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For those of who spend a lot of our time writing and speaking about our vision of 21st century, technology integrated and accelerated learning, there is great value in finding and sharing videos which better display these practices in action.

This new video from edutopia is far from perfect– the snippets of classroom activity are too brief, and confusingly, often show students not using technology.   (Don’t get me wrong: effective tech integration never should mean or entail constant use of tech.   It is just that this video in entitled, an introduction to technology integration.)

But the contributing talking heads are a brilliant trio, and represent well the breadth of the power of tech integration– a breadth that is sometimes seen as ultimately containing a contradiction or at least a problematic internal tension, but which I still idealistically hope can be reconciled.

That breadth and/or contradiction is that Sal Khan on the one hand and MaryBeth Hertz and Adam Bellow on the other.

Is tech to be used for personalizing learning for mastery by the use of individualized, self-paced, automated lesson modules that can often indeed strengthen skill mastery, but are canned, boxed in, and somewhat dispiriting to human spirit, lacking in opportunities for exploration, experimentation, collaboration and play?

Or, is to be used as a web 2.0 tool: an open door to the world of online sharing, research, and production, deliberately out of any box and unconstrained by any commercial or even open source “product” but intended to be for expressing oneself, pursuing one’s passion, connecting to real people in real places beyond our immediate experience and partaking in the joy of connection and common cause and having an impact on the wider world?

This video seems to seek to unite, rather than divide, these two approaches.  Let us hope this reconciliation can and will be done effectively, wisely, and powerfully for the learning of all our students.

Home   Assess4ed.net-193758

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This month I’ve been in conversation with an outstanding school superintendent preparing his district for PARCC assessments.   As many understand, PARCC (and its counterpart Smarter Balanced), requires districts prepare their schools with technology sufficient for their student to take what will be entirely online, computer based high stakes tests.

“Of course,” he explained to me, “we need to become PARCC-ready.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg.   If we are going to invest in these substantial, even enormous technology upgrades, it would be foolish not to use this new technology in ways beyond the new tests.

“PARCC tech upgrades give us an opportunity to transform our schools to places of 21st century, student-centered– and this is an opportunity not be wasted.”

In addition, he added, preparing students for success on PARCC is not just a matter of ensuring the tech is there for them to take the test– it needs to be there and used in ways in which students develop the comfort and confidence.

This is a tremendous opportunity, and we can only hope that every superintendent recognizes as well as this one has the chance being presented to leverage an externally imposed new test and new test format– even when that new test perhaps is in and of itself unwelcome– to transform the equation of classroom learning toward 21st century, student-centered, technology in the hands of students programs.

This has been also recognized recently in a valuable new white paper from SETDA, State Educational Technology Directors Association, which I’ve embedded below.

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The report has many important messages.  First, districts must carefully focus and determine their current technology’s capacity for supporting the new tests.

While there are compelling advantages to a technology-­‐based assessment system as compared to current paper-­‐ and pencil-­‐based approaches, schools and districts will need to validate their technology readiness for 2014-­‐15.

Validation for technology readiness is important even for states and districts currently administering tests online, as these Common Core assessments are being designed to move beyond multiple-­‐choice questions to technology-­‐enhanced items to elicit the higher order knowledge, skills, and abilities of students.

An article last spring in THE, Technology Challenges and the Move to Online Assessments,  also explored these issues.

The 2014-15 school year is a long way off, isn’t it? That depends on your perspective. If you are an eighth-grader, Friday night is a long way off, but if you are a technology leader in a school district or a state, the 2014-15 school year may be here all too soon.

Critically, the SETDA report insists that this PARCC/Smarter Balanced minimum specs, must not be the only factor to be considered when these enormous investments are made.    (more…)

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T-shirt pinned to bulletin board in Burlington High School’s student help desk room.

I’m flying back to Tucson today after three great days visiting schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, visits all tied to a theme of how we are and how we can better deploy devices, laptops and tablets, in K-12 learning.

Let me share a few moments from today’s visits, both brief but illuminating and inspiring.

Liz Davis kindly welcomed me to Belmont Hill School at 930 this morning.   We toured campus and discussed their current iPad deployment, happening this year widely for 7th and 8th graders and more selectively at the high school.

We began with a brief chat with Rick Melvoin, Head of School, and when I congratulated him on the exciting new initiative, he said it seems that everyone is talking about it right now.  I asked– talking about iPads?– and he said no, about how to bring and advance innovation in our schools, which have so many traditional elements.  I agreed, of course, saying we’ve got to strive to identify, preserve, and perpetuate the core values of our organization even as we aggressively stimulate progress to maintain alignment with changing times.

The Power of Educational Technology  Two Interactive iPad Apps that Work!-125854

After leaving Rick, Liz told me that one fascinating aspect of the iPad initiative is that many more students are now bringing their own devices to school, their laptops and their personal iPads.  It was permitted before, but not widespread; even though there was no particular message or encouragement this year to BYO, the arrival and new norm of iPads present in the classroom seems to have somehow, in a sense, shifted the default, you might say, and now they are far more abundant and adding value to student learning.

