Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Panning for Gold: Unpacking ISTE Standard for Students #3 "Knowledge Constructor"

"Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others." (ISTE Student Standard #3)

We as educators have a responsibility to equip all students for success. Technology often alleviates so much of the burdens and angst in the education process. We have to show students how to look for good resources, where to look for good resources, and beyond that, how to cite them appropriately. The ease of closeness of information has opened the door quickly for learning and access but we have to intentionally respond likewise. We cannot drag our feet as educators in helping our students understand what it means to be a knowledge constructor. We must prepare students to see technology as a tool and not just an overwhelming struggle for educational purposes.

This post is about teaching students the skills of becoming quality researchers. This includes discerning between good and bad digital resources. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can all say we have fallen for "fake news" at some point. It isn't easy to spot and sometimes context clues are lacking. The same often holds true when doing research. We start teaching research skills in second grade. A website has been created that takes the students directly to some curated sites about Native Americans. I talk to them about clicking off webpages, double checking URLs, and that the word "search" is in RESEARCH. It's not a matter of opening a page, reading a few sentences, and writing down answers. They must pan through the fake gold to get to the good stuff! We talk about evidence to support evidence and not taking everything they see on the internet as the truth. I tell them if they can't find information on another source to support what they have learned then they need to look at the information through a much more critical eye. At that point, they are released to find the good stuff.

Teaching students to become quality knowledge constructors can happen with a small amount of technology in the classroom as well. The goal is to have students critically think about the information presented to them. I think this comes naturally for today's middle school student that is constantly connected. One of my coworkers (who happens to be the mom of teens) told me that we have a group of middle school students that would "fact check" teachers while they were teaching. Now mind you, these teachers didn't know they were being fact-checked (which is a whole different issue), but I wonder how often these students found something that contradicted what they were learning in class? Bigger yet, I wonder how often they brought it to the teacher's attention? Bigger still, I wonder how often a teacher could look beyond being called out and turn it into a teachable moment on knowledge construction?

Have you ever watched an assembly line? I think of knowledge constructor skills somewhat like the fryer line in our family's donut shop. There is a big vat of ooey gooey dough that is so heavy and hard to manage. To try something with that big vat is so overwhelming, so little by little we drop smaller amounts of all that ooey gooey goodness down into the fryer. They are cooked on one side, flipped, cooked on the other side, conveyed across the line to drain, covered with icing, and then patiently waiting to be devoured at the end of the line. The same thing happens with information. Our job is to help students sort through all the ooey gooey information, find a nugget of potential truth, run it through our critical eye, and turn it into something that is worthy being devoured by others- true knowledge!

Possible ways to lead students to become knowledge constructors in no tech, low tech, and high tech environments:
     ISTE Standard #3                     No Tech                         Low Tech                       High Tech

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Using the Tools Appropriately: Unpacking ISTE Standard #2

