Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.5

Welcome to another edition of Five Tech Things on a Friday!

  • Common Sense Media has published an excellent report called Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013.  The report talks in depth on how much time young children are spending using media, the impact of the digital divide, and what types of media young children are using.  To go along with this report, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new recommendations regarding young children and media use.  I could talk for days about my thoughts on media use and young children, but I think I'll save that for a separate post!
  • Is digital literacy the new digital divide?  Ryan Holiday seems to think so.  "I’m wondering if the new digital not about access but about people who have the time, energy and skills to develop new media literacy and those who don’t."  Without even mentioning education, I think that Holiday is hitting on something crucial.  We need to teach our students not just how to use media, but how to curate it.  We need to be teaching digital literacy.
  • Increasingly in education, and especially for those of us who feel strongly about the use of technology in education, we talk about the way that we deliver instruction.  Specifically, we talk about "lecture" and frequently speak to it's evils.  Here are two articles with differing view points on the topic of lecture.  Lectures Didn't Work in 1350 - And They Still Don't Work Today and Don't Give Up on the Lecture.  I found both articles made some great points.  What are your thoughts on the lecture model of teaching?
  • Have you ever spent hours searching for the perfect movie clip to illustrate a point?  I certainly have, so I was really excited when a friend showed me Wing Clips.  This site features hundreds of clips that you can search for by movie title, category, or by theme.  Need a movie clip that illustrates listening?  Wing Clips will pull them right up for you!
  • You've heard about BatKid, right?  He was all the rage last Friday on just about every social media platform.  His story and amazing adventure brought tears to my eyes, and it was great to be able to "experience" him saving Gotham through the power of social media.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Without Access: An Unexpected Social Experiment

Earlier this week we had something of a technology crisis in our district.  Email was down, and at one point we were asked to shut down all computers.  My day as a coach went from being filled with technology and access to being plunged into a YA dystopian novel.  I don't know all the ins and outs of what happened, but the truth is, it doesn't matter.  Quite suddenly, the entire district had to do without tools that we completely take for granted.

Things are up and running again, but my experience this week really got me thinking.  In a way, this week was something of a forced experiment for me.  Technology, the internet, social media...there are endless amazing and powerful tools, right?  But, they are only amazing and powerful if we can access them.  Two major themes kept coming up for me this week.  First, how do we facilitate learning so that our students not only know how to use these tools, but can also troubleshoot and find new ways to get the job done when things suddenly don't work?  Second, just how much of an impact is a lack of access to technology having on students from a low socioeconomic status, and what do we need to do to help those students?

Let's talk about my initial questions first.  As adults, most of us grew up in an age without the constant access to technology that we have today.  We may have had a computer at home, but we certainly didn't carry one around in our pockets.  Students today are growing up in a very different world.  Their access to the internet, to social media, and to devices can be nearly constant.  As adults, we grew up functioning in a world without these tools, and when they go down, we can fall back on previous habits to get things done.  Are our students able to do the same?  We know students need to practice using these tools in meaningful ways, but what skills do they need to have in order to function when things go down?  Personally, I think the most necessary skills that students need come right from the ISTE standards for students: Creativity, Innovation, and Problem Solving.  If we are fostering these skills with students, not only will they help students no matter what new technology tools might arise, but students will also learn to not be dependent on technology and will still be functional when things break down.

My second question, of course, raises the issue of the digital divide.  I think we can all agree that a digital divide exists.  Families who are struggling financially often have to choose putting food on the table over internet access.  There are 1:1 schools just down the road from schools that are lucky to have the ancient desktops they do have.  While more and more families have at least one smart phone in the home, they may only be able to access the internet until their data runs out.  Then it's waiting until the next billing cycle to get back on.  The divide is real, and I think it's significant.  Technology can easily become just one more way our less advantaged schools are behind, and we need to find ways to fight that.  I believe that one of the most important ways to close the divide is by educating families on the importance of access to the internet, and by supporting them to make access a reality in their homes. I also believe that teachers need to be educated on how to use the tools they have access to, whatever those tools may be, to maximize the impact on student learning.  It might just be an old, clunky desktop, but if it can connect to the internet, students can do any number of transformative things from research to blogging to chatting with experts.  It's important to remember that it's the teacher who transforms instruction, not the device itself.