She was clear that this it is not universally the case: there are still many students not using their devices all the time, and there are classes without any device use– and that is OK: it is a tool that you use according the task at hand: sometimes it is advantageous and so employed, and sometimes not.

Much of their PD around this initiative is internally provided, which is so valuable: tomorrow they are having a 40 minute faculty meeting smackdown, with 8 teachers presenting for five minutes each on the ways they are using the iPads to advance learning.

images (2)Two tools she said they are finding most valuable for the iPad are Nearpod and Socrative– be sure to read her blog post here about these tools and how they are using them.  To quote her on Nearpod:

images (3)Nearpod allows the teacher to control what students see on their iPad.Teachers can upload any PDF file and Nearpod separates each page into a slide. Students sign into a “room” and the teacher takes control of the slides that each student sees. If that wasn’t cool enough, Nearpod also allows you to intersperse different types of interactive questions throughout the presentation to check for understanding. I tried this recently with a grammar lesson and it was great. I was able to see who was getting the concepts and who wasn’t immediately.

As I was leaving, Liz was working with a group of 7th graders as they finalized an iBook they were creating of family stories on their iPads.   Today’s task was taking a podcast they had prepared on their Macbooks, emailing it to themselves so they could download it onto their iPads, determining the proper pathway from email attachment through iMovie to their Photobooth from which they could then insert the podcast into their iBooks.  Nice.

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Patrick and Andy at BHS

Then I raced over to Burlington High School to visit with my good friend Patrick Larkin, who was until recently Principal of BHS and is now Assistant Superintendent for C& I for the district.   As many readers probably know, Patrick developed and directed the implementation of iPads 1-1 at that high school last year, and earned national honors as a Digital Principal of the Year from NASSP last year. (more…)

livingstonAlthough I tend to write primarily here about current books and publications, I’m also spending a lot of time this year doing “deeper dives” in two fields: Best practices in 1-1 laptop programs and in Assessment.     Expect to see a few posts and commentaries here in coming weeks and months about books and articles from the past on these topics.

Livingston’s book was published by ISTE in 2006, and, to this reader’s eyes, continues to be a valuable resource and guide for schools undertaking 1-1 laptop initiatives– as, regular readers here know, I think should be occurring at every school.

The importance of this cause was reiterated for me recently in an inspiring post by my friend George Couros:

If you look around at most conferences, every teacher has some device that they use, whether it is a computer, tablet, or smartphone.  Go into the classroom though, and you will be lucky if you see that as the norm.

1:1 schools get so much attention because they are so unique, but should they be?  Shouldn’t that be the norm for our kids as it is outside of our world?  If you really think of it, doesn’t it seem strange that we are nowhere near the point where every kid having a device in school is just the norm?

Why?

Livingston reports that when legendary MIT researcher and programmer Seymour Papert was asked by the Maine Governor about the potential impact of lowering student to computer ratios to 3-1 or 2-1,  he responded, “in effect, nothing much.  ‘It only turns magic when it’s 1-1.‘”

Eleven takeaways and tips from Livingston:

1.  One of the valuable ways we can view and understand laptops and mobile devices in the classroom is as “digital assistants.”   This metaphor conveys that these are more than tools; the metaphor begins with the user as the operator, the mover and shaker, and the tool as strengthening the capacity of that operator.

the importance and usefulness of laptop computers for learning goes far beyond the single purpose implied by those who would call them “just a tool.”

It’s a device which facilitates a student’s thinking, analyzing, presenting, writing, reading, researching, revising, communicating, questioning, proposing, creating, surmising and publishing. (more…)

Principals and School-Leaders: The quality of your leadership makes a big difference in the success of a 1-1 student computer implementation, and these implementations, when well done, make a big difference to your students’ learning success, measured both by narrow academic achievement and a broader array of measures.

For the 4 Key Steps for Effective School Leadership in 1-1 computer programs, scroll down to the bottom section with the large heading: The Importance of School Leadership.

These are among the conclusions of a recently released report from Project Red, which can be found on its website, and in a new ISTE publication by the Project Red principals, Revolutionizing Education through Technology   The Project RED Roadmap for Transformation (which is happily available for free download: click here for the pdf).   (In addition the summaries on the website and the ISTE book, there is also a fuller research report which I have not reviewed, priced at $50.)

Regular readers know that I am an enthusiast for connecting our students to and empowering them with the wider world of information and networked collaboration and creativity that is available today, and essential to tomorrow, and I have to say I would be in favor of this even if there were not compelling evidence of improved learning (when defined narrowly by test scores).   But if there is quality evidence for improved learning, I’ll take it and use it to advance the cause.

Project Red explains the substance of their research this way:

In 2010, Project RED conducted the first large-scale national study to identify and prioritize the factors that make some U.S. K-12 technology implementations perform dramatically better than others.

