Week 11-Teaching 21st Century Students

One of the key safety instructions we all hear every time we board an airplane is that in the event of cabin depressurization we must put our own oxygen mask on first before helping others.  This is vital since no matter how much we care about the family or friends sitting with us, we cannot help them if we ourselves are unconscious due to asphyxia.  When it comes to our societal need to transform our schools, we are very much in a similar situation as a depressurizing airplane.  As much as we say we want to focus on the needs of students, we will not see the transformations they need in our education system until teachers and administrators are moved to understand the need for change and prioritize the professional learning necessary to get us there.  So this week I focused on the ISTE Standards for Teachers 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher, and The 21st Century Workplace which provide clear targets for teachers to consider when teaching the habits of mind, cognitive skills and collaborative abilities students will need in the world we’re preparing them to enter.

Verbs Calling For Transformation

Image source: ISTE Standards for Teachers

Consider the verbs of the 5 top level ISTE Standards for Teachers: facilitate, inspire, design, develop, model, promote, engage.  In addition to these top level verbs, it is striking that “model” appears nine times across all 5 standards and 20 sub-clusters.  When considered in combination with the other verbs inspire and facilitate, I’m struck by the heavy lift the ISTE standards are pointing towards.  They suggest that what we need is nothing short of a sea change in school cultures with regard to 21C technology and methodologies.  When so many schools outright ban cell phones and so many teachers don’t incorporate technology in meaningful ways, how are they to facilitate, model and inspire?

It’s All About Culture and Professional Learning

In research for a previous literature review I found that a critical component for implementing the necessary change ISTE calls for comes only with consistent, focused professional learning for teachers.  Not only that, but school culture also has a significant impact on the success or failure of information and communication technology (ICT) implementation, much of which is determined by the level of support projected by the principal.

School culture can positively impact ICT practices.  Positive peer pressure can motivate reluctant teachers to try new approaches with technology.  Studies have also found that teachers who see positive student outcomes as a direct result of ICT practices are more likely to continue and expand their ICT toolkit.

In a study of three schools where teachers adapted ICT in meaningful ways, all three schools had six characteristics in common:  1) They were well equipped for ICT.  2) Their focus was on changing the process of learning using ICT.  3) Skills were acquired as part of the process of using those skills purposefully.  4) The school provided support.  5) Teachers had opportunities to discuss, reflect and  troubleshoot with peers and facilitators over time.  6) The nature of student learning changed along with teachers’ beliefs and knowledge sets  (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).

Therefore, the school community must recognize that the most effective professional development is that which facilitates teachers understanding about how specific instructional practices themselves support student learning of particular content.  That is, schools must allow teachers to see that technology-supported, student-centered practices impact student acquisition of knowledge  (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).

Finally, even when teachers are willing to wrestle with their beliefs, identify what they truly value, use these realizations to motivate changes to their practice via meaningful PD, the role of the principal administrator cannot be underestimated…. The principal plays an outsized role in creating and maintaining at least four of Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich’s six conditions and is generally responsible for shepherding the wider culture of the school community.  Determining what professional learning is necessary among which teachers; establishing the systems for implementing the professional learning plan; creating calendars for structured and unstructured learning; countering programmed time with protected, unprogrammed time for reflection and metacognition about instruction – all these necessities flow from the principal’s office.  When the principal does these things in a way that sets high expectations and supports for ICT instruction, shifts can be made more readily if still not easily.  However, when the principal’s own beliefs, values, and motivations do not prioritize ICT methods, digitally infused learning environments are far less likely to take hold, even with willing and capable teachers.

Douglas van Dyke, “Transitions to Digitally Mediated Classrooms”

 

The Educator’s Need to Feel Expert

This dovetails with the what I’ve written about in previous blog posts about the anxiety teachers feel when they are thrust into areas where they do not feel expert.  Given the significant shift and stretch for which the ISTE standards are calling, we don’t seem likely to meet them without acknowledging both the fundamental changes in school culture that are necessary as well as high quality and consistent PD for teachers.  Additionally, educators must reconcile their reluctance to implement ICT methods in school with their own ICT use in the various aspects of their lives outside of school.

Blow This Stuff UP!

When we consider the 21st century world — that is the one we are living in today — and the workplace students will enter, especially as described by Daniel Pink, the need for a cultural and instructional transformation of our schools could not be more apparent.  The leap from an “Information Age” to a “Conceptual Age” cannot happen without students learning through active learning and metacognitive methods.   ICT and the 4C’s are uniquely suited for the attainment of the skills categories that will be most valued as described by Levy and Murnane: “expert thinking — solving new problems for which there are no routine answers” and “complex communication — persuading, explaining, and in other ways conveying a particular interpretation of information”.  To make such shifts, however, educators must blow up the linearity of the industrial model that defines our school structures and curriculum and the information model on which accountability is based in favor of more distributed, differentiated, student-centric proficiency-based approaches that digital and mobile technologies can now facilitate.

Concluding This Post & TIE 524

What ISTE is essentially calling for is SAMRizing and TPACKing our entire education system.  We must prioritize changes in school culture through consistent professional learning for teachers around ICT methodologies.  Administrators must lead the way, advocating and requiring ICT methods and solidifying the cultural shifts that come as a result.

Over the last eleven weeks, this course has provided a remarkable set of resources for incorporating ICT strategies for both  classroom instruction and professional learning.  In doing so it has facilitated multiple opportunities for reflection about my own practice, where we are as a profession, and how far we all have to go.  It has been an excellent next step on this master’s journey!

Week 10-Frameworks for Evaluating Technology

When SAMR first crossed my path last term, it seemed an elegant way to evaluate the role of a particular technology for whether it was innovating the learning process or just being sexy.  Among many of the teachers I encounter, technology is, as Liz Kolb noted, a gimmick.  Students with iPads are being tricked into thinking they are learning while the teachers who deploy them feel cutting edge.  (Though, the kids are not being tricked.  If I had a dollar for every time I asked a student about what they were doing with a device and was met with a lethargic explanation through a smirk and some eye rolling.  Yeah, they know!)

My SAMR Experiences

SAMR has been useful in my coaching in two ways.  I look for opportunities to stretch my coachees into at least augmentation or modification.  For instance, I recently set up a discussion board in Google Groups for an ILT I work with to extend faculty conversations around learning walks beyond teachers’ physical time together.  Granted, it’s not a lot compared to what we’ve been using in our NLU course work.  But even for my teachers who want to embrace technology, it’s an ah-ha since they don’t venture too far down the GAFE paths they have available to them.  They are easily overwhelmed and quickly become anxious when asked to use features outside their workflow in programs they use everyday.  In general, they struggle with their own ability to transfer skills from a known program to a new one.

In another school I’m helping the faculty map their curriculum using Google Docs to collaboratively write their maps, collect resources, and view each other’s maps.  This is the first that they have effectively been able to visualize the curriculum as a whole.  However, teachers have struggled to find enough time to meet to work collaboratively on course team maps.  CPS’s turning PD days into furlough days has only exacerbated the issue.  While many see the value of the project, they are tired of fighting to carve out tiny parcels of time to meet and do the work.  So just last week I proposed they stop trying to meet face-to-face as it was less necessary than they thought given the powerful collaboration tools that already exist in Google Docs if only they would use them.

Part of a concept map to show teachers how to use Google Docs more remotely and collaboratively; Image Source: D. van Dyke
An enthusiastic teacher’s Google Groups discussion thread; Image source: D. van Dyke

 

In my instructional work I’ve brought SAMR to planning meetings and coached teachers through using the framework to analyze and evaluate their current technology.  Many are surprised to see that they’re operating mostly at the substitution level with occasional dips into augmentation.   We all get excited when the conversation then turns creative and the teacher starts visualizing ways to redesign a lesson such that those iPads or Chromebooks are being used for modification or redefinition.

Frameworks From Heaven

SAMR was an epiphany when I first encountered it.  But having these other analytical and evaluative tools for ICT integration feels like revelation.

TPACK, 3E, TIM are all new to me and I can see each having its place.  3E and SAMR seem more entry-level frameworks for teachers just starting to wrestle with ICT integration.  They are relatively simple and straightforward.  Given their complexity, however, TPACK and TIM seem to be for more sophisticated evaluation of technology deployment.  The pedagogue in me appreciates how TPACK operates from the interplay among multiple domains and context.  TPACK acknowledges the complexity and locality of teaching and learning and demands that the teacher does as well.

Different visualizations of the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

TIM reminded me less of a rubric than of a continuum of skill development like something along the lines of a practitioner model of professional growth such as the Dreyfus model.  Such models allow practitioners to position themselves on the continuum with the skill sets they currently possess.  This creates an evaluative environment, but with less judgment and critique since the model honors practitioners at their current level of experience.  It also suggests that their place in the model is dynamic.  The longer they practice the more skills or “tools” they acquire.   As they grow in experience they travel along the continuum.  Such implicit messaging can be powerful for teachers working to improve their practice.  There is an implied level of safety which is an important motivator for growth.

