What’s Beyond COETAIL – Dissonance?

I have two endeavors occurring simultaneously that involve COETAIL. One is next school year my current school (Redeemer International) will be merging with the bigger school on campus (Ruamrudee). RIS is also implementing a new initiative dedicated toward training and assisting teachers with technology in their classrooms. I will be challenged integrating technology with teaching a highly hands-on subject (Introduction to Physics & Chemistry) in a new school. Fortunately I have taught the material before in a different school, and because of COETAIL already have some tech ideas. These include maintaining class blogs, and utilizing Phet simulations throughout the year. Any suggestions from my cohort and learning communities are welcome.

My second endeavor is completing the Masters program through SUNY. After COETAIL and EARCOS I have 18 credits completed, leaving two elective courses, a research course, and a research project remaining. I would like to complete this by the end of next school year, but the SUNY sequence of courses will probably prevent this. While reviewing my RSS reader during course 5 I found a possible Masters research topic. I came across the thread “How Can We Keep Students Engaged Without Carrots & Sticks?”  Following the various links and comments brought me back to a theory I found intriguing years ago while earning my BA Psych degree – Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory.  Possibly I can combine my learning in both disciplines for interesting research.

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Course 5 Final Project

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Google Sites Idea

Last year I used whatever professional development time (plus my personal time) I could find and created a Google site to use with my HS science classes this year.  I’ve been going along adding units, creating and uploading docs.  For the most part it has been well received by my students, and I have conserved literally reams of copy paper.

My idea for my final project is for my students to create their own class, and individual Google sites for a unit.  My thought is if I just introduce some content and show them some Google sites basics, that they might create something better than the class site I’ve been using.  I am hoping to have them work collaboratively on a class homepage, and then make their own individual pages to link from there.  It is new territory for me, but I’m excited to get going!

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Classroom Management during Laptop Lessons

I teach mostly high school students, and I do think this issue is different for various grade levels. However, I get the impression that some teachers think bringing laptops into the classroom is like providing a Pandora’s Box of potential evil creativity to students. Most often, I don’t even bother to try and be a computer policeman during my classes. Just like certain students will day dream, doodle, or even be disruptive without computers; likewise, some students will inevitably be off task with computers. Of course I remind students there is a direct correlation between those students attentive and on task in class, and those who earn higher grades on assessments. Nonetheless, classroom management is a fundamental teacher responsibility, and there are a few things that are helpful to remember.

 First, basic principles of classroom management such as building respect and rapport with your students, being consistent with expectations and consequences, and actively engaging students are all applicable to a laptop classroom. I think if a teacher can apply these basic ideas then any type of class they teach will be well managed.

Second, teachers should have their eyes on student computer screens as well. Either walk around the room, or have students sitting with their backs to you (their screens facing you). For those occasions that I need their absolute undivided attention, I have students literally place a folder over their screens (idea from Tim Pettine).

My students with folders covering their computer screens

Third and probably most importantly, a teacher can manage student behavior by the type of assignments they give. Interactive exercises with time limits can be effective. Students working on Google docs and you observing their work on your screen, making comments to them both verbally and on their doc, helps keep students focused. Giving assignments with time restraints, checking their document “revision history”, and commenting to students individually or to the whole class helps students learn time management. I’ve used examples of students not using their class time wisely and then working late at night to finish something. Revision history also shows if a student merely copied and pasted their work from another source.

Like any unfamiliar teaching method or tool there will be kinks to work out, but I feel most teachers if given some training, would enjoy rather than fear utilizing laptops in their classroom.

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Will education change as we know it because of technology?  My first thought was; why does anything change?  As a science teacher Newton’s 1st Law came to mind – a body remains at rest, or in motion with a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.  Essentially, things change because of changes happening to it or around it.  So then, does education shape society, or does society shape education? Fortunately, I don’t have to tackle this complex question of interrelatedness because technology has a history of changing education.

Chris Cambell blogs in Edudemic; “Advances in technology have always transformed the way people are educated.  From the abacus that made teaching math easier millennia ago, to the word processor that changed the way research papers are written and presented, humanity’s technological progress has impacted education.”  He goes on to state that the “digital revolution” has increased the speed at which change is occurring.  According to Forbes, education as we know it is finished.  Education cutbacks will increase the use of online learning.  Additionally, for the sake of saving costs and reducing digital piracy, E-text books will replace current texts.

In The Role of Disruptive Technology in the Future of Higher Education (link 8), Katrina Meyer summarizes:

Pressures from all sides have generated an urgent need for change in higher education today:

  • Declining government revenues for allocation to higher education
  • Students worried about affording another round of tuition increases
  • Leaders from government, business, and higher education pleading for more efficiency, more productivity, more graduates, and more learning.

