Saturday, April 26, 2014

5 ideas from our NETA Panel: This is how you should teach technology in Teacher Ed

Storm over Telluride Courtesy of Jay's Thought Stream Blog
We had a great panel @NETA14. We asked our panelists to reflect on what should be part of teacher education and how we might get there.

The panel quickly evolved to a group discussion that included teachers, administrators, board members and university supervisors and instructors. The feedback was fantastic and will help to go forward.
Here are some of the key ideas:

1. Its not about specific technologies, it is about affordances and pedagogies.
Everyone agreed that at the rate of change there is little value in "sticking with" one technology. Instead teaching the ideas behind what technologies afford can open up future teachers to flexibly adapt to change and keep innovating.

2. Teach Open Source mentality, teach students to be participants and contributors.
Future teachers need to learn to share their ideas learn from others and whenever possible move away from canned purchased curricula.

3. Teach flexibility- plan B. One of our panelists said: "It is my 33rd year as a teacher and I still need flexibility. We have to learn that it is ok to change, ok to learn from our students."

4. Technology needs to be in the hands of kids
Technology is transformational when students use it, when students learn, act, create. Need I say more?

5. Focus on the Why. Learn to integrate with learning in mind!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Golden Rule of Professional Development

I got an email a few days ago announcing the potential for professional development in the areas that I have some expertise in. I actually produce research in these areas and so my first reaction was complete rejection. On second thought I re-examined the invite to see what the format was. It was the classic workshop where we will be given all the wisdom collected by beings with superior intellect and secret knowledge. Then we can turn around use the secret knowledge and transform our results.

This is the model of professional development that our own research would point to being highly ineffective. On second thought I realized this is how most teachers feel when PD from the outside is brought to the school or district. The Golden Rule should apply here as in all other social interactions.

As a professional I would like to be treated with respect to my expertise and knowledge I want to part of a change process not a subject of a program. The same could be easily argued is true of teachers. Instead of coming and talking at we can come and talk with and stay awhile. This of course is a much less profitable suggestion to professional developers and harder for schools to sustain. I have erred in the past but our work in the last few years supporting technology integration in school leaves no doubt- we have to abide by:

Develop other professionals like you would like to be developed. Not as a show but as a sustained discussion.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Grappling with Democracy and Technology in Teacher Ed

I have been trying out democratic practices in my Teacher Ed class for the past semester with the help of two researchers and my students. It has been a hard journey for all of us (well for me for sure). It feels very different, and the ways I think through instructional dilemmas are very different. At the heart of the change is redefining the relationship between instructor and students. The two components that I find most appropriate right now are participation and trust, and both have been supported by technology.

When I talk about participation, most students and teachers immediately conjure in their minds an orderly class and students raising their hand and waiting patiently to speak. This does happen at times in my class but that is not what I mean here. This semester I reworked my classroom interactions so we all would have as much time as possible to process together and think through instructional dilemmas. One of the best instruments for that was opening circle. In opening circle we raise a relevant question and everyone has to participate in the discussion at least once. At the beginning of the semester I initiated the discussion and we went around in a circle. At this point in the semester the topics are student generated and at the students request we stopped going around in a circle and instead they speak when they feel ready. This made for a much richer discussion and a sense of shared ownership. I think that this practice led to a very different relationship between me and my students that in interesting ways allowed me to discuss more things I care about, and say things I have never said to my students.

Trust is the second leg. The message I am trying to send my students is one of trust- in each other in me and in their students. An illustration of the ways trust can work is in group work. In our last class period we created annual plans for teaching reading and writing. It is a hard task and many of the groups were "frozen" for awhile. After spending their last few semesters focusing on the micro aspects of teaching, I suddenly asked them to zoom out and focus on macro structures. When trying something this new trust is a concern. My students have to trust me that they can do it (it was hard for them), they also had to trust that I will not grade them harshly. This is a really important point, in difficult/unfamiliar assignments students are looking for scaffolds and fear grading. Here, there was no grading to be done but students were still concerned with my evaluation of their efforts.

So where does TECHNOLOGY come in? Many people know that I integrate technology throughout my class. They have a sense that students in my class are always on their devices. They are not. In fact I would estimate that students are about 20% of the time on their devices- viewing documents, taking quizzes, creating presentations. Most of the time is spent on discussion, group interaction, and even some lecture (gasp) time. That said, technology has a significant part in what I am able to do in participation. I use discussion board to hear questions from all students. I can then have enough time to conduct opening circle and other participatory elements. Email and other communication have been used as a backchannel to discuss ideas and concerns in ways that I have never experienced in this class. It's been a challenge and I still wonder how my students see all of this.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Scholar 2.0

Yesterday at the American Educational Research Association meeting I went to a session on the role of social media in our work as scholar (check out #AERAcademicSM). The discussants were honest and open about what they did and did not do on social media. This prompted me to think about my social media habits and the choices I make as I manage multiple identities: professional, personal, institutional.

The participants admitted that with time there convergence between the different identities and the management forces you to choose the one major stream. I think the most common identity management were (1) non engagement (for me its tumblr) and (2) using facebook as a family and friends platform distinct from other more professional platforms.

Everyone admitted that social media tools were great for a variety of uses. The first and maybe most important was communicating with various audiences. Communication in social media was bi-directional in many ways not all of them robust (being liked is great but how much substance is behind it?). On the research side online communities can help recruit participants for studies and disseminate results back to them. Working with young children this is not something I do but I can see the potential especially when you are working with marginalized populations that are not easily accessible.

I have been struggling with these concepts myself as this blog has evolved. The blog has started as a blog that shares the results of the work on arts integration. With time the blog has morphed to conform my new interests: teacher education and technology integration. I found myself thinking, I want to write about... but it doesn't really fit the title or the original intent. On the other hand I do not want to manage multiple blogs either. At this point my blog it is just a reflection of my overall professional identity.

I am also attaching a map of my social media presence. Icons are related to the relative volume on the channels but I intend on adding layers with data in the near future. Mind you this does not include our parallel work in Chinese Social Media.