Legacies of Learning

I think one of the most powerful aspects of technology in the classroom and with student learning is the ability to offer a student the chance to share their learning with a global audience and to have their learning product withstand time. With the help of technology, students have the opportunity to create legacies of learning; products to be shared with other learners and which can be built upon and improved. In my math and science class, technology is used to support the development of theses “legacies of learning”. I want students to understand that they are teachers, innovators and creative artists and that they need to share these with a larger global population. In math class, students create tutorial videos based on what they understand at the conceptual level. They become teachers, creating videos to help other students. In both math and science class, students engage in inquiry-based projects where they are using the knowledge learned in class to answer a personally relevant question. We use technology to help students show the path they took to answer their question. Students create short documentaries, tracing their steps and showing the work they did to answer their question. These videos become models for other students to watch and understand the expectations and how they can use knowledge. They also become possible starting points for new students to build off the ideas of another student and improve the idea.

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In my class, we use technology for these wonderful purposes but also balance this with paper and pencil thinking, storyboarding, whiteboard collaboration and sketches of ideas before using the technology. The use of technology without a front end load of time spent on thinking about how to use it, what I want to say, how will I say it and how can I use technology to deepen understanding, will only end up with technology impeding learning rather than helping.

We need teachers more than ever!

Will education change because of technology? Will the role of teachers and the classroom change with technology? Short answer; absolutely. I think before we can sit down and discuss exactly how technology will change, we need to begin with understanding the effects technology is and can have on the brain and learning. That is the future. The area of neuroscience, in particular, how the working parts of memory are reacting to information being delivered via technology. As Carr states, “The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory, the scratch pad of consciousness, to long-term memory, the mind’s filing system,” The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, 2011

Throughout history, there have been advances in technological tools, which have had great impacts on learning and the brain. For example, when the book was first introduced it required long, focused attention which promoted greater retention and deeper understanding. It is being argued that the internet is shifting away from focused attention and deeper understanding to a more rapid, shallow, broad scanning of information or , “the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources”. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Carr, 2011

If there are impacts which are starting to be uncovered and slowly understood, then the question regarding education could be, “how do we evolve with these changes?”  I think one way to evolve is to engage in dialogue using relevant, up to date information. For example, if the half-life of knowledge or, “ the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months according to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD). To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.” Why are we reading resources from 2004 or even earlier? According to the half-life of knowledge as a by-product of the internet, then that resource is completely useless. To be able to intelligently discuss the future of education and technology and their integration, then we need resources on the cutting edge of that discussion.

Also, the argument that the classroom is becoming obsolete as well as the role of teachers, is not the right argument. The classroom is simply a structure. What happens in the classroom is the key. How we see learning, how we choose to engage students, assess students or try to make learning relevant are the real questions and issues. I think if a classroom has learning opportunities which are “(1) personalized; (2) safe and secure; (3) inquiry-based; (4) student-directed; (5) collaborative; (6) interdisciplinary; (7) rigorous and hands-on; (8) embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations; (9) environmentally conscious; (10) offering strong connections to the local community and business; (11) globally networked; and (12) setting the stage for lifelong learning”.Prakash Nair, 2011, then the classroom is fine. It works. I do see obvious challenges with large class sizes and small spaces, but I think the first change needs to be in the area of instructional design before we tear class walls down.

One of the most important roles we will have as teachers in the age of the internet is what Siemens states as the, “ know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).” We need to teach children where to find the knowledge they need. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. We need to teach students how to filter through the incredible amount of irrelevant, useless information in order to discover the key pieces of information they do need. Once they find those key pieces, we then create opportunities to apply that knowledge to real-world issues and questions, which their answers or innovative solutions can then be shared globally. Teachers are more important than ever!

What about playing while we flip reverse instruction?

After reading articles about flipped classrooms, reverse instruction, gamification and play, I feel that these are all band-aids at best. My gut is telling me that the real issue is still being avoided. I think the real issue deals with critically looking at the standards and content we are being asked to teach the students and ask, “Is it relevant?” Is the content we are teaching still relevant to the needs of the students or should we be engaging in conversation about the standards and debating their relevancy? Perhaps an overhaul of the education system in terms of its’ goals for student learning is needed.

