Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Collaborators

Collaborator - Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators:

  • Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
  • Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  • Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.
"Research has shown the power of collaboration in improving educator practice" (Ronfeldt, Farmer, McQueen, & Grissom, 2015). Creating opportunities in the day for students to have authentic learning opportunities while collaborating with myself or others makes learning relevant to our students.  To acknowledge the fact that teachers no longer have to be the "sage on the stage" imparting all knowledge on our students creates a sense of collaborative learning that grows both the teacher and student. Leveraging technology to knock down the walls of our classrooms to multiple viewpoints and experts creates opportunities for all of us to grow in our learning journeys on any topic.  

Last year we had a group of middle school students that would secretly look up information that their teachers shared with them to see if they were "true" or not. What a great opportunity for teachers to allow those challenges in the classroom and grow forward from them with their students. Personally, I can see a future of using iOT devices in classroom for just these types of challenge moments. Siri, Google, or Alexa could share information with all the students at the same time on the challenged topic. This would allow for students to learn how to do better key internet searches together.

Many teachers fear that their students know more about technology than they do and therefore they don't want it in the classroom. What if we harnessed their knowledge by empowering them to diagnose and discover educational technology issues and tools? Last year I had the joy of working with a group of elementary students that chose to be a part of an elementary tech team. This team empowered them to help others in our school with tech issues. See their website here: https://sites.google.com/a/ccsk12.com/ccstechteam/

I am so thankful for the Google Suites for Education that allow me to collaborate with teachers and students in real time through the use of Google Hangouts, Calendars, Docs, Slides, etc. Leveraging digital real-time tools allows for more group projects to enhance the 21st century skills they need for the future. One of my favorite lessons was when a teacher friend of mine that lives in the Philippines stayed up despite the 12 hour difference for a Skype call with seventh graders learning about Eastern Civilization. This teacher's father actually is in the history books in the Philippines because he was a key soldier during the 1989 coup.  What a real world opportunity for our students! Creating learning environments that teach us and our students about cultural identities can be enhanced through the use of technology to understand those cultural differences. 

What I love about this standard is that there is no expectation on a teacher to know know all the answers. The onus is on the teacher to learn along side the student. This creates a culture of teachers as facilitators of learning and gives ownership to the students for their path of learning. In the immortal words of Albert Einstein,  "education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What is Digital Pedagogy?

Lately my mind has been wrapping itself around how instructional practice has changed due to digital  instruction. I myself have said the words "Pedagogy before technology" hundred of times. But lately I fine myself personally redefining what "best practice" teaching looks like in a classroom rich with technology. What once was pedagogy now seems better defined as digital pedagogy for classrooms with the advantages of easily accessible technology tools. Bear with me as I stumble through this post...my first thought was to google what others see as best practice digital pedagogy but I decided that wasn't being true to myself so I am stumbling through this thought via this blog post and really hope for feedback to flesh this out further.

According to Merriam-Webster pedagogy is defined as "the art, science, or profession of teaching, especially: Education" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pedagogy). Pedagogy is one of those words that is pulled out when plans don't seem traditionally grounded, rigorously based, or founded on accepted principals of teaching and learning. Teachers learn about pedagogy in their educational training in college and then they are observed in practice while teaching to make sure they are following good pedagogical practices. The thing is, that can be defined differently depending on the school you went to, the training you've received, the results you've seen in the classroom. On top of that, good pedagogy is changing depending on the availability of technology in the classroom. Technology availability is changing what good pedagogy looks like and not taking advantage of the technology opportunities in itself can be poor pedagogy.

So in my mind I have broken up what good digital pedagogy looks like into the following sections:

