Tag Archives: 1:1

Inspiring & Supporting Innovation at Independent Schools at this year’s ATLIS

 

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Courtesy of Pixabay

“Innovation” — there’s a reason it’s a provocative and powerful topic in the landscape of education. Public, Charter, and Independent Schools are all feeling the pressure from disruptive innovation as well as turning to innovative practices to solve curricular, financial, and recruitment woes. The reality is, we are living in an ever-shifting landscape. Traditional routes of career readiness are no longer reliable, previously “safe” jobs (think accountants, lawyers, and doctors) are now seeing job security fade away, and “traditional” schooling is coming under more scrutiny. The cost of university education is having many individuals rethink the options of pursuing higher education given the relatively flat career landscape facing them on graduation. As such, schools are now looking at innovative practice to help them solve these problems – how can they prepare their students for the jobs of the future (especially if we don’t know what those jobs are)? As a Technology Leader, I am often a part of conversations about innovation. This is not to say that innovation is all about technology, but radical innovation often encompasses employing new technologies. Innovation is challenging… it’s hard. Why? Because it necessitates culture shift and “organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner” — Peter Drucker.

Facing the challenges of innovation in my career and public life, I am especially excited about attending this year’s ATLIS conference in Los Angeles, California (April 24-26) as its theme is “Magic Magic Happen” and its focus is on innovation. I know that I will be inspired by the keynote speeches of Jaime Casap (Educational Evangelist) and Tim Fish (Chief Innovation Office of NAIS); both of them have worked with Independent Schools, helping them to innovate their curriculum and institutions. Looking at the posted schedule, I’m excited to learn more about innovative curriculum enhancements such as incorporating coding into the whole curriculum, implementing gamification, and creating new educational spaces, such as maker spaces in the library. Even better than learning about these initiatives, I’m especially excited to learn how to support them at my institution through transformative professional development and creating & fostering a culture of change.

This year’s ATLIS conference is the most exciting yet. If you are exploring innovative curriculum and technologies in your school, this is the year to attend! You can still register on the ATLIS website.

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A Solution to the Cross Platform Classroom

This is reblogged from my post on Edudemic.

The modern classroom is a messy one! Schools are entering the world of technology at different speeds and levels; some institutions have invested in full 1:1 programs where the school selects a single device (such as iPads or Chromebooks); others have instituted Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) initiatives, some specify a single device while others permit a broader selection; and most of us operate in some type of hybrid environment where students have access to a device at school, such as a tool issued to them, a computer lab, and/or laptop cart and/or a device they have access to at home or even bring with them. As technology becomes more ubiquitous both at home and in the classroom, we find ourselves in a more blended world. As educators in the 21st century, we must be prepared to tackle education in an environment that is cross-platform and multi-device.

Working in an unpredictable environment is especially challenging. As educators, we want to provide the most effective and innovative learning environment possible for our students. At the same time, it can be challenging to initiate a sophisticated, 21st century project with an eye to address the individual technology set-up of hundreds of students.

Over the years of working in blended environments, I have found some solutions that allow me to assign sophisticated, robust projects without making me – or my students – go crazy in the process!

mobile-devices

Focus on the End Product Not the Tool

When I work with faculty, they are often concerned that they must teach students how to use programs or apps. I address this very concern in my article, “How to Infuse Digital Literacy Throughout your Curriculum” emphasize that it’s not the tool, but rather the product. Just as we don’t require students to use Microsoft Word or Text Editor when we assign them an essay, it’s not necessary to designate and then teach them new software for a digital project. For example, if you want your students to create a video, and you work in a blended environment, allow for some software flexibility. You do not need to require that they use iMovie or Movie Maker and then teach it to them. Rather, allow them to use whatever tools works best for them. There are a myriad of Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS compatible programs available. They are intuitive and thus easy to learn and use. Providing this flexibility not only permits students to work with software that will run on their device, but it allows them to operate within their own comfort zone.

Twice a year, I ask my students to create a history documentary. At Ransom Everglades, we are not BYOD or 1:1. Therefore, my students have various access to computing tools. You will note that I do not assign a particular type of computer or software. What they use to create is up to them. However, I make very clear my expectations with concise instructions and a rubric. The instructions I give them focus on research, content, and construction, similar to what I would hand out if I were assigning a research essay or class presentation.

When you Need to Use a Specific Tool, make it cross-platform compatible

Sometimes using just one tool is easier and more cost-effective. When you select software for a project, choose one that is cross-platform compatible. In our hybrid world, many tools now work on Windows and Mac, as well as many mobile computing platforms such as Android or iOS. Cloud tools, especially those that operate via a web browser, are especially useful. For example, my favorite cross-platform word processing suite is Google Drive. I don’t have to worry about a student sending me a document that I can’t open, and they always have the ability to work on their projects regardless of the machine they are using. Additionally, by using Google Drive they can collaborate with their peers, even completing a paperless research essay. If you know you need to use a single tool, do your research – pick one that will work for most if not all devices!

Teach Your Students to be Problem Solvers!

