Technology without PD is like a Car without a Driver

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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.


TQP Technology Support Group

TQP Technology Support Group

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

Iowa Mentoring and Induction Institute


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.


I GOT AN IPAD!!!! I’ve been wanting one since I left Cherokee and I finally received one as part of the grant. All the faculty and some of the staff in the grant received an iPad to help with the mobility needs we have with the pilot project. While I will certainly take advantage of the mobility aspects of the iPad, I also have other motives I wish to fulfill with this new technology. So over the next few months I will be publishing an iPad Blog Series that highlights a useful and educationally relevant aspect of the iPad. In particular I think I will focus on two areas. The first will be content creation. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard about the iPad has been that it isn’t a content creation device, when I think that just isn’t true. There are loads of creation apps available, but the key is knowing how to leverage those in a meaningful way. The second area I focus on will be content consumption. While I think there are a number of content creation uses for the iPad, there are also a number of content consumption ways to use the iPad, which is equally valuable. I’m going to try to do a new series post every week. They will likely be short and to the point. I encourage you to add your thoughts, provide push back, and to ask questions, as this will help make the series more meaningful and interesting for everyone. If there is something you’d like to see me try, just leave a comment and let me know. If it’s free I’ll likely give it a try and if the app doesn’t cost too much and looks like something I’ll use, I’ll likely buy it.

Oh, by the way, this blog post was created using the WordPress app which is free. The WordPress app is an app that allows you to view your blog posts, comments, pages, stats, AS WELL AS, post new posts, which can include file attachments, video, and images. Enjoy the picture below of me taken with the forward facing camera!


A busy month

Like most educators, May is a busy month and mine was no different. This month marked the launch of the TQP pilot project with the UNI Faculty Course Redesign Summit. The TQP grant I’m working on is looking at effective teaching and the creation of a teacher performance assessment and a large part of that is redesigning some of the UNI methods field experience courses to include what we have dubbed Transformative Teaching Qualities. Without going into much detail, the essential purpose of the summit was to look at the things we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t really been able to in the past.

One of the areas we talked about was increasing clinical experiences through video conference technology. This was one session I led and it was great hearing the faculty get excited about new possibilities with field experiences. I demoed a potential setup called a Polycom which could be rolled into a classroom in one of our partner school districts and then using a similar device on campus, the methods instructor could connect their UNI class with a classroom in a PK-12 school district. This connection could be done either in realtime or it can be recorded and shown at a later date. When I think of the potential uses of this technology, it goes beyond just observing classrooms at a distance, and jumps to a place where teacher prep programs likely haven’t been before. Pre-service teachers can interact with students and teachers in the districts that they will be placed in later that semester allowing the pre-service teacher to begin teaching in the classroom sooner since they will have already gained a background of both the teacher and the students. I’m excited to see how our 12 faculty members integrate this technology into their courses.

Another topic we talked about was blended learning. As we were planning for the summit we quickly discovered that the number of topics we were going to discuss could become a problem for the faculty if they didn’t have a way to integrate them meaningfully into their courses. There is only so much time we spend face-to-face with our students so our thought was to leverage blended learning as much as possible in these courses to aid in the redesign process. Not everything in a course needs to be done in person, so why not streamline a much of that content as possible via a blended learning environment and free up seat time to do some of the new ideas we introduced to the faculty, such as remote clinical observations like I described above. Blended learning certainly isn’t a new concept, but the point I tried to get across is what are the students doing in the online environment? Are they just doing readings or are they collaborating, working with authentic sources, etc.? Again I’m looking at what we’ve dubbed Transformative Teaching Qualities. Just because the environment is online doesn’t mean that the quality of the learning is any less or that the activities are drastically limited or different. The opposite is true. There are so many potential activities and experiences students can have in an online environment that we need to think about how we can capitalize on those situations to create more meaningful learning.

There was much more that took place during the summit, but I thought I would share at least those two areas as they were the two I was most passionate and consumed with over the last month, which has limited my ability to do other things I deeply care about, such as blogging. Now that the summit is over and I’m heading into a nice long vacation, I have some time to catch up with my PLN and blogging and really have some time to digest what has taken place in the last few months. It’s a time to unwind and relax and I plan on doing plenty of it over the next month!

An update on the TQP grant

TQP LogoI haven’t talked about the grant lately so I thought i would give an update.  For those who aren’t aware, I recently changed jobs, moving from being a technology director at a PK-12 school to working as a technology specialist on a Iowa Teacher Quality Partnership grant at UNI.  It has been a good change, providing a number of new opportunities.