  • Digital Learning Environments - We spend a lot of time looking at what our classrooms look like (and we should) but technology integrated in the classroom also looks different due to the need to move around the classroom to monitor for off-task behavior. A digital learning environment also means that students have access to resources digitally as well. Learning objectives shouldn't just be written on the board each day but in a Learning Management System that allows students to access if they are absent, behind, need to study, or even to move forward in the curriculum at hand. Good digital pedagogy means that educators are taking advantage of technology to best meet the needs of all students. It means creating a curated list of additional helps for access. It means well planned units that intentionally use helpful technology to engage students in curation, creation, connection, and consumption in this digital age. 
  • Personalized Learning - The educational system we currently know came about during the industrial age when students were grouped by age and ability. These students were all taught the same things, the same way to best get them through the system. Technology allows us better meet the needs of each student due to various opportunities that educational technology can give like the following:
    • Intuitive, smart technology software- adjusts to students' learning and keeps them both engaged and challenged.
    • Blended learning opportunities- creates stations that allows teachers to work in small group/individual settings to better meet the individualized needs of the students
    • Online learning - Creating curriculum that is mostly or totally online allows students to work at their own pace and reach out to facilitating teachers when struggling with concepts or needing to set learning goals
  • Leveraging Data - Today's technology makes formative and summative assessment easier to connect with standards and to measure ongoing competency in student/class/grade level/school growth. This data also helps in the concept of personalized learning. It wasn't always easy to discern what concepts students didn't understand. Now software can do the algorithms for us and create paths to better help teachers and students in learning tasks. For instance, I noticed this September after our elementary students took their NWEA assessment, the software itself assessed the gaps and made suggestions to teachers for each student in regards to what areas of learning might need some scaffolding in place. 
  • Culture of Innovation - Good digital pedagogy means looking for ways to be innovative in the classroom. I have always defined innovation as the intersection where need and passion intercept under an umbrella of creativity. Innovation often happens as that nagging in the back of good educator's heads that keep them up at night. It's wanting to the interactions between students and learning to click for everyone and looking for ways to make that happen. Innovation isn't always digital but it is always disruptive. It's tapping into a growth mindset and looking for better ways to do things. It doesn't mean throwing out the old, it means adopting the contemporary, keeping the classical, and ditching the antiquated. 
  • Empowered Digital Citizen - Digital pedagogy means empowering students to learn how to use technology ethically, safely, and legally. It also means teaching our students how to leverage technology for their learning both now and in their future when they are not in our care. We must teach our students and teachers that we are digital stewards of the world we live in. The concept of stewardship includes both taking (consumption and curation) of information as well as adding value to our digital world (creation and connection). 
I realize these four points are very broad in nature but it is my opinion that a good pedagogy in today's digital landscape must have expectations placed upon them or we can't call it pedagogy at all. Technology changes what pedagogy is because it allows educators to measure, create, empower, and personalize for each student we teach...not the average, not the upper curve, or the lower curve but to everyone. We are in an age of education that the expectations are changing because the ability to both know and teach to the individuals in our classroom is now possible. We must tap into these educational technology tools and digital learning environments to best reach our student's capacity for learning. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Educators as Empowered Citizens (Unpacking the ISTE Standards for Educators)

Empowered Professional
3. Citizen- Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

  • Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
  • Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.
  • Mentor students in safe, legal, and ethical practices with digital tools ad the protection of intellectual rights and property.
  • Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy. (ISTE Standards for Educators 2017)
Part of using technology in the classroom is both modeling and creating opportunities for ourselves and our students to be a productive part of the digital landscape. For me, this means talking about digital citizenship on a regular basis with students and holding them accountable for appropriate actions as well. It means using myself as an example. The following bold titles are the subcomponents found under this section of Empowered Citizens in the ISTE Standards for educators. The explanations below are ways I model being an empowered professional digital citizen as an educator:
  1. Make positive, socially responsible contributions. I am an avid edtech blogger. As much as it helps me gather my thoughts and think through things, I also see it as a way to model and show positive professional digital behavior. While the free online community of the internet gives us rights to so much information, also contributing to the digital landscape should be a responsibility of an educator. 
  2. Exhibit empathetic behavior. As an active member of various Twitter chats, sharing my views on different topics is part of that community. While my views may vary from others, being respectful and open to the views of others online is an important part of being a productive digital citizen. For me, I often friend or follow people that have different views than myself to grow my mindset.
  3. Building relationships and community.  Through the use of the Google Suites apps I am able to collaborate online with fellow educators both in my system and outside. Google Hangouts, Google Docs, and my Google Calendars are used on a regular basis to stay connected to my community. Becoming a moderator of #TNEdChat twitter chat on Tuesday nights at 8pm ET has also help me grow my community and build relationships with other educators both near and far. Modeling this active use of technology to grow myself is important to me. Twitter has become my "go to" whenever I find myself stuck with an educational issue. I can tweet a question out and because I have an educational learning relationship with many of my followers, I often get immediate suggestions and ideas to move forward. 
  4. Establish a learning culture. Our school has recently created a "philosophy of technology" to guide our learning. After creating that, we then created a graduate profile in terms of technology skills we want our students to have when they graduate from our school. We are currently in the process of breaking that graduate profile into true technology standards by grade level that we want to make sure our students are reaching. As an educator, I think it is important for parents and students to see that we are diligently working towards a framework that shows both value in using technology for education and the limitations we think that are needed in regards to good stewardship of technology. 
  5. Curiosity. Access to technology allows myself and my students to see a myriad of viewpoints on any topic of interest. For myself, when questions come up in class that have pricked someone's curiosity, we use digital tools to learn more about subjects. I do the same every day. Creating a culture of lifelong learning with digital tools helps students to see the importance of how quickly they can learn with the right keyword search. I also model this for other teachers when they ask me how to do  something digitally and I find a resource online through Youtube or a blogpost and share it with them. We are in a world where the smartest person in the room might actually be the computer. To access the information and turn it into knowledge is contingent on our own curiosity.
  6. Critical examination of online resources. Learning how to critically look for resources on the internet is a valuable tool. It is important for teachers to learn how to discern good resources for our students. Learning where to look for the owner of a website and doing comparisons with multiple websites helps us to share and learn non-biased information with our community. Teaching our students how to do the same is also important. Many years ago I would create fake websites that made no sense to what my students were studying about and send them to the web address. Teaching students how to critically look at online information is a definite skill for all of us.
  7. Digital literacy. As a digital citizen I have a responsibility to learn how to use technological tools effectively. One of my pet peeves is when classrooms just digitize what could be done with paper and pencil. While there is a time and place for all levels of tech usage, using technology in 21st century ways helps our students for their futures.
  8. Media fluency. Whether I am curating or creating information it is important to have a technology toolbox that gives me varied resources. Whether I find my information using Google Scholar, Twitter, or Edutopia I should look for multiple places for information. Just like I want my students to have multiple sources for papers, I should be creating a digital toolbox for myself. Because we have already talked about the importance of contributing to the digital world, we also should be looking for various digital formats to communicate and share our knowledge.
  9. Mentor. I am thankful for mentoring people in my own life that have grown me as an educator. I too try to help others (if they want help) through various digital outlets. I share my own failures and successes on my blog for anyone to see. I use the hashtag #CHAedu to share thoughts with local Chattanoogan educators. I offer help in my community through edcamps and technology conferences. Please hear me say I don't think I am a master teacher but I do try to help others as they navigate edtech because I have been doing it for a while.
  10. Safe practices. I model safety by only accepting people I know to view my personal life online. I also make sure I don't share too much personal information when talking with others. I often will block Twitter users that don't seem to have a legitimate reason to be following me. I try to keep my social media accounts clean from spammers and questionable followers.
  11. Legal practices. I try to give credit when I quote other people or articles online. If I share graphics, I either make them myself or get them from somewhere like www.photosforclass.com  so that they are creative commons cited.
  12. Ethical practices. When I see rude or inappropriate comments on the internet I do not participate in the conversations. I have been known to contact people directly when I see cyberbullying taking place. 
  13. Protection of intellectual rights and property. As mentioned in 11 above, using creative commons and making sure to cite the works of others when I blog, tweet, or share shows the importance I place on the works of others. This helps students to see what non-plagiarism looks like.
  14. Model and promote. I'm probably annoying about this. I remind and show teachers the value of a positive online digital footprint often. I promote the importance of doing that for our students. So many teachers don't want to participate in social media but I think it is important for us to show it positively to our students. I also feel it is important for me to model using social media for educational purposes for my fellow teachers to see. 
  15. Management of personal data. By modeling personal contact through direct messaging and showing the importance of private versus public accounts, I show others how to manage their own personal data. 
  16. Management of digital identity. By being mindful of my digital footprint and the persona I want others to see regarding me, I am careful about what photos I upload, who can tag me in photos, and how others might see me. 
  17. Protect student data privacy. It is important to not use names of my students online and if my students' parents don't want their identity represented online I adhere to their wishes. I am also careful about asking or creating accounts for students for learning purposes. I often will choose software that works with Google because I know my students can sign in through their accounts. This allows me to protect the privacy of my students. 
We often talk of the importance of digital citizenship for our students but we are lackadaisical about teacher expectations on the same topic. Many teachers feel that their digital identity is their own business and shouldn't be judged or have expectations on it but we live in a society that values social media and its connections. Our digital identifies are the only way some people know anything about us (and our students). We need to start teaching into this aspect of our students lives by modeling empowered digital citizenship behavior. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Educators as Empowered Leaders (Blog 3 of 8 in the series on unpacking the ISTE Standards for Educators)

Empowered Professional
2.  Leader-Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and    success and to improve teaching and learning. Educators:
  • Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
  • Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
  • Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.  (ISTE Standards for Educators -2016)
I have learned over my lifetime that titles don't make leaders, leaders become leaders because they have attributes worthy of following. As we all know, just because you use technology in a classroom does not make you a leader. But this series of blog posts are about those educators among us that lead others to see the value of technology integration. I'll be honest I know I've been seen as both a leader and a troublemaker. I've been valued for my knowledge in instructional technology and I have been devalued because I was not seen as balanced. I will say that both views have turned me into the better educator that I am today. I know that my administrators sometimes get tired of my barrage of emails about latest research, tools, and tweets. What they don't know is how often I want to send things but don't! Yeah, if you are reading this...believe it or not I do try to be discerning with my shares! 

