
  • Possesses a diverse and informed world perspective,including understandings of world geography, history,economics, social issues, cultures, political structures, and environmental conditions
  • Communicates effectively in at least two world languages, one of which is English
  • Embrace individual and cultural diversity and actively seek multicultural interaction
To me, by communicating and collaborating with students in other countries, students can demonstrate effective communication in another world language and meet that component of "globally competent." As we move forward, we need to continue to provide experiences like this one, and this one, that allow students to collaborate with people around the world. The map below shows where viewers to this blog come from.
Based on statistics on the blog, I've been pretty big in Ukraine lately! I hope someone there is reading this and comments on the appeal!

Motivated Life-Long Learner
Helping our students become motivated, life-long learners is a lofty goal. One of the ways we can do that is by modeling that competency ourselves. You CAN be a "motivated, life-long learner" and never become a connected educator, but then in all likelihood, only you will benefit. By modeling for others, you can share your passion for learning and make it go viral! Here's an example of someone I think exemplifies this, our Superintendent, Ric Dressen. He is passionate about learning, and recognizing his role as lead-learner in our district, has worked to become connected and utilize those connections to encourage others.

Well Rounded Person
Balance is a very important thing in today's 24/7 bombardment of information and access. Taking time to put away devices, and get out to enjoy nature and those that matter to you is very important. It's also important as you become connected to have balance as well. Your Personal Learning Network should be just that, Personal! I started by following people only associated with Educational Technology I admired. That was good to a point, but then I started also following people with similar interests, and others related to hobbies or passions. Here is an example of individuals and organizations that showed up in my Twitter stream as I wrote this:

Many of these folks are in EdTech, but many aren't. I'm a Packer fan, former math teacher, science nut, news hound, and father. The people I follow reflect that, and provide balance to what I might connect with.

As I was writing this post today, another great example of connected learning popped up! Andy Richter, who is one of our band directors, is working with composer, Alex Shapiro on a specially commissioned work. Today, he and his students Skyped with the author to give/get input.
By becoming a connected educator, developing a Personal Learning Network, and connecting our students, we will be helping them meet core competencies they will need to be successful moving forward. I invite you to participate! Check out the calendar of events, and look for ways you can grow your Personal Learning Network to help improve your craft and connect your students to the world around them.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Troubleshooting In a BYOD-Google Apps Classroom: Lessons From the Fire Swamp!

Yesterday, I had a chance to help some of our 6th grade students set up folders in Google Drive and share those folders with their teacher. It took a bit longer than I expected, but for the most part, the kids did a great job. Still, when I was done, I felt like I had survived this scene from one of my favorite movies!

In The Princess Bride, Wesley and Buttercup learned three lessons on how to survive in "The Fire Swamp." Hopefully, surviving in a classroom isn't like surviving the Fire Swamp, but here were the lessons I learned that may help you when teaching in a BYOD classroom with Google Apps for Education!

Lesson 1: Students Didn't Bring Their Device
Fortunately, we have a supply of laptops and Chromebooks available for students to check out for the day if they come unprepared. Our goal is to help students come prepared every day with a fully charged device, but some days, they forget. Having extras allows them to still take part in Digital Age Learning.

Lesson 2: Personal Google Accounts
Often students will not be able to access the files we know they should. Most likely, this is because they are logged in to a personal G-mail account. We try to remind students that their Google Apps for Education account is their "professional account," that needs to be used when working on school related activities. Given that many have G-mail accounts, it can be difficult, and often they forget to switch. By checking in the upper right corner to see which account they are logged into, you can help them get to the right one and get on task.

Lesson 3: Google Apps on an iOS device
One of the students in class was trying to utilize her iPad as her primary tool. Using Safari in the mobile version of Google Apps did not allow her to complete the tasks as easily, and she quickly got behind. While I think the iPad is a great tool, with many redeeming qualities, it doesn't always play well with Google Apps. In our eLearning2 initiative, our minimum requirement is a device that will run the Chrome browser. Those who choose to use an iPad, do so with the understanding that they need to be able to figure out a workflow within our ecosystem.

Hopefully these three lessons will help with troubleshooting as we move forward. I chose to leave out the fourth issue I dealt with, the parent who locked down the child's computer so that they couldn't get to Google Apps. I'll leave that one for another post...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Day in the Life of eLearning2

On September 23, I took a random walk around classrooms in our secondary schools, 4 weeks in to our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning Initiative. Here is what I observed...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Eighth Graders....A Student Shares Her Insights on Our eLearning2 Initiative

Collaboration at South View MS-Courtesy @lakesmpls
Earlier this week I sent out a survey to our students, getting feedback on our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning initiative. As outlined my post from yesterday, we have moved to 1:1 this year through a hybrid BYOD system, where students are encouraged to bring a device from home, or check one out from the district.
One of the questions I asked in the survey was:
How has using your device impacted your learning this year?
Most students responded positively, with stories of "being more organized," appreciating accessing content in our Moodle learning management system, collaborating on Google Docs, and creating projects for a global audience. I was pleased to see all aspects of our digital age learning framework being addressed. 

There was one response, from an 8th grade student named Annika, that stood out from the rest. She graciously gave me permission to share it in this post.She began by mentioning things that most of her peers had said:

I find it helpful in some ways, like the ability to work on online assignments through Moodle during school hours, and since more people have access to devices, you can work in class for projects needing the computer. You also can use the Web 2.0 tools more often for projects, which is also nice.

Then she noted something that I haven't necessarily thought of as a "problem:"

Some problems I have though are that it kind of defeats the purpose of the computer labs... Students will only be going to the labs for standardized testing.
I have been saying for years that "going to the computer lab to do technology projects is not authentic. It's better to get the technology out right in the room when it is needed, and put it away when it isn't. Going to the lab takes time away from the lesson and implies that technology only happens in a certain room in the building." It's one of the main reasons I have advocated for us to be 1:1.

But then Annika continued...

I also find that school is changing all so much, I remember elementary school when it was always fun getting to go to the media center to work on computer projects, it felt like a little treat, and Internet usage was used respectfully more often than not, because it was a gift to get the time to use the computers, but now that it's just here, and it's now an everyday thing, it's not so special, and having it there so often makes it tend to be a distraction to some students, and ends up being used disrespectfully at times. I believe this is more of a personal problem on my part, but I do feel like I should share this with you.

Annika's thoughtful response was a new twist on the "lab" idea, that I hadn't considered. To my way of thinking, we needed to "blow up" the labs, or at least repurpose them for other things. It hadn't made the connection between the lab being a "treat," and thus devices used more responsibly.

Earlier this week, Dean Shareski wrote about "Putting the Laptops Away," during class. Here the week we had finally become 1:1, someone I respect was saying to put the devices away! Perfect timing! But in the post, Dean notes this:

This is about recognizing what types of learning you are doing in class and when technology makes it richer and when it dilutes.
 I still believe in what Chris Lehmann says about technology,
 "It should be like oxygen: ubiquitous, invisible, and necessary." 

As we progress in our implementation, I hope that our staff and students begin to see when it makes sense to have the devices out, and when it would be better to put them away. As we continue to focus on the learning, the laptop may disappear, but I hope that the "treat" of digital age learning will not!

Thanks, Annika for pushing my thinking.