Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Schools Need to Teach Technology, Not Ban It!

From: Tanya Avrith
Twitter: @TanyaAvrith
Tanya lives and works in South Florida

During my last seven years as a teacher and consultant, I have borne witness to the technological digital shift in education. When I began my education career in 2005 at the tender age of 23, I had little idea what I was about to face. I was given an unheard of mixture of classes and was thrown to the sharks wearing my new heels and best “teacher” clothes. NaÏve and idealistic, nothing had prepared me for the challenges and incredible joys I would face in the classroom. Nor did I realize that a revolution in education and social media was under way.

Looking back to when I began teaching, I can now appreciate what was developing. It was at the very the beginning of what we’ve come to call the “Web 2.0″ student generation. My students that year were not yet posting constant status updates on Facebook, nor were they tweeting, sharing videos on YouTube or bringing smartphones to class. Boy, were things about to change…

By my second year of teaching I had become the media teacher (along with a long list of other subjects) and was introduced (by a student of course) to Facebook, founded only a few years before. I still remember the first time I logged on. I was ignorant to the etiquette of status writing and posting pictures as well as privacy issues and how they could affect me later in my life. Like most of today’s first time users, I made many mistakes when using social media because I didn’t know any better.

As an educator or parent it is easy to forget how quickly things changed in those few years. From one day to the next, the way our students/children socialized and communicated was turned upside down. Teachers and administrators are still trying to figure out what their roles are when it comes to dealing with the use of social media, both in and out of the classroom. We are at a crossroads in education where we need to figure out how we should be dealing with the issues that arise from this new “digital” generation of students.

Where do we go from here? Do we ban?

Block, filter, take away, confiscate. All adjectives used to describe the current policies in many schools. Early on, like many of my colleagues, I feared technology, and my knee-jerk reaction was to agree with this type of policy. Isn’t it human nature to try to repress the things we don’t understand?

The problem with this approach is that it does not work. It turns teachers and administrators into the “cell phone and Internet police.” We scour our classes and manage confiscated devices. We block everything on the Internet that we don’t want to deal with. We investigate, punish, give detentions, and spend many hours dealing with the issues that arise when things go wrong.

What are we really accomplishing with this approach? We are missing many opportunities that these complex devices could bring to the classroom. For example, many of our students have access to 3G networks on their smart phones where they are always connected. These students have the potential to have a computer, video/digital camera, access to the Internet, and online books at their fingertips… And what are we telling them to do? Put them away! The irony is that we find school boards discussing the need to find resources to put technology into those very same hands.

Do we educate?

What we do need is a coherent plan to teach digital citizenship in schools. Digital citizenship addresses the appropriate use of technology. It is not about the technology itself but rather about the effects that arise from its usage. It’s an interesting approach that focuses on teaching about the ethical usage of technology.

Many teachers admit that they feel intimidated with the use of technology in the classroom because they worry their students know more than they do. What is important to understand is that students may use the technology more, however, they are primarily using it to socialize and/or play games and do not always have the metacognitive skills to use it as a learning tool. Furthermore, they are not equipped with the understanding how to use the technology safely and appropriately. The teacher offers the wisdom of how to learn and the ethical direction needed to manage technology creatively and productively. We need to make the most of this symbiotic relationship between the teacher and student. Imagine the possibilities of partnering with our students to learn from each other.

We are not asking that teachers change what they are doing but rather adapt their teaching to include elements that are relevant to how our students are learning today. With digital citizenship education there are many educational opportunities that would not be possible if we continue to ban the technology in our schools.

What does digital citizenship education look like?

Teaching about digital citizenship should not be viewed as an “add-on” but rather complement what is already being taught in the classroom. For example, a teacher who is introducing a research topic in class would discuss how to evaluate websites, and teach the students appropriate searching strategies. The teacher would also discuss copyright and how to properly share information. The Lester B. Pearson School Board DCP offers a curriculum for Digital Citizenship with many examples of what digital citizenship looks like in the classroom. A few great resources that address digital citizenship include:

The Lester B. Pearson School Board DCP (Digital Citizenship Program)provides teachers with teachable topics that are age appropriate. It provides easily organized subject and grade level resources as well as resources for parents.

Commonsense Media: An incredible resource for both educators and parents that has many resources that focus on digital citizenship.

Digizen: Another great resource that provides interactive activities for students to learn more about digital citizenship.

The door that is not locked: A bilingual Canadian resource great for parents, educators and students.

To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Things Educators Will Have To Accept and Embrace

From: Mike Niehoff
Systems/Leadership Coach
Fresno County Office of Education

Re-blogged from Changing is Learning

The profession of education is going through unprecedented change. Many aspects of teaching and school will eventually never be the same again. And nor should they. Although wholesale and fundamental change is slow, there are some things that educators will have to accept and embrace (if they plan on being successful and staying in the profession).