ISTE Student Standard #2 Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

Warning: I will get on my soapbox here a bit. Helping students to develop appropriate
digital citizenship skills is an imperative part of the educational process not only for their
own safety and legal obligations but for the care of others as well. I feel very strongly
about the importance of all educators that have technology in their classroom speaking
into appropriate usage- with rights come responsibilities.  As a four year Common Sense Media
Digital Citizenship educator I start teaching grade-level appropriate digital citizenship in
kindergarten to talk about the importance of wise choices and the impact it can have on you.
If you are in a technology-rich environment I highly recommend your school district adopting
a digital citizenship curriculum and embedding it into your district’s scope and sequence right
in the various subject matter curriculum itself. Let your technology teachers spend extra time
on it but every teacher should be speaking into digital citizenship issues because we are all
stewards of it. We should see ourselves as both consumers and creators of the Internet.
This past school year a group of fifth graders at our school had been taught how to create
a Google site. On their own, during their own time, they created a website of cartoons for fun.
Because I had been speaking into digital citizenship the whole time they had been at our
elementary school, they allowed me to make some suggestions to better protect themselves
as well as help them learn how to track visitors to their site. If they had been 16-year-old boys
doing this, I doubt I would have had that same opportunity but what an amazing blessing it was
to me to see these students become empowered learners from a previous lesson and then to
seek me out to figure out best practice. It was one of my all-time favorite teacher moments.
We live in a world of instant gratification, instant reciprocation, instant retaliation. Students who
are 18 need to learn that by forwarding one inappropriate photo that was sent to them by the
person who took it could put them on a sexual predators list for the rest of their life. Teaching
digital citizenship is probably the easiest standard to meet without technology itself. Every
person has heard some horror story and quite possibly they have even had a family member
that has lived through one. But I believe we also have a responsibility to share the positive
influence technology can have as well.
If you are in a low tech environment:
  • Have students participate in a station rotation Common Sense media digital citizenship
curriculum that supports their grade level.
  • Talk about valuing the intellectual property of others and show them examples of
plagiarism and ways they can detect if they have accidentally plagiarized.  
  • Have students google themselves or their parents to see what they find. Use that to talk
about the digital footprint they are creating and how it will remain long after they are gone.
    If you are in a no-tech environment:
    • Watch age-appropriate videos to discuss various digital citizenship issues.
    • Create discussions on “what if” this happened and what would be the correct result.
    Common Sense Media also has several unplugged options to choose from.
    • Speak from your heart.
    One of the most effective lessons I teach is sharing two stories with my students. In 2011,
    President Obama was coming to visit Chattanooga, TN. Our family owns a donut shop
    in Chattanooga and I immediately thought, “How cool would it be if the President came to
    visit our shop?”  
    Being a techie, I immediately started tweeting the #POTUSinCHA hashtag to invite him to Julie Darling Donuts. The problem was that I was currently in Atlanta at an edtech conference and I
    didn’t know that the majority of the politicians in Chattanooga were boycotting the
    event. His visit had become a political hotbed. On my way home from Atlanta I received a
    phone call from one of the local news stations and they asked if they could interview me about
    why I wanted him to come and about the special flavored donut we were going to make in his
    honor on the day he was in Chattanooga. Oblivious to any agenda, I jumped on the chance to
    give our 2-year-old company some publicity for free.

    When I was interviewed I told the reporter it wasn’t about politics, it was about respecting
    the office of the presidency. That evening the piece aired on the nightly news and before
    I could say “Chocolate Salted Caramel Donut” my company and myself were being viciously
    attacked on social media and via emails. This story made national news! I was called everything
    from a racist (because the donut was chocolate) to an exploiter. The Republicans were
    mad at me for welcoming him and the Democrats were mad at me for capitalizing on him
    being in town. I received hate emails and threats personally. I remember being so distraught
    the next morning when I would read all that was said and we were actually quite worried
    it was going to be the demise of our shop. President Obama did not visit the donut shop
    that day and a group of friends also started a Facebook support page for me that week.
    Looking back, it was so hard. People who didn’t know me or know anything about me
    made so many assumptions about me and when anyone tried to speak up, it just made
    it worse. I laid in bed for 4 days sick to my stomach thinking I had ruined our business
    with one tweet that invited the President of the United States to my donut shop.
    The upside to this story is that up to that point, it was the busiest week we had ever
    had at the shop but it came at such a personal expense to me. I was bullied and
    ridiculed by adults. It has become my greatest lesson for teaching digital citizenship.

