Tag Archives: Ed Tech

Sustainable Innovation in Schools

Innovation…. the cause of and solution to all of our problems, at least it is according to every article, book, or keynote speaker in the last couple of years. It will reinvent education, but only after it destroys the standard schoolhouse. We seem to act as though innovation is a 21st century invention. However, education has long been a realm of

innovation, from one room school houses, to the standardized classroom, to the open classroom; from slate, to paper, to computer; or from abacus, to slide ruler, to calculator. The story of modern innovation could be told in a classroom. Unfortunately, the word “innovation” has been so overused that it risks entering the lexicon of buzzwords. This is a shame because innovation has an important and strategic role in education.

I do not mean to diminish the power of innovation but rather the contrived manner in which it is applied as a panacea to what ails us. Rather than being respectfully regarded as the logical extension of inquiry and exploration, it is often viewed as the result of luck or happenstance; the deus ex machina of our times. In a realm as important and vital as education, this can be problematic or even dangerous thinking. For innovation in education to be truly impactful, it must be sustainable. To be sustainable, it must be devised thoughtfully and applied strategically.

Innovation, at its heart, addresses a need: productivity, efficiency, or opportunity. Innovative practice is one that is methodical and incorporates regular feedback. To determine the heart of our innovative needs and practice, we must employ a discerning eye for what Heidi Hayes Jacobs calls classical vs antiquated educational practices. What is classical is timeless and enduring, what is antiquated worked for a time, but that time has passed. Let us look at the graphing calculator replacing the slide ruler. It allowed students to more readily apply higher order mathematical practice in order to quickly and accurately solve complex equations. However, any good math teacher will tell you that it’s not the calculator alone, but its application and process. The tool evolved to fit the modern needs of the skill set. This is why calculators have endured, while other “innovations” (like the open classroom) have failed. Innovation in schools and classrooms should be meaningful, address contemporary challenges, and enrich the learning environment. Only by doing this will innovation in schools be sustainable and enduring.

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The Jobs of Today May Not Exist Tomorrow – How do we Prepare Students?

Not long ago, I wrote a blog post entitled: Lifelong Learning is an Essential Skill, not a Buzzword. The more I read about future-readiness, 21st century skills, job market reports, and advances in technology (especially AI), the more I understand this to be true. Recently, PEW Research published a report on the Future of Jobs & Job Training.

This report reaffirmed the fact that in the near future, millions of jobs will be lost to automation and AI that can do these tasks not only just as well, but often better than their human counterparts. These are not just rudimentary, repeatable tasks, but sophisticated, white-collar jobs that have generally been considered “safe” from automation: dermatologists, journalists, claims adjusters, financial reporters, and more. With the rise of automated driving, millions of workers who rely on driving as their means of employment are looking at becoming obsolete (long-haul truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery wo/men, and more).

Pushing aside the very real, and daunting, questions of what this means for our job market and even Capitalism, for educators and parents this means: how do we prepare students for the stark realities of an ever shifting job market? While new technologies may be depleting jobs, knowing how to leverage them will become an even more essential skill in the future.

“The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”

Looking at how and when people learn job skills and other training will also need to be examined. Will a traditional high school, college, and beyond model remain the default given the rapidly changing employment models?

“A central question about the future, then, is whether formal and informal learning structures will evolve to meet the changing needs of people who wish to fulfill the workplace expectations of the future.”

PEW delves deeply into this topic, asking experts about their vision of the future and determined 5 Major Themes:

Five major themes about the future of jobs training in the tech age

Considering the uncertainty of the future, what we do know is that we must prepare young people to be flexible and agile learners, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators, and to know that they must develop a passion and drive for lifelong learning.

While the article is long, I strongly encourage my readers to check out PEW’s publication and put together your own thoughts.

3 Ways for Students to Create with Devices in the Classroom

Devices have become omnipresent in our classrooms. Often, these tools are used as expensive, electronic content delivery systems. However, the real power in technology in schools is that it empowers students to become content creators. Smartphones and tablets, even more so, have allowed them to become mobile and agile ones. Most educators know that individuals learn far more about a topic when they must explain it to someone else. Additionally, by employing multiple learning modalities through the creative process (tactile, kinesthetic, visible, etc), students process material more thoroughly. As you think about your lesson plans in the future, consider empowering students to create rather than just consume. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Create a Video

I am a fan of giving students guiding questions and parameters, then having them make an educational video. In my documentaries project, students must answer address a specific topic (e.g. “Where did George Washington get his reputation for honesty?” or “Was Benedict Arnold solely a villain of the Revolutionary War?”). We talk about creating

content in an engaging way, incorporating images and videos effectively (and ethically), pacing content, and selecting what to include or leave out. Videos are not exclusive to the humanities. I have seen math teachers effectively use them by having students demonstrate how to solve complex problems and science teachers as a recording and reflection for labs. I also encourage students to post their videos publicly (when age appropriate) or to the class via a closed portal (for younger students). By posting their videos publicly and sharing with the class, they are presenting to an authentic audience. Making a video is easy and can by done with a smartphone, tablet, and/or computer. Free software options include iMovie (MacOS & iOS), Movie Maker (Windows), and FilmoraGo (iOS & Android).

