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…


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.


WE aren’t very good at using technology in the curriculum

WE aren’t very good at using technology in the curriculum. WE just aren’t. And if you were wondering who WE are, that would be you and I, primary, secondary, and higher education. WE just haven’t figured it out yet. AND the way we approach “solving” the “problem” is simply misguided, because instead of approaching a curricular problem from the perspective of the curriculum, WE have decided that the best approach would be to invest in everything…but the curriculum. There are likely many out there that will say, “We invest heavily in the curriculum. Just look at (enter investment here)!” Most schools would say this. Which wouldn’t? The problem, though, is that WE don’t change the curriculum in any real way. Sure we may Skype with other schools across the nation or even give each student an iPad or laptop, but really, how much has the enacted and thus the experienced curriculum changed? I mean really changed?

I think we all know the answer, even if we don’t want to admit it. This is usually the point when I’d say there are pockets of hope here and there, but I’m not going to and that’s because everyone thinks they are that glimmer of light in the despair of our education system. Well your not, and I’m certainly not. This is because for every rockstar teacher who has changed for the better and is making a difference, there are exponentially more teachers who haven’t change, who view the SYSTEM with skepticism and suspect new innovations and ideas even more. YOU have them, I have them, WE ALL have them and in nearly all cases WE don’t do anything about them. They simply are overlooked. Passed over. Never to be seen or heard from again…except by the poor souls who have to have them as a teacher, and they can’t do anything. They have NO power and WE have ALL the power. WE don’t listen to them, even though our sole purpose is them.

While I can’t specifically address the needs of students anywhere, I can help address the needs of our society, which in my context are K12 schools. I work with people who want to be teachers. That’s why they come to UNI. So here’s what I am going to do. First, I’m going to make an explicit effort to determine the needs of our students. What do they need in order to learn and what can I do to help? Second, what does society need from us in order to prepare better students? This has many layers and one I’m going to tackle is what are schools doing that new teachers need to be ready for day one? Finally, I’m going to help faculty at UNI begin to change their curriculum so that they can meet the needs of learners and society. Maybe then we can start to have forward progress, real progress instead of this facade we have all come to recognize as progress, as change.

So that’s what I’m going to do…what are YOU going to do?

In Search of Authentic Tech Integration Examples

I’m in the process of designing professional development opportunities for faculty and students in the College of Education at UNI. This past semester we did a number of short, informal professional development sessions that targeted areas where faculty and students felt they needed additional development. I’m following a similar process for this coming year, but I’m wanting to introduce more authentic examples of lessons, projects, etc., that use technology so we can analyze how the technology is being used and to simply show what some of the possibilities are. I’m not an expert in all content areas, so it does get difficult when we try to find ways to use technology in a subject, say world languages, because I don’t really understand the subject matter or how it is taught. We can get there, but it takes time, which is precious. 

So what I’m endeavoring to do over the summer and even moving forward, is to work with practicing educators to find examples of technology use in their courses. These could be things like a lesson plan, project, assignment sheet, blog post, or even just a general note about how technology is being used to teach a concept. I’m not looking for anything profound. Just how are you using technology and is there a way we can capture it so I can share it with others.

I’m also looking for examples of when technology hasn’t really worked out as expected or if it was just a poor use of technology. There’s this assumption that many have with any technology improving the learning when often that’s not the case. I feel there’s a benefit from looking at these kinds of examples, because we can identify why it’s ineffective and how we can make it better or do things differently.

So I’m asking for your help. PLEASE send me links, attachments, copies, etc. of how you are using technology in the classroom to teach. They can be good, bad, or somewhere in between. It’s important to see what you are doing, because that is the context we are preparing future teachers to go into. Here is the list of topics I am looking at right now. It is a very rough draft of what I collected from a survey, but it’s where I’m starting from. And yes, I know it is very technocentric, but that’s not how it will end up. 

  1. iPads in all subject areas
  2. Digital Storytelling in Elementary Education and Literacy Education
  3. Social Media in Secondary Science, Elementary Education, Social Studies, and Mathematics
  4. Google Drive/Apps in all subject areas
  5. Interactive Whiteboards in Elementary and Literacy Education and Level 2 Field Experiences
  6. Streaming Video (Podcasting/Panopto) in PE, Secondary Science, and Elementary Education
  7. Web 2.0 (Blogs/Wikis) in Elementary Education and Special Education
  8. Clickers (Poll Everywhere/Handhelds) in Elementary Education and Special Education