#SXSWEdu’s Missing Ingredient

sxswedupic copyI attended SXSWEdu this week in Austin, Texas.  It was a great celebration of business and education.  As an educator, I would have never had the opportunity to attend such an event if it wasn’t for my latest role as the Digital Curriculum Editor for KinderTown.  KinderTown is an app for parents to help them find the most valuable educational apps for their children.  I’m also currently a teacher at an independent private school in Baltimore.  These are the two roles I represented and shared with people, and with which I viewed the conference.

As a teacher, the only community of learners I have interacted with professionally is teachers.  My mother was a teacher, her mother was a teacher.  My mom’s friends were teachers, and I grew up in the conversation of education.  I knew what was happening in the day to day lives of teachers, since I was able to understand it.  People have told me I “ooze” teacher.  I’m happy to own it; I do ooze teacher.  Who else would carry a stuffed animal around SXSWEdu, but an elementary teacher?  Things like that help me stay in touch with my inner child, my inner teacher, and it helps that it’s also related to the KinderTown logo.

I wanted to connect this week with the business world surrounding education.  I did, and it’s different. I wrestled with the resulting feelings throughout the experience. I’ve been told I am a “people reader.” This is what I read:

There was a lot of talk about the divide between edTech and business, how to bridge the gap and what will ultimately transform education?  How do we transform education?  How do we move an antiquated system forward? How is technology a part of that? and How exactly do we get there?  I love these questions.  I loved being a part of the experience aimed at answering the questions.

In order to get to the heart of this matter though, we need to get to the hearts of teachers, the people in the trenches every day doing the hard work of teaching.  By tailoring the message to politicians, big thinkers, and business leaders, you’re missing a piece.  SXSWEdu, I think your missing Compassion with a capital C, in your equation, because compassion is what is at the heart of teaching and education.

Take for instance a typical conversation between two teachers at an educational conference, or just a social meeting. I met a teacher this past summer at the beach. Her son began playing with my son and we started talking.  We instantly spoke each other’s language. We talked about the work she did with students, what parts of her job kept her fulfilled, why she liked her job and why she was passionate about what she did.  I shared my story as well. There’s a lot of heart there.  This is my experience in conversations with teachers.  They have a lot of heart.

Now, let’s take a typical conversation with an edTech company.  My company….blah blah blah….We solve xyz problem.  We stand apart because we do xyz.  We are the best solution ever because ….xyz.  Don’t get me wrong. The person may be passionate about whatever xyz is, but not compassionate.  There wasn’t a lot of human soul in that spiel.  If there was, I missed it.  I found a few… Maybe they’ll be the successful ones. Take Scholastic for example. They were not even at the conference, but they sent out a tweet that said “Want to help us donate books? RT for TX! For every RT of this tweet, we’ll donate a book (up to 2,000) to an Austin-area school. #SXSWedu“.  There was compassion there, I think they know teachers. They donated 2,000 books to kids.  Take note, big time EdTech companies.

I know there was a great effort to include more teachers on panels, to have more teachers present, and to really get more Edu into SXSWEdu.  I think to get more Edu into SXSWEdu we need more compassion across the lines. Big EdTech companies, take the advice of my friend Ethan Demme, and sponsor a teacher to attend the event.  In fact, you could probably sponsor several teachers.  I challenge you to sponsor the most compassionate teacher you can find.  Get them to the conference.

Perhaps, in addition to talking to teachers, or spending time in their classrooms, or working with one child, maybe you need to understand and see why we do what we do.  We know our students personally, and we know when that child walks in on Monday morning whether he had a bad weekend.  We know when children need encouragement, and we know their potential.  We know which students feel different every day.  We know which children don’t eat breakfast and don’t have the right clothes.  We know which ones are loved and which ones are not. We provide a lot more than education every day.

We know that teaching is a matter of the heart or we wouldn’t be there.  We wouldn’t have entered into teaching. Most of us have a personal story that accompanies our teaching journey. What makes our day is the student who accomplished something they’ve been working really hard at, the student who discovered something new about themselves, or reconstructed knowledge in an inspiring way. That’s what makes the teachers in the trenches, whom are making the education world go around tick.

