We hear often today that we need to be collaborating with others outside of our classrooms. It isn’t enough that we only talk within our own schools and districts. We should be talking with other educators and students outside of our schools, but what does that really mean? Until recently I really didn’t know what it meant, even though I believed we should be engaging in those kinds of activities. So I thought I’d briefly describe my recent experiences facilitating collaboration between UNI students and CAL elementary students.
What we are doing here at UNI is connecting with rural schools and one of them is the CAL school district. One of our courses takes all of the UNI students out to CAL towards the end of the semester for a full day of the arts. Leading up to that culminating event are a number of smaller events and one of them is a video conference between CAL and UNI. We are doing that today in fact and my biggest take away is ensuring that we make every moment a learning experience, both for the CAL students, but also the UNI students.
For CAL students, they are excited to learn more about who the UNI students are: What’s your favorite color, do you have any pets, what’s your favorite thing to do outside? These are just a few among a host of questions the CAL students have had. For the UNI student, their learning surrounds becoming a teacher. What questions should we ask? What do we do if they don’t say anything? How do you relate to students on their grade level? What do I do if I freeze up and don’t know what to say? These are just a few of the things we talked about here at UNI between groups.
As I look at the learning that’s taking place for students at both ends, I can see truly see the value of collaboration, especially with those outside the school. Which brings me to my point. If we are really going to take advantage of collaboration and not simply collaborate in name only, we really need to be deliberate about what the students are learning when they collaborate. It isn’t enough to open Skype, the Polycom, or Google Hangout. There has to be substance to what the students are doing. It sounds so simple, but even today it took us a minute to really discover where we needed to target our learning for the day.
What I’m trying to say then is that collaboration is only as good as you make it…so make it good. It truly makes a difference.
If you’ve been following over the last year or so, you might remember that I was given the opportunity to create a learning environment that provides the means to create learning experiences that are transformative in nature. For more information about what I mean, go here and scroll to the middle of the page to the Emerging Qualities of Effective Teaching Continuum.
As the last year has progressed, we were actually able to implement my design in a classroom (the TEE room or Transformative Education Environment) in the College of Education and this semester is the first semester where we have teachers using the classroom. I’m extremely excited and happy with how things have turned out, but this is just the beginning. Because all I’ve done is bought a bunch of stuff and then put it in a classroom. Remember, my task was to create the means or the potential for transformative teaching and learning to take place.
The reality is that transformative education doesn’t just happen because a bunch of equipment and furniture was put in a classroom. Rather, there has to be professional development around what it means to be transformative, which is now going to be my focus moving forward with the grant.
I’m currently working with faculty on in the college to create and implement a PD series that is aligned to the TQP Transformative Model (see link above). As I was designing the room and aligning it to the model as much as I could, I clearly could see a connection for needing a certain amount of technology in the classroom. Therefore, as I move forward with creating PD I’m being very conscious of the role technology has and how it can be used effectively. Therefore, I’ll be leveraging TPACK as I work with others on campus to offer PD for faculty and students.
TEE PD is in it’s infancy and I’m hoping to take this semester to do a small pilot and then ramp up in the fall. This is certainly an exciting time for me and will certainly be an exciting path ahead.
So I haven’t blogged since mid-September, which is much less than I want, but as it is, I’ve been busy. Which is good! I’ve been working with faculty here at UNI and teachers in our partner schools to use technology in their courses. I thought I’d share a major theme that has emerged over the last month: it’s all about access and support.
Not surprisingly if you give educators the tools and time to learn how to use them, they’re going to create some amazing things for their students to be engaged with during their courses. However, this often isn’t the case in many schools. For any number of reasons the access just isn’t there. However, with the grant, I’ve been able to help provide access to a number of educators. This access has taken many different forms, from equipment to software to my time and to the time of those around them. This certainly shouldn’t be anything new, but I sometimes think we forget that if we simply provide the time for teachers to work together toward a common goal, they can accomplish amazing things. Like we should ever doubt them. They teach our kids. They should be some of the most trusted people we know.
