What’s in the Future for Education?

Some rights reserved<br />Request to license Andy Heather's photos via Getty Images

What’s in the future? Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm Little

I was watching a report about education institutes on the news the other day. It was comparing graduation rates across the US state to state. Iowa, my home state proud to say, had the highest graduation rate with 88% while the nation’s capital lurked around the bottom of the list at 59%.

As I watched it made me think of the questions posed for this blog posting:

– Will education as we know it change because of technology?                                    – Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

This is my 19th year teaching. In that time I’ve seen huge advancements in technology within the educational setting. Has it influenced the way people teach? Sure it has. Has it always been for the better. No. Will it continue to influence education in the future? Without a doubt.

In the newscast it talked about the common trends of education institutions in America: public, charter, private and online schools.

Educational Institution Pros and Cons (Fox News)

I’ve known friends to teach in all of these different settings, but the online learning is where I see education growing more and more.

The ability to collaborate with someone overseas, deliver education to those that live in rural areas, or offer “at your own pace” classes is becoming more appealing to people’s busy lives.

With online resources like University of the People, GCF Learning, and Khan Academy more people are turning to technology for learning. I wonder if the graduation rates in the states with the lowest percentages would rise if students were given the opportunity to do more online learning.

According to Dan Pink one of our drives/ motivators in life because we naturally find that things are interesting. We want to learn. We want to be engaged and succeed. We want to be part of a community. If allowing kids to learn what they want to learn at their own pace apposes them dropping out of school, then why not provide them with the opportunity to further their education online.

Already I’ve seen my role in the classroom shift from presenter to coach over the past twenty years. I see this trend continuing into the future. Not everything will be like a flipped classroom, but I see teachers moving to working as a coach as students gain content from online resources.

The video below, by C. G. P. Grey, discusses the future of education through technology called Digital Aristotle. It discusses the concept of each person having a tailored education program online suited for their learning style and level. From the way I’ve seen education moving, it makes a lot of sense.

That’s Not the Way I Learnt It!

Uh, How’s that gonna work?

For the past couple of years I’ve heard a lot about teachers flipping their classrooms.

At first the concept seemed appealing to me, but I wasn’t all the way sold. Wasn’t this the same as my 10th grade history class? “Ok people, go home read in your textbooks about the battle of Normandy and return with questions to discuss.”

The people I knew that were experimenting with flipping their classes were taking a basic approach that left their students felling less supported and more confused at times. The set up was watching lectures at home and completing homework at school.

The basic concept of a “Flipped Classroom” is that the lectures are given as online homework assignment while the homework is done in class with the teacher being able to spend more time helping the students. If this was all that was happening, this system wouldn’t work. This model can work, but needs some improvements.

There needs to be some type of an activity for the students to try during or after the video. Then add a communication element between the students and the teacher to check for problems or confusion.

Example: My 4th grade students go home and watch a flipped video on partial quotients. In the video I have them try two or three problems as I walk them through it. At the end of the video I could have them look at two different problems on surveygizmo’s image choice. I’d post three incorrect and one correct image of the process being taught. By checking the survey responses before class I could get a formative assessment on what they understood. I could even use the survey to help divide my class into differentiated learning groups.

I feel the flipped concept could be used affectively within the classroom as well. I generally have three different groups in my math class due to pretesting. The groups fluctuate and change, but using the flipped concept can help with the differentiating. As I work with group A (lower level), Group B (middle level) could watch a video on the same concept I’m working on with group A but at a slower pace. Group C (higher level) could be working on an independent project covering the same concept, but more complicated. I could spend my time shifting between groups B and C after I finished working with the A group and they are completing their work independently or with a partner.

Not all lessons are appropriate for flipping. I agree with teacher Saul Wagner’s comment on Edutopia’s blog “The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con”,

Flipped learning is a tool that should be part of every teacher’s repertoire. Finding when it can be best and most effectively used is no different than knowing when to change activities, when to use cooperative learning and when to teach frontally.”