For me, I try to keep my focus on what I believe good technology integration can do for students.  My constant connection to education stakeholders in my district is to give them a glimpse of things out there. It's not an easy job to be the one pushing others towards visionary technology integration. In fact, sometimes it can feel professionally deflating. I am a passionate person and I believe in personalized learning. For most of my life, that wasn't practical in the educational arena because of the number of students a teacher has but with the advancements of technology, we now have the ability to work smarter in digitizing repetitive tasks and using technology to aid the learning. 

While I happen to work in a very tech rich school system, I still find myself lobbying for equitable use of technology because some teachers don't value and do not want to use technology in their classrooms. By creating some technology expectations for our students to have at graduation, it puts the onus on everyone to make sure our students are graduating with skills needed in this digital age. I know many teachers that would give their eye teeth to have access to technology for their students. If you are in this type of environment, you need to become a prophet to your district so that the digital divide doesn't impact your students.

Should every teacher be an empowered leader regarding technology? In theory, yes. If we were all sharing the tools and the pedagogy behind using the tools with each other then our students would benefit from the combined knowledge of us all. One of the ways I share about the value of tools to our teachers is by giving them hands-on opportunities to participate with them as a student. For instance, having them create a flipgrid video for a fellow coworker allowed them to see the benefits of using it in their classroom for video formative assessment. One of the hardest roles for me is sharing the pedagogical advantages to using technology. For many educators, it is hard to accept that technology has transformational value. To hear it from me, the technology coordinator, seems like the Great Oz is really the little man behind the current. Therefore, I work hand in hand with teachers that believe there has to be a better way and prove that there is. I now have a trust bond with these teachers and they are much more likely to listen to me when I share things now. Modeling, adopting, trying and failing, and listening are all keys to becoming an empowered educator leader. But the biggest thing, and the hardest, is not to become discouraged when you don't feel heard or valued in your knowledge. Keep going and fighting the good fight for the benefit of your students! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Educators as Empowered Learners

I guess I might as well start this series with my soapbox message- the importance that educators continue to be learners and what that looks like in the digital age. If anyone sees the importance of this as much as I do, we immediately become fast friends. Below is the excerpt from the ISTE Standards for Educators that describes this standard:

Empowered Professional

  1. Learner - Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators: 
    • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
    • Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
    • Stay current with research that supports improved learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences. 
                                               (ISTE Standards for Educations- 2017)

There isn't a teacher worth a grain of salt that doesn't try to better their teaching yearly but these standards suggest looking at oneself through the lens of technology integration. If we believe that our students need technology skills then we as educators need to be plugged into ways of remaining current and relevant with technology opportunities.  For me, this looks like the following-