Needless to say, my time without access to my email has been frustrating, but also very reflective!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on helping students learn to troubleshoot when their tech goes down or on bridging the digital divide.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.4

It's time for this week's edition of Five Tech Things on a Friday!  Hope everyone has had a great week!

  • If This Then That, better known as IFTTT, is one of my very favorite tech tools.  Their slogan is "put the internet to work for you," and that's exactly what they do.  When you sign up for IFTTT, you can browse through thousands of "recipes" or create your own.  Recipes can do things like send you a text when it's going to rain, save all of your Instagram photos to your DropBox, or email you reminders at a certain time each day.  This happens to be my favorite recipe:

Save links from favorite tweets to Pocket!

Whenever I see a tweet with a link I'm interested in reading, I favorite that link in twitter.  IFTTT then automatically puts that link in my Pocket so I can read it when I have time.

  • Speaking of Pocket, let's talk about another favorite tool of mine.  Pocket is a "read it later" service.  I often see things I'm interested in taking a closer look at while I'm browsing the internet, reading emails, or chatting on twitter.  But, I don't always have time to read articles the moment I find them, so Pocket allows me to save them for later and read them at my convenience.  You can read your Pocket online or on their apps.  I also love that there is a Pocket Chrome Extension.  If you install this in Chrome, you can easily click the extension when you are browsing the internet to save a link for later.
  • I am so excited to see more and more teachers signing up for twitter!  It's such a great place to connect with other educators.  One of the best ways to get to know other teachers on twitter is through a twitter chat.  This week, I stumbled across this great document that that lists the day, time, and hashtag for a ton of educational twitter chats.  Look through the list, find a topic that interests you, and join the conversation!
  • Since Thanksgiving is on the horizon, I thought I'd share this article from the New York Times, "Cooking the Turkey Dinner, With a Little Help From My Phone."  The article includes apps not only to help you cook your dinner to perfection, but also Turkey-themed apps to help keep the kids out of your hair while you cook!
  • Finally, check out this video from the MacArthur Foundation on the 21st Century Learner:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.3

Welcome to another edition of Five Tech Things on a Friday.  In case you only visit when I send out the link, I wanted to make sure you knew that I do write other posts here.  You can subscribe to these posts using a feed reader or via email.  Just check out the sidebar on the right.

And now for this week's Five Tech Things on a Friday:

  • Up first this week is a story about the oldest selfie!  There are a couple of cool photos from the 1900s.  I think it's fascinating to see how far we've come.
  • Educational Technology and Mobile Learning posted about the 33 Digital Skills Every 21st Teacher Should Have.  This great list includes skills such as using infographics, engaging with other professionals via social media, and using digital tools for time management purposes.  The best part is that along with each of these skills are links to get you started.  Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to learn and incorporate 33 different ideas at once, though.  Start with one, and when you've got that skill down, add another.
  • Coding can sound like this intense and scary thing.  I know that, while I've dabbled a bit with some html and css, I certainly don't have the skills to code...but it's becoming more and more obvious that coding is a very learnable and very marketable skill.  Check out this 12-year-old who taught himself to code using Codecademy and went on to develop 5 apps.  If he can do it, so can we!
  • Speaking of coding, here are 6 Tips to Get Your Kids Excited About Coding.
  • Finally, I love this video on Writing in the Digital Age:

Monday, November 4, 2013

If We Teach Today...

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." -- John Dewey, 1944

This John Dewey quote is one of my favorite quotes to ponder when thinking about how we need to transform instruction in schools...and yet, it frightens me a bit that these words were spoken so long ago and so little has changed.  Dewey was a prolific writer, philosopher, and proponent of hands-on or experiential learning -- what we think of as project-based learning today.  Over a hundred years ago, Dewey was talking about moving away from the idea of the teacher as an expert in front of the class.  He saw the potential for teachers as guides and facilitators of student learning.