Kids are savvy enough to know when an iPad or laptop activity is engaging them cognitively or when it is just a glorified textbook.  We’re not pulling anything over on them by simply putting a device in their hands.  These frameworks are great tools to level up our “teaching with tech” game.  They not only foster teacher reflection about how effectively they teach with technology, but having multiple frameworks allows us to differentiate for the sophistication of the teacher using them.

For Further Reading
The Five-Stage Model of Adult Skill Acquisition - Stuart Dreyfus

 

Week 9-Digital Citizenship

When is it better not to know something?  What does it say about you when you truly believe ignorance really is bliss?  How instructive is it to know the extent of your digital tattoo?

Spinning Beach ball

This week’s assignment caused me more anxiety than any other moment in this master’s journey to date.  I did not want to know with certainty what information about me was publicly available for the clicking.  That’s because I understand the economic model that underpins the internet. Increasingly, it is becoming less about the free, democratic flow of information and more about the delivery of consumers to retailers via advertising.  And the algorithm and cookie technologies web sites use to collect my information is, for all intents and purposes, out of my control.  So I hold my nose and, like most everyone else, tick the “I accept the Terms of Use” check box then click OK.  I know I am giving my information away — with every Google search, with every opening of a map app, with every purchase I make online.  It’s frustrating because if we want to use the internet with any kind of reasonable ease, we are faced with these choiceless choices.  So in the face of such choicelessness, I didn’t want to know the precise details of what information is out there about me.

Yes, ok, if someone really wants to find me they can find me in that some of the information is public record (or I myself have volunteered).  However, it’s the ease with which the information can be found these days.  It is so much easier and potentially more likely that we will experience the social hacking of our lives by triangulating public information in order to gain access to more sensitive parts of our lives.  (This is one of the hardest identity theft concepts I keep trying to impress on my septuagenarian parents and in-laws!)  Having to live in a constant state of vigilance about such things as we now do is the digital version of low-level PTSD.

In this TED Talk, Juan Enriquez leads with physical tattoos, which made me realize one significant difference between them and the digital variety: Whether good or bad decisions, a body tattoo is a choice we make.  However, many of our digital tattoos are choices made by others that we must live with.

Nevertheless, I thought a bit about Nicole’s admonition that in an online, networked age, we need to have some searchable presence.  It offered a palliative — or at lease a beneficial trade-off.  Accepting that some of our credibility is tied not just to the nature of our digital tattoo, but to its very existence, deepens my roots as a digital resident.  I, too, am not hiding anything.  I took to heart advice I heard way back in the ’90’s:  “If you’d be embarrassed to have your grandmother read it, see it, or hear it, don’t post it.”  So, I was not worried about finding anything unseemly or compromising.  (Color me boring.  Or old.)   If someone wants to use their time rummaging through all my personal information, and spend about $30 to access all of it, have at it.  There’s nothing prurient to see if prurience is what they’re looking for.  And that feels good to know.

Easter Eggs

Still, how accurate it all was was unnerving!  Every town I’ve lived in, names of my family members, universities I’ve attended, our home purchase price and tax info, my social media profiles, all there. I found tweets of mine embedded in the blogs of complete strangers — one from the Cubs’ victory and another on the SCOTUS marriage equality decision.  I even found my Twitter and Instagram accounts listed among the “most active” on a blog tracking the MLB playoffs.  Who knew??  But the discovery traveling the farthest from out of nowhere was a June 2014 church newsletter.  Apparently, my mother put my name in for the month’s birthday prayers and it got posted on the church web site which no one knew anything about until this week.  Talk about having no way of knowing how and from where your information will show up online!

 

 

Other surprises included differing search results depending on the search engine and browser used.  Finding different results between search engines was less surprising, given differences in algorithms. However, I did not expect the differences between browsers.  I’m curious about why that would be.

Ones & Zeroes

The internet and social media are platforms, facilitators, amplifiers.  Like everything humans create, they are extensions of us — our good, our bad and our in between.  Sadly, many choose to use social media to amplify the basest elements of human nature.  But I believe as Nicole does that “the internet can do amazing things.  It’s not all negative.”  I love the idea that “your online presence gives you a great opportunity to use social media for good.”  As well the idea of using it for creative purposes, making online “interest portfolios” to use as models for professional use and CV’s.  But I’d like to soapbox a minute against the idea of our digital tattoos as “personal brands”.  I have to admit to wanting to scream every time I hear this term or am queried about my own.  “Personal brands” represents the commodification, the marketing of individuals.  This trend may result from a downside of social media, perhaps because they too are blends of written or aural text and visual images — the very elements upon which branding relies.  But companies have brands.  Services have brands.  Products have brands.  Cattle have brands.  Which is fine for huge entities that need to be recognized quickly, compressing concepts and information into a single graphic or seconds on radio or TV.

But I resist what to me comes off as the hipster social media-driven fad and pretentiousness of “personal brands”.  People have reputations, interests, integrity.  And for people, that is what their digital tattoo represents.   Never Seconds and @thebenevolentone3 are not Payne’s and Konner Suave’s brands.  They are extensions of their curiosity, their empathy for and kindness towards others.  Which now, thanks to the astonishing power of social media, nearly every human on the planet can witness.   These digital platforms are perfectly suited to explain, demonstrate, exhibit, connect the incredible complexities that make up us human beings.  And in so doing, make people and society better for it.  So why in the world would we ever settle for reducing people like Martha and Konnor to the something as crass as a brand?  [Climbs down off soapbox.]

Launchpad?

Whether, what, and how this information should be taught to students obviously depends on the age of the students and the complexities and goals of what is being taught.  What if we thought about it like we do sex ed (where schools or parents still teach sex ed!)?  Usually, the basics are taught before puberty.  Then instruction becomes more nuanced as children mature through middle and high school.  When it comes to digital tattoos, parents and computer teachers should both be involved.  However, as much as I believe most of this instruction should be coming from home, at this moment in history, I doubt most parents have the depth of knowledge themselves to do it effectively.

As for when we should start, I would say just prior to the age where their getting their own devices or accounts.  Perhaps elementary teachers start with demonstrating the kinds of information that can be found online through activities with Fakebook & Twister .  Students could examine examples and non-examples from which they discuss possible consequences for each.  Adolescents, though, can conduct  limited searches guided by their teachers.   However, regardless of who teaches about digital tattoos and when, just dis-covering of what information can be found online is not enough.  Parents and teachers both need to press kids to answer, “So what?  Why is this important to know?”  That’s where the understanding and consequences lie.

Shutting Down…

In the end, I’d say it was beneficial to push through the anxiety.  I have a sense of the size and shape of my digital tattoo.  Maybe someday I’ll pay that $30 on Spokeo to unlock my full profile.  In the meantime, it’s good to know that I’ve made wise choices about my own postings.  It feels good to know that in a very limited way I’ve contributed some thoughtful, creative elements to the internet and social media.  And I’ve made good choices when it comes to friends since I didn’t find myself compromised by any of their social media choices either.  Am I as blissful now as I was when I woke up Monday given my loss of ignorance?  Let’s call it a break-even.

 

New Tabs:
"'Right to Be Forgotten' Online Could Spread" (New York Times) - In an effort to counter some of the possible stigma from digital tattoos, the EU defined the "right to be forgotten".

Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives by David Eagleman- A wonderful book that imagines 40 different possibilities for the afterlife through 2-page vignettes. Several are a bit cyberpunkesque.  These two excerpts have haunted me for the exact reasons we're considering this week.

Week 8-Social Media in Education

Since the rubber meets the road with instruction, I continued with a focus on teachers and social media.  A number of the readings were interesting and provocative, such as Vicki Davis’s blog post which concludes with

"If you're going to ignore social media in the classroom, then throw out the ISTE Standards for Students and stop pretending that you're 21st century. Stop pretending that you're helping low-income children overcome the digital divide if you aren't going to teach them how to communicate online.  Social media is here. It's just another resource and doesn't have to be a distraction from learning objectives. Social media is another tool that you can use to make your classroom more engaging, relevant and culturally diverse."

As an educator whose career has been spent exclusively in the service of poor, black and brown, urban youth, the “If you’re going to ignore…then stop pretending…” formulation is quite satisfying and I want to give it a shoutout.  However, the main text for this week I’ll discuss…

 Howard Rheingold’s  “Attention, and Other 21st Century Social Media Literacies”

Rheingold’s thesis is that skills alone are insufficient for successfully navigating social media.  Social media literacy is needed beyond skill knowledge.  He then identifies five interwoven literacies: Attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness & critical consumption.