In addition, there seemed to be a measurable tension between the teachers that were there, and the other players.  Which side are you on?  Let’s throw some bombs back and forth.

You don’t get it.

You didn’t try hard enough with education.

You teachers aren’t doing it right.

Let’s back down from that and insert compassion.  There was a huge dose of compassion in Jeffery Tambor’s closing keynote, and he got a standing ovation from the entire room, not just one side.  With Compassion, we might solve the bigger problem or perhaps we might become more human.  Either would be nice.

Where do we start to bridge the edTech divide?

EdSurge Baltimore – Keynote Jim Shelton @JimSEdu

I’m excited to be a part of EdSurge Educators event today in Baltimore.  The Four Seasons provided a beautiful location, and the ballroom overlooking the harbor is a perfect backdrop for a day of learning for teachers.

Jim Shelton

Jim Shelton

Jim Shelton is the Acting Deputy Secretary of Education.  He has advised and help start companies and is a philanthropist with the Gates Foundation.  What is the role of government in education?  Jim Shelton is working to help answer that question.

Jim started by saying that we are on a road of serious work, and he commended educators for coming on a beautiful Saturday to network and learn.  He works for the US Department of Education, a long way from classrooms, and if issues are brought to him, it means there is a problem.  He was excited for the energy that was in the room brought by educators.  What will improve the lives of students and how does it connect to the federal level?

He started in an office of innovation.  He worked on the recovery act.  He worked with the “What Works in Innovation Fund.”  He was called upon to both embrace creative and innovative solutions and to promote techniques that have rigorous evidence that and proven qualitative track records. In other words, he was encouraged to do two things that were in direct opposition to each other. What is different about education than other sectors?  It’s the innovation pipeline. In education, the pipeline is broken.  Good ideas, Jim notes, “often don’t make it down the hall”, let alone beyond the school building.  Other tools make you say …”Who designed this and thought it was going to work with kids?”  He’s working to fix these problems.  He’s trying to design a construct to fix this.  We need to start with what teachers actually need.

Engineers design things that they think are cool, then people start to use them and don’t agree.  Some companies have figured this out the other way around.  They are meeting a need you didn’t even know you had.  You don’t think you “need” it but the company solves a problem for you… Now you have something that you didn’t know could make you more effective and efficient.

People who are experts can only articulate about 30% of the processes they are an expert at.  The repetitive things you do everyday, that other 70% of the equation, don’t come to mind as part of what makes you an expert. This happens in education. We try to add new ideas and techniques to our repertoire, but we often get bogged down in that missing 70%. What are you trying to do that isn’t working; that you move away from because it is too hard?

Behavioral economists analyze human behavior.  Often when we create things, we create them for the person we wish we were… the same applies to schools.  Today, we want to think about how does innovation fit into day to day life; the life we’re actually leading.  Think about how new ideas will fit into schools day in and day out. If it does not get used, it is not innovation, it is just invention. Teachers, you came to do the work of innovation today…

When we as teachers get it right we change peoples lives, often students whose lives are very difficult.  An assumption is that we are doing the best we can for what we know how to do.

Getting it right means that if you give them them tool that they need, they will use it to the best of their ability in order to have very different outcomes.   If you can’t figure out who is going to benefit, you can’t get it just right.  The first rule of innovation is iteration.  Sometimes it doesn’t always work out just right the first time, but, the good news is that it is changeable.

Teachers, your voice is the most important voice in this conversation.  You know students, yourself and parents.  Sometimes you don’t have the time, knowledge or tools.  Work with people to talk about the work you need to get it done.  The best designers will work with you to solve the problems.  When we get the whole conversation right it will change everything.

There are so many supporters here today because they know change needs to happen and they have hope and possibilities.  We, the teachers, represent hope.

Parenting in the Digital Age: Gaming Strongholds

My son is 6 and recently checked out a wii game from the library that was of high interest to him and it didn’t contain any inappropriate material. It was rated for children older than himself but I didn’t feel there was any reason he couldn’t play the game.