Picking the lessons that work is key. Human interaction can’t be replaced. Seeing when a kid is frustrated, confused, or starting to “turn off” can’t be see through video. Lessons where you anticipate or have experienced this should be avoided. You want to pick lessons where you anticipate a high level of success.

The last thing I feel that is important is getting the support from your administrators and parents. Change isn’t easy for most. Parents might feel uncertain or confused. As we teach new methods in math at my school I frequently hear parents say, “But that’s not the way I learned it!” Getting them to accept that things are different. The way kids learn is different. The technology that we now have to assist, motivate and connect students for learning isn’t the same as when the were in school. It’s part of the ever changing school environment.

I’ll end with this snippet from the Blog “Learning to embrace change” by James E. Rydeen. He uses Spencer John’s book Who Moved My Cheese? to make connection with change in schools:

  • Change happens
    Recognize that change is always occurring, whether in the classroom, school, educational philosophies, curriculum or the occupants.
  • Anticipate change
    Stay positive and realize that change is happening not only to you, but also others, including the students in the classroom.
  • Monitor change
    Be aware that change is happening.
  • Adapt to change quickly
    The quicker you let go of the old, the sooner you can enjoy the new.
  • Change
    Accept the change as a new beginning.
  • Enjoy the change
    Too many people are too comfortable in their own setting and are not willing to enjoy change.
  • Be ready to quickly change again and again
    Remember, change is a constant. The change might be in the classroom; in the functional use of spaces; in the furniture, fixtures and equipment; or in the operations and maintenance of the facilities.

Freedom of Choice

Do we give students enough freedom of choice to use technology they see fit to process information and share their understanding?

Picture this: You finally getting to go on a that vacation you’ve always wanted: Santorini rooftop lounging, Machu Picchu exploration, Skiing in the North of Japan, or just chilling on the beaches of Bali. You’re pumped and set to go.

What if before you go on this exciting trip, you’re informed by someone else exactly what airline you had to use and what hotel you must stay in? What if your plans were so defined that you were told exactly what you could and could not see while you were there? Does it still sound as fun?

This happens to students every day in school. They are introduce to new units across the curriculum with a wide variety of areas to delve into, but are either put on a short leash to explore their interest or are spoon fed the content rather than have input in their own learning.

That use to be me… on both sides of the road.

After looking at the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) and the Substitute, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) models for integrating technology into the classroom, I reflected on where has my journey with technology in my classroom gone?

As technology was becoming more and more available for me to use with my students in the mid 90s I realize now that I use to be a definite Entry/ Substitution teacher. A lot of what we did centered around using the computers for word processing. Part of the problem was limited supplies. We had one computer lab time a week for 45 min. And that was it. 25 computers, 30 kids in a class, and 13 classes trying to get in.

The next school I worked in was between Substitution and AugmentationAdoption phase for me. Again, supply and demand was not met. One computer lab was available for 18 classes. Time was limited. Not all of the computers were the same platform with the same software. There was also the fact that we had only one computer in the school that was online.

When I moved to Asia I bumped up in both models again to a Adaptation/ Modification levels. I now had access to a full set of computers for my class for an hour a day, everyday. Not only that, but they were ALL online! Students were able to create spreadsheets and graphs to track their math performance. They could communicate with other students, teachers and parents through their own email accounts, and use tools Like Renzulli to explore topics of their own interest.

Our computer labs are now gone, but were not quite 1 to 1 yet in the 4th grade. We do have one full class set of laptops for every two classes though. We also have SMARTBoards in each room and access to Kindles, digital cameras, scanners, and a class set of iTouches. I feel armed with plenty of hardware, software, internet access and a new perspective of technology in the classroom. I feel I have been moving towards more Infusion and Transformation / Redefinition.

