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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

eLearning2: Impacting Learning and Living in Beta

Edina Public Schools is now starting year three of our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning initiative
We began giving students the option to bring their own device for their learning during the 2010 school year; we saw slow growth the first two years. At that time, the program was called "Go Wireless," and I chronicled our progress in posts here and here

In December of 2012 the district joined a partnership with Best Buy to provide the services of a Web store for families, and Geek Squad support for student devices two days a week in each of the three secondary schools. In return, families would see a significant discount on the price of the device when they checked out. For the last two years, we saw roughly 60% of our families in the grade levels eligible take advantage of this opportunity, and students would then bring a device for their learning. In addition, the district provided a Chromebook computer to all families of need. This partnership was the first of it's kind, and Best Buy is beginning to work with other districts around the country on similar models.

While the increased access was encouraging, and we saw pockets of transformation, the effect of an optional program was two-fold: 

  1. Many staff were reluctant to include activities if not all students had a device
  2. Students felt that if not all staff were utilizing the devices, why should they bring them to class?
We were BYOD, but not truly 1:1. While there were pockets of great things happening, and we were able to supplement somewhat with carts for those who didn't have a device, we weren't meeting our mission of "All for All." While eLearning2 has always been about personalizing learning and transforming instruction, lack of a requirement for students to bring a device and teachers to implement digital age learning meant we weren't where we needed to be.

No Longer Optional
This year, we have moved to a hybrid BYOD model. We opened up the Web store for families in grades 6, 8 and 9 to purchase their own device. We are continuing to provide a district provided Chromebook for families in need, and in addition: all students who either chose not to purchase a device; or those who purchased a device they are unsatisfied with; or a device that broke, are being provided with a district provided Chromebook. We have also changed from saying bringing a device is optional to making it a requirement that all students have a device. In addition, we have declared that the minimum device is one that runs the Chrome browser and has a keyboard. This means that phones are no longer considered a primary device, and can be used only at teacher discretion. So far, staff feel that this policy has been working well. If a student needs to take picture or video for a project, they ask for permission to use the phone. We also require that all secondary staff utilize our ecosystem of Moodle and Google Apps as their primary learning platform. 

For professional learning, we are focusing on a definition of Digital Age Learning that incorporates Content, Collaboration, and Creation.

We have been utilizing Carl Hooker's "Swimming Pool" model of SAMR in our discussions with staff, noting that SAMR is not a ladder to climb, but a pool to swim in. We are also saying that some days, it's ok to not get in the pool, but:
"It is no longer ok to never get wet!"
Not every lesson is going to get to the "redefinition" level, and that is ok! 
Staff have appreciated this model as it encourages growth, but, also doesn't force them to use one pedagogy. Just as we are trying to personalize learning for our students, allowing them to use the tools that will work best for them, we are trying to do the same for our teachers. 

Living in Beta 
For our district kickoff this year, my colleague, Molly Schroeder reprised her excellent TED talk on "Living in Beta." Molly noted that we are living in a world of constant change, where the tools we are using and our pedagogies are "in beta." It's ok to not know everything, and more importantly it's ok to fail! She says that the classroom is now a "community of problem solvers."

After hearing that talk, many staff have commented on how liberating it was. Along with the district endorsement, it has freed them up and given them permission to try new things and "live in beta!" It has truly been liberating, and staff are pushing themselves to try new things such as Google Classroom. There may be issues, but together, we can solve any problems and learn as a community.

So Far...So Good
So far, the school year has started out really well! Our media staff did a great job checking out Chromebooks to those that didn't have them, and our staff set an expectation from day one that students have a device for their learning. 
In talking with Shawn Dudley, principal at Valley View Middle School, she noted of the 13 observations she has done this year, "12 staff have included a digital formative assessment exit card. And none of them were the same! Some used Google Forms, some Socrative, and others KahootIt's been one of the best starts ever!
Staff have utilized our planning document along with a suggested road map for the first six weeks as they begin the year 1:1. Some quotes from staff include:
I'm able to have students work independently more often as we move through the first unit, allowing me to spend more time with students who are having questions, and letting students learn at their own pace.
On the second day of class, I had students logged into the network, joining Google Classroom, and working with Google docs. Brand new students have been logged into the network the day they start. These 6th graders are the most tech savvy crew I've ever had and have taught me a few new things in the first week. The kids couldn't wait to use their devices and students who were loaned devices had huge grins when they came back from the media center with their devices; I don't anticipate making many, if any, copies this year. 

Students have commented that:
I am much more organized, and I can understand what I am doing much better.
My device helps a lot, I'm able to create quizlets, write essays, store pictures and writing digitally and make presentations. 
Many teachers are taking advantage of having us take online notes, and utilizing Internet quizzes and tests. Teachers make us turn in homework online, and we have been using Google Sites to post our learning to the public. 
Here are some additional observations as the year has started:

Moving forward
As we move forward, we are continuing professional learning for staff on digital age learning, including after-school drop in sessions, individual meetings, online courses as well as another Technology and Learning Cohort where staff have the ability to earn a Technology Certificate through Hamline University, another one of our partners.

I recognize that while we are now truly 1:1, we need to continue to help staff get into the pool, try the deep end once in a while, and help students have authentic learning opportunities. As Patrick Larkin notes in this great post, we need to "stay uncomfortable!" Larkin mentions the work of Amy Edmonson, who defines different zones of implementation: the Apathy Zone, Anxiety Zone, Comfort Zone and Learning Zone. At this point, I would say we are in the latter stages of the Anxiety Zone. 

As we begin to implement our Next Generation Educational Competencies, I see many ways that Digital Age Learning will positively impact the ability of students to demonstrate mastery of these skills. 
Edina Next Generation Educational Competencies
I look forward to supporting staff and students "living in beta," helping us progress into the "comfort zone," and continuing forward into the "learning zone." Stay tuned!