Don’t discount the abilities of young children…

Nora’s first selfie video at age 3.

Picture by Nora Age 2Nora taking a picture of me at age 2.

Nora Selfie Age 2
Nora taking a selfie at age 2.

Nora Selfie to Instagram Age 1  Nora posting a selfie to her mom’s Instagram at age 1.

 My question is, if a child can do all of this before entering school, what can children do using technologies with a little help from a teacher? We need to stop underestimating the abilities of the youngest around us. They can do powerful things if we give them just a little help…

#UNIETD Post 1: What would Dewey do?

Dewey (1976) said:

…to satisfy an impulse or interest means to work it out, and working it out involves running up against obstacles, becoming acquainted with materials, exercising ingenuity, patience, persistence, alertness, it of necessity involves discipline, -ordering of power-and supplies knowledge (p. 25).

I’ve started reading Dewey a bit more lately as I begin writing my dissertation and I’m struck by how clear he is and, yet, how muddied improving our educational practices have become since Dewey’s time. Sticking to what I know, I immediately reflect to the professional development experiences surrounding new technologies that teachers everywhere are subjected to, some times on a monthly basis. The idea that no single technological innovation exists for all teachers (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) highlights the almost cruel nature and certainly squandered learning time for teachers when they attend such professional development sessions. So as I reflect and make sense of what I’m reading, I ask: What would Dewey do? How would Dewey approach professional development for teachers surrounding what in fact are critical issues facing not just our society with regards to being competent problem solvers, critical thinkers, collaborators, etc., all at the intersection of content, pedagogy, and technology.

The quote above, to me, provides some clarity. While Dewey was talking about children, I feel at heart we all are children only as we get older we conform more to society and the responsibilities that go with being an adult, an employee, a teacher, a parent. Why can’t we explore the topics, the needs, the desires that our teachers have? That’s what Dewey is saying we should do and when we do, it’s going to be a little bumpy and that’s okay. The bumps provide openings for weaving in subject-matter  knowledge and skills, which is the concern we all have as educators. How will the students learn the content if we don’t teach them? They key is to indulge students in their interests and use that to wrap in the content they are supposed to learn.

So as we approach professional development for teachers, we should listen and think about what Dewey would do. Let’s listen to the teachers and see what they’re interested in or what problems they are experiencing in the classroom. Then start working with them so they can create educational technology solutions at the intersection of content, pedagogy, and technologies.

My #ITEC13 Reflection

After two days of waking early and making the trek to Des Moines from Waterloo, I find myself on #ITEC13 +1 having trouble sleeping in to my normal 6am and instead thinking about everything I learned over the last two days…at 4am mind you… So, rather than have an isolated reflection while futilely trying to go back to sleep, I might as well get up and share my thoughts, my ideas with anyone who may be interested, which brings me to my first major takeaway: As educators, we find ourselves constantly taking resources and ideas from the internet, but when was the last time we contributed?

Jeff Utecht was the keynote on day two and I’ve been a big fan of his for a few years now. So having the chance to hear him speak in person was amazing. There were a number of things that he brought up, but perhaps one of the most compelling was the need for educators to contribute to the larger community. How are we giving back to others who we don’t directly interact with? Certainly we give back in our classroom, schools, and local communities, but what about the larger community? How are we contributing to the advancement of the profession? More and more I find myself thinking about non-positional leadership and how we are advocating, leading, and working with others to advance meaningful change. Hearing Jeff talk about sharing with the larger community only served to reinforce this concept that each of us are leaders and do have opportunities to lead within our profession and beyond the classroom. For me, I’ve seemed to fallen off the larger community radar a little over the last year. Things get busy, I have small children and I have a pretty full schedule. Yet, given all of that, I still feel this nagging feeling that I’m not contributing enough. I’m not posting enough about what I’m doing or enough about some of the ridiculous ideas that I have that I want to start putting legs on. This wasn’t a major theme Jeff had, but it was an important theme, and has given me pause for reflection, as I hope it will do for each of you.