I aspire to elevate my teaching to the Transformation level. The only thing I feel roadblocking me is an already fully packed curriculum. With everything we do, it’s hard to find time to integrate technology into a curriculum that’s already developed. As Jeff Utecht points out in “I Don’t Want to Integrate it, I Want to Embed It!” We need to go back and EMBED the technology during a curriculum review and development and make the technology an intentional part of the unit from the beginning.

Students learn more deeply and retain information longer when they have a say in what and how they will learn.

Embedding technology should also require the new curriculum to allow students to have more freedom of choice to use the technology tools at hand to help them push and express their thinking. Teachers needs to become more comfortable letting the students take the wheel for their learning as we ride shot gun probing and facilitating.

Rock Hound

Kids are naturally curious.

Through my own experiences growing up, the things I remember the most form school were projects where I had freedom to explore and create projects of my own interest: conducting my own surveys, building a hovercraft, designing my own egg drop tests, and composing my own piece for a quintet. I feel these were some of my best work since I had ownership in my learning.

“Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.”

Kids are naturally curious and that needs to be tapped into more. If embedded right, technology can become a tool that assists the curriculum for helping students become more innovative as it raise their level of thinking.

Having a say in where I want to go and the vehicles I use to get me there, that’s a trip I’d like to take.

Course 3 Final Video Project

For my video project I have chosen to kill two birds with one stone. Our school hosts a fundraising event each year called St. Baldrick’s to raise money for childhood cancer research. I’ve had a few of my students interested in getting others to join this year. We shot and created a commercial to inform students about the event that will be shown in the classrooms as well as be posted online.

I used iMovie to create the video along with Garageband for some of the music and sound editing. I learned how to use Garageband to eliminate/subdue background noises.

YouTube Preview Image

One of the things I think took me the longest to do with the video was add sound. I searched and searched for music that I liked that felt like it fit the video.

In the end I decided to create one and ask permission to use another. The beginning piece I made using garage band. The closing song is a remake of a Ben Harper and Jack Johnson piece I found on youtube. I wrote the singer for permission to use as background music without video. I can see how students would just want to use their own music from their itunes library for their scores. It’s quick and easy, but not totally ethical.

Even though videos allow for students to be creative in showing what they have learned, do teachers communicate so we’re all not requiring videos from the same students? I know a middle school student who once told me that he had three videos due in the same week from different teachers. There should be some form of communication to avoid situations like this. Should there be some curriculum calendar that teachers can access that shows what types of projects are being assigned in different classes that utilize technology?


“Stole it? Nope, rEmiXeD it!”

Picture from Celeste Hutchins<br />Remixed by Joe Winston

M Lisa w/ Picaso


Whether it be music, literature or art, remixing is definitely NOT new. Beethoven payed “homage” to Mozart by incorporating elements of Wolfgang’s music into his own.
Grandmaster flash did it and Vanilla Ice sure as hell did it.

What’s the difference now?
From the article 7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College, they claim “The creative act is no longer about building something out of nothing but rather building something new out of cultural products that already exist.”
Created by Mogodore J Bivouac
With the variety of music and video editing tools available it’s hard to resist the urge to take something you see and put your own spin on it. Note the Halloween themed spoof of the classic painting by Grant Wood, American Gothic.

“Remix,” in the sense the competition intended, means a creative work that builds upon the creative work of others. That doesn’t mean simply grabbing or using the work of others. It means using the work of others in a way that is transformative, or critical.  -The “Imbecile” and “Moron” Responds: On the Freedoms of Remix Creators

Take a walk with this video series by Kirby Ferguson entitled “Everything is a Remix”. He explains how people have been remixing throughout time and how it’s become an important tool for people to express themselves.

By allowing students to mix and remix media that they find, they can explore an outlet to express something they want to share. They can change something to fit their emotion/ social needs and maybe use it to touch someone else that didn’t understand the original piece of work, but can better relate to this new adaptation.

Students should be given the opportunity to share their understanding through the various medians the experience life everyday. I let my class combine technologies to make something new, rewrite the words to songs to show their understanding of a chapter, redesign a cereal box to fit our social studies unit.