But providing access to technology and the right people has only been part of the theme. The other part is support. This support has expressed itself in many ways, such as: administrative support before, during, and after professional development, technical support, curricular support, and sometimes, moral support. There have been ups and downs over the last month, but we’ve always held strong and kept moving forward. We haven’t let problems derail us in our pursuit of our goals. Often the best solution is asking teachers what support to be successful and then following through. It doesn’t always mean being immediate, but it does mean following through.
This has been a little big picture, but as I look at my experiences over the last month, there are too many to describe here. The pace is likely to keep up until November and then I’ll take some time to debrief more specifically. Until then, here are some helpful tips to help guide your work.
I think there are two ways you can look at technology in education. The first, and most often way people look at it, is through the assignments students complete using technology. This could include basically any assignment students are required to do through the use of technology. I’m thinking digital storytelling projects that require students to use cameras, software, and the like. But there’s also another aspect that is overlooked, which I’m going to term lesson-based technology use.
Technology use doesn’t need to be an assignment to be used effectively. Rather, technology can be leveraged in the classroom to enhance the teaching that is already taking place, not to mention the opportunity for something new to happen. In this regard, I’m thinking of lesson-based things you could do with technology such as: setting up a back channel during a lecture, bringing in an expert through a video conference, or something as easy as having access to the Internet to bring in outside resources and opinions.
But it isn’t always as easy as…which is why many teachers resist. Often teachers don’t have faith in the technology working or that they won’t get the intended outcomes they wanted from the technology. The locus of control is beyond their grasp and when it comes down to it, we don’t have the required trust in other people, the system, or simply that the technology will work. Usually this is due to past experience.
That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and I often don’t, which is why I try to eliminate barriers that prevent teachers from doing something really amazing with technology in their classrooms. Will things go right the first time you try it in the classroom, probably not. But that doesn’t mean we need to stop trying to make it work. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight and it often takes a considerable amount of time. I understand that teaching time is sacred, but only to the extent that we fail to be relevant.
So my question to you is, are there ways you want to use technology in your classrooms? If so, are there any barriers that I can help remove or reduce to make this happen?
I was asked yesterday to be thinking about what the classroom of the next generation might look like as we may invest in the redesign of a classroom here at UNI to use with the grant. As I was thinking about what I would want in my classroom for pre-service teachers, I came up with the following:
- Moveable furniture that is lightweight and allows for a number of configurations
- Displays mounted around the periphery of the classroom to allow students to work in small groups and for students to display mastery
- There would be no front of the classroom
- A larger display or IWB could be used for entire class problem solving and discussion
- A wireless mobile device for all learners, including the instructor
- Necessary for
connecting to the outside world and for changing the configuration of the classroom learning in the 21st century
- Comfortable and easy to move seating, preferably with wheels and cushions
- Video conferencing technology to connect with experts in multiple content areas as well as in the field
- Audience Response System for increasing the number of formative assessments given during the course
- Ubiquitous wireless Internet access, it just has to work
- Writable surfaces (walls, tables, windows, floors, etc.)
- Sound proof teaching rooms
- Each room needs video conference technology and display
- Allow pre-service teachers opportunity to teach during course to put theory into practice (I’m thinking a Distance-based PD School type experience)
- Experts (faculty, teachers, other experts) are available to assist, observe, co-teach, etc.
- Other classroom technologies (digital cameras, camcorders, scanners, slates, etc.)
However, the physical classroom is only part of the equation. There is a virtual classroom that must also be accompanied with all physical classrooms. Here is my short list of general features of virtual classrooms:
- Common online meeting space that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime
- Membership to the virtual class should include experts in multiple content areas and experts from the field
- Needs to allow for high levels of collaboration
- Needs to be flexible and user friendly to have as low of a learning curve as possible
- Needs to allow for high personalization at the user level
This is what I see as being crucial for transforming learning in schools. The role of everyone in the classroom changes. There is no front of the classroom for the teacher to “teach” from, rather, the teacher moves around the room supporting small groups or individual students. Those groups will change, which means the basic structure and configuration of the classroom needs to be flexible.