What I, as a parent underestimated, was how smart game developers really are, and their craft of design. I underestimated how well they know their audience and what makes them tick. I forgot how deeply my son likes challenge.

So, very quickly as he started playing the game I saw a few signs of unhealthy “connection” to the game.

1. He was talking about the game often in a way that showed me it was consuming his thoughts. He does often talk about games and I know his mind works on solving the challenges in games when he isn’t connected, but the way in which he was talking about this game felt different.

2. He wrote about it in his journal at school, he asked his friends about it. He skipped over greeting me at the bus stop to start talking about the game.  His day seemed to revolve around the time he was going to get to play the game, and didn’t want to go to sleep until he could have confirmation about the next time he could play the game. Some of these things are completely fine, but when paired with all the rest, it let me know as a parent, the game was entering the unhealthy realm.

3. When asked to stop the game he couldn’t disconnect himself in a reasonable amount of time and started to cry. He’s showing me behaviors of deep emotional connection to this activity.

My son was entrenched into this game in an unhealthy way. So, of course the teacher in me said “This is a perfect teachable moment.” Yes it was, and it was also hard. There were more tears and lots of explanations about concepts I’m not sure he even understands or is ready for, but we are having conversations about them.  They are about his personality, his brain and his development as a child.

But, like many teachable moments he was able to work towards new understanding about himself, and identify feelings associated with media and have real reflection on his experience.  I knew we had made a break through when he said to his father, “You know Dad, I did feel sucked into that game” I’m glad I’m not playing it anymore.

It was like he was expressing relief. It was like we had freed him from something that had taken ahold of him.
This was much harder than saying “You can’t play that game anymore,” which part of me would have like to have said because it would have been easier and we could have just moved on.

But I know, like other elements in parenting, it is worth it. And the next time something takes “ahold” of him I know he’ll be prepared.

What’s your experience with parenting in the digital age?

Applications from #ettipad

I’ve had a chance to mull over all the great information from #ettipad and I am trying to land on the most practical strategies I can employ right now with my staff and within my school.  A lot of big ideas and concepts were presented but I like to think about practical application too.

Creating Artifacts of Learning: 

This is a concept I really love.  Our assignments on the iPad should be a vehicle for having students create artifacts of learning.  This artifact could be a movie, a digital book, a collage, a screen-cast, a song, or a presentation.  Then once artifacts are collected they can be reflected on, shared with parents, used for assessment, and saved to show growth over time in a digital portfolio.  As a school we could look at how we define what the artifacts are and how many students may choose to showcase.

#onescreen

Over and over, I heard about the one screen of tools that becomes the screen that holds everything a student should need to make a product that demonstrates their learning.  I can tell you that my school has many screens of iPad apps, and they cover a broad range of topics.  We do use open-ended apps, but it has been up to each individual teacher to propose the open-ended app and decide how and when they would like to use it with their curriculum.  I think it would be beneficial for students and teachers to decide on which apps to include on our school’s “one screen.” Then, for each grade level set that one screen up so students are viewing each year in approximately the same way.  This will allow the students and the teachers to focus on curricular topics and lessens the focus on navigating app.

Authentic Audience 

Another theme present throughout the conference was the creation of authentic audiences for our students.  I heard about a lot of classes using Twitter as a vehicle for an audience as well as a vehicle for research.  I saw several examples of students using blogs as a vehicle for accessing an authentic audience.  What audiences can I access for my students to make their learning more meaningful? powerful? and create a positive digital footprint?

SAMR

The SAMR method for analyzing technology integration was introduced to me in Boston, but it was reiterated again throughout the conference.  If we are replacing writing with composing on an iPad then we are just at the substitution level of technology integration.  SAMR provides a vehicle for conversation about raising the bar with the use of technology in the classroom.  How can we work to the Modification and Redefinition level?

I’m often asked after attending conferences how our school compares to others who are navigating 1:1 iPads in their schools.  When attending, I don’t focus on comparing my school to others but how I can strive to continue to move the program at my school forward for the benefit of our students and how I can help teachers learn and think about possibilities within their classroom.  It’s hard work.  It would be far easier to say that we are 1:1 and be happy with our iPads.  Thank you #ettipad for the challenges!