    But I don’t like to leave students, parents, or teachers scared of the Internet.
    I like to remind them of the good things that have happened in my life because of
    the Internet. This is my favorite success story: In February of this year, our 7-year-old
    border collie named Secret went missing. She didn’t have on her collar, she wasn’t
    chipped, and she had disappeared from a location she wasn’t familiar with. The truth is,
    it felt pretty hopeless that we would get her back. But I’m an edtechie and I knew
    first hand the power of social media. I do what I do best, I flooded my social media
    accounts with photos of Secret and put out pleas to anyone and everyone to be on the
    lookout for her. This silly dogs photo was shared over 2,000 times by friends,
    family, acquaintances, and downright strangers. People I didn’t even know would
    send me messages on Facebook telling me they had driven around the area she
    was originally lost in looking for her. If everyone wants to know “Where’s Waldo?”
    then a close second would be “Where’s Secret?” 2,000 reshares. It’s mind-boggling.
    I remember telling my husband that I would keep looking hard for her for one week.
    I followed up on every supposed sighting (there were only 2) and someone in our family
    checked the local animal shelters daily to see if she had made her way back there.
    We drove around Red Bank, Tennessee yelling out the window for hours. Six days
    after her disappearance I got in bed and told my husband, “I don’t think she’s coming back.”
    The next morning was my monthly #CHAedu #coffeeEDU at the donut shop.
    Local educators that want to come together once a month to discuss education topics
    of our choice for one hour. It’s a very fluid, organic meeting that I love. That morning
    we had more participants than we had ever had and right when it was time to start,
    my phone rang...and I answered it. It was the executive director of our local humane
    society and he told me he thought he had Secret but she had been hit by a car and
    would need surgery. Both my girls were working at the donut shop that morning
    and I quickly updated them and left. The meeting went on without me! I may or may
    not have driven a tad erratically but that is not pertinent to this. As I entered the
    building the director told me she had been brought in the night before due to a phone
    call they had received that a dog had been hit in Red Bank. They had taken her
    to a local animal hospital for x-rays and to make sure nothing was life threatening
    and one of the ladies that worked there thought she recognized the dog. The next
    morning she called the humane society because she had scoured social media and
    found the photo and gave the executive director my contact information. Our Secret
    was back with us, a little worse for wear, but 2 surgeries later we have all put that
    loss behind us. We have not forgotten the power of people coming together using
    technology for a greater good. We spend so much time warning, threatening, and
    scaring kids about social media but what an opportunity for me to model usage that
    had an outcome with a happy ending. Crowdsourced dog finding! We all have stories
    and the more real they are to our students, the more likely they will have an impact
    that will matter at the appropriate time.

      Other ideas for creating "Digital Citizen" opportunities in your classroom:

                              NO TECH                                LOW TECH                       HIGH TECH                         
      Digital Citizen
      Use newspapers to discuss articles that used technology and then discuss the impact of media on our footprint. Also, pull in a discussion on the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship using these articles.
      Have students volunteer to be “googled” or google yourself as a teacher and talk about the importance of an appropriate digital footprint. Discuss if having no footprint is good or bad?
      Have students create a Fakebook for a historical or fictional character then discuss the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship and how they relate to your character.

      Thursday, May 16, 2019

      Voice and Choice - Dissecting ISTE Standard for Student "Empowered Learner"

      ISTE Student Standard #1- Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

      The idea of centers is nothing new in education. In fact, if you are an elementary teacher centers/stations are probably a part of your day, every day. They allow you to work with small groups, they allow for embedded movement and centers/stations can be a great way to differentiate. But how often do we let students choose which center/station to learn a concept from? Or even yet, how often do we help students learn which ways they learn best through giving voice and choice of how they learn and feedback to help them think through what works best for them? For most teachers, this isn’t our natural way to teach but with the advent of this thing called the internet, we no longer have to be the imparter of all things known as knowledge in the classroom. Beyond that, we shouldn’t take that role on a regular basis. We should be growing our students into lifelong learners that know how to learn. Is this missing from your classroom?

      For more years than less, teachers have spent 7 hours a day teaching all students in their classroom the exact same information knowing that some kids would get it quickly, some kids would eventually get it and some kids would never get it. We learned to teach to the middle. We hope that the quicker learners will help the slower learners as we work the classroom helping the average to slower learners and we have this predictable bell curve every year of what signifies our blood, sweat, and tears in trying to make a difference in this world.

      Because of the closeness of information availability, our students no longer have to be completely dependent on the teacher to know the subject matter. The ubiquitousness of technology gives both the educator and the student the ability to consider the educational process differently. Platforms like YouTube and Khan Academy create opportunities for students to learn anytime, anywhere, and pretty much anything. Some students are doing just that. But how do we empower all students to be more involved in their learning path?