I challenge the idea of a flipped classroom or reverse instruction because I am constantly reading and hearing about how we as educators need to be lecturing less and have our students apply their understandings to tasks, which are relevant, challenging and real-world applicable. All flipped classrooms and reverse instruction seem to do is instead of make the students listen to lectures inside the classroom, they now have to spend extra time and listen to the lecture at home. Isn’t this just simple geography? In one of the articles, the teacher describes reverse instruction as, “instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.  Lectures at night, “homework” during the day. Call it the Fisch Flip.” https://connectedprincipals.com/archives/1534 We can call it whatever we want, but the students are still being lectured; just at home. If we focus our attention on questioning the relevancy of our current standards, and reducing the amount of content required to teach, could we not be able to combine some direct instruction with authentic application in one class?

In the Economist article, one teacher says, You can follow the progress of each child—where she started, how she progressed, where she got stuck and “unstuck” (as Ms Thordarson likes to put it). You can also view the progress of the entire class. And you could aggregate the information of all the classes taught by one teacher, of an entire school or even district, with data covering a whole year.” Sept 17, 2011. I would challenge this teacher and ask, “What if the time spent tracking progress on student work on Khan Academy was re-directed towards personally immersing oneself in the content she is asked to teach in order to explore the purpose and relevancy for teaching it? What if this teacher spent that time determining real-world applications for the content and then creating authentic tasks for the students to engage with in class?

I think technology has the power to be an incredible resource in learning, but only if we begin to critically examine what we are being asked to teach the students in terms of current relevance and future application. I will even go as far to say that in a world where my daughters are growing up amidst blogging, posting, spell check, grammar check and publishing, is learning about a compound sentence or even spelling relevant to her? Is this what she should be learning? Just saying this makes me want to throw up because deep down I totally believe it is important and how can spelling not be important. As I swallow my barf, I am at least trying to be open to looking at what knowledge is relevant despite how I may feel about it. What skills and understandings does the next generation really need? Once we focus in on what is important, we can then more effectively use technology to deepen our understandings.

What about time?

After reading articles on problem based learning, project based learning and challenged based learning, there is a shift towards more authentic and relevant learning for the student. The point of K-12 education is no longer simply the accumulation of knowledge but also the instruction of the skills needed to interact and handle that knowledge. Learning is being seen more as application rather than simple delivery and recall. These three approaches to learning want students to do something with the knowledge they gain through direct instruction, whether it be solving a real-world problem, inquiring and answering a personally meaningful question or attempting to create an innovative solution to a current real-world challenge. This is great news.

 

I think this line of thinking is pushing learning in the right direction and to keep the momentum moving in that direction, I wonder if these approaches need to be supported by an additional conversation. I think educators and administrators need to be talking about the amount of content or standards teachers are being asked to teach and whether all of that content is necessary. Perhaps discussions about prioritizing standards and looking at the content as something needing academic triage should be addressed. I only share this question because I believe that to be able to effectively perform project, problem or challenged based learning will require time and more time than is currently available for students and teachers in the classroom. How do we do this effectively if we are still operating within a standardized testing environment and where the majority of college requirements are based on academic tests, which are based primarily on content. Within these parameters, these learning approaches will only go so far before they plateau.

 

How does technology help? I think it helps by giving students access to knowledge and provides a lot of choice in how to present their understandings. However, the time saved in teaching some content is replaced by the time required to teach students how to navigate and filter through this incredible sea of knowledge. The ability to scan, and pull evidence off the internet, to filter essential information from the irrelevant is an extremely difficult skill to develop. Also, ideas like flipped classrooms, where students learn the content at home and then apply it in class are not ideal because research shows that direct instruction is still required for successful learning. Students need a solid knowledge base if they are to be able to create, be curious and innovate. How can one innovate or even be curious if they do not have a solid knowledge base? Yes, technology can be a great resource for building that base as long as it coincides with direct instruction from the teachers in the classroom, in real-time.

Course 5 project idea

The final project idea for course 5 is the building and designing of a website called The Creative Learning Exchange. The purpose is to offer students a place to share their learning with a global audience and place them in the role of educator to their global peers. It is also designed to be a depository of student work based on creativity, innovation, curiosity and imagination. A place where students can build off each other’s ideas and continuously move knowledge forward.

I like this project idea because it is trying to combine effective technology integration with the shift in education towards more real-world application and to answering, “what can students do with knowledge?” The challenge will be how to use technology in a way which enhances understanding rather than a tool which distracts and takes away from learning. I need to remember that the goal is always to foster innovative and critical thinking and not to be consumed by the ‘coolness’ of technology.

This project is time consuming because it is also working with redesigning curriculum and looking at how to design more relevant and purposeful learning for students and then seeing how the technology best fits. I think the creative learning exchange holds possibility for an effective blend between the two. I hope.

Is the question really about integrating technology?

