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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why Not Personalization? Why not blend?




As technology creates opportunities for us to be more aware of the cracks that individual students are falling through, the question remains...why aren't we personalizing the education of our students more? Why aren't we using blended learning to better meet the needs of our students?

In a world where intuitive software is becoming smarter and smarter and less expensive, we have the ability to allow students to "practice" problem solving without feeling overwhelmed. What does that mean? When I was in school I remember melting down when I didn't understand a math concept at home but my homework was "do the odd problems on page 82." Everyone knew the answers to the even problems were in the back of the book so even if I had to show my work, I knew I could at least see if I got the right answer when I was done. But what about those nights when I didn't have a clue where to start? I would go to school the next day having done 20 problems all wrong. I would get a zero on my homework and I had done enough problems that I had created a "habit" of how to do it in my head, albeit the wrong way. Intuitive software changes that. It gives students a practice question and if they get it wrong it often shows them the correct way and also gives them an easier question to get back to what they do know and work forward again.

In some classes this is easier than others- math, sciences, anything that can be learned one way can be learned with this method. We all know that there is more to real teaching than this though. The beauty of technology today is this type of environment allows more time for the teachers to dig deeper with their students and help them to think more critically about the subject matter.

Personalized learning starts putting the onus on the student. Students begin to learn how they learn. They see that they can't just skim through things and take a quiz. They start learning how much time it typically takes for them to get a concept. And if students are learning from different modalities (differentiated modes of instruction), they also start to understand which forms of instruction best meet their learning styles. Owning this isn't easy for a student. We have conditioned students to "sit and get." "Tell me what I need to know so I can regurgitate it back to you." But what value it is to show a student how to learn! 

According to NEA, by 1930 multiple-choice tests were firmly entrenched in the education world. The reason being there needed to be efficiency and objectivity (http://www.nea.org/home/66139.htm). And I agree that both are highly valued in the education arena. But as we see a way to have those efficiencies and yet still meet the needs of the individual student, why are we not moving towards this more rapidly? One reason is the time and prep it takes on the teacher's side for this to be effectively managed from their viewpoint. Another reason is no major shift in education happens overnight.

For three years I have been watching personalization on some level start to happen at our school. I hear students learning more about themselves, seeing themselves as having potential when they didn't in the past. I see teachers seeing the value of personalization because they would have never have noticed the gaps in individual student's learning in a traditional classroom setting.

It is my desire to work to find solutions to make this process more mainstream for the educator. It is my desire to create efficiencies using innovation to better meet the needs of the teacher and the student so that personalization can be more of a realtime advantage for our students. I literally lay in bed at night trying to think of ways to do this. Call it passion if you want to but once you see the benefits in action, it's hard to ignore the fact that all students don't learn on the same timeline nor in the same way. Technology has the ability for us to work inside new boundaries...broader boundaries...in ways we have never been able to do before.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Creating an Elementary Tech Team


For a couple of years I've been trying to figure out a way to have an elementary tech team...I wanted an opportunity to mentor a few "go to" kids that have a natural bent towards all things techie. This year my wish came true. Our elementary school is piloting the idea of elective Friday's for fourth and fifth grade students. For six weeks I will have the opportunity to lead 15 students that chose to be in this elective to become technology leaders in the lower school.

What does this look like? I've mapped out a plan of attack associated with each of the six weeks the students will earn badges in the form of stickers that they can place on anything they own to show others that they have earned the right to be considered lower school technology superstars. Today was the first day stickers were earned and immediately I saw fifth-graders put them on their iPad cases for everyone to see. That was exactly what I was hoping for, the pride in their accomplishments! 

The following is an overview of the plan.

Week one: 
Students were introduced to the idea of a tech team with excitement! I shared with them that this has been my dream for a long time and that I was so excited to be able to work with each of them. I had created a Google classroom for this TechTeam (I told them part one of being on the TechTeam was being my guinea pig to try new things out... they like that). Lesson one was all about digital citizenship. The students started working to earn their digital passport on the common sense media website. For the past four years I have been a common sense media digital citizenship educator.


We talk about the importance of each of them being good digital citizens in order to be on the team. I also told them that there was a possibility that they might help me decide what should happen when bad digital citizenship choices happened at school. They love the idea of being empowered to help make school decisions regarding technology. As students complete the assigned games on digital citizenship, they receive their "digital citizenship" sticker. 