      This is where giving them voice and choice in their learning process could make a difference. It’s not going to come naturally to them. One would think that when you say “Ok, kiddos you can choose how you want to learn this concept today - here are 3 choices” that they would be like, “finally!” But students are conditioned to learn the way we have taught them all these years. Tell me what I need to know so I can regurgitate it back to you to prove that I was listening in class. I’m not saying teachers don’t try to differentiate the way they instruct but let’s be real, most classes follow a predictable pattern of instruction that would look familiar to anyone walking in the door.

      How do we change this? Options. It will take time on your part to create these options but what if students walked into class and there were 3 different stations in the room and they were given a rubric that let them know what they needed to learn that day. Let’s say the lesson was for third graders to learn about Electrical Circuits. You walked into the room and you see:
      • Area 1 in the classroom is set up with 9-volt batteries, alligator clips, and a section of Christmas tree lights with one light available. (high tech)
      • Area 2 set up with a video cued and ready to go in front of a group of desks. (low tech)
      • Area 3 there is a small area in the front of the room where the teacher is waiting to lead a lesson on circuits. (no tech)
      In the above case, you are creating voice and choice and have high tech, low tech, and no tech options all in the same lesson. But how can you empower your learners in other ways? 
      What are ways you can look at ISTE Student Standard #1 "Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences" in your classroom (yes, even a high school classroom) that would allow you to feel like you were introducing or even helping student master the concept of knowing what it means to be an empowered learner? If you are unsure, click on the link in the first line of this post and look at the breakdown of Standard 1, then create an opportunity. 

      Other ideas for creating "Empowered Learner" opportunities in the classroom:

      Thursday, May 9, 2019

      Hindsight: How I *WISH* I had Supported Our Technology Rollout

      According to wikipedia, the first iPad was released on April 3, 2010 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPad). Simon Sinek originally published his book Start with the Why in 2009. Oh to have read that book then! Mobile devices in education have been a messy journey. I find great comfort in knowing we aren't the only school that has muddled through this. I hear, see, and gain insight from people all over the country as I ask "What works for you in this situation?" as we finished up year 6 of a 1:1 plan that continues to develop and adjust to the ever-changing needs of our students. Our school started out as BYOT in middle and high school and we are slowly transitioning to chromebook rollouts over the next few years. Our elementary school started with a rolling cart of iPads and we have slowly added more and more into the mix for use and a chromebook cart as well.

      In the beginning, we introduced Google suites and annotation options to our upper school teachers but there was never really a "why" that all our teachers feel comfortable hanging their hat on. Most recently, our upper school teachers have been held accountable for the following:

      • All mechanically scorable assessment items must be completed in Canvas.
      • Students must be allowed to submit written work (papers) electronically without having to submit an additional paper copy.
      Over the last few years, we have created a Technology Integration: Goals and Outcomes for Students document. This document is based on the ISTE Standards for Students and it represents the technology skills and abilities we want to see a graduating senior from our school being able to accomplish. This is our why. These goals and outcomes prepare students for their future. It seemed we finally figured out the why but I will say even knowing that is a need, it is hard for educators to discern what that means to them and their classrooms. Heck, it is hard for technology leaders to discern how best to move forward in creating these opportunities for all students!

      Our desire to set skill lists and minimum usage requirements for teachers is a feeble attempt at best to reform education with a tool. Google, MIE, and Apple have created leveled educator certifications to prove teachers know the tools and platforms but the question still remains...are we using technology in a transformational way? The last 2 years I found myself focusing on this. How do we help teachers to see how to use these devices in their classrooms for transformed learning. I found myself focusing on the ISTE Standards for Students because they seem to focus on reforming the educational process from the student perspective. I then looked at each of the 7 standards and broke them down into really hands-on applications for teachers to consider in a no tech, low tech, or high tech environment. All of a sudden I found myself writing a book. A book that I have not published but one that keeps pulling at me.

