Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who is the Audience for Student Work?

In my last post, I shared a document from Alan November's website entitled Is Technology Adding Value? 

It's a useful tool for how learning can and should change if we are effectively harnessing technology as a transformational agent in education.

In it, he outlines 5 ways that technology can transform.
1. Paper Becomes Digital
2. Audience: One to Many
3. All Kids Create Together
4. Limitless Boundaries
5. Building Legacy

Alan rightly challenges us to focus on the audience for student work and it's what 
I'd like to focus on in this post for two reasons.

1. It is low-hanging fruit. It's often neglected and usually doesn't require a re-writing of a unit, assessment, or task - just the altering of the audience and purpose. (Whereas, numbers 3-5 are extremely powerful elements but typically would require teachers to re-structure the very nature of the task.)

2. I do not agree 100% with the descriptor, "one to many".  (Just to be clear, I've heard Alan speak a few times.  To me, his sheet leaves a little too much open to interpretation. But I've never heard him say anything contrary to the point I'm trying to make below.)

It makes sense to start with powerful learning experiences and see how technology can facilitate these experiences to be more collaborative, efficient, effective, etc.  And, this very closely related to an earlier post where I noted the two types of edtech solutions - both with their shortfalls - and the need for a bridge connecting them.

So, let's revisit the GRASPS model from Understanding By Design.  Quality assessments strive to give students a: 

        Goal  - Convince your mayor to adopt stronger environmental laws
        Role - Citizen,  (Producer of knowledge, Contributor, etc.)
        Audience -  The mayor
        Situation - you (your group ) has been granted a meeting with the mayor to help sway her opinion on this issue.
        Product - ?? Powerpoint,  video?   petition?  note-cards/outline for speech?
        Standards and Criteria - (teacher created rubric of expectations)...

My small problems with the "one to many" descriptor are:

1. The "many" is not always the best target audience for learning. It's not THE goal.
      Ex. If the "many" is the goal, I can imagine teachers planning Rain Forest units with the goal of having students create a podcast outlining the general characteristics (problems, data, locations, etc.) of a rain forest with the goal of sharing it with many.  (Should we say congratulations? It's certainly a big step up from sharing it with the class ... or just with the teacher ! By the way, where are all these podcasts meant to live anyway?)  But the learning might have been stronger if the students were targeting their presentations at a more limited audience.  For example:
     - citizens of cities near rain forests
     - write to the CEO of and company that capitalizes on rain forest resources
     - etc.

2. Some teachers might interpret "the many" with an effective integration of technology.   This can hinder the adoption / integration of technology.

Should the teacher above be congratulated? 
What about Teacher B who uses a GRASP approach to assessment which includes no technology. She knows she is implementing powerful authentic learning, but the teacher above gets recognized by the principal in the next faculty meeting for creating podcasts that are shared with the world.

Is Teacher B more prone to implement technology if she feels she has to sacrifice her authentic experience for one where the product can be shared with many?

(And "yes", Teacher B could keep her same authentic assessment and utilize technology in ways to Leave a Legacy, connect with others to gather better data, or collaborate with other schools and broaden the backing of their ideas. But, it's my blog post and I'm trying to make a point :)  )

If we glorify the many, or ask teachers to make sure they Tweet everything or post everything on Pinterest, I think it turns off some  - especially if they can't see the steps about how these tools can lead to more effective and efficient learning.  They see technology being implemented for technology's sake. 

So, let's make sure we start with quality learning tasks and then see if and how technology can be utilized to help make them better.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Innovative Tech Tools and Resources

Having recently returned from our CEESA conference, keynoted by Alan November, I'm settling back into that uncomfortable reality when the daily tasks start to over-shadow the impressive ideas and tools shared at the conference.

The theme of transformational learning was a good one. Just last week, I led an internal PD session with our staff on some of my key 'take-aways' from the conference.

I better get to sharing!  So, here they are:

1. Alan asked a great keynote question: "What are the look-fors in a 1:1 (or BYOD) school to know it's being implemented effectively?"

It's a good question, and one that I want to pursue as we start our own BYOD process next year.
Alan, has a great website filled with resources - one of which is the handout: "Is Technology Adding Value?"   It's a good starting point as we plan units around the changing nature of what learning should look like.

The question above helps to frame why some of the tools below resonated with me.

2. Jing for student feedback
I've used Jing for years, but wasn't promoting it as a student feedback option.

For those new to Jing, Jing is free. It allows users to quickly create voice-over videos  while capturing the screen (or screenshots with captions). All videos / images are saved in the cloud and accessed with a URL - no software other than a browser!  I've created an extremely rough Jing to give you an idea of how it works.

Research shows that students prefer online, verbal feedback that is personalized. It also shows that teachers are more likely to applaud positive characteristics of student work instead of simply writing about what needs to be improved.

Check it out as a  fast, effective (and permanent!) way to share student feedback.

3. - as a means to get Formative Feedback and as learning tool for students.

PollEverywhere (and other similar sites) are the online version of the "clicker system" we've heard about in classrooms. Students can submit answers to questions dynamically by texting, tweeting, typing a url into a browser. 

Teacher created choices can be multiple-choice text, multiple-choice images, or open-response.

Student answers are displayed immediately (if desired) and stored for discussion as needed.  It opens up all kinds of interesting ways to use data on the fly. Consider:

    a) Wait time...  giving every student time to answer and contribute 
    b) Hide or Show Data immediately...  to show results or re-visit results later
    c) Group consensus... sharing group responses, and then asking student groups to form a consensus on the correct answer.
    d) Scaffold learning... display results and then give hints, give readings, have students re-poll and re-visit answers.
  Overall, there seem to be many quick, easy ways for how a tool like this can foster inquiry based learning?

4. Wolfram Alpha 

Words have a hard time with this site. It's a visual Siri.

Type in topics that have factual information... in their words, "Enter what you want to calculate or know about:"

Check it out. Then ask yourself how often we should ask students to make posters again by transferring loads of data from different sites when this site does it in seconds.  And, if this information is at their fingertips, what sort of questions should teachers now be asking of students?

5. We all know about Khan Academy, but what might be new is www.ed.ted  

A free non-profit from the folks who bring you TedTalks, Ed.ted is taking teacher-generated ideas and creating professionally designed learning videos on the topic.

All the videos are available for free and are intended to be used in the flipped concept model.
Unlike Khan where only internal developers are coming up with video, Ed.Ted seems to be harnessing the crowd-sourcing idea to leverage a potentially far more powerful learning site.

These five ideas seem more than enough to absorb and implement.

So going back to our initial question:

What are the look-fors in a 1:1 (or BYOD) school to know it's being implemented effectively?

It has to be more than faster access to information...which help students answer the same types of questions.  We better be using these tools as more than $1,000 pencils with access to Google.