Sunday, March 27, 2011

Teacher-Software-Developers: Pushing up the SAMR model

Having just completed our CEESA  (Central and Eastern European Schools Association) Conference, I'm filled with the usual flurry of ideas running around my head.

The keynote, Tom Guskey, was excellent with his presentation on the follies of our current grading practices. If I follow the theme of this blog regarding educational change, I'm not sure if there is a topic bigger than that of "how we grade" to make a difference.

But since I was a presenter at the conference I'll be a little selfish and share some thoughts and  questions that I'm still trying to answer.

Initially, I intended a solid session from Bill Mackenty from the American School of Warsaw who shared how he is working with staff there to integrate tech more using the SAMR model. Interesting stuff.

It led in nicely to a session I led on trying to link tech-based simulations to standards and benchmarks. My premise is this: (and I say all of this with a big question mark, looking for some guidance and feedback)

When we consider "content-based" technology solutions (think simCity, not Skype, wikis, etc.), there are two general camps and most solutions tend to fall on one side or the other - seldom in the middle.

In Group 1:  Some technology solutions are strictly content based, and targeted specifically at standards.. (Mavis Beacon, online math sites, etc.) While these sites are usually much easier to integrate into the classroom, and they are most likely more successful at helping students reach a specific few standards (compared to teaching without the technology), they are quite narrow and algorithmic. We could call them educationally "efficient" uses of technology to teach specific skills or content- helping students learn multiplication tables faster than they would without the technology. But they do little to transform education. 

In Group 2:  Simulations (simCity, World or Warcraft, Farmville, etc.)  offer excellent examples of Project Based Learning (and Challenge Based Learning). However, they are so open-ended that I believe teachers have trouble implementing them into the classroom unless they are willing to put in a large amount of time linking them to standards.  Or, alternatively, they may want to neglect the standards to some degree in an attempt to get at more engaged, holistic learning.  Despite their practical limitations, this group offers the potential to transform learning if done correctly.

My presentation is asking why we don't have more technology-based applications that link specific content into open-ended learning where students make choices in a dynamic, authentic environment? We reviewed 2 examples which I would consider this "middle ground" - based in enough content to be easily used by the teacher, and flexible and open-ended enough to place students in authentic situations where they will need to make decisions in a complex environment:

1) simCEO
2) Jason Science 

And we ask the same question in two different ways:
1) What are some other examples of technology that fall into this middle ground?
2) At what point are we going to provide a structure where strong teachers who have ideas galore for these types of projects can tap into the development world of technology to make them available for students on a large scale?
For example, in what way could creative teachers use technology to put students in open-ended, authentic, complex, (collaborative?),  "choose your own adventure" types of learning tasks centered around specific content goals such as:
a) photosynthesis
b) man versus nature (in relation to a specific book, perhaps)
c) international coalitions for regime change
d) individual rights vs. collective security

I know of many teachers who teach these concepts in fascinating, authentic ways. But why aren't we tapping into these ideas to produce technology integration ideas that can do it for us - better.

Or, to put it another way: Why don't we use the students' natural engagement with simulation-based learning to modify World of Warcraft to teach specifically about American History?

Any thoughts? Let me know.  I'd love to hear em.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

one-to-one computing webinar and CEESA conference

A great opportunity for those of you who are interested in making the transition to a one-to-one computing environment.
This webinar from DyKnow is scheduled for March 10.
Here's the link to the registration page and the webinar summary overview.

Presented by: Kyle Berger, Executive Director of Technology Services
Alvarado Independent School District

Seventy percent of students who attend the Alvarado Independent School District (AISD) are considered economically disadvantaged. Just like everywhere else, budgets are strapped and money is tight. So how is this district two years in to a one-to-one computing initiative?
In this webinar you will learn about the innovative strategies and groundbreaking ideas used by AIDS’s Executive Director of Technology Services Kyle Berger. As a change agent and thought leader, Kyle gathered support from local businesses, board members, parents, teachers and students. You will learn about what it took to plan this program and ongoing implementations. A question and answer session will  follow the event so come ready to ask questions and gather insights.

I'm busing preparing for the upcoming CEESA (Central and Eastern European Schools Association) Conference presentation on March 17-19. CEESA is an organization of international schools in the region.

The write-up of the presentation is shared below, and I'll post the slideshow of the presentation and notes after the conference.

This session will be an interactive session in which participants will share and walk away with examples and ideas applicable for the classroom.
The session will consist of:
1) a brief explanation and list of criteria defining 1) Project Based Learning 2) Challenge Based Learning, and 3) Authentic Assessment
2) briefly sharing a few simulations which come close to meeting these criteria:
a) content based simulations: Jason Science and simCEO*
b) open-ended simulations: Farmville and World of Warcraft
3) briefly sharing the benefits of using simulations in the classroom and the potential barriers/solutions that these same simulations pose in terms of assessment practices
4) collectively sharing other effective simulations that session participants have used
5) a collective discussion about the potential for and challenges with developing simulations for use in classrooms