Tag Archives: reflection

1:1…Productivity, Audibles, and an Open Message to Intl’ Schools

I piloted my first 1:1 classroom in 2007 at the Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel. I had a basic laptop kit of Lenovo PC’s that, maybe, had 80 GB hard drives. It was a social studies class for English language learners and so the course was very literacy based. It was the perfect storm for 1:1 lap top integration.

Image from Gary Stein courtesy of Time Magazine

I have spent an enormous amount of thought and time in developing successful ways to run a 1:1 classroom. And I’m still experimenting.  I have been extremely fortunate to have attended the right professional development opportunities and stay connected with the mavens of technology integration in education. The most important consideration in turning your classroom into a 1:1 environment is that you are not adding a new academic tool (like an overhead projector), you are actually changing the context and philosophy of learning.

I thoroughly enjoy having laptops in a classroom; however, to say I have never been frustrated by their use would not be true. Expecting problems, glitches, and technical issues would be most pragmatic. The benefit here is that individual experience in troubleshooting increases enhances the skills necessary addressing issues as they arise. The philosophical shift is now the teacher as the learner. Unfortunately, some teachers are uncomfortable with embracing this important 21st century ideal. My advice: swallow your pride, admit your human side into the learning process, and have some fun.

Here are some important reflections on learning in a laptop environment. The aim here is to share what I have found to be some basic approaches that support two key areas for teachers: productivity and pedagogy.

Productivity

Proper laptop use starts with a clear understanding of how the technology will be used in the class and the specific protocols for maximizing its potential.  I think an understanding based on productivity is crucial. We will use the machine to produce and at the same time, to be an active learner. Getting a container would be the initial way for teachers to model productivity. It can be a web site, wiki, or blog…..or Edmodo!! I love Edmodo because it allows me to be extremely productive in a variety of ways. It functions as a very sophisticated communication tool that carries a library feature that allows for organization of resources.  I use Edmodo in conjunction with Google Apps to power a productive classroom. Every student shares a Google document (only one) with me so I may check their progress in assignments or have them respond to prompts.  It’s primarily a paperless environment with the ability to constantly monitor progress.

Productivity should be a top priority for implementing 1:1 protocols and showing students what and how to make their systems more useful. Here is a shortlist of important productivity tools/concepts to use for managing a laptop:

  • Social bookmarking – I use Diigo.
  • Dropbox – cloud based with sharing capability of files.
  • Chrome extensions – Evernote, Screenshots, Diigo, Twitter,  etc.
  • Folder management
  • Google Doc management and collections
  • RSS Reader
  • Kwiki Cloak anti-procrastination tool
  • Instapaper for Twitter – to bookmark links to read later when the Twitter feed is too heavy
  • Picasa or Flickr – to build collections and for practicing visual literacy.
  • Teach Tagging…it’s a big deal
  • Create a Youtube Channel

screenshot

 Pedagogy

With the outstanding tools available for teachers and students, it is easy to get consumed and overwhelmed by the new blogging platforms and integrative resources.   I feel that here is great opportunity to communicate my thoughts on calling audibles in the school year. An audible is quick change in the course of an activity or initiative. Effective teachers are like QB’s in football….they can call audibles when the situation calls for it. I try and stick to big initiatives and carry them through the school year, while tucking away new tools for implementation next year. I plan to see what I can do with Google+ next year so for now I am sticking with what I’m using now. Smaller tools  and apps can, through backwards design, be implicated into a unit of study (sometimes easily, sometimes it’s a stretch).  Effective teaching strategies and clear communication of expectation will slowly, but surely, transform a classroom into a much more interactive and problem based classroom.

Here is a short list of what I have found useful as a 1:1 teacher.

  1. Join the Diigo Groups 1:1 and Classroom 2.0
  2. Put your unit plans on google docs…second smartest thing I have done with technology.
  3. If you use Edmodo, create a Teachers Lounge and add resources through feeds; then once a week remove/tag the resources (by subject area and section). By Christmas you will have a treasure chest of awesome.
  4. Create a Livebinder and start your own textbook. Share it!
  5. Build a Personal Learning Network. Smartest thing I have ever done as an educator. If you don’t have a PLN….then forget everything here.  The number one reason people leave positions is over the lack of Professional Development. A Personal Learning Network has been the single most important discovery of my career. You should know what people are doing in their classrooms, tech or no tech.
  6. Create a “Tools of Mind” list for giving students a chance to create their own learning opportunities.
  7. Have students blog and encourage their writing to address multiple formats with an emphasis on voice.
  8. Engage in visual literacy activities, critical thinking problems, and creative fun.
  9. Rubrics are everywhere so borrow them and adapt them. Even better, use generic rubrics that target key areas.
  10. Use the class time for active strategies involving verbal fluency, conversation, and individualized de-briefing.
  11. Social Media — encourage students to find relevant articles on thee material
  12. I do use a basic folder to have students cover up their screens on certain occasions. I expanded the use of the folder into a search reference tool, formative assessment tool, place to score blog entries, and relevant strategies for thinking analytically.

Screenshot from my Website

Will students check emails and skype chat in your class? Maybe – but they won’t if they are busy and focused. What we are really educating with a laptop is self-regulation. Can a toddler-teenager-adult have the discipline to ignore the underlying distractions of the web? Ask your students and empathize with them because the teacher is just as likely in the same boat.

One last note about the 1:1 classroom

Being an international teacher with some degree of control over where I wish to teach, I can say, with the utmost conviction, I will not work at a school that isn’t 1:1.