These five are:

1. Education is more PUBLIC than ever

 I’m tired of the word transparency. And that is really just the beginning of being “public” as an educator in our changing paradigm. We need to showcase our professional work as educators, as well as the work of our students, with larger communities. Venues such as YouTube, Twitter and all Social Media outlets will be a foundational way for us to continue the idea of being public. Whether it’s for parents, administration, district officials, government agencies or others, educators need to fully accept that close doors and private work are gone (as well they should be). Every classroom, school, district and beyond will be daily showcases to the world of what one is doing. Educators will have to be comfortable and excited about showcasing and sharing, or they will have to find a new career.

2. Educators have to COLLABORATE

The word collaboration is almost becoming a cliché. However, as overused as it is, it is an imperative. Educators need to collaborate with other educators (across their campuses and across the globe) on everything from best practices to project ideas. And if educators are doing this only because it’s an expectation, rather than an opportunity, they will undoubtedly miss the true benefits of collaboration. All industries and professions today embrace the concept of real world collaboration – with their immediate colleagues, as well as with those around the world that have new ideas, concepts and challenges to share. Like so many other things, educators need to lead collaboration opportunities or find one of those rare professions today where isolation is still the norm (good luck on that one too).

3.  Educators have to CREATE curriculum 

The days of depending on a textbook or one packaged curriculum are on their final march. Because of new standards, technology and our ever-changing world, educators will be required to and expected to be curriculum creators. They will need to be curators of varied resources and work together with their students, colleagues and schools to create and customize unique learning experiences. There have always been educators from the beginning of time who did this for a variety of reasons. But we have also embraced a programmed system for years that where curriculum was lead by chapters and tests from textbooks and/or fancy binders. The times are a changin’ – many will be excited and say it’s about time, while some may shed tears as their teachers’ editions and packaged resources eventually disappear. For those that enjoy the idea of finding the best resources, ideas, projects - and continually mixing them like an educational DJ or Chef – they will get the big idea (s) and reap the benefits.

4. Educators will have to be serious users of TECHNOLOGY

Whether educators embrace the use of technology wholeheartedly or not, they will have to continually figure out a way to maximize their work, as well as the work of their students, using on-line resources and applications. One does not need to be an expert at all technology, but rather maintain an open mind on how to maximize their students’ success using technology. All other professions seem to realize that they need to figure out ways to embrace and incorporate the latest tools for maximum efficiency, productivity and innovation. Educators cannot be the exception to the rule. As professionals, we have to see how our lessons, activities and projects will connect our students to present and future opportunities. Technology is obviously part of the fabric of that overall design and we have to see it that way. It’s not our job to pick and choose what we like in the world and make that our educational foundation. Rather our job to take the best of the best in available resources and tools in order to optimize the opportunities and success for all students whom we work with in any capacity.

5. Educators need to facilitate COMMUNITY

 In an era where students have multiple options on how their education is delivered, including 100% on-line while at home, educators will need to continually develop and enhance their learning communities. Students have and will ask why should they come to school or why should they come to a particular school. Educators will need to answer that question. And because students could just stay home, what are some answers? The relationships, culture and opportunities educators create and foster will make the difference. Will one’s classroom be friendly, supportive, individualized, customized, equipped, exciting, engaging and more? It better be. Educators will have to move away from the past where students just showed up to an environment where students will be choosing to show up – and they will be choosing or not choosing based on the successful presence of the aforementioned qualities of the educator’s classroom and learning environment.

To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One Screen of ChromeApps Perfect for the Classroom

By Holly Clark
As educators, we hear a lot about apps!
Sometimes we spend countless hours going through them to find the best ones. I propose we try something different.
Instead, it’s time that we look at apps to find those that help us gain a better look into student thinking and understanding. I have created a list of my favorite apps that purposefully achieve this goal. There are of course more apps than these that create informative artifacts of learning, but I like to keep the list simple and concise so that teachers and students only have to learn a few apps  -and can focus on content not on learning new platforms.
The following list will help make student thinking visible not only to the teacher – but hopefully to the world.
Each app is linked – have fun exploring them.

To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching. 

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Places to Discover Great Videos

I love me some good educational video.  With more than 72 hours of new content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, finding great videos to use in class is a daunting task.  Here are the resources I use for finding great videos. 
As always, remember to watch every minute of the video you plan on showing in class!  

1. Devour is a website where they curate a handful of videos every day. Not all the videos shared here are educational.  I like to drop by the site a few times a week to see if something catches my attention. 

2. The Kids Should See This is the creation of a mom and her two kids. The blog site features great videos that you (and your kids!) should see.  The curation skills here are top notch

3. ShowYou is the Swiss Army Knife of video aggregator tools, pulling in videos from all over the web. The best feature is that you can add your Twitter and Facebook accounts and quickly see all the videos people in your PLN are sharing.

4. Vimeo Staff Picks is a great place to discover high quality, usually artistic videos. The staff frequently feature animated shorts created by students in digital arts schools. These videos are perfect or language arts classes. 

5. YouTube Trends is the official YouTube blog where Googlers discuss the latest video trends around the world.  It's a fantastic place to get the story behind a viral video or the latest internet meme. 

I hope to see you at the next EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google Apps for Education in your area.