Enrollments in online programs totaled 937,000 students in 2004,5 1.2 million students in 2005, and 3.9 million in 2007, or 7.9 percent of the total student enrollment in degree-granting institutions.6 In addition, 20 percent of students surveyed took an online course in 2007.”

Nonetheless, others are not so certain concerning the quality of change.  If teachers are just using technology to substitute for other technology, and do not progress from there, then teaching is not really changing.  Just this year in Thailand the winning political party started making good on a promise of tablets for all students, but they haven’t trained the teachers.  Talk about putting the cart before the horse!  According to a US News article, even in wealthier countries like the US, “there are some wonderful initiatives around the country, but they are just pockets of excellence in a world of mediocrity.”  So technology is and always has changed education; it is now just a matter of how prevalent and pervasive the changes will be.

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New Name for Old Idea?

Have you tried the flip?  How about that reverse instruction idea?  I remember in my early teaching days hearing what those older teachers, bored at an in-service used to say; “If you stay around long enough in education old ideas just get recycled.”  This is kind of how I feel about reverse instruction.  Am I missing something here?  I’m not THAT old!

Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept is sound, but I just think good teachers have been doing it for years.  Reverse instruction is the same as preparatory homework to me.  According to an article based on 1980’s research from “Focus On Effectiveness – Integrating Technology Into Research Based Strategies,” there are 4 types of homework: 

  1. Memorization of basic rules, algorithms, or laws so the skill becomes rote.
  2. Increase in skill speed, used for improving students’ abilities to apply these skills in more complex problem solving.
  3. Deepening understanding of a concept—providing students time to read further, elaborating on a new idea and expanding their understanding.
  4. Preparation for the following day’s learning, such as an advance organizer or cue to increase readiness for new information.
However, there is new technology all the time, and I see reverse instruction as an excellent method for integrating new technology.  I believe the most positive benefit of teachers jumping on the RI craze is them sharing lessons of how they use it with technology today.  Jonathon Martin blogged in “Connected Principals” that his early post about RI has averaged 30 reads a day (thanks in part to COETAIL :) ).  I look forward to following and learning from educators world wide as they “advance the flip;”  applying, refining, and creating using RI in their classrooms.      
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How does technology integration STAC up in your school?

The degree in which technology integration progresses into classrooms depends on the motivation of four school groups; Students, Teachers, Administrators, and Colleges.

"New Technologies in Education will fail without a change in the way of teaching."

The best news is that students are already very eager to use technology in their classrooms.  The simplest manner to use technology is to just substitute it for another tool, like using computers instead of writing with pen and paper.  Even this rudimentary style of using old things in old ways encourages students to write better.  I take this as a sign that students would really perform if given imaginative and innovative lessons to encourage their creativity.  Our students live and play in the 21st century, so they deserve to be taught accordingly.

How can teachers ensure their pedagogy keeps up with 21st century students?  They mostly just need training and time to learn it.  Almost all teachers realize that motivated learners help inspire fulfilling teaching. However, most teachers are technology immigrants and their students technology natives.  Many teachers, like most people, are reluctant or even intimidated to leave their comfort zone.  Often teachers become aware of the potential for technology through a dazzling in-service presentation, only to have little time to further learn and apply the newly introduced technology.

Supportive and encouraging administrators who are knowledgeable in the benefits of technology integration could facilitate 21st century teaching in their schools.  However, often they are profound technology immigrants, and are too overwhelmed or enamored with other initiatives.  There are tech integration programs available that have proven to be effective.  An genuine 21st century school provides an environment where teachers are willing to take some risks.  Working together admin and teachers would realize that neither teachers nor admin need to be tech experts, but to just give their student tech natives a little incentive and let them roll with it.

Finally, colleges can have a duel role in ensuring 21st century teaching in the 21st century.  First, they can educate new and existing teachers and administrators.  I am so glad for my opportunity to participate in COETAIL, and initially mostly did so because it would contribute 15 credits toward a Masters degree.  I propose there should be a separate program for admin, possibly ACOETAIL (Administrator Conference Of Educational Technology and Information Literacy). It could be a week long conference where they could at least have limited exposure and experience with existing ed tech.  This would increase admin tech awareness, admin then would be motivated to encourage teachers to enter the certificate program, and eventually apply what they learned in their schools.

The second role of colleges involves the carrot they dangle in front of HS students – college admission requirements.  Colleges have become more mindful of the digital footprints of prospective students.  However, many colleges still have an imbalance of importance between test scores/grades, and technology skills in their decision process.  Companies and organizations are interested in hiring problem solvers that can use modern tools.  Colleges need to become more in tune with matching those needs with demonstrated student strengths.