A SUMMARY OF RHEINGOLD’S SOCIAL MEDIA LITERACIES:
  • Attention is “the fundamental building block for how individuals think…create tools…teach each other how to use them…how groups socialize, and…transform civilization.”  Rheingold then delineates different kinds of attention human beings deploy in particular circumstances and their applicability to digital and social media.
  • Participation online “gives one a different sense of being in the world….[Y]ou become an active citizen rather than simply a passive consumer of what is sold to you…taught to you…what you’re government wants you to believe.”  The powerful devices we all now carry in our pockets give us the ability to affect societal change in easier and faster ways than ever before.
  • Collaboration takes place “[u]sing the technologies and techniques of attention and participation…allow[ing] people to work together collaboratively in ways that were too difficult or expensive to attempt before the advent of social media.”  This is a particularly good articulation of how these literacies comprise an interwoven continuum as opposed to 5 discrete elements.  Rheingold continues, illustrating social media collaboration through various examples of crowdsourcing ranging from searching for missing persons at sea to citizen responses to natural disasters to charity fundraising.
  • Network Awareness is a bit more esoteric.  Noting that the 19th century saw the industrialized society and the 20th century, the information society, Rheingold suggests the 21st century is seeing the rise of the networked society.  “In the past there were physical limitations on which people and how many people we could include in our network…. Now, technological networks…have vastly expanded the number and the variety of people we can contact.”  Here he also suggests that deep network awareness also requires participants to understand how networks can influence “how much freedom, wealth, and participation you will have in the rest of this century”, drawing attention to the current debates on net neutrality.
  • Critical Consumption is, as Rheingold reminds us, what Hemingway called “crap detection”.  In essence, it is now up to the reader to vet whether or not a media source is trustworthy.  As he notes, “[t]he authority of the text that goes back at least a thousand years has been overturned.”  Prior to the digital era we could rely on a whole series of steps and checkpoints traditional publishing provided for fact-checking and accuracy of information.  But now, the democratic nature of digital media means any yahoo with a device can publish.  Thus, all responsible citizens also have to possess the skills of a critic if they wish to be informed.  Critical consumption, then, brings us full circle, back to attention as we need to use our crap detection to determine exactly what is and isn’t worthy of our time, energy, and focus.
Illustration of Reed’s Law;   Source: Michael K. Bergman, AI^3

 

Rheingold slides the following point into critical consumption but is worth highlighting separately.  He notes that social media is a flow, not a queue.  Email is a queue.  With email, messages arrive one at a time into our mailbox in chronological order where we deal with each message in some way — answer, ignore, delete, schedule, file.  Whereas, social media is a constant and overwhelming flow of information that we can never ever entirely apprehend.  Therefore, we have to choose what we will pay attention to, when, and how.  This is a helpful way to conceptualize the cacophony of social media and suggests a way to engage it.  It gives permission to let go of all the messages that get by us no matter how we struggle to keep up.  (For those of us who feel compelled to respond to everything that comes through our feed(s), this is no small reprieve!)  In addition, this distinction between managing items in a queue versus an endless flow of information accentuates the idea that social media participation requires conceptual, literacy-based understanding and not just skill knowledge.

Defining as “Literacy” Raises the Stakes

Shifting the conversation from one of skills acquisition to literacy raises the stakes for educators.  Prior to starting this master’s program,  my thinking about the role of digital media in education could be described as more subconscious, intuitive.  However, in the last 20 weeks, my thoughts have become more clearly conscious.  One articulation of that emergent thinking, as I noted in last week’s post, is that the internet and mobile technology are no longer curiosities or places where we dally in cyberspace.  They are as crucial to our daily functioning as the telephone, radio, television, and the automobile became in the last century.   The digital realm is, arguably, even more profound than those previous technologies in that it constitutes spaces for the conduct of nearly all kinds of human transactions — commercial, professional, artistic, personal — while at the same time breaking the limits of time and space.  Clearly, social media are now extensions of our actual social lives as well.  So in this sense, my thinking has evolved in that I believe parents and schools have a obligation to teach children what constitutes safe and responsible behaviors online just as much as they do what’s appropriate in the “real” world.

Changes in My Thinking

Rheingold’s article has helped crystalize my thinking.  Given the power and place of digital media in our lives, we need to teach their navigation as conceptual literacies and not merely skills.  This makes sense, too, given the vast and ever-changing complexities that make up the digital realm.  People will only be able to navigate as digital residents when they are fluent in the hows and whys of digital world and can transfer skills to new digital contexts as they are likely to emerge.

Further reading:
Washington's new digital citizenship legislation sets nationwide precedent

How Memes Harken Back to Pre-Internet Times -- It's a bit tangential, though it highlights the complexity and literacy required to understand something as "simple" as a meme.
Wrapping Up

In his conclusion, Rheingold notes that social media and their accompanying literacies will “shape the cognitive, social, and cultural environments of the 21st century” just as the printing press, books and their literacies shaped the Enlightenment.  If  this turns out to be the case, and it looks very likely that it will be, then we as educators have responsibilities here.  We can’t bury our heads in the sand ignoring and pretending, as Vicki Davis passionately called out.

We like to say the world is changing.  But more often than not, by the time we make such a statement the world has already changed.  And so it goes with social media.  As a profession, education is behind the curve.  There is quite a bit of catch-up we have to do when it comes to ICT instruction in general and social media in particular.  Rheingold’s formulation of the 5 social media literacies implies the stakes are higher than we thought.  It is incumbent upon us to learn these literacies at least well enough to teach them to our students.  After all, we are the ones charged with projecting them into the future — a future none of us can see — armed with the tools and understandings they (and our democracy) will need to survive through this century.

 

 

Week 7-Gamification

When it comes to game theory, I have had only a passing, skeptical interested.  But my recent studies have started me thinking about gamification from a different perspective.  So that is my selected adventure this week.

The quick Answer to One Framing Question

The week’s framing questions for the topic were provocative.  Do I think we need to gamify our classrooms to engage students?  This one I can answer quickly.  No.  There are many ways for creative teachers to draw students into learning without having to sexy it up with a video game interface.   That “no” is even firmer if it means that gaming is the only way we conduct instruction since no teacher can be successful with only one method or strategy in their toolbox.

Do I think gamificaion is bribery and the way students learn in the 21st century?  As a result of my course work last term and my readings and explorations this week, those answers are now more complex.  As I said, the idea of gamification has been, at best, at the edges of my professional interests.  When thinking about my own gaming experiences my gut tells me there is something there that I “get” as it applies to learning and I have trusted that academics have teased out all the theory for those teachers who want to traverse that route in their classrooms.   But this grown up, serious teacher never pursued deep research into game theory because I was fine with my practice as it was, thank you very much!  But last term was a watershed for me when it comes to thinking about the conditions that provide powerful learning experiences.  The course of study Dr. Angela Elkordy put together for Intro to the Learning Sciences required us to think deeply about our own learning in every conceivable context (documentation of which is posted on this blog under the NLU Class Journal Entries tab above).  Examining my own informal, collaborative, digital, self-directed, just-in-time, playful learning experiences caused me to realize the potency of learning in these other-than-formal contexts.  Those reflections have led me to re-evaluate some core beliefs about teaching and learning — for both students in the classroom and teachers in professional learning.  That re-evaluation has ramifications for my thinking about game theory.

Constructivism and Game Theory
My niece learning to code on her mom’s phone by playing Lightbot (and then teaching me!) Source: D. van Dyke

I’ve always believed that teachers needed to be more facilitators of exploration than dispensers of information.  I am a constructivist.  So my instruction — be it with children or adults — is designed accordingly.  My lessons are always written for the specific learning needs of the students in front of me.  Pacing is a dance with students’ zones of proximal development.  Formative assessment is central for two-way feedback, metacognition, and reflection for both students and myself that then determine my next planning steps.  With the growth of digital technology and mobile tech particularly, it makes sense to leverage these to push the boundaries of constructivism even farther.  Additionally, I see clear connections now between constructivist methods and the way games work for those who play them.

Any-time, just-in-time, exploratory learning all cement learning in long-term memory.   As a result of Dr. Elkordy’s strategies with us, I experienced first hand how learning new content through learning a new app permanently inks that neural tattoo on the brain.  Almost weekly I learned a new app of my choosing by exploring it, playing in it, and not from a formal training course or a user’s manual.  Then I applied my understanding of the app to demonstrate my understanding of the course content.  All of this was done informally, in my time, with just enough difficulty to challenge me.   Except now I don’t only understand the content.  By learning content through the use of a digital tool, I now understand so much more than just the content itself.  Not the least of which is that the learning I structure myself is highly enjoyable and more often than not elicits flow and the consolidation of understanding in long-term memory.  These are the learning conditions I want to create for my students and teachers.

A More Complicated Answer to the Other Framing Questions

As to the questions of gamifying education as bribery and being particularly suited to 21st century learners, I believe it is neither.  The way humans learn best is the way humans learn best whether they are of the 11th century or 21st century.  What is different about the 21st century is our knowledge of how the brain functions; the advent of technologies that allow us to align our pedagogy to our neurology, psychology, sociology; and the economic imperative that we change the way we do school.  In as much as game theory and educational psychology share underlying elements, I can accept gamification as a methodology.  Though does it always need to be so literal as turning the learning process into an actual game?  Especially since doing so requires an incredible investment of time and effort to convert a unit of study into a game that will create the conditions necessary for deep understanding to occur.  So I have generated a few key questions that could help guide decision-making when thoughts turn to gamification:

  • What are the concepts from game theory that are applicable to a given unit of instruction?  A given set of students?  Under what circumstances might it be useful to apply those concepts to improve teaching and learning?
  • When teachers decide to convert a unit into an actual game, what online platforms are available to facilitate the implementation and that can quickly and easily provide insights (evidence and data) about student learning?
  • When teachers want or have to make the game themselves, how can they create elegant games that don’t require disproportionate amounts of time to construct and relatively easily provide insights (evidence and data) about student learning?
How can we make certain gamifying efforts result in students learning the intended content and not just playing the game?
Video: Heck Awesome blog, Carrie Baughcum

Still, informal learning, unstructured learning, choice, and play are powerful contexts in which deep understanding can occur.  These modes are, as Willis calls them, “neuro-logical”.  It makes sense to create them when possible since they activate optimal learning pathways in the brain and foster new, strong synaptic connections.  Well-designed games create these conditions and leverage the same brain processes for learning.  Thus, including high-quality game-based instruction could be a powerful method for teaching and learning.