Our research project had unprecedented scope, breadth, and depth:

  • 997 schools, representative of the U.S. school universe, and 49 states and the District of Columbia
  • 11 diverse education success measures

Let me share first some of the following key elements of their research findings with short commentary, before focusing more closely on the role of school leadership:

  • the financial analysis provided for cost-neutral, or cost-advantageous, 1-1 programs,
  • the education success measures used,
  • the key implementation factors for success, and
  • the academic achievement improvement. (more…)

In May, NAIS published a new report, preparing by Insightlink Commuications, regarding “mobile learning” in NAIS schools; the report is useful as an overview of the state of the association in moving toward effective integration of technology into learning, and stimulates thinking.   My reactions follow.

1. Mobile learning is a term some prefer to use for integrating digital and web-accessing tools into learning, but I find it it a bit clunky.  For the purposes of this report, the term seems to be defined this way:

use of mobile computing devices – laptops, tablet  computers (such as the iPad and similar devices), smartphones (such as the
iPhone, Android, Blackberry and similar phones with Internet and other advanced  capabilities) and 1:1 initiatives (individually assigned devices for students).

2. 90% of educators answering this survey (and voluntary survey response might have tilted the respondent pool toward those favoring usage) believe

that the use of mobile devices can transform how students learn (90 percent either agree strongly or agree) and that these devices make the learning experience more engaging for students (84 percent).

But, 40% of respondents do not agree (half neither agree nor disagree, and half disagree) that “schools have no choice but to adopt mobile devices into their classrooms.”   It may be that that statement is bizarrely worded: nobody likes to agree that they “have no choice.”   I always want to believe that schools have a choice.  But if it is not a matter of wording, then it is disappointing the disconnect between the recognition that these tools are transformative and the perception that it is only a matter of time before we put them into place.

3. BYOD is an approach regular readers here know I am particularly partial to, and I was glad to see that 72% is using, planning to use, or studying the use of BYOD (page 10-11).   That was higher than I’d have expected, and suggests as an association we are moving in a healthy direction.  For contrast, look to Lisa Nielsen’s campaign at the Innovative Educator to permit BYOD/BYOT policies in the enormous NYC public school district, and the obstinate opposition she is encountering.

However, unless I am just missing something, there is an oddity to the options five provided for the survey about use of laptops in each grade.

  1. Provide laptops to students on a shared basis such as a cart
  2. Provide laptops paid for by the schools individually to each student.
  3. Requires students to have a specific brand of laptop provided by their families.
  4. Permits students to bring their own laptops (any brand) with no laptops provided by the school.
  5. Does not use laptops at all.

What’s missing?  3B is missing, disappointingly, because 3B is the most logical approach today, I believe and argue, in our cloud-based, user-neutral,
open-source, environment.   3B is, of course, requiring students to have a laptop of any brand, meeting a minimum set of specs. (more…)

I woke up one morning last week with a bit of a jolt, recognizing in an epiphany that there is a contradiction, or at least a problematic tension, in the way I think about using digital media in learning and life.

After reading Howard Rheingold’s excellent Net Smart recently (review coming soon), and preparing a two hour presentation on Digital Citizenship, I’ve been concentrating more closely on the question of how we think and the metaphors we use about technology in our lives, in our learning, and in our classrooms.

For a long time, going back probably to 2006, I’ve been attracted to, and have often embraced and endorsed,  the idea and the metaphor of making technology “disappear,” or rendering it invisible.   A chief influence in bringing me to this understanding was the thinking and teaching of Howard Levin in San Francisco, which he shared in a 2006 presentation that year which I believe was for me the single most influential professional development session I have ever attended.   Entitled “Making the Laptop Disappear,” his talk about Urban School’s outstanding 1:1 laptop program used its funny and misleading title to confuse and then illuminate.  (It is, by the way, a great example of how as learners we proceed toward new and deeper understandings better when we first travel through confusion or misunderstanding.)  But even as the title, making laptops disappear, was something of a gimmick, it was also offered as a compelling metaphor for how we should view technology in the classroom, (or rather, how we should not view it), calling for a shift from foregrounded focus to backgrounded, integrated normality.

Levin’s idea, and forgive me if this is too obvious, is that the more we normalize the use of technology in learning, the more we become proficient and comfortable and consistent and regular in our use of it, and the more we make it subordinate to the larger learning goals and learning programs of each classroom, the less we will notice laptops as interlopers.   They will be neither jarringly disruptive intruders nor stunning new innovations; they will become effectively like pencils, so natural and normalized that there will be nothing to remark upon especially when encountering them.   Subordinating technology to learning goals and programs is of course incredibly important– but I am becoming less enthusiastic than I was about shifting technology to background, to render it less than fully conscious, to make it disappear.

A close parallel to Levin’s session title  is the often-quoted statement by Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy, which I have emphatically endorsed in the past.   “Technology must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.”    If I am interpreting him correctly, making technology more like oxygen, and more particularly, to shift our educational environments such that technology is, metaphorically, invisible,  is to make it more routine, regularized, embedded and normal, so much so that we don’t even notice it or think about it itself—we notice and think about instead only what we are using it for.   After all, how often are we conscious of our use of oxygen?  How often do we think to ourselves: ought I use oxygen this hour, or should I choose to use carbon dioxide instead? (more…)

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