Now here we are in 2013, and our classrooms really haven't changed much.  Dewey was hoping to push education out of the Industrial Revolution and into the 20th Century, and we continue that same push hoping to bring our schools into the 21st century.  We are stuck operating in a school system designed during the Industrial Revolution.  Teachers, whether they like it or not, are still using the "sage on the stage" model of teaching, despite the fact that the teacher no longer  has to be, nor actually is, the smartest person in the room! During the Industrial Revolution, teachers were responsible for holding all of the necessary knowledge and doling it out to their students.  In the digital age, this model simply doesn't make sense since anyone with an Internet connection has access to the entire history of human knowledge.  That's pretty powerful.  So why aren't we harnessing that power?

We're trying, but it's hard to push back against such an ingrained system.  There are teachers, schools, even whole school districts doing phenomenal things with teaching and learning, but we still have such a long way to go.  We know that a hands-on, project-based learning experience raises student learning.  We know that there are multiple ways for students to show what they know.  We know that companies are looking to hire creative, innovative, and collaborative people.  We know that even as adults we hate the traditional "sit and get" style of professional development we are so often subjected to.  We know all of this, and yet our education system does not reflect this.

This is not just an educational technology issue, but rather a pervasive problem with our education system as a whole.  So how do we get there?  How do we transform?  There are many answers,  but technology use is already becoming more and more prevalent in our classrooms, and these tools offer a multitude of ways for us to break out of the mold of traditional classroom teaching and learning.  I believe that technology is one key available for us to unlock our classrooms and to explore new ways to teach and learn.  

Technology, the Internet, social media are rapidly changing the world around us.  I believe that we must harness the power of these tools to change the way our society thinks about teaching and learning.  With the variety of devices, apps, and tools out there, students now have access to professional creation tools, the ability to publish their work for an authentic audience, the chance to connect with and learn from people all over the world, view everything from historical photos and documents to the topography of mars, and so much more.  It is critical that we get these tools in the hands of our students.

We have to move forward, and we have to do it now.  We aren't going to transform education over night, but we will never succeed if we don't take the first step.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.2

Another week has flown by, and it's time for Five Tech Things on a Friday again!  Here's what I've got for you this week:

  • We had a great time at EdCamp Chicago last weekend.  It was great to see several U-46 teachers, coaches, and administrators there. Even if you didn't make it, you can still share in the learning.  Check out the Google drive with notes from a lot of the sessions.
  • This is an interesting infographic on the history of classroom technology.  I love that it starts with the chalkboard back in 1890. I think sometimes we forget that technology doesn't mean expensive shiny devices.  Technology is anything that is created to solve a problem or address a need.  While it might seem crazy to us now, a chalkboard was once new educational technology.  There was even a manual for it!

  • I just learned about Tab Cloud at EdCamp this past weekend.  It's amazing how such a simple thing can get me so excited.  Tab Cloud is an extension for your browser that allows you to save open tabs for a later date or to use on another computer.  This is great for saving links you need for a presentation or just for bringing what you are working on at home back to school.  Tab Cloud is available on Chrome and Firefox.
  • I am a huge believer in the power of social media.  It has changed my world both personally and professionally, and it's already impacting the lives of our students.  We have a responsibility to teach students how to navigate the connected world they are already a part of.  I enjoyed this article, Teaching Toddlers to Tweet?, because the author addresses the need for students to learn to become good digital citizens. 
  • Mapping Media to the Common Core is a phenomenal resource.  It starts with the question, "What do you want to CREATE today?"  Teachers can then choose to investigate anything from interactive writing to geomapping to digital storytelling.  Under each category is a wealth of resources including a definition of each creative activity, ideas to get you started, which tools to use, and examples of these tools in action in classrooms.
That's all for this week.  Have a great weekend!