      In November 2018 I led a session called "Tech Knowledge...Gee!" at the Tennessee Education Technology Conference that basically looked at the topic of my "book in process" and helped educators dissect each of the ISTE Student standards to look at ways they were potentially teaching each topic in their classroom in no tech, low tech or high tech ways. If they looked at the standard and couldn't think of an option, we as a group sat together to brainstorm ideas for them. Those that attended found the concept extremely helpful because they were no longer looking at the device or platform but more as a concept they wanted their students to understand. For teachers, this created a clarity that they did not have before. It is our nature to look for recipes that have the ingredients we already have in the kitchen. For educators, we often do this. "I have 5 chromebooks and Google suites, what can I make with this?" But often this means we are missing out on the gourmet meal that we could cook.

      Over the next few weeks, I have decided to break down the chapters of this book into blog posts to help others look at technology integration through a different lens. I will say that some of the ISTE Standards for Students lend themselves to certain disciplines. Don't force yourself to hit every standard just so you can say you did if you are an English teacher BUT I do believe every standard can be supported in every classroom. Stay tuned for more!

      Friday, May 3, 2019

      The Chasm Grows: Public versus Private

      My heart is burdened. One of the things that always bothered me as an educator is how polarized I often felt as a private school educator when I attended conferences. Oftentimes the conferences are sponsored by state education departments and even in the opening sessions I can feel completely confused at the acronyms and current mandates being discussed. I have even felt judged at times because I have chosen to teach at a Christian private school at this point in my life as opposed to public schools. I didn't like how the chasm made me feel. I remember discussing it with a public school educator friend and he said, "I think there is a lot we can learn from each other. We each have things we do well. For instance, I stand amazed at what private schools can do with so little money." That very simple statement made me feel the support I needed at that moment.

      The desire to mend this chasm started working on me thanks to Edcamp Gigcity. As part of the planning team that represented private, public, higher ed, and k12 educators I made friendships that helped me to see it was time for me to be intentional in trying to break down the walls I felt in order to prosper as an educator in ways that each group could offer. Greg Bagby, the coordinator for educational technology for Hamilton County, Tennessee schools has always been a friend and resource for me. Together, we currently co-moderate #TnEdChat weekly twitter chat. This is a really simple way to get out of the silo of your workspace to hear the thoughts of other educators across the world, not just your state. The connections I have made through this chat have helped me to feel less disconnected with fellow educators.

      From that, I started a monthly coffeeEDU opportunity. This concept was first developed by Alice Keeler. Our #CHAedu monthly meet up allows educators from anywhere in the Chattanooga area to get together for one hour, one day a month to discuss educational topics of their choice. What I gain from these Saturdays is amazingly valuable. Representation from different states, districts, and roles helps me to see outside of what is often my narrow viewpoint. And as Jim David once said to me regarding a conference he was attending, "I didn't know what I didn't know." This monthly event is often eye-opening for me.

      By choosing to bridge the chasm between public and private schools I've learned that if I want to know something about Open Education Resources, Dan Lawson is my guy. If I have a burning question on how to utilize a chromebook for math instruction, I can reach out to Dan Lyons. If I want to query area schools about their SIS, I can ask the pros and cons of what my friends use and I get real answers.

      But I see outside forces making each camp feel uneasy. Even more disturbing, I am seeing educators feel they have to "protect" their schools. Public school educators feel they have to wear shirts that say "I love Public School." Private School educators feel the generalities being said about the boujeèness of their jobs are unjust. Instead of bonding together, the chasm grows. I believe wholeheartedly that I am exactly where I am supposed to be a Christian school educator. I also know my friend Jennifer Rimback feels completely in God's will being a guidance counselor in public education. I stand amazed at the level of care she gives ALL the students at the high school she is at even though the number of students has to feel like a daunting task. I sometimes get jealous of the level of support Greg Bagby gets from software companies due to the funding of those initiatives by his county.

      What I know is in my amazement, confusion, and sometimes even jealousy of what is going on in the schools of all my educator friends, we are better together. My prayer is that we can rise above the things that polarize us and continue to grow together to benefit all students everywhere. Less finger pointing, more applauding the positives and helping each other work through the negatives. We are all facing the daunting task of being called to educate the workforce of the future. Let's continue to model the importance of linking arms in this bigger journey called life so that we can learn from each other.