Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wireless Edtech 2011

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Wireless Edtech2011 in D.C with a colleague.  I had no idea what to expect as we headed to the conference, although I knew I was intrigued by the following:
  1. The diverse group of attendees (leaders in business, education and government) 
  2. The topic (reforming education and breaking through barriers to enable mobile broadband for all learners)
  3.  The cost (it was FREE!)

I am blogging about my experience with the hope that you can benefit from the resources I gathered.

Memorable quotes:
  • "We don’t bank the way we used to bank or shop the way we used to shop, but we teach the way we used to teach." - Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools
  • "It's not about 'how do I use this technology' but 'what do I build?'" - Kathy Spencer, Onslow County Schools Superintendent (NC)
  • "We don’t want more laptops - we want engaging learning environments for kids."
  • "We have to get past doing more (in the classroom) and start doing things differently.
  • "We used to have to go to school to learn.  We don’t have to do that anymore." - Matt Spathas, Parent and Community Leader, San Diego
  • "What is the purpose of the Dewey Decimal System?" - HS Student
  • "We don’t just need new gadgets, we need new business models."
  • "One thing NCLB has taught us is that what you assess is what gets taught." - Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education
  • "The learning environment outside of schools is more powerful than the learning environment we currently have in schools." -Tom Carroll, President of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future
  • "We are moving from an 'I Teach' to a 'We Learn' paradigm." - Elliot Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan 
  • "We cannot put a jet engine on a stagecoach and expect good results" - Chris Dede
  • "The need to memorize is a 20th century skill. The need to navigate and trust information is a 21st century skill." - Pearson
  • "Being digitally literate is essential to participate in our economy"- Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the FCC

Valuable Links:

New Learners of the 21st Century - Short, powerful video about today's learners

Speak Up Survey - A national research project that your district can participate in!  Act quickly - this year's survey closes 12/23/11.  This project provides FREE surveys to gather data about 21st century learning from all district stakeholders.  After February, your district can access the results and compare them with the national findings.

Office of Innovation and Improvement - Did you know this existed in the U.S. Dept. of Ed?

Educational Assessment Technology Standards - HALLELUJAH!  Glad to know this is in the works!!

Digital Learning Now - Recently started in 2010, this is a national campaign to advance policies that will create a high quality digital learning environment to better prepare students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers.  Check out your state's digital learning report card!

State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) - Forum for inter-state collaboration, cooperation and best practices.  The SETDA Projects tab is informative.

World Bank EduTech Blog - A World Blank blog on ICT use in education.  It's interesting to see how technology is being harnessed in developing countries.    

Friday Institute for Educational Innovation The mission of the Friday Institute is to advance education through innovation in teaching, learning, and leadership.  Click on the "21st Century Teaching and Learning" tab so see all the projects in development.

Maine Learning Technology Initiative - Maine seems to have it all together.  This site is filled with all kinds of educational resources.  I like the MLTI Minute.

CoSN Mobile Learning Initiative - Great resources for planning to integrate mobile devices in your school district.

My biggest takeway from the conference is that my district needs to specify what it wants students to know and be able to do.  Notice how I didn't mention technology.  Once we set student goals, then we can discuss the infrastructure needed to support their achievement.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

100 Book Challenge Blog?

A school in my district may be participating in the 100 Book Challenge where each student is challenged to read 100 books throughout the school year.  Instead of just logging the books, I thought it would be neat if each child blogged about the book he/she read to apply some higher-order thinking skills.  What would be the best way to set something like this up for 400 K-4 students?  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where do we go from here?

It's always nice to talk with people in other districts to find out how they accomplish the same tasks as you. I met someone yesterday at a barbecue who works in another district in my county.  The topic of communication came up - and to no surprise, it's a struggle in both of our districts!  There are too many different forms of communication going on that it makes it difficult to stay organized and up-to date.  I'm referring to everything from communication to families as well as communication from administrators to staff members.

During our conversation, I found out that this teacher has access to shared drives on the district's network.  He collaborates with his coworkers on documents, presentations, budgets - you name it.  He's been doing this for years.  He's also the head of his department, so he puts curricular items in his department folder for his colleagues to access.  I've been asking about shared folders in my district for a couple years.  We don't have any.  I've been told it's a management issue, since no one would really be managing the folders.  I know lots of districts that have Sharepoint or a shared folder system in place to provide an accessible spot for staff members to find resources.   Everything in our district is communicated via email.  Everything.  Staff members are constantly saying they can't keep up with their emails.  I don't blame them!