Sticking with Jeff a little longer, there were two other things that really stuck out for me. The first was the idea of a moonshot idea. As Jeff described it, a moonshot idea is an idea that seeks to change something that appears almost impossible. However, we strive to make that moonshot idea happen because we are bothered by it. We want it to happen and refuse to let it pass us by. The name moonshot comes from when JFK said we would put a man on the moon. No one knew how to do it, but we were going to do it anyway. There was a drive, a passion for making it happen. For me, moonshot ideas are what keep me going, keep me asking questions, and make me challenge those around me. Things bother me. Some more than others, but being bothered is what has kept me feeling like I can make change happen. Probably the biggest thing that bothers me is ineffective use of technologies in the classroom that is then highlighted as increasing achievement, learning, (insert term here) when in fact nothing has really changed. Scott McLeod had a session on this called Gratuitous Use of Technology (or something to that effect). While I missed the session, that really sums up what bothers me. It may be a far cry in comparison to putting a man on the moon, but nevertheless, it still matters, it’s still important, and it really bothers me.

The other thing that really stood out from Jeff’s keynote was the video of the young man doing a Rube Goldberg, at what appeared to be his house. This child, I think he was in fourth grade, but can’t really remember, creates this impressive Rube Goldberg machine and he makes a prediction about how many times his machine is going to succeed and how many times it will fail. I think it was a two to 14 ratio. As the video continues, it starts showing the trials. The first three are a bust and then on the fourth a success. What happens next is the best thing. This kid literally flips out. He is so excited that it worked on the fourth time when he predicted that if would fail “umpteen” times. I immediately thought, when was the last time we were this excited and willing to fail “umpteen” times? The mantra seems to be if we can’t do it it right the first time, we better not even try. I’d say this was a common theme I ran into throughout the conference. It’s okay to make mistakes, but what we do next is what matters. What’s worse is that we appear to be sending this signal to our students via standardized tests with all the focus on getting the right scores and the high stakes nature of the tests. Nothing in life, at least in my life, is as high stakes as those tests are for students and schools. They aren’t realistic and the emphasis we place on them as a nation, state, and local community truly bothers me. This certainly is a moonshot idea and it’s almost embarrassing that it is.

Other highlights from my conference experience:

  • Teaching students how to search is truly critical. We don’t live in a world where we can organize everything into nice little units. Our knowledge is too large, complex, and changes way to fast to keep up. Being able to sift is going to be much more important that sorting. I actually started this with my son last night. We started searching for orange juice and he loved it! (Henry’s four BTW)
  • Our knowledge has a half life of 18 months. This is interesting for me since the work I did for my doctorate in my first couple semesters is going to be outdated by the time I write my dissertation. Let’s not even go to textbooks…
  • Some key things when it comes to searching on Google: find the ads, the more links to a website means Google thinks it’s an authority, use the search tools to refine results, site: and filetype: are very useful for getting the resources you want, reading level is also helpful, and it is possible to search for dated materials, such as newspapers from the Korean War era (type Korean War, limit results to 1950-1955, and click on the news link in Google).
  • It’s easy to make info grams. Some resources: infogr.am, easel.ly, and piktochart.
  • Never underestimate the power of Twitter. The majority of my resources, including those from the previous bullet, came from Twitter. One person was at ITEC, but the other was in Oklahoma. Not to mention all the things I would have missed that were captured by others via the back channel #ITEC13
  • Speaking of Twitter, it still has a spam issue. I hadn’t really noticed it for a long time, but during the conference it was certainly present in the hashtag. But I did learn that you can filter your results. For me I used #ITEC13 -hidelink (Hidelink was what was spamming everyone). Thanks to @jamiefath for that one!
  • Kids are important and are missed when they are gone. But do we let them know that? My guess is not enough.
  • We are social creatures, yet school is typically the place where we can’t interact either with those literally sitting next to us or those in the larger community. If we want students to be engaged, let’s give them something to be engaged in.
  • There are a number of apps in iOS 7 that use location and notification services that really don’t need to. All that does is suck my battery life down and shares more than I really want. Check it out in settings and take back control!
  • There were three 8th graders at the conference (perhaps more, but I only saw three). It seems like more and more young people are showing up at conferences and I love it. Young people have a voice and they should let it be heard. As I was working on this post I saw Ian Coon tweet out something that appears to be a student bill of rights (I don’t think that’s what it’s called, but something generally like that) about what they want from their school and their educational experience. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m going to later today when I get to work. I don’t know if K12 students have to pay for ITEC, but they shouldn’t. These are the people we need to invite in, because above all, their voice counts, yet they are the most underrepresented group in education. We should be inviting them in so we can learn from them.
  • I met a number of people I follow on Twitter. Always a fun experience. I also had the chance to meet up with some people I hadn’t seen in a few years, even since high school.
  • Looking for more? Check out #ITEC13 and http://www.jeffutecht.com/itec