Above is a crude, very crude, sketch of what I think the physical classroom would look like. (Please excuse my awful drawing skills). The main point I want to get across is that the classroom needs to be flexible, open, comfortable, and highly structured for collaboration.
What does your classroom for the next generation look like? Leave a comment!
With all the camcorders we are sending out with our UNI students it is going to be important to keep track of who has the equipment and when it comes and goes. I ended up not having time to do this for the first round of TQP field experiences that took place a few weeks ago, but now that everything made it back I decided I better come up with some kind of solution before we add 6 more courses next semester and 12 more faculty next year.
So what I decided to do was to use a QR Code connected to a Google Form, which serves as my chechout/in system for all our equipment. So what essentially happens is a TQP team member will scan the QR Code on the camcorder (see picture) and then will load the website. On the website the form asks for the the student’s name, the type of device they are checking out, the number associated with the device, and then there is a checklist of equipment that is going out with the student.
The workflow is as follows:
- the code is scanned,
- form filled out noting all the equipment that is going out with the student,
- student takes equipment to field experience,
- student brings equipment back to TQP office after field experience,
- code is scanned again,
- equipment is checked to make sure everything is there and if there are any damages, and
- then the form is submitted to finalize the checkin.
I required the form to require a login from users via the UNI Google Apps system and then I collect the username/email of the person filling out the form. This should help prevent anyone from filling out the form but not turning in the equipment. When the form is completed a confirmation email is sent out to the person completing the form which can then be emailed to the student as a form of receipt.
Anyway, that is my QR Code checkout system. You can create a system just like this too. Just create a Google Form with the required information and then create a QR Code for the URL. Print the QR Code on a label (I used the permanent Avery 6570) and affix to your device/item. Then download any QR Code (I am using Qrafter) reader for your device (iOS, Android, Blackberry) and start scanning.
I’ve been busy @unitqp lately. We recently just wrapped up participation week, which is when the majority of level three students (field experience typically before student teaching that requires 30 hours in the field) complete the field experience of their methods course. Through the work of the grant we are trying something new where we record our students when they are out in the field and use that as a way to show/highlight areas the students are doing well and not so well. One thing many of us can attest to is that it is easy to gloss over something that didn’t go so well when writing an essay or creating a portfolio. This creates a system that promotes students without addressing some of the underlying developmental problems that could be preventing them from becoming excellent teachers.
With the use of video we are hoping to prevent more instances where students slip through the cracks. Now that we have had our maiden voyage as it were, there are some things that I wanted to share some tips about recording yourself in the classroom. If you want to learn more about the process the students went through, go here.
- If someone is available to help record while you are teaching, have them help. The video will only be as good as it is pointed in the direction of all the action in the classroom. While this may not be a problem for the traditional teacher who lectures all period, this may be more problematic for the student centered teachers that move around a lot in the classroom.
- If someone does help you record, have them use a tripod. There is nothing worse than shaky video and it’s even worse when the audio is scratchy because they were touching the microphone without knowing it.
- Reduce the ambient noise in the room if possible. Turn fans, radios, and anything else that makes noise off. Also close windows and doors. This may seem simple, and it is, but the quality of the audio will improve dramatically. Which is important because the video is as much about seeing your actions as it is hearing your words.
- Move the camcorder as close as possible to the source of audio, while still capturing the video you need to see. For example, if you have a camcorder setup in the very back of the room with 5 rows of desks, but students only sit in the first two rows, move the camcorder closer to the front of the room, while still behind the students. This will result in louder and more clear audio.
- If you can export the video from the device to a useable medium, then use that as your camcorder regardless if it is your phone, iPod, iPad, or a standard camcorder. We used a variety of camcorders and had good results across each. Some performed better than others, but the quality of video was still very nice. You don’t need to have high end equipment to get high end results.