These concepts aren’t new. The tools we use to do it, an the avenues we use to share it have. Dioramas are still around, but there are other creative outlets that students today would want to have as an option. Letting them have the freedom to explore and create is key.

Show Them, Just Don’t Say It

Sink Infograph 1

I didn’t realize how much information around us is in the form of infographics. While learning about and looking through a wide variety of samples on line I started noticing the ones we have around school that you don’t even have to think about. Your brain quickly reads and translates them for you as you pass by in the hall or wash your hands at the sink.


Sink Infograph 2

One time as I went to the sink to wash my hands, I noticed a 3rd grade student standing in front of the double sink. He started to wash his hands at one sink then cut me off as Iapproached the other and stole it from me. Instead of pointing out what he did, I asked why he switched sinks. His reason? The “poster” above the second sink was more interesting to him and I thought so too.

Infographics, first and foremost, are about visualizations. – Blue Grass Blooger

I like the idea of having infograpics in my room to remind the students of daily procedures, displaying information they need to know, or persuade them to become a better student and person.

One of my school’s Student Learning Results involves service to others. This school does an outstanding job of meeting this goal. In the middle and high schoo students travel to orphanages, build habitats for humanity, dig wells, gather supplies, and purchase and deliver animals for those in need. These are only a few examples. In the lower and upper primary we do fun raisers that exceed monetary amounts that are more than anything I could ever imagine.

The one thing I like to see change about the way we fundraise in the lower grades is that the children are removed from the situation that’s being addressed. They are informed about what the money is going towards, but that’s about it. There’s no direct involvement with the people that benefit. They generally go home, ask for the money and bring it in.

infographic provided by Money Management International

How do you spend you money?

The kids at my school, for the most part, are quite well off and never have to worry about financial matters. I want to get my students more involved in the fundraising by making them more aware of the value of a dollar and their own spending habits.

I’ll use these two infographics to lead us into a discussion about how we get our money and what do we do with it. What’s the difference between a want and a need? What does it mean to give to a charity? Do you appreciate things more when you have to earn it?

info graphic provided by moneyasyougrrow.org

My ultimate goal is to have the students set a goal of the amount of money our class wants to raise forthe Smile Train Foundation. They can do odd jobs around the house, sell items that they don’t use any more, babysit… something where they earn the money and not just ask for it.

Hopefully, with these hanging in the room they will continue to make my students think when they glance at them or see them out of the corner of their eye.


Visual Kick Start

Kids like to look at pictures. This isn’t a surprise to anyone. Their first introduction to literacy is through picture books and photographs. They use these images to help develop a base of understanding for the content.

In my class we are currently reading Wringer by Jerry Spinelli (one of my FAVORITE authors). I’m using the book to help my students understand character development within a book. I used a series of pictures with my 4th grade class last week to help them follow the complex relationships between the main character ond others in the book.

When the students returned from recess I had the visual kick start of three pictures projected on the SMARTBoard. The kids came in and immediately started talking about the pictures as they sat on the floor with their reading partners.

Busy Puppies by Blazingstar @ Flickr

Their stories were first about owning pets and how cute they thought the animals were, but this soon changed. One of my deeper thinkers saw this first still to the right and saw me sitting in my reading seat holding the book and raised his hand.

“This picture is like the book. The dogs are like Palmer and his friends wrestling around having a good time just being boys.” – Brendan

Cat and Dog by DelphyE @ Flickr

The students turned and focused their attention on the other two pictures. I had them turn and talk about how all three photos relate to the book. They quickly discussed other possibile connections for the remaining two pictures.

“I think the cat and dog picture represent Palmer’s relationship with Dorthy. Even though one is a boy and the other a girl doesn’t mean they have to fight.” – Debi

Cat + Mouse by Denis Defreyne

“The cat and mouse shows that Palmer can be friends with Nipper (a pigeon). Just because some people like to kill the pigeons doesn’t mean Palmer has to too.” – Quinn

These are just a few examples. I was impressed with the variety of connections my students were able to make to support their thinking.

