Saturday, June 22, 2019

Creative Communicator: Unpacking ISTE Standard for Students #6

Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. (ISTE Standard for Students)

So this may seem like a hard standard to pull off in a non-techie classroom but bear with me. This one is important! Some of the other standards are much more technical and forward thinking but the basic skill of communication is one that so many people face with emotional struggle. Adults often choose the wrong platform or format to share our grievances or we don't take advantage of the potential audiences we have for the worthy things we want to share. Or worse yet, we don't have the verbalization skills to share the great work that is being done. In this case, I'm talking about adults but it definitely transfers over to our students seven-fold!

I know we have already discussed digital citizenship in a prior blog post in this series but I believe communication is one of the most critical parts of being a good steward in the world of technology. I also believe that in today's society, we are losing our ability to have face to face conversations that are hard. (I'm preaching to myself here.) I hate conflict and would much rather broach a hard subject via email and then follow up face to face. Technology can make us lazy communicators and sadly it can also give us courage that we shouldn't always take advantage of.  

My husband makes fun of my girls and me because we will read a text and say, "Oh, she's mad!" He will then say, "How do you know? Did she tell you she was mad?" and my answer might be "Because she wrote in ALL CAPS" or "I can just tell." or "She used the angry face emoji." It drives him crazy. Communicating through technology often loses the nuances that face to face communication brings. That being said, to say we should strive to equip our students to be creative communicators is a vital skill for their future. There is not a single job I can think of in today's mainstream society that doesn't require the ability to communicate with others. So cheer up non-techie friends, even though you might not have the technology to support this, you will be aiding your students' ability to function in a face to face world even better if you make this standard a priority. 

  • So what does a low tech or unplugged version of "creative communicator" look like? This year, one of our Bible teachers challenged his students to create memes after they finished the unit of the life of St. Paul. He told them to think of it like creating an Instagram post, but since social media is closed to students at our school, they created their posts using a slide deck. Their captions were full of written nuances that they gleaned from their studying. How brilliant was this lesson? He took a platform that students use every day and assessed their learning based on a current fad in society- memes. I love this idea! Did it have to be done on a slide deck? No. They could have done it with markers and papers just as easily. Or what if they had taken an actual photo and put the words right on top of it. Guys, that would be no different than app-smashing on an iPad (combining one or more platforms to create an original work).
  • Remember oral reports? Hands sweaty, waiting for your name to be called so you can do your at least 3-minute speech on some topic. Sometimes you have a posterboard sitting next to you as a visual when you talk, sometimes you don't. Next time this opportunity arises in your classroom, stretch your students a bit. Tell them they have 3 minutes to be creative communicators instead of 3 minutes to give a book report. See what happens! Encourage them to build models, have visuals, and think about their intended audience. Open the door to increased connectivity and creativity. Give them a bigger audience than just you and their classmates. Ask in other classes, parents, or any visitor that would make the moment more special. Spend time beforehand teaching them skills of voice control, inflection, eye contact, and body language. You might not be teaching them digital skills but you sure will be teaching them the importance of being a creative communicator. Talk to them about what subject matters might benefit most from certain types of visuals. One day when they have the opportunity to use technology to enhance their already amazing communication skills, think about what they might do! Last week I had the honor of attending the Chattanooga Fab Institute and the keynote speaker for the first day was Shinjini Das, CEO and founder of Das Media Group (see her story here). Her charisma and ability to engage with the crowd is unique for a 27-year-old engineer. She has the face to face communication skills that don't necessarily fit with the stereotypical STEM field. She's a unicorn in her industry and we need to develop more unicorns in the STEM field. There is value in growing students that can not only DO but also SAY!
  • Own it! Yeah, you the teacher. Your students may not have access to social media but you do. Find out your school district's stance on sharing student information/faces online and make sure you follow those guidelines. Then start using social media to show students when and how it can be a good platform for communication. Create a class blog and share the things happening in your classroom. Contact the author of a book with questions your students have curated while they read the author's book and send them to the author. Have your students create "how to" videos to relate to your curriculum and add to them yourself. Create a website using Google Sites templates and add poetry, photos, or well-written work. Seem like too much work? You don't have to retype everything they have turned in, take a photo and upload it! It is true, it does become a bit of extra work for you as a whole but you are modeling for your students how to be a creative communicator and adding value to the hard work they do in your classroom by showcasing to a broader audience. You are also showing your students how to add value to the digital world they live in. So much of digital citizenship focuses on a list of dangers and safeguards to be aware of but as a citizen, we also want to bring value to that world. Sharing learning and creating pathways for others to learn from our students does just that. 
  • Be a trailblazer. Show students the value of communicating with new tools. Adopt the concept of using voice speakers in the classroom or for communicating with students and families. Create communication means meeting needs in effective ways. Why not choose the fastest growing platform since the iPhone to show students what it means to stay on the edge of learning? 
More ideas for no tech, low tech, and high tech teaching of this standard:

Check out the previous blog posts from the "Unpacking ISTE Standards for Students Techknowledge Gee" here:

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Computational Thinker: Unpacking ISTE Student Standard #5

Help your students think like a robot? What is the value in that? Sequential, computational thinking allows students to understand the reasons computers do the things they do. Learning how to think computationally allows users to get the most of their tools. In a tech-rich environment, this looks like teaching students coding, or introducing them to spreadsheet functions to analyze data, or using 3D printers to create models for learning different components in order to answer a bigger problem.