Here is my question/dilemma:  My tech department has been 'working on Microsoft Live@EdU' for close to 2 years now.  The decision to move to Live@Edu was not made by Curriculum and Instruction. It was made by the tech department because it ties in nice with active directory.  Yes it offers a ton of storage space and the ability to share files and folders.  Is this the right tool for what we need?  Does GoogleApps work the same way?

Here's my vision:  I would love to implement a file sharing system where users can be members of groups (similar to Facebook) so when a file is added to the "Math department" folder - members of that group would be notified.  I'm not talking about a message like  Ning where it says "A new post has been made in this group."  I'm talking about a message that communicates the name of the file and provides you with a link to go right there.  Or maybe they don't have to be notified, but once they login, they can see this under "recent activity" (like a newsfeed).

I don't think users should have to log into that system in order to upload a file.  I feel that is 'one more step' that teachers have to take.  Just like on a shared network, you would click "Save as," it should be that easy for teachers.  The wiki collaboration that I tried did not work because teachers had to take extra steps to upload their files then add them to a page.

Am I asking for too much?  I know we need a file sharing system in the cloud so teachers can access from anywhere on or off the network.  I feel that this would enable our teachers to start collaborating!  What are your thoughts?  Do you have something in your district that is working?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Graders Proved me Wrong - and I'm Happy About It!

I must confess - first graders proved me wrong today.  I've been working with a first grade teacher on research projects that are based solely on the topic that the child wanted to research.  One girl wanted to learn about Copernicus, so that's who she is researching!  In addition to learning how to gather information from the computer (World Book and some other kid-friendly search engines) the teacher wanted them all to create a Powerpoint presentation.  She created the 15 page template and designated where students should insert their information.  I questioned her - asking if she was sure she wanted all 15 slides in the Powerpoint - she said yes.  I asked again, "Are you sure?"  She was determined to set the bar high and see how far her students could go.  I, on the otherhand, thought, "You are crazy!"  I told her this too (we have a good relationship!).

We had 6 adults in the computer lab - the teacher, myself, and 4 parent helpers (thank goodness for parent helpers!).  Prior to the lesson, I dropped the template into each student's folder (which they had never seen before).  So at the beginning of the lesson, I had to show them how to navigate there.  Then, I modeled how to do specific things within Powerpoint - make a capital letter, put one space between each word, delete the text that says "Write your topic here,"etc. 

Once the students were sent back to their seats to start, I was amazed at how well they listened to instructions and navigated to their folder with the Powerpoint file - there were 5 steps involved!  Then, I watched students as they focused on their screens to create Powerpoint presentations for the first time (only 2 students had heard of the program before).  I assisted with capital letters, finding the apostrophe, teaching the 'undo' button (basic first grade questions) and I watched in awe as these 6 and 7 year olds navigated through a program that some of my coworkers are still unfamiliar with.

At the end of our time in the computer lab, some students had completed 1 slide and some had completed 4 (oh, did I mention we showed how to insert clipart too?!).  As the kids were lined up at the door ready to leave, I told them that they had proven me wrong (and of course they really liked that).  :)

All of this makes me think - how often do our student expectations get in the way of our lesson planning?  Our lesson plans are based off of our expectations, right?  We plan certain activities for centers because the students are 'capable of doing that activity independently.'  But what if our expectations fall short?  How would you know if your expectations could be exceeded?  I'm not sure if I phrased these questions right.  I just know that from now on, I will be looking at my lesson objectives in a more critical manner.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Internal Struggle Over a Tech Academy

At the beginning of the school year, my staff development coordinator and I discussed the idea of having a summer tech academy for teachers.  Now that it's March, we're trying to make arrangements so this can happen.  Do we call it a Tech Academy?  I like the way it sounds, but I feel like we are constantly separating technology from curriculum content.  Is it okay to address technology as a stand alone?  If so, how do we get teachers to see that tech is not an add-on?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

First post

Well, I finally came up with a name for my blog after hours of brainstorming!  From the beginning, I knew that I wanted the title to imply some kind of student learning.  Student achievement should always be at the forefront of our minds when having educational conversations.  However, I often feel that we put ourselves first when discussing education.  Phrases like "I don't have time" or "That's not my responsibility" sometimes pop up.  When did teaching become an "I" term?  Aren't we here to meet the needs of each student in our class?  While we may be frustrated with government legislation and leadership, we cannot let that supersede our reasons for entering the educational field.  I named this blog "Developing Digital Learners" so I'm always reminded of why I am......we