Week two:
Today students were broken into two groups and one group worked with me to learn troubleshooting for devices. They learned how to do a hard turn off on an iPad, how to swipe open apps closed, how to close tabs that were open in a browser, how to use the airplay setting to turn on and off Wi-Fi if there seems to be connection issues. We then opened Chromebooks and made sure everyone knew how to log onto them, how to access Google Chrome, how to refresh a webpage, and how to look for help on a webpage such as being aware of ❔and ℹ️ icons, as well as help menus.
The other group was learning how to troubleshoot projectors in the classroom with our director of technology. He taught them about the different modes, how to use the remote, and how to clean the filters. He also taught the students how to add print drivers to a computer.

At the end of the class the students took a quick three question quiz in Google classroom to earn their "troubleshooter" sticker. 




Week three: 
Students will learn how to troubleshoot iPevo interactive whiteboards. These are new to our teachers and having a student that knows how to help in the midst of the classroom is an exciting option for me! In this week students will continue to work towards gaining their digital citizenship sticker and also they will receive their "helping hand" sticker after completing a short quiz in Google classroom regarding iPevos. 


Week four: 
Students will begin to map out what resource they want to create to help technology users at our school. I'm leaving the options fairly wide-open on purpose. Maybe they want to create a how-to video on logging into chromebooks? Maybe they want to write a song on digital citizenship? Maybe they want to create a Google slide on how to troubleshoot interactive whiteboards?
This is the day to allow them to creatively consider options for sharing and to use a graphic organizer to make sure they hit the main points for their resource to be most helpful. At the end of this session they will write in Google classroom what their plan is and share it with each other. They will also have earned their "seek me out" sticker. 


Week five:
This week we will start creating our resources! Students will be able to work on their resources of choice with me working the room and helping them if and when necessary. The goal will be for students to upload their resource into the Google classroom at the end of our session. They will receive their "resource creator" sticker when they are done. 

Week six:
This is our last week together. At this point all the resources should be mostly made and we will put them on a Google site and share the link out to all the Elementary teachers so that they have access to them when they might need them. As each student finishes up their resource they will get a quick tutorial on how to use Google sites and we will put all the resources on one page (Link to resources to come when done). When the students are happy with the way the site looks they will receive their last sticker "Super Stars," to proudly display the completion of our time together and the fact that they are now a CERTIFIED MEMBER OF THE TECH TEAM.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

That Was Then, This Is Now

For starters I'll just get this out of the way- I'm 47 years old and I graduated from high school in 1987. My youngest is a senior this year and it has caused me to reflect on how much life has changed for students since I was in high school. Technology didn't really exist for educational purposes (although I loved my Atari as a kid). That also means social media didn't exist...along with all the pros and cons that come along with it...or did it?

I always find it a giggly moment when I look in my school mailbox cubby and find a package of school photos of myself. I'm not really sure what educators are suppose to do with that yearly stack of photos and I mentioned it on social media. Craig Badura, an eduhero suggested the following:

It got me thinking about that. I remember getting in trouble some years because when I got home with my package of school photos there weren't enough left for my mom to give to my grandparents. She just didn't understand how important it was to exchange photos with your friends and never bought a big enough package (in my eyes). Remember writing things like TLA (true love always) and BFF (best friends forever)...how different was this from my senior daughter, Kendall, using Instagram to both affirm others and be affirmed. Perhaps Instagram is just school photo swapping on steroids!

And what about that shoebox full of notes folded origami style that I kept under my bed? The ones I use to slip to my friends both during class (in the less observant teacher's rooms) or in the hallways as we passed. How much different is that from my Kendall using snapchat, Twitter, or texting to be social. I submit kids haven't changed, the stakes for connecting inappropriately have. How different is it for a kid to have their nose in a note between classes than their device? Isn't social, social?

And while Facebook is a thing of the past for our students, how different was everyone writing in the back of my yearbook and reading everyone else's comments than perusing someone's Facebook or Twitter wall today?


We, as a society, judge today's students for excessive use of screen time, and I'm not saying that we shouldn't be helping them discern when to shut off, plug in, and stop multitasking but let's keep it in perspective...the world has created a steroid environment of global connection yet when at a ballgame last night I watched kids with eyes on the game, interacting with each other, participating in life and occasionally chronicling it with their devices because they wanted the memory to remain. Students haven't changed. If the moment is engaging, students are all in. Maybe just maybe it's time for us to become more engaging parents and educators through relational teaching, engaging lesson plans, and intentional moments.