I really enjoyed reading the article by Steve Denning regarding the reforming of educational practice. He argues that we need to shift from a factory model of education; one which simply dispenses content and then tests it, to an educational model which inspires lifelong learners. I think this is the conversation we need to be having first, before we look at how effectively we will integrate technology into the classroom. How can we integrate technology effectively if the education system is flawed to begin with? When I say flawed, I am suggesting a current system, which worked well for a long period of time but which is now becoming outdated and increasingly ineffective. One of the reasons the factory model of educational delivery is becoming increasingly ineffective is because of the advances in technology. The internet has made content accessible and so has changed the role of teachers and the purpose of education. The global access of information has shifted the role of education from delivery of knowledge to application of knowledge. The question is shifting to, “What can student do with knowledge?”

“Our goal is to inspire our students to become life-long learners with a love of education, so that they will be able to learn whatever they have to.”

I see technology integration as supporting this new shift. The technology needs to be seen as a tool to enable students to think creatively and innovate with the content. Technology integration is using technology to apply knowledge in new ways. According to the samr model, it would be focusing on modification and redefinition.I still believe that technology will plateau in effectiveness until the educational model is reformed and shifts to, “ inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.”(Denning,2011)

I am slow with integrating technology because at the same time I am thinking about technology, I am also looking at how to shift learning towards answering, “What can students do with knowledge?” When I come up with ideas about how to make content more applicable and relevant and provide opportunities for students to create and innovate with the knowledge, then I look at technology and ask, “How can technology support the student’s curiosity and be used to deepen understanding?”

AN INTERESTING EXPERIMENT?

For my final project for course 3, I chose to create a google slide show on a topic I will eventually present to the grade 5 parent population at my school. Currently, I am a grade 6 Math and Science teacher and for the past year, I have been offering parent learning sessions to both the current parent population as well as the upcoming parent population. The sessions directly relate to themes their children will experience in grade 6 and so the idea behind the parent sessions is to educate them to these themes in order to provide them with a background on what to expect and the expectations, which will be placed on their children. One of these parent sessions deals with creativity. The first time I presented on creativity, I had a simple google doc to guide my presentation. I tend to struggle with routine and step by step presentations because I find that incredibly constrictive and believe that it actually kills creativity. So, my google doc is based on presenting on the fly, reading the group and developing organically based on the discussions and instantaneous feedback being offered by the parental audience.

When I looked back at my google doc and chose to apply the knowledge gained during this course, I realized one thing my presentation lacked. There was not a single image or student example. The lack of student exemplars was due to the fact that this was a new teaching position and approaching and focusing on creativity was novel. Still, the lack of visual support was recognizable. So, I decided to challenge myself and move away from text and lecture and towards visual literacy and group interaction. I began by reviewing the needs of my audience. If I want to teach the parents about creativity and what it looks like in student work, I had to ask, “What do parents want to see? Want to hear?” How can I have them leave with a greater understanding of what is creativity? The answer: A great visual example of what creativity looks like!

I decided to find a student exemplar of creativity and have my slide presentation be just that. I want to see the power of just providing visual evidence.
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1RUQWb93VuHf9yTQYB2vqnd-bUeMgsiP000Cpda-eGEc/edit#slide=id.p
My presentation will be simply starting with a question, “What is creativity? What does creativity look like?” I will follow this question with a student created example and then the rest of the session will be interacting with the parents, jotting their ideas down, facilitating discussion, challenging what is said, all the while continuously reflecting back to the video as our example. I believe the parents will leave with a clear example of what creativity looks like and through the post-discussion, will be more educated about what creativity is and will be able to more clearly articulate a definition of creativity. I cannot reflect on the outcome of this presentation yet, as I have not presented yet, however with each passing day, I am more and more seeing the profound benefits to simplicity. A two slide presentation plus myself may be enough to sell my idea versus spending hours on a 10 slide presentation, checking my font sizes and background colors. Perhaps the zen experience is simply finding one powerful image and then talking about it! This course is about visual literacy.

Ecosystem infographic

2010
From Visually.
In the next few days, we will be starting our next science unit on ECOSYSTEMS. This activity comes in perfect timing with trying to use visual literacy techniques to enhance student understanding. I chose this infographic because it has a lot of the information, which the students will be learning about in this unit such as endangered species, threats, types of consumers and habitat ranges. It acts as a great resource for unit specific vocabulary. It grabbed my attention because I like the balance of text and imagery. In particular, I like the limited text and how that is supported by excellent visual imagery. In addition to sharing this infographic as whole class, I will also share it through each student’s individual science folder in their google drive. This way they can return to this infographic as a resource.
I also spoke with a fellow teacher about how to improve the way I am teaching non-fiction reading to the students. She suggested that I begin with a content related video or infographic and have the students watch that first and then introduce the reading. Expose them to the concept and vocabulary and then bring out the reading and use the reading strategies to break the article apart in terms of comprehension. I see this infographic being effective in this purpose and will use it on several occasions before reading.