Create a Podcast

Podcasts are become ever more popular. There are podcasts to cover news, popular entertainment, hobbies, sports, cultural phenomena, and more. Task your class with

creating a podcast on a topic relevant to your course. If you are a Social Studies teacher, perhaps a weekly podcast on current events. If you teach science, a weekly science report relevant to the topic. Math? Try incorporating an update on a complex topic students are tackling that week. Podcasting can help students work on their public speaking skills as well as how to effectively present to an audience. Again, by sharing the podcast with the public at large or just the class and/or school, students learn what it is to engage with a broader audience. Podcasting can be done easily with a smartphone, tablet, and/or computer paired with a simple microphone to drown out ambient sound (the microphone on headphones can work in a pinch or you can invest in something a little more substantive). My favorite free apps for podcasting include: Garageband (MacOS & iOS) and Audacity (MacOS & Windows).

Websites

My students complete a year long research project that they post on a comprehensive website. Through creating an online portal, they learn how to write effectively for a broad audience, how to cite material so that it is accessible online, how to create and incorporate various types of media, and how to effectively organize and lay-out content. What I especially like about website creation is that it allows students to combine skills that they have learned throughout the year (e.g. video and podcasting). We have all seen “good” and “bad” websites. When it’s published online, students want theirs to look good. As such, it also serves as a basic primer in basic graphic design. There are numerous free website tools out there. If your school is a G-Suite for Education school, then I highly recommend using the new Google Sites. Not only is it easy to use, but it readily allows for collaboration. You can also check out weebly or wix.

If you’re in a school where students have access to devices, I strongly encourage having them turn those devices into content creators. You will find that it empowers them as learners and makes their learning more applicable and deep.

5 Free #EdTech Tools to Check out for Back to School

The start of school is just around the corner! Many educators are brushing off old lesson plans for revision or restructuring their curriculum. As you prepare for the start of school, here are five ed tech tools to check out to help get your lesson planning game on point.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom has become the go-to tool for educators to assign and collect

assignments, disseminate information, and even to keep parents informed. With some new, robust updates (better ways to navigate individual student work, transfer classes, team teach, and third party integration to name a few), it’s time to up your Classroom game. By using Google Classroom, you can easily keep student work in one place; no more emails entitled “homework” from personal emails you don’t recognize (e.g. “swimlover02@email.com”). Remember that Classroom is free and available to all (even if your school is not a G-Suite for Education institution). It really is worth a look!

Remind

Email is dead, it’s all about texting. In spite of this, our primary means of communication with students and parents remains email. Most teachers move around this by simply sharing their personal cell number and collecting them from students. Of course, this can be a real hindrance on privacy and can lead to concerns about appropriate boundaries. This is where Remind comes in. If your school is anything like mine, it’s fast moving and constantly changing. Remind is a great way to text students and parents important information (e.g. “due to snow day, test moved to Friday” or “Field-trip departure moved to side gate”). This does not require teachers, students, or parents to share their personal cell phone numbers. It also keeps a record of all texts that a teacher sends out. Privacy and boundaries protected!

Socrative

Capture

Socrative by MasteryConnect https://www.socrative.com/

Socrative has long been a favorite of educators. It’s a way to conduct reviews, run bell ringer or exit ticket activities, and otherwise gamify your classroom. Socrative has gone through several iterations. In addition to their free service, they now offer a “Pro” version ($59.99/year) that allows you to take your Socrative game to the next level. My students always enjoy days where we engage in Socrative activities; it allows them to show off what they know and tackle what they need to learn.

Quizlet

Now, you may be surprised to learn that I advocate a flashcard system. However, rote memorization still has a place in education. Whether you’re teaching geography, vocabulary, spelling, physics terms, or more, there will always be a place for flashcards. Quizlet has really become more robust than ever before. There are a number of ways to use Quizlet in your classroom. You can create sets yourself and share with your class in advance. Students can collaborate on sets. Quizlet now even lets you use your sets to engage in creative games (not just flashcards or matching).

Twitter

Twitter remains the go-to social network for teachers. If you are a Twitter user, it’s time to rejoin your chats and check out what your PLN is up to. If Twitter has been on your “To-Do” list, now is a great time to start! Check out my articles: “Effective Ways for Educators to Use Twitter” and “5 Ways for Teachers to Get Started on Twitter.” If you need to expand your “follow” list, here are some Great Educators & Institutions to Follow.

These are just 5 (Free) resources. There are many more. Please share your favorite in the comment section below!

ISTE Guide for Beginners!

It’s ISTE season yet again! Shortly, thousands of people will descend on the city of San Antonio to talk about education and technology. There will be old timers (“I remember when ISTE was…”), vendors (have you seen how Sprocket intends to innovate education), and newbies. If this is your first ISTE, no doubt you are excited. However, it can also be a bit intimidating. If you’re not ready for it, it can eat you alive! Here are some of my tips for surviving as an ISTE newbie:

Get on Twitter

There will be two prominent hashtags on Twitter: #iste (for conference attendees) and #notatiste (for those that didn’t make it). Both will feature amazing content and ideas. Be sure to check in on Twitter a few times a day. Better yet, share your own reflections and experiences of the conference!