Gamifying Professional Learning

What was already a paucity of professional learning time in CPS has been completely eliminated this year as a partial “solution” to the budget travesty being visited upon CPS teachers and students.  As a result, I have started leveraging ICT options that are included with GAFE to continue our professional learning despite losing our PD calendar.  Via Groups and Sites, we continue the work asynchronously by holding discussions of professional readings, presenting aggregated learning walk evidence and sharing thoughts and insights about them.  We have already moved quite a bit of planning to remote, synchronous spacetime via Hangouts and Drive.  So the idea of gamifying professional learning is just an extension of this.  Taking PD into the realm of gaming would have the combined benefits of making PD more relevant by providing teachers with differentiation, choice, and timing.  I have also started researching adding digital badges to the work which I find terribly exciting!  On my goal list for next year:  implementing a badged, gamified professional learning series for the schools with which I work.

Digital badges for both student and teachers.  Video: HASTAC

Below are three game-based PD ideas I’m totally stealing from our readings this week:

Fired Up For February — Gamifying professional learning; Source: Unified School District of De Pere, WI

 

A Language Geek’s Rhetorical Finish

Even as I find myself being convinced of the benefits of game theory as instructional practice, there is still something that doesn’t sitting well when I hear phrases like “gamifying the classroom”.  If you’ll indulge the English teacher unpacking language here.  A game is a diversion or something trivial.  Something that can be taken less seriously.  Even in the multi-billion dollar world of professional sports, the expression, “It’s only a game.” is used to readjust perspectives when emotions are high.  Yet the very project at hand for education is de-trivializing digital instruction among reluctant educators.  So while I can see the underlying value and power of this way of “doing” teaching and learning, I wonder if framing it as “gamification” works against us.  I don’t have an answer as yet for what to call such a complex process.  Maybe a few rounds of Words With Friends will do the trick!

Week 6: Critical Thinking & Information Literacy

Source: Digital Citizenship for 6th Grade Students
The Digital Literacy Adventure

Digital literacy is the adventure I chose for this week because it is the near universal substrate of all the other kinds of media and communication in the Information Age.  Not to mention, the nature of digital communication means that the lines between message and medium can be blurred far more easily than in the analog world, which has significant implications for teaching and learning all the other literacies outlined for the week  — information, news, media, and critical thinking.

Definitions

The most succinct definition of digital literacy I found is from  Purposeful Technology-Constructing Meaning in 21st Century Schools and is defined as “the capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it.”  Yet in light of the other rather troubling readings on the topic, the expanded aspects of digital literacy are vital.  Specifically, the authors note that digital literacy includes “when students are able to engage with multi-media to read and interpret text, sounds and images…when students can  manipulate and evaluate data to construct their own meaning…having knowledge about  how to use technology to construct meaning…in ways that are appropriate to their needseffectively and appropriately to communicate a message.”  The emphases are added and align to some specifics of digital literacy instruction the inclusion of which, I believe, needs to be mandatory in any district curriculum.  Common Sense Media also notes that digital literacy is an aspect of media literacy and that both fall under the broader umbrella of information literacy.  Common Sense specifically designates media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and “other nontraditional sources” as within the realm of digital literacy.  (By the way, Common Sense has many useful resources.  It’s worth exploring from the link above.)

2 Framing Anecdotes

Part of the work I do as a consultant is leadership and instructional coaching through the University of Chicago’s Network For College Success.  We work with Network high schools to implement professional learning rounds that facilitate instructional improvement in a targeted instructional area.  The method for teaching the targeted instructional area is a research-based powerful instructional practice.  One of the powerful practices we support is Reading for Understanding: How Reading Apprenticeship Improves Disciplinary Learning in Secondary and College Classrooms, also know more simply as Reading Apprenticeship or RA.  The RA model operates from the belief that all teachers are literacy teachers.  Not reading teachers, but literacy teachers.  It also proceeds from the notion that different disciplines require different literacy skills specific to that discipline.  This makes a world of sense when one considers that the way one reads a novel is very different from reading a science text, which is different from reading a social studies text, is different from reading a math text, is different still from reading an art text.  Each of these content area teachers is the expert in how to read these specialized texts.  Therefore, all teachers have a responsibility to teach the reading, writing, and thinking skills necessary for the text types of their particular disciplines.  So the RA framework is the schema that activated when I read the framing questions for this week’s assignment, “Who is responsible for teaching information literacy?”

Baby’s & Screens                   Photo: Pintrest

When I read the second framing question, “When should it be introduced?” I was reminded of a time when I was at a friend’s home.  We were sitting on the living room sofa, talking.  At some point we realized that his 3 year-old daughter was standing in front of the flat panel TV which was off at the time.  From the corner of my eye I half noticed that she was alternately waving at the television and turning to us, waving at the television and turning to us.  When it registered that she was actually talking to us, we turned our full attention to her.  She was saying, “Broke!  Broke!”  What was happening was that she was swiping the TV screen.  When it did not turn on after several attempts, she turned to us to demonstrate that the TV was broken because that big flat screen didn’t wake up when she moved her hand across it!  My friend and I were blown away by the implications of this moment.  Indeed “[s]tudents learn technology just like they do the spoken language, by doing and today it is not uncommon for a 3 year old to have some basic knowledge regarding how to get on to the computer and load a game” (Purposeful Technology).

Teach Digital Literacy and to Whom?
Digital Literacy Model
Source: MediaSmarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy

Thus, based on my own literacy coaching, the incident with my friend’s daughter, and the readings for this week, my answer to these questions would be “All teachers are responsible for teaching digital literacy to all students and it should start as soon as they enter school!”

Wrestling With the Texts

Mike Caulfield‘s “Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?” borders on screed; however, his take on the literacy situation is spot on and aligns with the research-based method of RA.  “One of the problems…with traditional digital literacy programs is that they tend to see digital literacy as a separable skill from domain knowledge….  In reality, most literacies are heavily domain-dependent, and based not on skills, but on a body of knowledge that comes from mindful immersion in a context.”  Caulfield then demonstrates in short order how inadequate tools like RADCAB and CRAAP are to the task of developing a reader’s ability to accurately and reliably evaluate digital media.

CRAAP Click here to take the CRAAP Test! Source: SCAD Libraries

 

The RADCAB literacy sifter; Source: radcab.com

Caulfield’s larger argument also puts me in mind of a subject we studied in LSE500.  Namely

Does it make sense to teach about Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper (1498) orally?  Neither should all digital literacy instruction be at the upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

that educators have for years misunderstood the notion of learning style.  Our brains make meaning through all our senses.  While research indicates that every learner has a preferred learning mode, it is inaccurate to say that that mode is the “best” way for them to learn all material.  The most effective way for any learner to make meaning is to experience the content in the learning mode best suited for the content not the learner.   In fact, what teachers need to consider is the learning mode best suited for the particular content.  For instance, it makes no sense in an art history class to differentiate lessons for aural learners that privilege verbal interactions over the visual when studying the complex imagery of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.  Painting is a visual medium and thus is best taught visually.  Since the human brain makes meaning from visual inputs, it is a more efficient and effective way to teach about The Last Supper, even for learners who prefer an aural approach.

Caulfield takes the same approach to Bloom’s Taxonomy and digital literacy.  Yes, in a democratic society citizens need to be critical thinkers.  But all content does not need to be processed at that high a level.  At specific stages of the learning process, some content is most effectively taught at the remembering and understanding levels of the taxonomy.  Remember it.  Understand it.  Apply it.  Move on.  Caulfield effectively argues that digital literacy instruction is in need of this approach.  Do digital citizens need to know how to analyze and evaluate the reliability of a source?  Of course.  And students should have opportunities to practice critical thinking throughout their educational career.  However, in the early stages of developing one’s digital literacy instruction, or with particular kinds of literacy content, basic knowledge is what’s needed first.  For example, it’s important that a digital citizen know that images and videos can be presented out of their original contexts and paired with other information to mislead a reader.  Or that when reading a tweet one must actually click on an embedded link to get to the detailed information the tweet is sharing.  Or that one may have to take a few more steps to do additional, deeper searches to vet the context of a piece of information.  Only after someone knows these basics can that they apply them in more complex and critically thoughtful ways.