- If sharing your video with someone else, cut the length down to a manageable amount. No one really needs to see you teach for 50 plus minutes. Instead, target the area you want to improve upon the most or that will help your friend improve the most. The Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) requires only 10 minutes of video for their teacher performance assessments at the pre-service level. Whether or not this is enough for in-service teachers, I’m unsure. Regardless, take ten minutes to cut out some of the material that isn’t going to add value to your practice and share everything else.
- As with everything that includes minors, get parent permission if you plan to use the video for anything beyond your own reflection.
- When you are done with the video, never to use it again, delete it. No need to dwell on the past.
Over the past month and a half, I’ve been leading a technology support group for the faculty that are working on the grant pilot project. This time is meant to be a time for them to step away from everything else they are doing, to learn about a way they can infuse technology into their classroom. The focus is both on how to use the technology, but more importantly, how to teach with the technology. Essentially I talk about the hardware and the pedagogy to make it work in the classroom in a meaningful way. I go in with very little in terms of an agenda and the meetings last no more than an hour. In other words, we spend about an hour in focused play time.
What I’ve noticed now after doing a few of these is that regardless of how complex or useful or (insert adjetive here) the technology tool I’m showing them is, they are gaining technological confidence. Many of the people I’m working with are very reserved with technology and have preferred to not use it in the past, but they are taking the initiative to come to these meetings to learn one thing. But as I’ve learned after doing this, the faculty end up asking more questions about technology, regardless of whether or not it is related to the topic at hand. They have the chance to ask the questions and interact with the technology without any interruptions. Once their questions are answered, they try something new and get more questions. Then we try to answer those and they try something new again. It’s a cycle and one I’m really excited about.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that we all need to take time to get together with our colleagues, ask questions, and interact (both discussion and hands-on) about a technology. Just one thing with no interruptions. This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but I think it’s not something we typically do with our colleagues. Or at least not in a meaningful way (i.e. monthly PD typically doesn’t count).
So my question to you is, have you taken the time to play lately? We have, and it’s great!
Today was the inaugural TQP Technology Support Group meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to get TQP faculty together to learn about the technology we are using in the grant. It gives everyone time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the regular work day to take some time to first learn one new technology and then how to use that technology in a meaningful way in the classroom.
If you’ve been following UNI TQP you might know that the faculty are using iPads with their courses as well as once they go into the field for the clinical experience. However, there is so much any one person could learn about the iPad that it’s often difficult to plan training during our monthly faculty meetings. So instead we took a different approach and decided to find a time when the faculty that were interested could come together and learn how to use some of the technology. This would be separate from everything else we do with TQP, but still connected to the underlying objectives we hope to achieve.
While the majority of the sessions will focus on the iPad, soon they will expand to other technologies, such as BlackBoard, video cameras, and video conferencing. Today we talked about the camera app on the iPad. You can catch a synopsis of the session over at the iPad Blog.
Note: This post is cross posted at TQP
Today and tomorrow I’ll be attending the Iowa Mentoring and Induction Institute in Cedar Falls. Looking at the agenda a very clear theme is effective teaching, which has been something I’ve been emerged with over the last year. This morning the keynote speaker was Linda Darling Hammond which truly was a treat. What I left her keynote with was the fact that we need to teach our students to learn to learn. We no longer are able to teach our students static content because the rate with which content changes is so rapid that what students learn their Freshman year will out dated by the time they enter their sophomore year. So our challenge as educators is preparing our students for a world where content evolves very quickly, but how do we do that effectively and in a way that closes the achievement gap? The answer is to begin teaching our students to learn to learn. This will allow them to learn the content they need when it matters most to them. This is a different path forward than what has been done in the past but if we are going to remain relevant, this is the only path forward.
I’ll try to post a little more throughout the conference, but what do you think about effective teaching? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment or better yet, take this conversation back to your school and community.