  • Professional Learning Goals: At the beginning of every new year (yes, January not the school year) I ask myself what goals do I have that will make me better at what I do. For instance, this year I have a goal to work on my Google Educator Certifications. As a technology coordinator, I believe this will give me a skill set that will aid me in supporting the teachers at my Google Suites adopted school. Has anyone asked me to do this? No. Part of being an empowered learner is that I look for ways to better myself. I don't wait to be told where I need to better myself. Although I am open to that as well!
  • Participating in Local and Global Learning Networks: I take this seriously. I am constantly connecting with others to better myself for my own knowledge but also for the knowledge of my school. if I am stuck in the silo of my school getting feedback from the same people over and over, I become stagnant. I participate in the following ways (please note that none of these options cost me a dime of money)-
    • Edcamp GigCity. This is my fifth year of participating in this edcamp unconference in Chattanooga, TN. This participant directed day allows me to grow contacts outside of my school and learn from others- and edcamps are free. While edcamps are not technology conferences, technology is often discussed in some of the sessions because of it's exponential reach and use in today's classrooms. 
    • #CHAedu #coffeeEDU. A couple of years ago I decided to start a local monthly 1 hour coffee meetup for any educators interested in discussing education issues/concerns/thoughts. This monthly meeting usually has anywhere from 4-12 educators from higher ed, lower ed, private, and public schools. Last week a Georgia high school math educator shared some really important information that would impact my school. Without me having that discussion with him, I would have been blindsided by it later. 
    • #TNEdChat. And other educationally based Twitter Chats. My good edu-buddy Greg Bagby and I serve as co-moderators for the weekly (Tuesdays at 8pm ET) #TNEdChat twitter chat. Educators from all over can join in various weekly discussion topics from anything educational related. Not sure how twitter chats work? Check this out. Wondering if there is a chat out there you might be interested in? Check this out but let me invite you to join us on Tuesdays at 8pm. It is a smaller chat group and might be less overwhelming for beginners. Twitter has grown my connections to other educators exponentially. It is the number one reason I feel I am seen as a change agent because I am always looking for ways to better the educational process and Twitter is my go to. The connections I have made have often turned to school visits and face to face encounters to learn more about what other districts are doing.
    • Digital Learning Day. I don't believe my role as an empowered learner should just be about taking. I see that I also need to be sharing myself to help others. Not that I have a lock down on how to do everything in tech integration well but I can perhaps share my fail forwards to prevent others from making the same mistakes. Last year our lower school had an open house for Digital Learning Day so we could show our technology integration in action for any educators wanting to visit and take part. 
  • Staying Current: In my role, either I am cutting edge in knowing what is out there or I am irrelevant. I have to be a visionary and forward thinking in order to best meet the needs of my school system. For me this means all the above things I am associated with but I also look for opportunities to attend local, state, and national educational technology conferences. This can be an expensive part of who I am but I look for ways to offset the cost when possible. For instance, at many conferences if you are chosen to be a speaker, you can attend for free or discounted. I take advantage of this when I can. I also try to balance myself by doing reading that contradicts my views on technology integration. Iron sharpens iron and by staying relevant on research I become a more rounded educator.
I believe educators often fear the imposing of technology in their classroom. This first ISTE standard for Educators sets a framework for teachers to become empowered and knowledgeable about educational technology. Dig deeper, become a learner about what's out there and what's coming. Have an open mindset about views you disagree with. Find a group that will grow you. Be a lifelong learner about the things you enjoy but also about technology integration. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Interpreting the "ISTE Standards for Educators" (Series 1 of 8)

As a member of ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education), I appreciate the vetting process that the student, educator, and administrator standards go through to support best practice digital age educational environments. These standards focus on learning and not the tools to learn. While the standards have concrete ways to address technology integration, all of these standards are goals educators should and do have for themselves in general.

This is part one of an 8 part series that gives my views and suggestions on how educators can use these standards as a catalyst for becoming significant adopters of the digital landscape in regards to educational technology. Each of the 7 areas designated give educators agency in creating meaningful opportunities in their classroom that encourages digital skills for our students. I have quoted and requoted this statement: "65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report." With that we need to prepare students with skill sets that will transfer to any job that they might have. The ISTE Standards for Students  create a framework to make that happen but in order for that to come to fruition, there has to be an understanding of the role of the educator in this digital age. 

The following outline explains the goals of the ISTE Standards for Educators (the dates by each section is when I will be blogging about that particular standard):
  • Empowered Professional
    • Learner (week of 10/9/17)
    • Leader (week of 10/16/17)
    • Citizen (week of 10/23/17)
  • Learning Catalyst
    • Collaborator (week of 10/30/17)
    • Designer (week of 11/6/17)
    • Facilitator (week of 11/13/17)
    • Analyst (week of 11/20/17)
Often when people feel they are being held to a standard they immediately hesitate or push back. It feels like another box to check, lesson to learn or reason to feel challenged. As with any standard we are striving for competency in, excellence is not immediately expected but forward motion is the key. Unlike other standards, I feel these standards empower educators in the classroom to be recognized for their stepping out of the traditional framework of teaching and walking the plank of change but instead of an awaiting group of hungry crocodiles, freedom to work with students that desire to be self-motivated learners can await. To adopt the ISTE Standards for Educators means a willingness to see cultural changes from what has been the norm in education. I can tell you from firsthand knowledge, it won't come easy. Students aren't use to having agency in their learning in the way their ISTE student standards provide. Teachers aren't use to the lack of "control" that their ISTE educator standards suggest.

I do believe these standards will be accepted and widespread in 5-10 years as the norm. If you look at the "life expectancy" and re-writes of all the ISTE standards, they change based on the norm catching up with them...and like any good goal, the finish line moves again. Right now I look at some of the above subsections and think "we just aren't there yet" or "wow, is that who we want our teachers to be?" but I believe the gauntlet is there for competency to be had. I believe the empowerment teachers would feel if they were in this type of educational culture would make them feel both needed and successful.

Often teachers worry that they will be replaced by technology but the goals of the ISTE Standards for Educators is to create opportunities for teachers to truly touch every life in a personal way by leveraging the use of technology to give more time to the teacher's and student's day. These standards encourage teachers to model what lifelong learning looks like as they learn their students and lead them.