 

Keynote: Mizuko Ito

Dr. Ito started by recognizing that teachers are bringing ideas of the world into practice.

Dr. Ito shared about her own experiences.  Her son participated in a Minecraft elective in a Middle School setting.  The students were elated when it started and it provided a great school/home link.  She was at a parent event and a parent asked “Why Minecraft?” Another parent offered that it offered creativity and problem solving opportunities.  We used to think of the recreational activities separate from learning and now they are falling in-line. Parents are becoming well informed about their child’s interest and education.

How can young people make the most of today’s abundance of information and social connection?  How do we as educators respond to these opportunities?  How can we make stronger connections between in school and out of school learning.  Learning is now more widely accessible, and we have tools to access the information.

Young people are readers.  Young people are more likely to read books than adults.  They are also writers.  “Everyone can be a writer – technology isn’t killing our ability to write, it’s reviving it.” – Andrea Lundsford    Kids actually do know the difference between writing text messages and writing meant for school work.

Now, kids are spending seven hours of media engagement per day and gaming is here to stay.  Women Game. Kids Game. Men Game.  It’s interactive entertainment.  Virtually all teens have access to the internet and most teens have mobile phones.  Peer to peer communication is dominated in teens with mobile devices.  100 texts a day for girls and 50 texts a day for boys! The future is here….. it is just unevenly distributed. Fascinating.

We (teachers, parents, mentors) should shape the use of these technologies, not assume they will positively shape our youth.   How can we bridge the adult world with teen value on social connection? There is a persistent difference between how adults and teens view connectivity.  Even if the adult values the technology personally they view the teen’s use as not as valuable.

What happens when these kids walk into a classroom?  It is not just teenage resistance to adult authority.  They are immersed in social connectivity and often the classroom does not offer these same opportunities.

Young people are learning a lot through their online participation.  Friendship participation = Facebook  The interactions socially are the same as before, just online.  (There are differences in privacy.)  Tumblr and Twitter are for creative kids, kids looking for information, looking for an authority, and contributions to a community. Kids are looking to these online communities to make connections with like-minded individuals, and this is game-changing for interest driven kids.  When young people have a connective interest-based learning experience, this will serve them best for the future.  Young people are learning to make good choices about connectivity, but not without educators who are committed to tying interest-based learning to career outcomes and their future.  Be open to these connections and make them more intentional. Often it is just the passionate learners who seek out input in these areas.  Others do not.

Inequalities exist in out of school learning experiences.  The poorest spend $100 a year to the richest spending 8,000-10,000 on out of school activites.  These experiences provide for their passionate interests, they learn how to be awesome at something that is uniquely their own.  Now, kids have to do these things in addition to being successful in school.  The most privileged families are also experiencing a rise in mental illness and anxiety because of these factors.  Can new technologies help close the gap in this inequality between the rich and the poor in interest based learning?

Device infiltration and growth of online learning resources are happening at the same time.  How can education take advantage of these?

“We were promised jet-packs and got lectures.” Justin Reich -student quote when devices were distributed in education. Often devices are distributed but not actually changing the way students are being educated.

MOOC’s have peaked, and now are declining because they started looking more like traditional lectures.  Lead with the learning goal, not the technology.  What are the principles that should guide our learning goals with technology?

1.  Meet learners where they are  (explosion of content communities, access to social communities that we never had access to before)  The very core of the content can be diverse.   With online learning everyone’s interests can be met somehow.  Some examples include: Starcraft – chess on steroids in real time.  Chess for this generation.  Kids are learning problem solving skills around their interests.  Harry Potter Alliance – finding social justice around a theme. Almost any interest is represented online.  Ravelry,  an online community developed around knitting and hand crafts.  Another example is the Quest to Learn school, which is centered on inquiry.

