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.

1 comment:

  1. Derek,
    I am not sure if the question is about the production of the tools or the use by teachers. Those are two distinctly different issues. I would assume the answer to the production question would be linked to funding and the return on the investment to the creator. Simply put, is there a demand side of the equation?

    I know in the US right now school districts are in dire financial straits. Is there funding on the demand side to purchase and implement this technology? If we narrow it down to individual teachers my first thoughts go to the age old teacher response of "limited time". Where do I find time to run this simulation? This leads me to where I think the real answer is (for US public schools). National, state, and district administrators have to be made aware of the value of this type of use of technology so that the teacher is supported in implementing it into the classroom. I think the demands to cover the prescribed curriculum and units of study in the prescribed manner negatively effects teacher motivation to implement this type of tool. If at the state or district level the use becomes part of the prescribed curriculum and instructional practice then we have a new ballgame. So how do we get those making the decision to understand the value?