As my time in Coetail progresses, I am definitely starting to see the power of how technology can be used to help students gain deeper understanding. I am starting to see technology as a complimentary resource to student learning. I am still cautious about opening the flood gates to everything technology, however this week was interesting in letting me see some technology tools with purpose.

Digital storytelling in Math and Science

One of the greatest benefits of the technology movement is providing students with the possibility of having global access with respect to sharing knowledge and receiving feedback. We are in a very exciting time where students have global access and the opportunity to use this global platform to move understandings forward. Digital storytelling is a great tool to foster this possibility. Once the purpose for global sharing has been identified, digital storytelling is an effective way to deliver the knowledge, receive feedback and improve our understandings. Currently, I am using digital storytelling (trying to) in math and science class. I am using the concept of digital storytelling and applying it to math and science projects. For example, in math class, students are using the math they are learning to answer a question they are curious about. One student wants to use decimals, fractions and percents to answer, “Am I eating a healthy, well balanced diet?” Digital storytelling provides the opportunity for the student to create a video explaining how she used math to answer her question. She can tell a story about how she collected data, converted the data, compared her data and used the mathematical concepts to support whether she is healthy or not and how she can improve her health. Digital storytelling offers the student a chance to explain her thinking, explain the purpose of learning math and celebrate hard work. Her video then can be posted on the internet and shared with fellow peers, receive feedback and be used as an idea to be improved upon by some other student or used as an exemplar to promote curiosity and stimulate other math questions waiting to be answered.

I end my post with a caution. As a teacher, I have seen many moments where students rush to the I-pad or other technology tools to create digital stories, make videos and the like and the end products are very poor. All of these technology ideas have the possibility for greatness, only if time is taken to map out our ideas (with paper and pencil), think critically about what we want to say, have purpose, be relevant to the real-world, debate and challenge our thinking in a discussion and receive feedback before using the technology. Then, digital storytelling has the power to create change. The mistake we make in education is to rush to the technology rather than patiently mapping out our plan. If we rush our thinking, then technology becomes simply a pretty little toy.

I have attached two examples of student storytelling of various topics in math and science.

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How to present Creativity?

In my classroom, I don’t use presentations as a form of delivering information to students or as a teaching tool. It is nothing personally against using them, I feel it is more of a disconnect between presentation slides and my personality. As my father describes me when I have something important to say, I tend to walk the prairie rather than get to the point. I have always found presentation slides constricting to my inner ‘go where the conversation takes me’ approach. That said, it is equally beneficial to have my thoughts organized and my objectives clearly stated and sequenced for the benefit of the audience.

Currently, I am offering parent learning sessions at my school. The purpose is to teach parents about the learning approaches used in the classroom and to educate them about the strategies and skills we are trying to teach their children. I thought I would take advantage of this course and use the knowledge gained from this week’s readings and throughout this course to create a presentation for one of my parent sessions; CREATIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM. I want to go from a google doc level of organization to having my audience experience the zen feeling of presentations! At this stage in my digital learning evolution, I am not ready to open google slides and create a zen experience. Currently, the readings have started me thinking about the importance of the context of my presentation. What am I trying to say? What do I want parents to leave understanding? What is the big picture? Without a clear understanding of the context, any presentation is bound to fail or at least come shy of potential. So, I need to be clear about context.

The second thing I discovered is presentations should be simple. Veering towards the side of simplicity rather than complexity is the goal. I like this idea. Too often I find material on the internet and in presentations to be too busy; too cluttered. More is not always merrier! When developing my presentation, I will have simplicity in mind.

The third thing that stood out from the literature was the importance of understanding your audience. Who are they? What questions will they come in with? How will they see the topic? Will they see creativity with curiosity and a smile or will they panic and see it as moving away from the prevalent traditional teach and test method? The more we understand our audience, the better equipped we become at using the technology to address their needs more directly and with greater accuracy and impact. For example, I can see that presenting on creativity would look very different to an audience of teachers than to an audience of parents. That is my next step. What are the tech tools in the world of presentation, which will allow me to effectively target the right audience?