But what does a non-tech classroom look like that teaches computational thinking? I mean, the word "computer" is in the goal?! Believe it or not, it can be done with something as inexpensive as paper, markers, and Solo cups. So let's discuss this unplugged party! One of the goals of computational thinking is to help students think about complex problems in smaller increments.

  • Start with explaining binary code by having students draw their name with each letter's code being represented with a different color. Or, create a necklace using straw pieces that spell out something using the binary code ASCII alphabet. This begins the process of understanding that computers talk to each other based on a certain "code."
  • You don't have to have computers or bots to teach coding. Put different colored dots or Solo cups on the ground and ask your students to get from point A to point B, C, etc by mapping it out. Working in pairs or small groups is great for this endeavor! But how does that relate to your high school English class or your Spanish 2 class? How often do you give your students an assignment and they jump important parts of the process, or miss key moments that foreshadow something that changes the whole direction of the book? When you are teaching directions and common words in a foreign language, what if the students actually mapped it up in the language and learned to code at the same time? 
Does teaching this standard seem like a stretch to you? I hear teachers say all the time, "I love the things I find on Pinterest and see teachers doing on Twitter but I can't figure out how to do the 'fun stuff' and still teach my curriculum too. How are they doing that?" The answer is CREATIVITY. I've seen kids code Dash and Dot robots to a certain location in the classroom, open up an envelope and find the next spelling word to add to their piece of paper. Turn the mundane into a mini-lesson. You don't have to have a robot to do that, use the unplugged version mentioned above!

Are you students studying something in your classroom that happened in Germany? Have students create a "code" with one block equalling X many miles to get from your classroom to the location. Then as a class, go to and have students look at a newspaper during that time period in that area versus your area and then make deductions on the differences of the cultures through the lens of what you are currently discussing in class. Coding is a great way to start the process of setting the plot, setting, and theme.

So some of you have plowed through the above ideas and thought "Yeah, but why add that level of extra work to my lesson plans?" I get it, I struggled with that as well and then I saw the engagement that happened when a teacher didn't just say "Today we are going to read ______, it takes place in ________ in the 20th century." But do it not only for engagement but also because you see the value of those ISTE Standards for Students as a way of making sure your students are prepared for the road ahead of them. Even if your classroom doesn't have ready access to technology or you don't know the first thing about coding a computer.

In 1999 the U.S.Department of Labor said 65% of today's grade-school children will end up in jobs that have not been invented yet. ( Folks, that was 20 years ago! We have to help students think computationally. It isn't about an iPad, Chromebook, laptop, or wearable technology. As Tom Murray said at FETC 2017, "The technology our students are using today is the worst technology they will ever use." We have to prepare them for that unknown to the best of our abilities. We are living in a world of accelerated change!

I personally am greatly intrigued by the idea of enhancing the classroom setting by using voice speakers such as Echo Dots and Google Assistants. I find myself longing for the knowledge of how to code for these devices to better equip classrooms with personalized Alexa Skills and Google Actions. In a very real way, I am seeing how focusing on ISTE Student Standard #5 would have benefited me as a student for my future.
No Tech Low Tech High Tech

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Innovative Designer- Unpacking ISTE Student Standard #4

Innovative DesignerStudents use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. (ISTE Standards for Students)

I'll be honest, this is one of the standards I really struggled with from ISTE. An innovative designer seems less about technology and more about design thinking to me. It feels less about supporting technology integration and more about impacting pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. I struggled with the fact that this was deemed a "tech" standard. Is it a good process for learning? Absolutely! I was just not sure I would consider it a need for technology integration. 

I do believe learning the skills to become an innovative designer should be part of the educational process. The truth of the matter is, we should be teaching students how to think, not what to think. One of my favorite quotes to remind myself not to become too pompous as an educator is attributed to Albert Einstein, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." So when I look at the goal of empowering students to become "innovative designers" I automatically think of the design thinking process. 

Often when I am struggling with something in the educational arena I throw the question out to my professional learning network on Twitter and I ask for their opinions. So I asked, "why should students learn the design thinking process?" And just like that, the answers rolled in from my edupals:

"Students are already design thinking, they just don't know it yet. It's about getting students to process their thinking by sketching or mind mapping or lists." - Nathan Stevens

"formalized process provides a framework for engagement. Done well, rather than stifling creativity.  It bridges creative with critical thinking." - Michael Stone

"Collaboration. Imagine roads without rules or conventions for drivers. Design Thinking adds structure to the process, it is non-threatening and effective." - Chris Tenbarge

"The empathy component alone makes it worth it. Students need to engage not only in the work but the meaning behind the work." - James David

While I might struggle with seeing innovative designer an integral part of technology integration in every classroom, I do consider it an extremely important skill for computer science and STEM-based classes. As an instructional technologist, I see the importance of thinking critically about technology. Therefore, this leads me to see the importance of being innovative designers. Looking through the lens of critique at all technology platforms is going to be an important part of the future for today's students. This standard will help them do just that. Students need to start accepting the fact that every form of technology can include both benefits and detriments to them. By creating pathways for students to become innovative designers and to teach them to filter technology tools through the lens of Challenge--->Inspiration & Empathy--->Opportunities--->Ideate--->Experiment we help the next generation go informed into their future.

Ways to help students become an innovative designer: 
                                                       NO TECH                  LOW TECH                     HIGH TECH