Learning Dilemmas of the 21st century (it’s not all bad)

Teaching internationally has excellent benefits and, at times, heart-wrenching costs. There is a high degree of stress that comes with the wide-range of responsibilities shared by faculty and staff that make weekends feel short and workdays stretch. Educational historians may look back at the initial decade of the 21st century as the “dark times” prior to an even larger paradigm shift in formal secondary education. A time when collegiality was replaced with cynicism; a time when break room conversations turned vitriolic regarding the changes that all could see coming. There are those that distrust emerging tools and 21st century approaches to education, and others ready to ‘storm the barricades’ in it defense. In the international community, where reputation and professional growth are the driving factors behind successful postings, teachers have rare opportunities to be mavens in education by escaping the standardized testing climate of home. International teachers are not interested in things like tenure because they are impractical; we are interested in “what’s new?” or “what’s coming?” and how can this help me both professionally and personally.

The topics covered in Coetail #2 have really provided context in understanding the values that will likely drive formal education in the future: the importance of sharing and having empathy. With proper use of intellectual material and protocols to use materials, content will continue to proliferate and the opportunities to create shall be a visible force for change. Blogging about cyber-bullying, in the shadow of the death of young boy who took his own life as a result of bullying, hit me very hard as a teacher and father. Standardized tests didn’t help that young man and I’m sure that is what all of his teachers focused their attention upon. The situation is as much sad as it is criminal.

The Coetail 2 project our group developed is a very elaborate and engaging lesson plan for teaching proper use of intellectual property and the thinking that drives Creative Commons. Our group from Ruamrudee International School collaborated and commented one another’s contributions and tailored the lesson toward students with options for informing parents. Students will take a short assessment that will email them the results. The lesson will be useful to any program teaching digital citizenship or relying heavily on visual media.

I would like to say that the face to face time in the cohort has gone way beyond any classroom experience I’ve ever encountered as a student. The case studies and engaging opportunities are great, but the large group discussion with so many fine teachers and fine people have been excellent. We do have a great cohort with great ideas (as the blogs indicate), articulation, and visible passion for teaching.

To finally arrive at the point of the title of this entry, I do see the problems in education as something that can be fixed (in order to make room for new problems). We have awfully intelligent students who are on the average smarter now than any generation before them. They are doing things much earlier and with higher expectations of results. So what is the PROBLEM? Maybe it’s us as teachers always trying to solve something or sensationalizing the issues because at least then we have something to make a crusade about. I guess there is always something to complain about. Even in a world that’s pretty damn awesome.

My concern: my pre-school aged daughter will be a member of the Class of 2026. I am inclined to ask her teachers (many are younger than I am) what they believe the world will be like in 2026 and are they really preparing my child for that kind of environment. That should be a driving question for all educators.

 

 

Finishing on a High Note….

My project/unit plan for my course final is a very basic research assignment that asks students to explore a topic of interest and develop a systems-based understanding of how that topic of interest has changed in the last 30 years. I have taught world history for 15 years and absolutely love the systems history approach as it allows for a deep understanding of the connections between people and ideas, their geography, and other people. I also chose this project because it is at the end of a modern world history course and very rarely do most history classes (except for token “current events” days) ever address recent or contemporary change. Like MTV or Reality TV.

The research process is the key here and ninth grade students are expected to establish research skills along a continuum with their senior year demanding extended essays or English papers. I have embedded opportunities to practice search skills, visual literacy, organization, content-analysis, and ultimately presentation/design elements. My students will be constructing a slideshow with exactly 15 slides that change every 20 seconds, a presentation technique referred to as Pecha Kucha (pronounced “pa-kach-ka”) . After five minutes the audience will have heard a research based “story” about the last 30 years that demonstrates understanding of systematic change. We will employ a PERSIAN chart for their research plan, video examples, and ultimately a tool box of appropriate terms used specifically by social scientists. The assignment will be be four class periods with one class for presentation. Rubric link is embedded into the lesson plan:


 

FINAL REFLECTION

Well, after two months of exploration, organization, and autonomous thinking about the craft of teaching and what is happening, I am left with a number of very real questions and dilemmas about the systems we still use to educate young people.  If I trace the genesis of my beliefs regarding education I end up with the birth of my son (and two years later, my daughter) and the very real concern that I (still) have that he is allowed the freedom to learn and grow socially with other members of his cohort. That my children are able to think critically about the world around them and that direct instruction in skills will be made available along with the opportunities to shape their own learning. This course is a beginning in allowing me to facilitate a change in mind set: that education is a journey employing all the senses and brain functions in order to understand and shape our environments. It never stops. Our focal point as educators is the tendency to be age-restrictive (roughly ages 4-18) and that preparation is the paramount responsibility. I think this is a very narrow view of teaching and in general ignores the real roles of teachers (which are approximately 23 different roles).

Blogging is great because I get to say what I want.  Current teachers must consider collaborating on a regular basis, consider upgrading stale and disengaging curriculum, and above all stop complaining. I hear so many teachers complain about so many different matters that it is very uninspiring and difficult to be collegial. Current parents need to be much more engaged and informed on what is happening in their children’s class rooms. Know the curriculums and question when they appear stale or lacking in 21st century skills. Administrators must be involved as well in evaluating classrooms and begin to push their schools in a progressive direction that emphasizes higher level skills, rigor, and pride.

My favorite excuse for not keeping up with the times is “I am a traditionalist.” (whatever that means) I literally throw up in my brain. All I can promise is if my son or daughter ever has a “traditionalist” for a teacher, all I can promise is that it will be one very long year and they better get used to seeing my face. I read Nurture Shock;  plus, I know how the brain learns.