Tag Archives: Curriculum

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Common Sense Media Free iBooks on Digital Literacy & Citizenship

If you are interested in rolling out a Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship Curriculum in your school, check out these free iBooks from Common Sense Media. There are teachers manuals as well as student workbooks – all of which are entirely free.

You can learn more about the curriculum at Common Sense Media’s Blog and by checking out the video below.

Independent Schools, Independent Teachers: Freedom and Responsibility – Independent Schools, Common Perspectives – Education Week

Independent-Schools_Common-PerspectivesThe other day a thread appeared on the National Association of Independent Schools online communities speculating on aspects of the great freedom that independent school teachers have to create curriculum and assessments suited to their strengths and to the particular needs and interests of their students and their schools. This got me to thinking.

This freedom has long been a classic double-edged sword. The virtues of “teacher autonomy” in independent schools were extolled to me even before I entered the field back in the Nixon era. As another veteran of that era commented in response to an earlier post here, the idea long prevailed in many schools (and perhaps still does in some) that a teacher would be taken to the door to the classroom, handed a textbook (a.k.a. the “curriculum”), and assured that paychecks would clear until June, short of some act that would rate firing for cause. What happened in the classroom would, by some sort of gentleman’s agreement, stay in the classroom, and the teacher would seldom be inconvenienced…

INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS, INDEPENDENT TEACHERS: FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY – Independent Schools, Common Perspectives – Education Week.

California Curriculum to Now Include “Homosexual History”

California is the first state in the union to add a component of gay and lesbian history to its curriculum. Advocates are hailing the decision as on par with including sections on other minorities in the curriculum (African Americans, Women, Hispanics, etc). It is also part of a core-curriculum to address bullying in the LGBTQ community.

“This is definitely a step forward, and I’m hopeful that other states will follow,” said Mark Leno, California’s first openly gay state senator, who sponsored the bill. “We are failing our students when we don’t teach them about the broad diversity of human experience.”

“There is an increasing awareness in the public and among elected officials that we have to do something to address the problems of bullying, and the negative consequences” for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, said Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

Still, the decision is not without controversy. Opponents of the addition to the curriculum state that its furthering a ‘homosexual agenda’ in public schools and equate the curriculum change with a legislative form of morality.

“It’s a sad day for our republic when we have the government essentially telling people what they should think,” said Tim Donnelly, a Republican state assemblyman from San Bernadino. Mr. Donnelly said the law prohibited schools from presenting gays and lesbians “in anything other than a positive light, and I think that’s censorship right there.”

As an educator, I think that this is excellent news. We should broaden the perspective and experiences that we present to students as they are developing and coming up with this connected, global community. Additionally, I always find it troubling when lawmakers disagree with providing students information and allowing them to make informed decisions – I also see nothing in the curriculum that requires only ‘positive’ views of homosexual individuals who, like all human beings, are complex creatures with flaws.

To read more about this story, check out the New York Times.