Evaluating Information:  The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning is a Stanford study that clearly illustrates how teaching digital literacy exclusively from the top of Bloom’s is failing our students and our society.  The study assessed “civic online reasoning” by collecting and analyzing 7,804 response from students of varied ages and socio-economic backgrounds ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to suburban Minneapolis to Stanford University to public state universities.   Disturbingly, their findings echo Caulfield’s concerns.

"...[T]o a stunning and dismaying consistency...[o]verall, young people's ability to reason about the information in the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak....  [W]hen it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped....  [I]n every case and at every level we were taken aback by students' lack of preparation."

 

This statement and the examples of student work collected for the study are indeed “stunning and dismaying” in their implications.  Yet in light of the the 2016 election, it can’t be a surprise.  I spent much of November with colleagues wrestling with what they felt were our profession’s responsibility for the election outcome.  “If only we had taught media literacy better.”  “We need to teach kids how to be more critical of what they read online.”  “Schools have got to get their hands around fake news and teach our students how to tell it from the real thing.”  These are all paraphrases of statements I heard teachers and administrators saying on November 9th.  As much as I don’t want one more societal ill to be laid at the feet of our profession, I have to say, on several levels I had a hard time disputing their analysis.

Beware the Usual Professional Pitfalls

That said, we will not be served by once again looking for a curricular silver bullet, an instructional quick fix for the paucity of digital literacy in k-12 and collegiate learning.  It’s going to be a generational effort.  And as we get this ball rolling, our profession would be well-served keeping three things in mind to remain positive.  “First and foremost — encourage, request, even demand that teachers in your school district get  EXTENSIVE (not just one workshop) training in the use of technology in the classroom and Digital Citizenship! Teachers are the front line of content delivery, but if teachers are not comfortable and confident with the use of technology, then they will not incorporate its use into their classrooms” (Purposeful Technology).  Second, as Bryan Alexander said in the Teaching and Higher Ed podcast, “There’s a lot of churn.  But …overall we were right.  We hit on the web as a major feature of literacy and learning.  And that’s a good thing.  We didn’t identify a horrible monster.  We identified a really powerful platform for human expression and connection, with flaws, with problems.  But that’s a major stride forward for the human race.”  And finally, as Alexander continued, “Teachers are hired to be experts and we can’t be expert in everything online.  Therefore they have an extra layer of anxiety to participate in the social world of the web and they’re not the expert.  They’re average users.  And that is very hard and threatening.  That’s why teachers have had a hard time using the web for teaching and learning.”  Yet we have to push through that anxiety and not only take our place in the digital world, but also guide the younger generations to their own critical and constructively participatory place in it as well.  And as we do, let’s keep in mind “There’s too much to master.  No one can master it all.” So “grab one particular corner of it [like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, etc.] and get comfy with it.”  

Conclusion

The internet and the digital domain ceased being curiosities and merely interesting diversions decades ago.  As the cartoon at the top of the post illustrates, concepts of traditional citizenship and digital citizenship are utterly intertwined.  Thus, being a good civic citizen requires one being a good digital citizen also.  Both, therefore, require a sophisticated level of digital literacy where the literate person uses technology to interact with the world in a responsible way (Purposeful Technology).  Given the ubiquity of digital technology globally and the very real and tangible impact the digital world has on the actual world, concepts of digital citizenship cannot be any less important than those of traditional civic citizenship.   Literacy is a crucial component of citizenship — in both the real world and in the digital world.

The authors of Evaluating Information conclude the study’s executive summary with a quote from philosopher Michael Lynch:

"[T]he Internet is 'both the world's best fact-checker and the world's best bias confirmer -- often at the same time.'  Never have we had so much information at our fingertips.  Whether this bounty will make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it.  At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish."

 

Indeed, given what’s at stake, if ever there was a clarion call for embedding and infusing digital literacy throughout our curriculum, this is it.


A Coincidental Post Script

Throughout my academic career I have been the lucky beneficiary of strange coincidences connected to my research.  This started all the way back in 8th grade with the dreaded annual science fair dog & pony show project.  Randomly, I had selected “nuclear power” for my project.  One week before the project was due for class and two weeks before the fair, the Three Mile Island accident occurred (and which just 12 days after the release of The China Syndrome!)  So I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up this morning and open my New York Times to find the above-the-fold-top-right headline, HACKERS USE TOOL TAKEN FROM N.S.A. IN GLOBAL ATTACK.  What an opportunity to talk about digital citizenship, literacy, and safety with our students (and our septua- and octogenarian parents for whom some of us are the 24/7 support desk!)

Week 5: Collaboration and Ed Tech Research 

jp-DIVIDE-2-jumbo
I have held this image of Alejandro Zamora in my mind’s eye since reading this NY Times article in 2012. Credit Drew Kelly for The New York Times

Five years ago, I read an article in The New York Times, “Wasting Time is New Divide in Digital Era”.  It had such an impact on me professionally that I refer to it even today.  The more I reflect on it, the more I believe it was one of the catalysts that ultimately put me on the path to this master’s program.  It raised an important issue five years ago.  But reading it today it seems a bit of a broad brush.  The research paints a more detailed, nuanced picture of teens’ online activities.  Still, the article surfaces yet one more inequity faced by students from low-income communities and those of us who serve them.  It draws attention to two concerns I have as an educator:  How our most vulnerable students make use of information and communication technology (ICT) and the discrepancy between how many educators use ICT in their professional practice compared to their personal lives and how the latter impacts the former.  It is these interests that influenced my reading choices this week.

…And what a selection of readings they were.  The sources Nicole pointed us to are such an embarrassment of riches, I wish we had longer to pour over the research before having to blog about them.  Needless to say, this week has been a bookmarks a-go-go.  Eventually, though, I narrowed down my choices to:

The elements that stand out to me are the extent to which the dynamics described in the Times article still hold true today, five years on.  The other is the extent to which the differences persist between how teachers use ICT in their personal lives and in their classrooms.

One of the benefits of consulting is that I’ve experienced more ways of “doing school” than I ever could have imagined I would in my career.  And much of what these reports describe hew to what I have experienced first hand.  That is, not surprisingly, “[t]eachers of the lowest income students experience the impact of digital tools in the learning environment differently than teachers whose students are from more affluent households” (“How Teachers Are Using Technology…”).  Specifically, this means “low income students…[are] ‘behind the curve’ when it comes to effectively using digital tools in the learning process…, teachers of students living in low income households say their school’s use of internet filters has a major impact on their teaching…and…, teachers of lower income students say their school’s rules about classroom cell phone use by students have a major impact on their teaching” (“How Teachers Are Using Technology…”).  Meanwhile, teachers of students who come from higher socio-economic households do not face the same obstacles to teaching and learning.  In fact, respondents to the the “How Teachers Are Using Technology…” survey report they are likely to face the same conditions stated above only half as often as their counterparts in low-income districts.

What I find so frustrating here is what the conditions described in the survey indicate about adult mindsets and the policies that result from those mindsets.  Both mindsets and policies are grounded in negative assumptions about low-income students and positive assumptions about affluent students.  Namely, that poor (read also black and brown) students don’t know how to use their devices and online services responsibly; therefore they’re not allowed in class and access to the internet must be heavily firewalled.  For children of affluent schools, the converse is assumed.  They can be trusted to use their devices properly and not surf verboten sites, thus they are granted access.  The result is a self-perpetuating cycle that reinforces these inequities when it comes to digital learning.

The Common Sense report, “Connection and Control…”, debunks these negative assumptions about poor black and brown kids.  It is based on 11 case studies of African-American and Latino teens and their parents from households qualifying for free and reduced lunch.  The study complicates the often monolithic block into which all American “youth” are often lumped.  The authors note that mediating factors such as time spent with media, socio-economic differences, the types of devices and media available to low-income youth all influence how they use devices and media and thus the type of user a young person is.  Categories of users include “Light Users”, “Heavy Viewers”, “Gamers and Computer Users”, “Video Gamers only”, “Readers”, and “Social Networkers”.    The authors also nuance the often-cited nine hours average amount of screen time US teens accrue, noting differences by age, income, and race.  According to the study, “Tweens (8- to 12-year-olds) use an average of about six hours’ (5:55) worth of entertainment media daily. Teens from lower-income families spend more time with media than those from higher-income families (10:35 vs. 7:50 of total media use). African-American teens use an average of 11:10 worth of media a day compared with 8:51 among Latinos and 8:27 among whites.”

While the report provides a detailed analysis which offers useful insights into the different ways low-income teens and their families interact with their devices, media, and each other, one set of dynamics is particularly striking.  First, low-income youth, with more access to mobile devices than desk- or laptops, use their devices for what I will call positive “coping” or “survival” applications.  Children who live in high crime neighborhoods use social media to break the isolation imposed by their circumstances to maintain connections with family and friends who live at a distance from them.  They will also use their devices to create distance in close living quarters and when going outside is precluded by neighborhood violence.  As one student articulated a common finding, “[Using media is] fun and it’s definitely a way to keep calm and peaceful [emphasis added] when you don’t feel like doing anything else.”