Don’t think that you must suddenly become an expert on every single device and piece of software. That is impossible even for the most skilled IT professional. Instead, encourage your students to become their own help desk – searching out their solutions and assisting one another. This teaches them one of the most important skills that they can learn: creative problem solving. At the beginning of the year, students quickly learn that when they visit my office hours or email me a question, I will ask them:

  • Have you Googled the problem?
  • Have you looked on YouTube?
  • Did you ask your friends?
  • Have you searched the help section of the software?

I have learned that when I encourage them to figure things out and solve their own technical problems or help their classmates, they quickly become empowered. I find that even on individual projects, students build camaraderie and leadership skills through collaboratively working on assignments and teaching one another new things.

Be Creative, Flexible, and Available

Overall, the best advice that I can give when working in a hybrid computing environment is to be flexible – expect that things will go wrong and be ready to find work-arounds. Someone’s computer will crash, or they will misunderstand an instruction (or worse yet not read the instructions!), or some random error message that makes no sense will pop up on the screen. That is okay! Take a deep breath, do some basic troubleshooting, and come up with alternative solutions. In fact, this is a great way to model your expectations in a tech-rich classroom!

Additionally, encourage your students to communicate with you – let them know when you are available and how best to reach you; I tend to hold digital office hours via Google Hangout during projects. This will help you to direct them when they have a question and encourage them to be open and communicative with you throughout the process.

The world we live in is no longer single device and neither are our classrooms. However, as educators we can build robust and creative curriculum within these non-uniform environments and in doing so teach our students how to think critically and creatively.

To learn more about cross platform classrooms and unleashing students creativity in a BYOD environment, come join the conversation at the July 28-30 EdTechTeacher Summit in Chicago.

 

NAIS – Going All In: The Ins & Outs of Creating a Digital Curriculum

This year, the NAIS annual conference is being held in Orlando Florida at the Walt Disney World Resort. As such, Ransom Everglades made it possible for several dozen teachers to attend the conference on Friday, the teacher focus day.

The first workshop that I’m attending is “Going All In: The Ins & Outs of Creating a Digital Curriculum” with Tim Sheehan, Andrew Schneider, and Amanda Schirmacher of the Latin School of Chicago. They are sharing how they created an all digital curriculum for fourth grade Social Studies.

The Dreamer

Amanda takes the reigns to discuss the topic, “The Dreamer.” As a fourth grade cohort, Tim, Amanda, and Andy work closely to develop their social studies curriculum building off of the work of their predecessors. The Latin School of Chicago has allotted several travel grants. Using a variety of travel grants, faculty visited numerous countries, such as India and Japan, creating a travelogue.

The next stop was to evolve these packets into digital content – especially something that could be read on an iPad. This way, they could create multi-model, interactive units that included written word, images, video, music, etc. With pressure from public school arenas, such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, for schools to enter the digital realm then it makes sense that Independent Schools should not just be following the norm, but spear heading the initiatives.

By creating a digital social studies curriculum, documents could be come not only interactive and multi-media, but truly living documents that can change as the world evolves.

The Techie

Andy next steps up to discuss eBook platforms and using the iBooks Author (Mac Only) to create digital content for the iPad.  If you would like to see their content guide, you may do so here. You can also check out the demon video below:

If you cannot use iBooks Author (as it is a Mac only platform), they list several alternative resources in their resource guide. The nice thing about eBooks is that you can customize them however you would like to fit the needs of your classroom and curriculum.

iBooks Author, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

iBooks Author, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Andy provides a brief overview of building an iBook for your class using images, content, widgets, hyperlinks, etc. There are lots of great tools in iBooks Author. However, it is important to note that iBooks author works only for the Mac and can only be accessed in an iOS platform.

The nice thing about creating interactive eBooks for your students is that the curriculum is individualized, flexible, and you can even check in with students during the process for understanding by including various quizzes/activities.

By combining iBooks with existing Apps, you can expand yoru curriculum further. For example, you can use use the iPad Karnak Temple App or have students write their names in Hieroglyphics using the Hieroglyphic App ($0.99)

The Luddite

The next up is Tim, who wants to highlight how this curriculum is working out in the classroom, what did the students think, and what did the faculty think? There are numerous advantageous: all in one integration; auditory, visual, & tactile environment; no antiquated textbooks (instant updates as needed); constant app development that can be adapted (even by the students themselves; digital communication internationally; everything is in one place (no more losing those packets); notes easily saved/transferable (especially for students with fine motor issues or learning differences), Reflector App and SmartBoard allow for ease in lessons; additionally, student feedback (formally & informally) has helped to guide the process.

The students had many pros for their experiences – it was more fun to learn, more interactive, included multiple media, content was all in one place (not having to pull out a computer to go online), and no more paper-cuts! The students liked not having to find books in their desks – especially if those desks were messy!

At the same time, students had some critiques – they can cause distraction, a “real book” allows you to visualize your progress, loses the tactile sensation of “real books,” and that iPads are prone to glitches and problems (you can’t “brick” a book!).