Several students came to me afterwards and asked if they could search creative commons for pictures that connect to their books for their reading groups. I like the idea of having them find pictures for each other to share their thinking. I definitely plan on using this strategy more in the future.


More Than Words

I’ve always felt “iffy” about my class website’s look and feel, but now it’s official… I don’t like it. Is it easy to follow? What do people look at when they go to it? After reading the articles tied to this 3rd COETAIL course, I wondered how many people I have turned away through my mis-use of visual literacy.

The film God George Lucas has a page on edutopia entitled Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education.  He describes the importance of teaching communication in the variety of ways our students are faced with in today’s media dominated society.

“If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?” – George Lucas

This is a strong valid point. We spend so much time teaching kids to decode a variety of reading genres, but spend no time teaching how to navigate a website, explore why certain chords and colors make you feel different emotions, or why certain business logos quickly catch your eye.

Brandon Jones’ article Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design and Anne Aula and Kerry Rodden’ article Eye-tracking studies: more than meets the eye  talks about us as information gathers and how our brain looks for information.

 “…most people are inherently visual thinkers, not data processors.” – Brandon Jones

“…people evaluate the search results page so quickly that they make most of their decisions unconsciously.” -Aula and Rodden

Both of these quotes hinted to me the old phrase, “Less is more.” People want to be able to quickly get in, get what they want, and get out.

Now, back to my troubled class website. How user friendly was my site? Not.

My old class site home page had too much info with a lot of scrolling.


The my administration has decided that our class sites should be a little more uniform for each homeroom.

  • themes can vary
  • content in our side bar should have a similar format
  • create common links to the same curricular information across grade level

One of the things we discussed is to not have so many items in the side bar. We created general categories and nested other topics inside them. I teach chunking information to the class when reading non-fiction text, but never applied it to my own web design. Duh! This helped with keeping the page to a shorter size when opened and didn’t require the surfer to scroll for information.

My question to the admin was, “Who is our target audience? Kids or Parents?”.

The answer was, both. This is where I am struggling. Kids today don’t process information information the same way their parents do. Right now my site is a fusion of kid and adult friendly information and links, but feels to me to be some form of a media literacy Frankenstein.

Things I’d like to do:

  1. Make my current site more user friendly (quick navigation, aesthetically appealing, chunked information) and have a link for the students to use to get to another site that’s more kid friendly to locate their information and links or…
  2. Use an educational social networking site like Edmodo for a gathering place for my students to obtain the information they need. Quite a few of them (even though they’re under 13) are quite familiar with the design and functionality of facebook.

The new look: 4A3  New Class Site 

Please comment or leave any suggestions. I want my site to be more than a collection of words for people to wade through. They should be able to find what they need wether it’s a student or adult.






Course 2 Final Project: Thou Shalt and Shalt Nots

The Right Thing / The Wrong Thing

The Right Thing / The Wrong Thing

I enjoyed looking at a variety of Acceptance User Policies from various schools around the world. It gave me some good ideas of things I wanted to include in my AUP and helped me appreciate the work my school has done on our policy.

My school in broken into four divisions: PK-2 grd, 3-5 grd, 6-8 grd, and 9-12 grd. We are a 1:1 school in grades 5-12. There are currently three AUPs: PK – 4, 5 – 8, and 9 – 12. Students in my division (3-5) have access to: laptops, ipods, Smartboards, kindels, digital cameras and ipads.

One of the things I first wanted to do was create a 4th AUP for grades 3 and 4 specifically. I didn’t feel they should be clumped in with the lower primary students, but they aren’t 1:1 like our 5th graders.

I used my schools current AUP as a foundation. They created it last year for the 1:1 roll out. One thing that I kept was the “I will,” format. I looked at a couple of schools’ policies and they felt too heavy for kids laid out in the “I’ won’t,” style.