When it comes to informal learning, teens use their devices and apps as problem-solving tools. In fact, problem-solving is a kind of use we would expect from a sophisticated, tech-literate, 21st century user.  For instance, students with long commutes to school will use transit apps to shorten their travel times.  Others will use YouTube as a sort of tutorial service for just-in-time learning according to their interests — personal grooming, learning new dance moves, and gaming hacks, to name a few.  And among Social Media users, platforms such as Instagram and SnapChat become spaces to try out new personas — a normal stage of development for tweens and teens (“Connection and Control…”).  This contradicts rather poignantly the characterization in the Times article of online behaviors as “time wasting” among low-income teens.

However, the second dynamic I was struck by is a significant difference between low-income teens and their middle- to upper-middle-class peers.  Low income students rarely use their devices to create digital content.  “On any given day, American teens spend 3% of their time on computers, tablets, and smartphones creating content” which the “Connection and Control…” report defines as “writing or creating digital art or music”.  However, low-income teens spend the majority of their time consuming media and online services compared to their wealthier peers.  And whereas middle- and upper-middle-class teens have resources to create digital content at home, when their low-income peers do have the opportunity, it is usually available at school or an after-school program where the devices and applications are accessible to them.

The study notes one exception, which I interpret as a function (and limitation) of the devices low-income students have the most access too.  Low-income teens do “show evidence of creative practices in the digital world, taking photos and altering them with different filters and stickers before putting them on Instagram or pulling images from the internet, often manipulating them, to create their lock and home screens” (“Connection and Control…”).  Here I feel I need to acknowledge a personal bias:  I generally find “mashup art” just shy of plagiarism.  Admittedly, my views on mashups are evolving as I come across more complex examples and recognize it as a kind of expression digital technology makes particularly easy to create and the internet makes very easy to distribute.  Still, I find it a low bar creatively.  Nevertheless, it’s clear that the ability to create content is strongly influenced by access to the tools of creation.  Household income and school budgets are key determiners of such access.

Given the length of this post so far covering only one of my two stated areas of interest, I’ve decided to spare readers some time.  I’ve created a short video compressing a few of my take-aways on teachers’ personal and professional use of ICT.  Enjoy!

 

 

Week 4: Digital Spaces Map

The New Metaphor

The digital spaces work this week was incredibly interesting.  Building my map was a fascinating exercise.  As someone who has made regular use of Prensky’s “immigrant/native” metaphor, I found White’s rethinking of the differences between people’s’ internet use far more nuanced.  In that it more accurately describes the various ways people use the internet by identifying multiple types and contexts for online interactions, it is ultimately a more helpful metaphor as well.  White’s metaphor succeeds through his identification of a continuum of use, which takes the way we talk about online usage out of the realms of generational differences and binary oppositions.  And while it might not completely remove notions of identity based on internet use, the visitor/resident metaphor does allow us to think about online identities without the freighted connotations that terms like “immigrant” and “native” carry.  Describing a continuum of use between the poles of “visitor” and “resident” presents internet usage in terms of dynamic, frictionless, and intentional participation anywhere along that continuum according to a user’s needs or desires in a given moment.  Taking it two-dimensional by adding the “personal/institutional” axis ensures that practically anyone can positively locate themselves in this metaphor.

Surprise!  Surprise!

I love maps.  I love maps of all kinds.  Ancient maps.  Atlases.  Globes.  Curriculum maps.  Mind maps.  And now I have a new one to pour over, the digital spaces map.  This map allowed me to visualize my own cyber contexts, the online tools I use, and the places on the internet where I reside and visit.  And while raising a slight challenge above to notions of identity, this exercise has revealed, in no uncertain terms, aspects of my identity.  I was quite surprised by the extent to which I “live” as a resident of the internet.  As I set out to draft my map, I predicted it to be weighted far more on the visitor side given the hallmark of our visitor-like actions not leaving traces or “footprints” of our having been online.  But it would appear that I leave a few more “tracks” in the cyber-sand than I originally imagined.  For having been born into the old country of Analog, it would appear I have readily embraced my adopted country of The Internet.

My map of internet use. Clearly I am more resident than visitor, and quite surprised by this outcome. Source: D. van Dyke

 

A First Draft

At this point, I would view the first pass at my online usage map as a draft.  (In part, because I would like to create one that is not as “old school” as this is with its paper, Sharpies, and colored pencils.)  In a second draft I’d likely slide everything on the “resident” side a bit more towards the center.  While I am decidedly more resident than I initially suspected, I’m not that far to the right.  Some of the positioning was due to needing to fit everything on the page such that it could all be seen.  I would also like to find a place for search, as White discussed in the video of his own map.

Future Drafts and Uses

I think it would be a very interesting exercise to do as a reflective exercise with a faculty and to do repeatedly over time.  What an interesting tool for reflection:  How does my online use change over time?  Does that change mark some kind of evolution?  How does my online presence map onto phases in my life?  In my instructional practices?  What might it suggest for my professional development?  My role as a coach? How might de-compartmentalization streamline my online presence?  Is de-compartmentalization desirable?  In what areas might compartmentalization benefit my online experiences?  How would I use this with my students and to what ends?  Etc.

To Wrap

Again, this week’s assignments have been mind-blowers in multiple ways.  My thoughts over the past few days keep returning to how in a couple short decades digital technology has so utterly transformed our world.  That realization makes the work of getting our students learning digitally and acting in terms of digital and global citizenship seem more important than ever.  All from a simple map?  Yeah, all from a simple map.

Week 4: Communication and PLN’s

Update:  Six weeks on from this post and Twitter chats have become a go-to component of my PLN.  I’ve attended four other chats in the intervening weeks with another scheduled for today.  I’m finding that when I’m in need of a particular kind of research or just in a curious mood I turn to a scheduled chat or skim related hashtags of past chats.  Some chats are definitely operating at higher levels in terms of depth of thought, extent of conversation, or ideas and resources shared.  However, I’m singularly impressed by the one characteristic common to all of them so far — how welcoming, friendly, and generous the participants are.   Too, I had no idea how many chat groups are out there — not just in education, of which there are dozens.  I’ve even found a couple chats for my husband who works in the hospitality industry and is always looking for new ideas.  He is a Luddite.  But after a couple hours of his peering from the corner of his eye from the other side of the sofa as I chat, I figured I’d see what I could find for him.  When I sent him the links, his response was, “…I’d like to know more….”  Next stop is getting him his own Twitter account!

The New Addiction

I’m officially hooked on Twitter chats.  While I knew these were “a thing”, I was never clear on how exactly to access them.  And I certainly never thought they were as organized as having an official chat list.  Admittedly, I found them rather intimidating to start.  However, our reading from the PLP Network was spot on with “how to”.  A particularly good recommendation is to use TweetDeck — a platform I’ve used in the past for my multiple handles*, but discovered its ultimate usefulness in this chat context.

Using TweetDeck for Twitter chats; Source: Screen cap, D. van Dyke

 

3 Different Experiences

In all, I participated in three chats.  Coincidentally, they provided three different kinds of experiences.  I’m trying not to rate them on a qualitative scale; however, I did find one a more enjoyable, and thus a more worthwhile, experience.  But “enjoyable” and “worthwhile” are according to what works for me in terms of my learning style and learning habits.

Starting with the chat I found most challenging, Digital Citizen Chat (#digcit), was the most rambling and freeform.  Chronologically, it was my second chat which followed a highly organized first experience last week.  So the differences were immediately noticeable.  Right from the start, there were a number of participants who seemed to be looking forward to the chat.

Yet about 15 minutes past the designated start time, there was this exchange between Professor Passafume and Hope Frazier.

From what I could tell, no moderator ever showed up.  So people posted randomly.  While I’m not sure the number of conversation threads were different from other chats, it all seemed vague and scattershot with very little focus.  In all, I didn’t find it a terribly helpful chat given there were more opinions being solicited and shared than useful practices and resources.

Likes from #educoach chat; Source: screen cap, D. van Dyke

The middle-of-the-road experience was the Instructional Coaching Chat (#educoach).  More organized and attended by experienced coaches, #educoach had two moderators and a set of nine questions at the ready.  While the other chats seemed to be attended by several self-identifying pre-service and novice teachers, I felt more in the company of my experiential peers in #educoach.  Unfortunately, there is either an error on the Education Chats schedule or there was some other kind of snafu.  When I showed up 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time — 9pm Central — it had clearly been underway for 50 minutes.  I didn’t feel comfortable crashing in with ten minutes on the clock, so I scrolled and lurked through the conversations and liked the tweets that had thoughts and resources I found useful for my work.  One such resource was a meta-analysis shared by @region13coaches at the very end of the chat.  It was a nice button on the conversation for how the work of instructional coaches has a measurable impact on teacher practice and student outcomes.  I read it and immediately emailed it to the principals of the schools I work with — as research support and encouragement for our work.

