Thursday, May 23, 2013

"10 Years Ago, I Created a CD..." said a teacher.

I have been mulling over something that a teacher said to me last week as we began a project, and I just can't get it out of my head! This great teacher (I am not being sarcastic...he is a wonderful teacher) said, "Jen, can you find the civil war music we put on CDs ten years ago so the kids can put them into their iMovie projects?"
I, of course went digging around in our computer lab cabinets and found the pile of CDs, but as I was digging for the music, I thought about what that means for this teachers' curriculum and how he integrates technology. What it means to the students experiences and engagement in my school and how technology is used in the curriculum.
I have been working with teachers to think about their curriculum, the tools we have available to us and the way that they design the learning in their classrooms. There are some, like this great teacher, who use technology for specific parts of the curriculum and do the same project year after year. 
The idea that in May, we make a Civil Rights movie with music of the time, images taken from a Google image search and then put into iMovie with full sentence descriptors scrolling over the images, prevails, even today! 
I have been assisting with this teacher on this project, and don't get me wrong, the students are engaged. They are collecting facts, searching for images on google and then going to YouTube and selecting background music for their projects. 

I am struggling with this type of technology use in the classroom for a number of reasons.
1.  The teacher comes up with the essential questions.
2.  The students collect facts and retell the facts without creating anything new from the facts they have learned.
3. The production of the movie takes 10 days for 30-40 minutes a day!
4. The students are grabbing audio and images from the web without any regard for copyright.
5. The students are checking off each item on the rubric as they create.
6. The students don't have a choice of product. Everyone makes a movie.
7. The students watch 6-8 final projects in class, on the same subject, often with the same facts explained.

I love that the students are engaged, and they are collaborating, but oh my! there is a lot of room for improvement in this instructional design!
My job as the technology facilitator is to work with the teachers to change, evolve and look at their curriculum as a changing, fluid program.

This great teacher and I are going to be working very closely next year, as I implement my, "Adopt a Teacher" program (described on my blog last week). We will look at the design of the lesson, and hopefully, shift the question generating to the students. Then, I will recommend that the students are offered choices of final products. While the curriculum unit is going on, we will look at copyright laws, and certainly, the students will be encouraged to use EasyBib (which can easily be saved into GoogleDrive with one click sign in)

to create a bibliography. In addition, the National Library of Congress has an amazing selection of primary sourced images, music, interviews, etc. available. The resources are so much richer than using Google Image searches. I use any opportunity to showcase this great resource to kids! Finally, the students will be given the learning standards instead of a rubric, and then encouraged to grade themselves based on the learning standards. Each group will generate 3-5 higher level questions that can be answered by others as they review their learning product. The end products will be shared on a social media site like Edmodo, and then the students will be asked to review the final projects outside of class.
Students will post their comments and reviews on Edmodo. 

 When I think about my teaching style, I find it amazing, that each May for 10 years, that someone would be teaching the same topic in the same way.
I guess, I am looking for other ways to encourage this great teacher to look at his "May Civil Right Movie Project" and transform it into a more student focused blended learning lesson.
Reach out to me @jmaclaurin on Twitter with your ideas.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Reflections on TechForum 2013

On Friday, I was fortunate to be able to attend Tech Forum, a one day conference put on my Tech & Learning Magazine.
It was a day filled with meet ups with friends and colleagues who work in technology in education. It is always so great to chat with people who do what I do. Often, I feel alone in my school as no one else does the job I do. This year, as most years, I look back on the school year and wish that I had more of an impact in changing the way students learn in our school.

TechForum and the people I heard speak have reignited me. Andy Kohl, Elizabeth Greene and Dan Rezak's presentation about how to approach technology integration holistically really helped me to take stock of our progress in my school. After sitting, talking and listening to their presentation, I have decided to change some of my strategies to get teacher by in.

Each week, I do a Thursday Tech Three email (also shared in their blog)to the staff with links to videos, great apps, nice resources students, motivating blog posts, really, a spattering of different resources. The staff tell me they love it, and I have cotaught with many teachers around the tools I have shared in that email each week.  But in reality, upon reflection at Tech Forum, I realized that it probably is helpful for the teachers who are open to changing their delivery methods, but those teachers who are still "covering the curriculum" and "getting through the material" with their students are really the ones who need the resources more are not even opening it.

Adopt A Teacher
To reach the reluctant teachers, I am going to change my co teaching style. I am going to "adopt a teacher", and work with one teacher over a longer period of time. That is, we will set some big goals together, and then I will be in their classroom with them each day, each period if need be, to support them as they teach. I will be there as an extra hand, a sounding board for their ideas, bring tech creativity tools, help the teacher let the students uncover the curriculum, work in more creativity, choices, collaboration and freedom. I have worked often with some of my teachers, and  the more time I spend with them in their rooms, not even teaching, but supporting, the more risks they take, the more tech they integrate and the more creative their students become.

Tech Avengers/ Tech Deputies
Students are the ones who are the most comfortable with the tech, so I am going to give them the lisence to be the experts in the classrooms. I will start a club, which I had done in a previous school with much success, and train students on web tools, simple trouble shooting, how to care for the computer carts, etc. I will get to the teachers through the students. The kids will create screencasts of how to use apps, or tools that would be great resources to use for sharing student learning. The kids will be Tech Avengers, and they will help (or push) the teachers to let them try new tools in the classroom. They will have a form to complete if they need more help, and one to submit each time they do help in the class. That way, we will have data around the good they are doing in moving our building forward!

Gather the Cool Ideas
I am going to start a document gathering all the great tools, student samples and what successes the students are having in different rooms with different teachers. It will be a simple spot where I can track, store and celebrate what is going on each day in our school. I want to gather the successes! Track the change, see who is doing that there is evidence of the change our school is accomplishing.

Get a Seat at the Table
I am going to approach my Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and ask for a seat on the Social Studies curriculum review committee. I am going to ask if I can be present during the meetings to listen, to share ideas, to ask good questions and to be a part of the change from the moment that it starts. One of the problems I see in my school and in education generally is that we adopt a new curriculum, ask the teachers to change habits, tools, resources etc. then ask them to layer technology on top of all that change. Then, the teachers have the out of using tech because they are "so busy learning the new curriculum". If I am at the table, then the tech can be integrated and seen as a value from the beginning. To help the teachers move beyond substitution and automation in the SAMR model.

Okay, that was really 4 ideas I am going to implement going forward...I can't wait to get change going!