Another thing I felt was important was an expectation for bringing your own device. Even though our school has the students purchase their laptop in fifth grade and in grades 3 and 4 we are 2:1 with laptops, quite a few students in my class have their own ipods, ipads and Kindels. I feel that there is an opportunity to allow students to use these devices within the classroom that’s being missed.

I have also changed the format of delivery to the students. I have kept it the AUP only 10 expectations long. It’s short and manageable for this age. At the end of each expectation the student and parent must sign their initials. I hope this slows down the student and parent to actually go over what they’re initialing one by one.

After completing the AUP the students must take and pass a quiz covering the 10 expectations. The quiz is created by the students themselves. They get into groups of 2 – 3 and create a good example and a bad example of each expectation (see the sample below that my current class created). The teacher goes through the samples and builds a quiz hitting each expectation. Students must pass the quiz with a 100%. They can use the AUP for assistance. Students that don’t pass must retake the quiz until they do.

I feel that besides a classroom poster stating the expectations, the teacher needs to review the AUP periodically. Students can even make the posters for the room and create skits about each standard.

Thanks to those that helped me with this project and the schools that made their AUPs public.

JISD      ISKL     SSIS     HKIS

Who teaches me to play it safe?

some rights reservedWho’s responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

I thought about this question last week while I was in a think tank preparing for our school’s up coming accreditation. We were going over ideas for what skills we felt our students should have by the time they leave our school. There was a lengthy list that I felt could be condensed into: We want our students to be confident creative problem solvers that are able to communicate and collaborate effectively while displaying empathy as they make the world a better place.

To create a student like that it’s not just the teacher or the parent’s responsibility, it’s a community effort. This includes the community, whether it be online or the one in which they live in, teaching students from an early age how to keep themselves safe online. Common Sense Media has created a collection of lesson plans on Digital Citizenship. This is a great way to have age appropriate lessons in school that share a common language when presenting students with different scenarios to discuss about online safety.

Having parents in for discussions and support groups is also important. The more that we can have a common language and expectations the more the students see the importance of the messages of online safety and being a responsible netizen. Guest speakers from the community can come in and talk to classes and parent groups about what they can do at home to make using technology safe considering a growing number of kids don’t have the same perspective as their parents as what constitutes as bullying.

In “”Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers” Danah Boyd, she discusses how teens see bullying as an act upon a person who doesn’t deserve it. They also claim that it’s not even happening that often. I saw this in two different schools first hand:

Case 1: Two students (9th grade) obtained a third student’s email password. For “fun” the sent a string of emails from the third students account without his knowledge. The emails were sent to a teacher over the course of a couple of weeks saying extremely hurtful things. When the two culprits were discovered their defense was, “He deserved it. He played a joke on us too.” There was no connection that they were cyber bullying someone else. They were just having fun getting even in their mind.

Case 2: A girl in 6th grade wasn’t getting a long with a classmate. This went from snide remarks on the bus to hateful words on Facebook. This escalated to a publicly announced fight after school. Luckily parents were alerted and the fight didn’t take place. It was found that one of the girls’ older sister had been coaching her younger sister on what to type on FB.

Parents and teachers need to asses if a student is responsible enough to use technology at various levels. Their limitations at school might be different at home, but if the students have a sense that they are being held responsible, they’ll think twice before sending a post or text that’s inappropriate or hurtful.

I read an article titled “When Dad Banned Text Messaging” by Tara Parker Pope. A dad goes to extremes after seeing how often his kids are sending text messages (100 per day) and takes it off of their cell plan. The kids feel disconnected from their friends, but the parents noticed that the kids weren’t able to focus on the real people around them whenever a text came through.

In another case a mom in Ohio took over her daughter’s FB account after her daughter was disrespectful towards her on FB. She posted a picture of her daughter with an “X” over her mouth and the line, “I can’t keep my …”

Both of these cases are parents going to the extreme. My question is, “Are they teaching their kids to be more responsible and online safety or are they a form of bullying themselves?”