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Who’s job is it to teach NETs – A Slam Dunk

I have honestly had a hard time formulating my thoughts for this lesson blog because the answer seems like such a slam dunk to me – all teachers.  I think all teachers should be teaching NETs because they are applicable to today’s world, and they apply to non-technology related education too.

Since along with watching TV students spend “virtually every waking minute” with their 3G or 4G phones, I pads, PCs, etc. it seems common sense to me that they should be incorporated into their  education as well.  As educators we would want to use them appropriately and help our students get the most from their technology.  The NETs provide us with guidelines on how to most effectively guide are students into 21st century learning.

Nonetheless, the NETs are not specific to technology driven education exclusively.  They are inherent within several recent education initiatives.  NETs #1 aligns well with constructivist pedagogy.  #2 sure would encourage diversity as you communicate with people around the world.  Numbers 3 & 4 work well within an inquiry-based curriculum.  #5 can be included within any anti-bullying policy. Finally, #6 applies to preparing students for the future.  In a rapidly changing world educators should want their students to “transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.”

What I believe is not so easy to answer is how to apply the NETs and thoroughly integrate technology across the curriculum, but that is for another blog assignment :)

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Course 3 Visual Literacy: Final project

Course three has been extremely enlightening to me.  The last five years of my teaching experience has been specialized in ELL instruction.  Throughout this time I have developed various visual literacy teaching strategies, but until now was unaware of the theoretical basis or continuing educational research behind some of my instruction.  The instruction at my school is unique compared to other strictly ESL programs in that we teach English language as well as course content, and the school is fully accredited to provide a degree to those who graduate.

A good springboard for me in this course was the John Hopkins School of Education article Visual Literacy and the Classroom written by Erin Riesland.  Earlier in COETAILS we discussed how technology can be integrated into reverse instruction, and from this article and class discussion I was introduced to how visual literacy can be integrated within a Constructivist learning model.  As a science teacher I advocate learning by doing, and the concept that knowledge can be constructed rather than merely obtained from information received from an external source.  It was with these ideas in mind that I assigned a presentation project for my 7th grade Life Science class.

The following project was assigned online during our extended flood days absence from school.  I wanted them to recall and process what we had already learned about cell parts and function before our absence, so it would provide a bridge to our next unit.  Although we have not returned to school yet, I have seen some of my students work already on Google docs and I am looking forward to their class presentations!

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“Less is …”


While studying for course 3, lesson 3, I was reminded of a helpful but not always applied motto in my life – “less is best.”  As my presentation style evolves I am learning that less often creates more.  I have found that a more succinct presentation of a lesson or concept usually increases the probability of greater retention and learning.

I particularly enjoyed the Presentation Zen video in our lesson.  As I first began using digital presentations in the classroom, usually with PowerPoint, I was guilty of almost all the ineffective strategies.  Too much text, reading the text to my audience, and too many distracting graphics were my most prevalent infractions.   A thought from the video in which I strongly agree and now try to consistently apply is  “If your audience walks away only remembering one thing, what do you want that to be?”  I think with classroom lessons this idea can apply not just to the entire presentation, but for each individual slide.  However, when teaching specifically to MS or even HS students I don’t entirely agree with the premise “slides should be completely incapable of standing by themselves.”   I think a slide can be an important text that students need to add to their notebook or highlight in their subject file, so it could stand by itself.  The supporting graphic and my verbal role would be to elaborate or provide examples relating to the text.  An example could be a slide simply defining the term “hypothesis” (possibly using color and font style for emphasis), supported by me providing various examples of using them in experiments.

I was not as totally enamored with the What is Good PowerPoint Design blog as I found the stated ideas a bit too vague.  Nonetheless, the graphics of various examples were helpful to me.  I recently assigned an online research project to my 10th graders about what caused the floods this year in Bangkok.  For a starting point I provided them with a link to one of the popular Blue Whale videos.  One of my students made a slide containing the following graph:


Under the graph he cited the blog article How exceptional is Thailand’s rainfall in 2011? by Andrew Walker.  In the article Walker states:
“The average for January-September rainfall over this period was 971 millimetres. The graph shows the year by year variation from the average (click for a larger image). So, 1915 was about 40 percent below average, while 1918 was about 30 percent above average.
2011, shown on the far right of the graph has been about 42 percent above average for January to September. It is easy to see from the graph that this is exceptional, occurring only in 1942, 1953, and 1970.”

I plan on praising my student for finding the information and citing the article, and then assign the class the task of taking this information and producing a simpler and more understandable graphic.  I look forward to seeing what they create!

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