2. Tap the Power of peer-to-peer learning – the stage of school is wider than the classroom and the online world provides for that. Anyone can be a peer-to-peer mentor online to someone.  Q and A forums.  Everyday, you can wake up and ask the internet a question and someone out there has the answer.  For example, Stack Exchange, and Peer-to-Peer University, DS 106.

3.  Build connected maker spaces – There are so many more tools for this type of learning than in the past.  One example is the YOUmedia lab in Chicago.  This is a production lab within the library.  Students can play a rock band, check out books, and talk with mentors in different areas. With the addition of this space, the library has seen a huge increase in their teen and children’s book circulation. Another example is MinecraftEDU, and Scratch.  These online communities serve as a networked peer space.

4.  Seek recognition in the wider world – Participate.  For example, at the Library of Games kids can submit the games they have made to the community. This gives kids an audience.  Another example of providing an audience for students is after every unit at Quest to Learn their is a “boss level”  and they demonstrate their concept to the public. At Topcoder.com you can self-evaluate your programming skills, and there are measures of achievement.  This type of recognition will become valuable for kids to display their talents.  Another innovative concept is the Badges of Connected Learning – program in Chicago to demonstrate and motivate learning over the summer.

It’s not about particular technologies, but reconnecting with good learning and teaching.  There is not one device for the answer.  There is a growing movement of designers and educators that are promoting the support of connected learning. What might seem like a small change as an educator, make be life changing for a student in your classroom.  This experience could change their life-path.  When we ask people who are successful how they sought out their passion, they speak of these experiences.

Read another LiveBlog of Keynote: Mizuko Ito here from Jen Holland.

Using iPads for Inquiry Based Learning with Kristen Wideen

 

In Inquiry Learning, students are looking up answers that they want answers to.  Using an inquiry approach empowers students to create questions that matter to them.

Kristen said to her class “Let’s go outside, and take pictures and inspire curiosity!”

Then….one boy was exploring the question…How many pieces of grass are on the soccer field?

Students were actively engaged in answering their own questions during the exploration time. Empowering!

Kristen shared that she read the book A Place of Wonder.

She was inspired to find or identify places of wonder in your classroom.  For example, create an observation window. Kristen also created a pretend tree by using a pole in her classroom. Students in her classroom sit wherever they want.  Her students are able to float in and out of the library which is right next door.  She recommends the book Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels.   She displays the students mini-inquiries outside her room with their picture and speech bubbles.  She sets aside specific time for inquiry development, and students are able to post it on their speech bubble.  Also, each child has their own QR code that links to a Padlet wall with all their questions. Watch out…some questions may not be appropriate. Where do babies come from?!

Curricular Inquiries – Teach with big ideas and essential questions about the curriculum in mind.

Planning the Inquiry

Try to limit the time to 5 weeks.  Week 1 – Front load the questions. Week 2-4  Research and create an artifact. During the last week, teach what you may have missed.

Week 1 – What do you know about Pioneers?  Examine the answers and decide how much background knowledge to provide.  A great question can not be asked without some knowledge of the topic.  Kristen started a read aloud about early settlers, and used the ICQ (Interest, Connection, Question) strategy.  Another strategy is to “read with a question” in mind.  Kristen suggested the use of chirp (iphone app) to distribute urls and messages to students.

Students were then able to annotate thinking digitally through the use of pictures, and a voice recording. Her students all have a KidBlog where they can post their work for an audience.

Investigation Stage -Develop Questions, Search for Information and Discover Answers.

Then their Knowledge=Questions.  Now students can form inquiry circles. For example, students who want to learn about hunting work together in a team of 3-4.   The goal is to develop a common question within the group.  Another approach is to have students choose from a list of questions that appeal to them  and then group students together.

You, the teacher, don’t need to be the expert, you can learn with your students.  Kristen developed an iPad Research Folder for students to use.  Her folder includes BrainPop, PocketZoo, Wonderopolis, Animal Planet, NASA, Instagrok, a link to National Geographic and Kidrex.  Kristen uses a classroom twitter account for research and has 800 followers!  Impressive! Her class only follows other classrooms.