Finally, perhaps the best part of the conference were the conversations I had with my colleagues on the way to and from the conference. We were able to talk about more things in the two hour drive there and back than any number of meetings would have accomplished. This is on top of the interactions we had during the conference. For me, I was able to get a ton of feedback on my dissertation topic and some new directions to keep my work moving forward.

So all in all, I had a great conference experience. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to stay for all the afternoon sessions. Time is a scarce resource, but even with my mostly limited ITEC experience, I still feel I’ve been rejuvenated and am ready to keep on being bothered.

Expressive Arts Project-Based Learning Project

Map of Project Steps

 

I working again this semester with a faculty member at UNI that teaches an Expressive Arts Integration teacher education course and thought I’d share the project map I’ve created the more or less maps out everything we’re doing.

To give a little context to what we’re doing and what we’ve done in the past, this is a project where small groups of UNI teacher candidates are paired up with small groups of elementary students. The UNI students teach a series of lessons to the elementary students using one of the following art themes: drama, music, visual arts, and dance and movement. This is a project that the professor has done for a number of years, but since the closing of Price Lab School, I’ve been involved in making this project happen from a distance.

While this semester is logistically a little different, what happens is that the UNI students learn about using the arts to teach content in meaningful ways, by preparing lessons for when they travel to the school to teach to their small group. These lessons are done collaboratively, both planning and teaching. In the meantime, commercials are recorded and posted online for the students in the schools to watch. I think both the UNI and elementary students enjoy the videos, especially when the students respond, either in their letters or by creating a commercial of their own and sending it to UNI. We also do some low tech handwritten letters to the students to help them get to know each other more. I am actually a big fan of handwritten letters since it seems everything else is so digitized. It’s always fun to get real mail!

Finally, after the students go out to the school and teach their lessons, they create some kind of documentation artifact, such as a book, poster, etc. that documents their day and the learning that took place. The elementary students are then each provided a copy of the documentation as a form of capstone to the experience.

What I like about this project is that it is a real project. Everything that’s done in this course centers around preparing for this experience. I also like amount of autonomy and student choice that the UNI students have in creating their lessons. There are some requirements, but overall, they have a lot of choice in what they teach and how they do it.  Like all good projects, it takes a lot of time and planning, but it’s worth it, because it’s real.

iPads and Field Experiences

This semester we are doing something different at UNI with one teacher education course. With the rapid diffusion of 1:1 schools throughout the state of Iowa, we thought it might be a good idea to try setting up a field experience course this way. We are taking it slow and are going to collect some data as we go so we can try to make better informed decisions. Here’s the general plan:

  • At the beginning of the semester, on day one, we provided 24 students enrolled in a professional development school field experience course with an iPad
  • We installed four apps for them (iMovie, Garageband, Keynote, Page) and then gave them full access to everything else on the iPad. Apart from being owned by UNI, it is their iPad for the semester
  • On the first day I did a very short overview of the iPad, since there were some who hadn’t used one before. I used Sugata Mitra as an inspiration for my overview and essentially left if up to the students to figure out how to use it
  • Throughout the semester the plan is to discuss during class ways they can use the iPad in their instruction and then start implementing those ideas each week as appropriate during their field experience
  • The professor is going to provide contextualized demonstrations for using the iPad effectively as an instructional tool periodically during the semester
  • Finally, the iPad is there as a resource for students to use as it’s needed, which is how it should be. Ubiquitous

I know this isn’t a lot, but we’re just starting this little experiment and I wanted to give an update on what’s happening here at UNI and TQP as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. As things develop and there’s more to share, I will!

Knowing When and Why, Not What and How

I was reading this article today and thought it summed up my beliefs about technology. The real challenge is convincing others to believe the same.

Knowing when to use a particular technology for activities such as collaboration, or why to use a certain technology for acquir- ing specific disciplinary knowledge, is a vastly more important, transferable, in- finitely relevant type of knowledge, one that will not quickly become antiquated with ever-changing technological trends.

-Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe & Terry, 2013, Pg. 133

Kereluik, K., Mishra, P., Fahnoe, C., & Karr, J. A. (2013). What Knowledge Is of Most Worth: Teacher Knowledge for 21. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 29(4), 127–140.

 

It’s about the technology, pedagogy, and content

A few weeks ago I was talking with a group of colleagues and the topic of how we integrate technology came up. One of them said that it’s all about the pedagogy, not the technology. The point he was trying to make was that we don’t want to base the decisions we make only on the availability of technology. For example, we shouldn’t say “I have this iPad, I should use it to teach Math!” This is a very technocentric approach to technology integration, because we aren’t consider what we teach and how we teach it (content and pedagogy).

However, making the claim that it’s all about the pedagogy is similarly misguided, because it assumes that the ways in which we teach will encapsulate the use of technology (let’s just leave effectiveness out of the discussion for now). We all know this isn’t true and to prove it isn’t true we just need to walk down the hallways of our school, whether it’s elementary, middle, high or post-secondary. There are a number of teachers who don’t use technology and have success. So we have an inherent issue when we say that it’s all about the pedagogy, because as a number of teachers have shown, only considering pedagogy simply ignores the use of technology. Pedagogical knowledge is technology neutral and is concerned with issues surrounding classroom management, assessment, instructional strategies, etc.

If we want to effectively integrate technology into the teaching and learning process, then it really is about the technology, but it’s also about the pedagogy and content too. Integrating technology is not an isolated technology event. Rather it is the complex interactions between three types of knowledge: technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge. It’s not enough to have each type of knowledge in isolation from the others. Each has to be considered in relation to the other two, because only when we consider how a technology effects what we teach by how it can be represented and understood through the use of the technology, as well as how the way we teach that content changes due to the use of the technology, will we be able to truly integrate technology in purposeful ways.

My purpose isn’t to nitpick what one of my colleagues said. Rather, it’s to point out that we can’t continue to think about developing knowledge in isolated ways. We can’t learn how to technically use an iPad and then be expected to integrate it into our teaching. It doesn’t work that way. But we also can’t just focus on pedagogy development either, because that doesn’t guarantee the effective use of technology. If anything, it would guarantee the effective use of a management, assessment, or other instructional technique. So if we really want to integrate technology in an effective way that has implications for learning, then we need create opportunities where we are developing knowledge about a particular technology, but only insofar as it relates to how to teach a piece of content in a particular way.

This is the only way we are going to have forward progress with the effective use of technology in the learning process. As you begin to plan for professional development this next school year, reconsider your technocentric sessions. Find ways to create opportunities for your teachers to develop knowledge surrounding not only technology, pedagogy, and content in isolation, but also with how each of these interact with the other. Then you’ll be on the right track and will have the potential, not the guarantee but the potential, for successful technology integration. Remember, this is the first step, not the last. There’s a lot more to do and no truly clear way of getting there.