Finally, the chat I found to be the most enjoyable experience was, oddly enough, my first.  Last week I decided to preview the Twitter chat experience in anticipation of this week’s assignment.  I didn’t want to troll this one, so I decided to boldly identify myself as the nube I am.  I tend to get anxious with online interactions among strangers.  So participating in this new way among fellow professionals felt risky because I knew there likely were all kinds of rules of etiquette of which I was completely unaware.  But I could not have been more warmly welcomed.  I

My first Twitter chat: Warmly welcomed to #hseduchat; Source: Screen cap, D. vanDyke

wouldn’t say my contributions to the conversation were high-level or even on topic.  They were more about meeting and greeting and getting my feet wet with this new professional learning experience.  Luckily, though, the folks over at #hseduchat were accepting and supportive of my lack of chat experience and encouraged my contributions.  Their behaviors made it more likely that I’d participate in other chat in the future.

This chat was very well-organized, the moderator having sent out the questions in advance, reviewed them all again when the chat started, and gave instructions for how to format responses.  She then released the questions at regular intervals.  In this way the moderator kept tabs on the conversation and kept it rolling.  All these elements fit with my own needs as learner.  It really was the perfect chat for my first attempt.

Final Thoughts

The assignments this week made for highly enjoyable learning (more on the Resident/Visitor map to come).  While I’m not new to Twitter, chats are a revelation.  In my experience Twitter has been a much more positive, uplifting, useful platform than, say, Facebook.  Still, as a professional resource, it always seemed a bit random, even when I used hashtags to track down resources.  But having entire lists of chat schedules, the ideas and suggestions from Nicole’s narrated Prezis, and some chat experiences under my belt, Twitter finally feels like an actual arrow in my professional and ICT quiver.  My exploration now will turn to those chats that are moderated and organized for those times when I’m on the hunt for useable material — actual ideas and resources.  Though I can see hanging out in a chat with no clear facilitator where participants ask and answer random questions, for those times that I’m looking simply to network or have collegial conversation.

It’s become increasingly clear to me that informal learning is an extremely potent type of learning.  Twitter chats hit so many of those buttons — self-directed, just in time, anytime/anywhere, tailorable to a learner’s needs of the moment, learner choice, working with a sense of relaxed and stress-free flow in the learning moment.  I can see how Twitter chats can be a powerful tool for a particular kind of teacher support and professional learning.  With such tools and access, this really is an exciting time to be an educator!

*: I have one professional Twitter account: @commonelements.  I also have two personal Twitter accounts: @oberon60657 for general, personal tweeting.  My husband and I enjoy cruising and try to do at least one sailing a year — despite the outrageous behaviors of many passengers.  I finally couldn’t take that behavior anymore and as an outlet started a separate handle just to tweet out the ridiculous things people say while shipboard.  If you want a laugh, follow me on @some1saidreally.

Week 3: The 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning

As I may have mentioned on some post somewhere, I am developing an interest in how educators’ use of information and communication technology (ICT) in their personal/non-school lives influences their curricular and instructional decisions regarding ICT in their classrooms.  Particularly where high school educators are concerned.  So it made sense that I do a close reading of “Maximizing the Impact:  The pivotal role of technology in 21st century education systems”.

Report Summary

A collaboration between ISTE, SETDA, and P21, the report explores the needs and rationales for ICT inclusion in education in three areas:  proficiency in 21st century skills, innovative teaching and learning, and robust education support systems.

The executive summary clearly lays out the issue and goes on to note that as a nation, the US simply cannot rely on the global standing, economic prosperity, and technological predominance we have enjoyed as a result of the industrial era.  Nations that lead in technology development lead in prosperity.  Therefore, we must prepare students to thrive in the 21st century and thereby take the nation into this digital age.

“Maximizing the Impact” executive summary; Source: Partnership for 21st Century Skills

What does this look like?  To start, we must focus on what college and business leaders identify as “21st century skills” and what we now commonly refer to as “the 4 C’s” — communication, collaborations, critical thinking, and  creativity.  These are the how’s of the executive summary — the ways through which we teach content.  This aligns with the other literature assigned this week that points to teaching the 4 C’s in addition to the more traditional 3 R’s.  Importantly, the authors note that it is less useful now for everyone to know about computers, software, coding, etc.  Their ubiquity in our lives means it is more important for everyone to know how to use them as tools for learning, productivity, and creativity.  A common analogy is that in order to do the shopping, shuttle the kids, or take a road trip, everyone need not know how to build, conduct maintenance, or even understand the basic workings of an automobile.  It is sufficient that we know how to drive in order to complete our errands or enjoy an adventure.  It is the same with ICT.

Technology use in Education. Sources: US Dept. of Commerce, Partnership for 21st Century Skills

 

Therefore, students need “more robust education than they are getting today” and this involves a comprehensive inclusion of ICT across the curriculum (p. 2).  As mentioned above, this must entail not just learning about technology, but learning with technology.

With a shared vision of a 21st century education system, the authoring agencies of this report succinctly identify needed outcomes and why they are vital for both students and educators.

A shared vision. Source: Partnership for 21st Century Skills

 

The report also included a visually colorful and intriguing graphic of a Framework for 21st Century Learning.  It is eye-catching, but not easy to interpret without some explanation.  Watch the video for an attempted unpacking.

The rest of the paper explores details, gives examples and provides analytical and evaluative questions for educators in a “call to action to integrate technology as a fundamental building block into education” (p.3).  That plan for ICT implementation focuses on the three areas mentioned above:  Using technology comprehensively to develop proficiency in 21st century skills; using technology comprehensively to  support innovative teaching and learning; and using technology comprehensively to create robust education support systems (pp.6, 9, 13).

The Good

Overall, “Maximizing the Impact” presents a useful roadmap for schools to implement ICT-based instruction.  The report makes a strong case for why it is vital we undertake this tech-based approach to teaching and learning.  It presents a thoughtful plan that makes much sense.  Indeed, the collaboration between different organizations with different goals and priorities only bolsters its persuasiveness.  In addition, the P21 web site offers many resources to support the work.

The Flaw

Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) and Somekh (2008) found that a significant challenge to incorporating ICT into classroom instruction is that it destabilizes classroom routines.  And this is, in fact, what we need to happen to transform our classrooms for the digital age.  However, they found that teachers who don’t value ICT negatively impact those who do and then point to the destabilizing effects as reasons to shun technology-based learning.  In a related study, Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich also found that teachers who see positive student outcomes as a result of using ICT instructional practices are more likely to make technology a part of their practice.  Thus, teacher mindsets is a key factor in implementing ICT-based instruction.  They also found where ICT is central to learning, schools had six qualities in common:

  1. They were well equipped for ICT instruction.
  2. Their focus was on changing the process of learning using ICT.
  3. Skills were acquired as part of the process of using those skills purposefully.
  4. The school provided support.
  5. Teachers had opportunities to discuss, reflect and  troubleshoot with peers and facilitators over time.
  6. The nature of student learning changed along with teachers’ beliefs and knowledge sets

Looking at this list, it is hard not to recognize the outsized role professional development must play in making ICT the how of student learning.  Yet in the P21 framework, professional development is sandwiched in between standards and assessment and learning environments.  In the bullet list explanation of the framework graphic “21st century professional development” is the 27th bullet out of 28.  Indeed, in nearly all our optional readings this week, the various authors address professional development almost parenthetically.  And some suggested a mere workshop or two is all that is needed to provide teachers with the understanding necessary to make a seismic pedagogical shift.  Such approaches to PD run contrary to much research that finds one-off professional development neither changes teachers’ mindsets nor practices.  As the Center for Public Education has found, to bring about sustainable change effectively PD must:  be of a significant and ongoing duration; be supported by the administration; allow teachers to actively make meaning of the new material; and not be generalized, but presented for the teacher’s subject and grade-level   (Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability).  When we consider most of our professional learning experiences, how do they hold up to these criteria?  Likely, not too well.  As Tom Murray noted in the Start^EdUp podcast, we’re not going to fix anything by buying “more stuff”. To make the needed shifts we have to hack educator mindsets.

If we must first “win hearts and minds” of teachers and administrators in order to bring lasting instructional change where ICT is a method of instruction, then I believe delivering focused, sustained professional learning differentiated by educator should be prioritized over the development more standards and assessments, new curriculum and instruction, and rejiggered learning environments.  Not that these areas are not important.  They are.  However, spending money and effort on those will mean very little if educators do not understand or have the pedagogical skills to implement ICT practices throughout their buildings.  Once that is in place, the rest will follow, brought about by those who know best how to develop and document them–  namely the teachers, students, and administrators who are engaged in their regular practice.

 

 

Week 2: Active Learning

Last term, one of the organizing principles of our class was using concept mapping as a metacognitive tool and a way of expanding our adaptive expertise.  Indeed, I found it to be a powerful way to process new information and gain insights into my own thinking.  Concept mapping allowed me to see and think about ideas and connections I might have otherwise missed.  I’ve returned to that practice as a way of exploring this week’s learning.

To start, my Padlet links to the Coonley blog post I was assigned and briefly summarizes my thinking that surfaced through the concept map.  To view the concept map more easily, click the map in the embedded Padlet to either download a copy or open it in a new window.   The rest of this blog post will interpret the map further as a means of exploring my thinking.  It will also show a bit of the experience I have with active learning.