I’ve been up to a lot of different projects lately, with the biggest being researching video conferencing technologies.  As part of the grant we are going to send pre-service teacher to five rural schools that are each about an hour to an hour and a half away from campus.  Our goal is to increase the amount of time pre-service teachers spend in the classroom, which means we are going to need to redesign our coursework some to allow for distance synchronous communication.  I’ve been looking at a Polycom HDX 7000, which is like most traditional Polycoms but this one has the ability to place calls in HD at relatively low bandwidth.  What I also like about this device is that it allows a user to connect a computer to it using a DVI cable.  This open so many more opportunities for instructors and their students as they begin looking at classroom planning and management.  Before this was limited to using services like Adobe Connect, which really only had mediocre results at best when it came to screen sharing.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time looking into how we can record a teacher’s performance in the classroom.  The key here is determining what we want to capture.  What is the most important thing in the classroom that evaluators need to see to determine a teacher is effective?  My answer is that we need to capture student learning and what led up to the student learning.  So I’ve been talking to people both on campus and some of the AEAs in the state to see what they had for suggestions.  Some key things I’m keeping in mind are:

  • Needs to be simple, but quality
  • Need to have a good audio source, which means the teacher needs to wear a wireless mic
  • Needs to be affordable so others can do the same thing in their classrooms
  • Needs to have a small footprint in the classroom

So I’ve been looking at cameras and coming up a little short here and there, but I have found a couple I would like to demo that are reasonably affordable, high quality (or at least they appear to be), and have an external mic input.  May not sound too glorious, but what we use for our pilot projects has the potential to be adopted statewide so I’m trying to think everything through as much as possible and think of the implications they have once we deploy.

Finally, the last big thing I and the rest of the TQP team are doing is making presentations to groups we want to have involved in this project.  We are getting out and meeting people both throughout the state and on campus.  Next week I’m meeting with one of our pilot schools to learn more about their technology plans and initiatives, hopefully learning something in the process and opening a door for the district should they have the need for my services, either for implementing a new project or even to troubleshoot a problem.

Its been a little slow from time-to-time, but things are starting to pick up and move forward and I’m getting excited for what’s beginning to unfold.  If you want to learn more about the Iowa Teacher Quality Partnership grant, click here.

How would you record yourself in your classroom?

I’ve been working away on the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant (TQP) at UNI and I wanted to share a little about what I’ve been up to.  For those who aren’t familiar with the grant, the TQP grant is examining what it means to be an effective teacher.  It is important to distinguish between effective and qualified as qualified stresses do you know the content, have you completed a teacher prep program, etc.  Effective on the other hand gets at, you’ve shown you are qualified, but now are you able to be effective in your classroom to impact student learning.  In order to determine what effective looks like we have to be able to document it in some way, which brings me to today’s post.  How would you record yourself in your classroom to formatively evaluate yourself to determine if you are really being effective?

I’ve been looking at all the different possibilities for recording teachers and am trying to keep in mind the realistic nature of doing this in addition to all the other stuff teachers do during the course of their day, not to mention the costs of purchasing equipment.  So I’m trying to take a few different approaches.  Approach one is to capture the entire picture of the classroom using a 360° camcorder.  The benefits of this approach, I think, is that we can see what all the students are doing in the classroom when the teacher is up front teaching.  There are some cost problems with this approach as the cameras tend to be pricey and there are limited options in terms of different 360° camcorders.

Another approach I’m taking is looking getting as much of the classroom environment as I can using a fisheye lens camcorder.  I haven’t tested this, or any others for the fact, yet, but potentially you could put the camcorder in the corner of the classroom and capture the backs of everyone in the class and the teacher at the front of the room.  The biggest problem here is cost since these camcorders tend to be much more expensive than the garden variety.  However, I think there is merit in examining all the different avenues, so I’m definitely going to give this setup serious thought.

The next approach is probably the simplest, which is to take any run of the mill camcorder and put it in the classroom where it will capture the most students and the teacher.  Similar to the previous approach, but without the higher cost.  Biggest downfall, though is the lack of the entire picture.

In conversations with others, yet another approach has emerged that needs to be addressed as well.  How do you record the small group interactions that take place in classrooms that are more student-centered?  Certainly there will be a number of situations where the teacher doesn’t do much “teaching” but rather more facilitating.  How do you capture those sometimes intimate situations or conversations with the teacher and student?  A 360° camcorder likely isn’t going to cut it, and I’m not sure a camcorder in the back of the room will either.  I probably wouldn’t want to carry around a camera, even if it was a small one like a Flip, when I’m teaching, so what’s the answer?

I’m interested to see what others have to say, in particular, any guidance you have for me as I move forward with making a procedure to use in the grant.  I have some more ideas, but nothing I’m really prepared to throw out there, at least not yet.  Feel free to comment on the post or send me a message on Twitter.