Set 2 or 3 Goals

It’s easy to go overboard at ISTE. However, there are so many sessions, playgrounds, posters, happy-hours, etc, that it can become information overload. Instead, in advance, set 2 or 3 goals that you want to accomplish. Are you rolling out a new digital storytelling program? Does your maker-space need a makeover? Perhaps you want to update your digital citizenship program. Whatever your projects, there will be multiple sessions, speakers, and vendors geared towards your objectives. Focus on those!

Watch the Screens

The lines for keynotes can get overwhelming and your favorite ignite! session might conflict with another activity. There are always screens everywhere around ISTE. If you don’t mind not being in the same room, hang out in a lounge and watch the presentation on the big screen tv.

Network

Being on Twitter will really help you here. Meet people, go to happy hours, or just randomly introduce yourself. You will meet many like-minded educators in this world. Say hello, hand out and collect business cards, and follow one another on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, don’t hesitate to reach out to your favorite super stars if you run into them. I once got quite star-truck over running into Vicki Davis a couple of years ago. Now she follows me on Twitter and has even invited me on a podcast!

Wear Comfortable Shoes

If you listen to nothing else that I say, listen to this: wear comfortable shoes. You will walk… a lot. ISTE is a very large convention and there are events all around the area. You need comfortable walking shoes. I once made the mistake of wearing heels when I was presenting. Never again. Comfortable shoes will be your friend.

So if you’re at ISTE, pop over and say hello if you see me! I’d love to hear what you’re working on. Have a great trip and see you soon!

The Jobs of Today May not Exist Tomorrow – How do we Prepare Students?

Not long ago, I wrote a blog post entitled: Lifelong Learning is an Essential Skill, not a Buzzword. The more I read about future-readiness, 21st century skills, job market reports, and advances in technology (especially AI), the more I understand this to be true. Recently, PEW Research published a report on the Future of Jobs & Job Training.

18732734804_7b3a90ea19_h

Courtesy of Gerd Leonhardhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/gleonhard/18732734804

This report reaffirmed the fact that in the near future, millions of jobs will be lost to automation and AI that can do these tasks not only just as well, but often better than their human counterparts. These are not just rudimentary, repeatable tasks, but sophisticated, white-collar jobs that have generally been considered “safe” from automation: dermatologists, journalists, claims adjusters, financial reporters, and more. With the rise of automated driving, millions of workers who rely on driving as their means of employment are looking at becoming obsolete (long-haul truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery wo/men, and more).

Pushing aside the very real, and daunting, questions of what this means for our job market and even Capitalism, for educators and parents this means: how do we prepare students for the stark realities of an ever shifting job market? While new technologies may be depleting jobs, knowing how to leverage them will become an even more essential skill in the future.

“The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”

Looking at how and when people learn job skills and other training will also need to be examined. Will a traditional high school, college, and beyond model remain the default given the rapidly changing employment models?

“A central question about the future, then, is whether formal and informal learning structures will evolve to meet the changing needs of people who wish to fulfill the workplace expectations of the future.”

PEW delves deeply into this topic, asking experts about their vision of the future and determined 5 Major Themes:

Five major themes about the future of jobs training in the tech age

Considering the uncertainty of the future, what we do know is that we must prepare young people to be flexible and agile learners, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators, and to know that they must develop a passion and drive for lifelong learning.

While the article is long, I strongly encourage my readers to check out PEW’s publication and put together your own thoughts.

Growing Number of Poor Americans are Phone Only Internet Users – What does that Mean for Education?

PEW Research recently published a study that showed a growing number of lower-income Americans access the internet solely through a smartphone. As many as 1 in 5 American children live at or below the poverty level and roughly half of all children qualify for free/reduced lunch, meaning that they live just above that poverty threshold (about $41K/year

for a family of four). If this trend continues, we should assume that a large portion of our nation’s children will have limited access to broadband and computers and will use a smart device for their internet access. What are the implications for education as teachers and schools move to more digital practices in their institutions?

Limited access to the internet or other resources is what we often call the “Digital Divide;” it often impacts students who are low-income, especially those in rural areas. There is no quick fix to addressing accessibility and broadband internet access is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity. What can educators do on an individual level to support students who are on the other side of the digital divide?

While on an individual level, teachers can be aware that many students in their classrooms do not have access to high speed internet or computers at home. They can also promote device agnostic tools (tools like G-Suite for Education can be installed on any device with near full-capability). Another potential option is that they can allow students to use class time and school resources to work on robust, digital assignments. However, teachers often feel powerless to help students when the problems facing students in the digital divide are so complex and need to be resolved at a macro-level.

There are a few attempts to address the digital divide. The e-rate program, which help to subsidize high speed internet in both urban and rural areas, has had a dramatic impact on bringing broad-band access to low-income as well as rural areas. However, even with this subsidy, students often have limited access at home. As the internet has become the primary repository of learning and knowledge, how can we ensure that all of our children have access?