Another avenue for research is the use of Readlists.  Readlists is a website that you can build url’s for a topic. Then students can go right to the list to research.

Now, the students are going to go public with their learning.  Share Learning, Demonstrate Understanding, Take Action.  One student created an Explain Everything to share what they have learned.  Kristen developed a success criteria and all students exceeded beyond her expectations.  Students did not have parameters on how to show their learning.  Unlimited possibilities!

Kristen gave a lot of real student examples and it really made the presentation fabulous! Including Inquiry Bloopers!  I love her stories, this is part of why we teach..right?!  I can’t even to begin to blog them!  Ask Kristen yourself!

 

 

 

21st Century Math Curriculum with iPads

Presentation by:  Jim Bologna and Diana Lang with the Winward School

The goals for students at Winward School is Technological Fluency, Self-Regulated Learning, Creativity and Collaboration.  For teachers the focus is on an active, project, challenge-based learning approach. Teachers are to also consider cognitive considerations for the learning environment for students, such as attention concerns. Their school also considered the SAMR model and encouraged teachers to reach for redefinition.

Evernote served as a class binder. BuzzMath is used to practice worksheets and some quizzes.  Notability is used for general notes.  Explain Everything is used for projects and demonstrating understanding.  Google Drive is used for collaboration and sharing.

He recommends allowing additional time when using the iPads in the classroom in the beginning.

Diana shared her Math Classroom.  It looks like this.  Agenda on the board, and a warm-up exercise in GForm or BuzzMath. For Homework review, students open their homework in Notability and correct it and export into Evernote and add a tag.  There is a limit to the amount of shared notebooks you can use in Evernote, 250 for a Business, 100 if personal.  This is something to consider if you are considering using Evernote as a math binder.

Students use Google Drive to download notes for a new lesson and send to Notability.  This allowed for annotating lesson notes in class and when complete they could send to Evernote. Homework was assigned from the board and Netclassroom.

Diana explained the use of tags in her agenda on the board, because students added the notes to Evernote and utilized tags to access information when needed to review for tests etc. She showed a Google Form and explained the limitations for exponents.  She used BuzzMath activities and had students take a screen shot of their completion screen and submit it to her.  BuzzMath has great features for teachers to analyze student data in order to reteach.

Tagging and Evernote

Diana suggested using feeling tags such as confused, or confident in order for students to use the tags for reviewing for exams in addition to traditional key word/concepts tags. Besides tags, Evernote does index key words from the note. Tagging is a powerful option that Google Drive does not offer, which is a reason Diana and Jim chose Evernote.

Notability

Their is a connection for students between the ability to write the problem and cognitively understand the process, Notability allows for this connection. Students can type, write, and draw.  Different fonts are available and students sometimes use this feature to distinguish between types of concepts.  Students can change the background color and insert a graph in Notability.  Use the pen to annotate a pdf that was shared with the students.  Circle a problem and make it smaller, rotate it, change the color and move it around.  Highlight different sections of a word problem.  Highlight again to make it darker. Students can add a photo, figure or web clip quickly. In addition, a recording to say something about their work is easily recorded, but does not have to be composed alongside the active work.  Students can insert or duplicate pages for additional work. Export the note as a pdf, as an email, to Dropbox or Google Drive, or Evernote, her favorite.  Diana adds that the organization allows for her to share with parents the students work easily at a parent conference.

One student sample used various colors to distinguish between steps in multi-step problems.  Diana created notes in Notability by typing it in Word and inserting it in Notability.

Explain Everything

Diana has students who have mastered concepts create a how-to video to help other students in class.  In addition, students can create a problem and explain how to create and solve the problem.  Diana suggests having students work together to create an Explain Everything.  She suggests keeping the Explain Everything short, instead of 6 questions long  Diana created a rubric to help students with self-evaluation.  Students are able to recreate the Explain Everything based on feedback from the rubric.   Also, students script out their Explain Everything which allows her to assist with their thinking, and see it written out.  Students must save along the way, not assume that saving is occurring.  She gives points for vocabulary used in the Explain Everything videos.

Great insight shared about Math in the 21st Century with iPads!