Andy highlights that it’s important to assess the “feel” of the learning experience. Digital learning can remove that “personal” touch of a teacher and classmates – key to effective learning. It’s important to know that it’s important to turn technology once in a while. Multi-tasking does not allow the focus of uni-tasking. As such, it’s important to keep this in mind in a digital curriculum. Another key focus is “are we creating a culture of immediacy without depth or discovery.”

Take-Aways

Learn to teach the device to yourself and your students. Take the device on your own and play with it for a while before focusing on developing the pedagogy. You must teach children directly how to use it as an educational device. Make time for yourself and the students to play. Follow the lead from the students as often as possible (they might teach you a thing or two!). Also, the build matters – it’s easy to focus on the bells and whistles and distract your learners.

Join Me & Other Independent School Leaders for a Round Table on 1:1 Roll-Outs

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Please join me and other independent school leaders on January 30 at 2:30 EST for an OESIS 1-1 iPad Roll-Out webinar. It will include a round-table discussion of the ins and outs of implementing iPads in your institution at all stages – exploratory, expansive, etc. This provides a unique perspective for independent school educators and administrators.

Enroll in the webinar for free by clicking here.

Getting Your Entire School Community on Board with iPads (1:1) – Patrick Larkin

I was quite eager to hear Patrick Larkin’s talk about integrating a 1:1 program. In my own experience, getting buy in with the community (staff, faculty, parents, and even students) can be a challenge. Patrick helped to coordinate a 1:1 iPad program at Burlington High School. Like other presenters, Patrick emphasized that before any roll out, you need to be able to answer the question:

Why? Why are you investing in iPads? Why do you want this tool in your classroom? This is not a project that you can simply throw money at – you need to have a plan. Patrick suggestion of what to do with end of year money… Professional Development. I would agree. It’s far too tempting for administrators to buy tools without any training

Before rolling out new technology, we also need to look at existing policies. Do we have policies that are archaic or outdated? For example, many schools have a ‘No cell phone’ policy. While cell phones are powerful computing devices, archaic policies often ban their use in the classroom and even go so far as collecting them during the day. Sometimes, you need to modify to reflect new needs. Schools should mirror the real world – we don’t have our cell phones confiscated when we walk into our office.

School Mission Statements often need to be modified to reflect responsible use of digital resources. Students have powerful tools at their finger tips to use, create, and modify digital resources. He quoted a great article by Will Richardson, “My Kids are Illiterate. Most Likely, Yours are Too.” The article highlights that too many “good” schools are neglecting to teach our children how to be responsible digital citizens – to create and share information. They are not learning the tools they need to succeed in the digital world as it exists today.

Patrick makes the solid argument that students need to stop living in two different world – the ‘real world’ and the ‘school world.’ Rather, schools need to move into the twenty-first century and teach our students the tools they need to be ‘literate’ in this day and age. However, for teachers to be able to do this, they need a lot of time and support to develop appropriate lesson plans and curriculum. I wholeheartedly agree!!

A meaningful pedagogical integration of technology should revolutionize the classroom. It should not look like a traditional paper-pencil room. It should be louder, less linear, more collaborative… It should allow students to create their own learning environment. As educators, we need to talk about: “What do Learning Environments Look Like?” There is likely no singular answer to that question.

Patrick argues that it’s not about ‘technology,’ rather it’s about ‘learning resources.’ This is not an individualized conversation we should be having – rather, it should be part of a larger conversation about engaging students and helping them to learn. We want our students excited and engaged.

The main crux of Patrick’s argument is the need for Professional Development. Educators need sustained staff development to help them implement new tools effectively. At least 40+ hours a year should be spent on professional development that is meaningful. This should not be a ‘drop in day’ event, rather a regular and even, gasp, mandatory, action for faculty and staff. They should be meaningful and organized with objective goals on a regular basis (even weekly).

I asked Patrick how to navigate restrictions put in place by schools, districts, and even state institutions (that will do things like restrict use of cell phones, social media, and more). He make the poignant statement that we should be legislating behavior not resources. If an educator is using a tool to interact inappropriately with a student, that is a behavioral problem not an issue with the tool. He recommended taking a look at CoSN for ideas on social media and technology policies.

Another key element of education in rolling out a new technology program is educating parents. Parents need to be informed of the benefits and the pitfalls. They also need to know how much screen time students need as well as the resources they will need to access at home. Parents learn from one another as well as from administrators. Educators should also respect and support parents’ desire for balance at home.

Another point that he made is: “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” There are a lot of possibilities, but guidance is needed.

Additionally, new learning environments should be about creating and sharing. Creative learners are powerful learners. By sharing, we can engage others to make a stronger product, further our own knowledge, improve our understanding… learning is no longer an individual and singular experience.

Digital footprints and Digital Portfolios are our new resumes. Employers are no longer interested in what you say about yourself, they want to know what others are saying about you (Digital Footprint). They don’t care what you know, they want to know what how you use that knowledge. Application is key. We need to teach our students how to present themselves effectively in the new digital frontier.