Made with Padlet
The Evidence

To start, I would like to note two different types of evidence I considered to analyze the last three bullets of our Do activity:

  • What active learning traits are present
  • What are opportunities/suggestions for growth, and
  • Any additional information

The first type is the “Cougar Code” lesson summary which arguably contains the most direct information about the lesson.  The second is the included media of student work artifacts as well as images of students at work.  These constitute information about what students did and possibly trait evidence of active learning and web literacy.  Neither type of evidence presents a complete picture of what was taught and what was learned, but together provide insights.  What is lacking from each type of evidence also makes complete determinations about the above bullet points difficult to say with certainty.  Nevertheless, the evidence that is in the post gives us much to think about and discuss.

Interpreting the CONCEPT MAP

The summary of the Cougar Code assignment provides the most information that allows some answers regarding the extent to which active learning could occur during the lesson.   On the whole, the Cougar Code lesson exhibited many constructivist elements, particularly in its engagement, purposefulness, reflectiveness, and complexity.  The assignment is learner-centered from start to finish, beginning with students’ exploration of their own learning styles, the outcomes of which the teacher uses as the launching point for the rest of the lesson.  Students seemed to draw from their experiences as well as their values in defining examples of being responsible, being respectful and being safe.  I have gone back and forth on the extent to which the lesson elicits metacognition.  There are signs of reflection in the Educreations video.  But a focus on students’ final products and a lack of formative artifacts makes a definitive determination difficult.  For instance, from the attached media, it is difficult to tell the extent to which students actually engaged in active learning or if they were simply completing tasks.

When it comes to evidence of web literacy traits, evidence of student outcomes are limited to the 21st Century skills in all three segments of the lesson.  It could be argued that the students wrote and participated in that their work became the content of a blog post.  However, the blog post analyzed for this assignment was their teacher’s, not the students’.  So actually the teacher is demonstrating her web literacy by contributing to building the web and connecting with other educators online.    While we definitely want students to be creators and participants online, we want teachers to be as well.  Especially in light of research finding that when teachers do use technology, it is mostly for administrative purposes or electronic communication with peers and parents.  Even among constructivist teachers — as we clearly see in this lesson —  when they do use technology, they tend to do so at levels akin to substitution or augmentation on the SAMR model (Ertmer & Ottenbriet-Leftwich, “Teacher Technology Change:  How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect”).  Thus, from the evidence presented in the blog, technology seems to be primarily the teacher’s tool when it comes to web literacy traits and possibly the students’ tool when it comes to active learning traits.  

Opportunities for Growth

While the Cougar Code lesson suggests quite a few opportunities for active learning in the blog summary, more and better evidence of student formative artifacts would allow for deeper insight and feedback as to the quality of students’ active learning traits demonstrating metacognition.  So too would artifacts of the students’ digital photos and their final PicCollage products.  More student artifacts would also allow assessment of whether the technology was instrumental in developing students’ understanding of the Cougar Code or whether it was merely a fun activity.

From EdTech on Pintrest via Learning Maker

I don’t want to dwell on the SAMR level of the work too much given the fact that this lesson was taught at the beginning of the school year.  However, going forward, the teacher can consider evaluating this lesson through a SAMR lens.  From the evidence presented in the blog post, it seems to ask students merely to substitute and augment traditional learning methods with the available technology.  For future lessons, the teacher can consider how similar uses of digital cameras, iPads, PicCollage, and Educreations could be used in such modifying and redefining ways that without the technology, students could not develop a particular level of understanding.  She can also consider creating opportunities for students to develop their readerly, writerly, and participatory netizen selves.

Active Learning in My Practice
ial
Inspiring Active Learning by Merrill Harmin & Melanie Toth: A text I’ve used for great active learning ideas.

This notion, I must admit, of explicitly stating that students need to be active learners, strikes me as odd.  I was taught to be a constructivist teacher, to think in terms of what students do and not just what the teacher does, to focus on critical thinking, collaborative group work, and reflective activities. These traits are how I was “raised” to be a teacher.  Given the usual levels of participation, energy and focus I experienced from my students (most of the time!), I wonder why anyone would think a mostly teacher-centered, student-passive model is preferable.  That is, if actual student learning and not just teacher moves is the goal for which we are aiming. Additionally, active learning methods support what we now know about how the brain functions and how humans learn.   So yes, I believe teachers should create lessons that give students consistent and regular opportunities to be active learners.

Below are links to two lessons I found in my archives from over ten years ago.  They are part of a set of lessons I developed to introduce Shakespeare units to my 9th graders.  They represent a departure from what had been my habitual way of introducing The Bard and were utterly transformative.  In fact, my students responded so well as seen through their attitudes about, interest in, and understanding of usually very difficult material, that these new lessons became

Font of Knowledge and Tempest Prediction & Iterative Terms lessons, based on ideas from Teaching Shakespeare into the Twenty-First Century, Ronald E. Salomone & James E. Davis, eds.

the way I introduced Shakespeare from then on.  I am showcasing it here because I believe it gives students active learning opportunities.  It predates the web as we know it today, so it was not originally written with web literacy in mind.  And sadly, I could not find any student artifacts of the completed work to share for evaluation.  Still, I have some ideas about how to revise it accordingly and I welcome any ideas from the class.

Font of Knowledge

Tempest Prediction and Iterative Words

 

We’re all just hitchhikers…passing thru….

The early years

This hitchhiker — raised in New York, educated and lived most of his twenties in DC, then moved to Chicago, where he’s been ever since — has developed an interest or two.  Between the

Doug in black and white

ages of 6 and 28 I was an actor.  My bachelor’s is a BFA in acting.  During my sophomore year I took Foundations of Education because I needed a sociology credit and didn’t want to get out of bed before 10am.  Turns out, I was bit by the ed bug and wound up minoring in education in order to teach my major.  After several years of burning the candle at both ends — teaching by day and acting by night, and realizing I couldn’t continue doing both well — I never would have predicted teaching would win out.  But as my cooperating teacher (and later mentor) said part way through my student teaching, “Teaching is the longest running acting gig you’ll ever get.  And you’ll know you’ve taught well when you leave the classroom each day as exhausted as you do the stage after curtain call.”  Truer words….

Teaching

Along the way I’ve taught high school in Montgomery County, MD, Jersey City, and the Bronx.  Here in Chicago I’ve taught in Roseland, Englewood, and West Garfield Park.  Subjects include English, humanities, forensics, oral interpretation, and theatre.  My favorite grade to teach is 9th graders.  For some strange reason, many teachers find them to be the least desirable assignment.  I find freshman still impressionable, still into learning, a little vulnerable, and in need of teachers who “get” them.  Not to mention, with all we now know about the importance of freshman year for future success, they need the strongest teachers possible.

First Master’s & the Charter Movement

Somewhere in the late ’90’s I picked up a master’s in English lit from De Paul.  After DePaul I was part of the early charter movement — back when the first charters that opened had missions to serve communities in Chicago most in need and before they became for-profit ventures, opening in predatory ways to gut CPS neighborhood schools.  Technology has changed just a bit since then.

An ah-ha moment compiled for LSE 500…
What used to be high tech the last time I was in grad school.

In the early Aughts, I discovered I am a curriculum and assessment geek.  I spent 8 years as a curriculum and instruction director, shepherding my school through mapping our curriculum and improving instruction through formative assessment practices.

Consultancy

Through the Teens, I’ve been the principal consultant for my own educational consulting business, the primary focus of which is leadership coaching, curriculum, instruction and assessment development.  It’s good work.  Important work.  These days all my client schools are within CPS.  But it’s also solitary work.  So my two year goal is to complete this degree and head back to a single school to teach.  What exactly, I’m not yet sure.  A digitally mediated ELA classroom?  A technology classroom?  Regardless of what I teach, I know I will be a coach and resource for colleagues and be a force for shifting school culture such that students experience their education in technologically relevant ways.

Smattering of Interests

Outside of education, my primary interests are in photography, cooking, and mixology.  I’ve always had an interest in photography.  But back in the film days (and my youth) it was far too expensive to pursue seriously.  Thank goodness for the gains in digital photography (and my bank account, because it is still an expensive hobby)!

People, nature, macro, street, architecture encompass some of my photographic interests. (Hover over pictures for captions. Click to enlarge photos.)

Cooking is my therapy.  Most days, I cook three meals a day.  My husband is the catering director at a major hotel downtown.  So we do a lot of entertaining.  A few years ago, we blew out our kitchen and made a professional chef’s kitchen — of the working variety, not trophy variety!  Since word count is telling me I’m already at 772 words, I’ll refrain from saying much more than #GOCUBSGO!  As season ticket holders, to finally be there for the World Series and the incredible afterglow that followed…still makes me tear up.  I’ll wrap with a confession:  My wannabe self is a bartender.  Ahh, to be creative and social and leave work with no papers to grade or lessons to plan or the burdens of the world on your shoulders!  What a life.  For more on my mixology interests, check out my cocktail blog, Dilettante Cocktailer.  (Yup, nearly all the photos there are mine, too.)  Santé!  Tsin-Tsin!  Huzzah!  L’Chiam!  

That’s a snippet of Doug.  Looking forward to travelin’ thru the next ten weeks together!