Saturday, August 30, 2014

Coaching Tech Integration in Elementary Schools- Second Year

Dr. Laurie Friedrich (newly minted) and I are back to Rousseau elementary coaching teachers in technology integration. This is one of the most productive ways we can explore working with teachers.

In many ways it is the ultimate low stakes environment. We use our own time and teachers have volunteered their plan time. We pose no demands we just ask, encourage, and explore dimensions of technology integration as we go.

As we work with each grade level team we fit our suggestions and ideas to the style of the team. Each team is different in their goals, the way they interact and where they are on technology integration. What is clear is that now in our second year each team has ideas and internal leadership. They are building on the work done last year and cautiously expanding their integration. The biggest obstacle right now is lack of access to devices that students can actually use individually or in small groups.

I am most excited about the potential for integration in the Arts as it will play out in the Music and Visual Arts rooms. There much promise there, but it is a promise that can be realized only with enough devices so students have access.

As we move forward the low stakes coaching model seems to be a success. Though I might add that the gentle but solid support by administration is an important component as well. In the next few weeks we will start an expanded model in some new schools and so test the boundaries of such a model.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Four things your students can learn from watching Minecraft videos

My two youngest kids have been playing minecraft for quite a long time. For those who are not familiar with minecraft think of a game platform with lego like blocks of many kinds that allows you to create or explore worlds created by others.

This summer, however, my kids got hooked on YouTube videos documenting the adventures of of others online. An example can be the Dumb and Dumber videos for an example click on the pic to the right. 

In the beginning I thought this was just a way to pass the time when they did not have access to Netflix or were not allowed to play (we have restriction on play time). Soon I found out that they sometimes prefer to watch the videos over other shows. This is something that is hard for me to understand. I like playing games but watching somebody else do it? That's something you do when you run out of quarters...

The phenomenon intrigued me. Why watch someone else play? Well I started with the obvious and asked my kids what they liked about it. Their answer was simple, we just like it. When I watched carefully I discovered a few ways that the videos afforded a great learning opportunity.

1. The video makers usually play in pairs or even three and a majority of the video centers around their collaboration. This model of collaboration has actually helped my kids learn to collaborate while playing and I even hear them produce a banter similar to the ones online.

2. In the videos that are usually in survival mode and require the players to solve many challenges. Since audio is a huge part of the attraction they actually produce something akin to a think aloud while engaged in problem solving. This model helps viewers get a window into complex problem solving.

3. Following different videos and finding new ones are part of information literacy skills that my kids who usually spend very little time on YouTube developed rather quickly.

4. The videos often share the creativity of the creators by sharing approaches ideas and actions. They provide a great model of divergent thinking and the joy of creation.

In short the videos provide a model for engagement with 21st century skills. As adults struggle to provide relevant 21st century models finding worthy individuals willing to share what and how they engage in creative activities provides exceptional learning opportunities.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Motivation to Innovate- or five reasons to risk failure

The lens I most often use to view motivation is Bandura's concept of self efficacy. The idea is that we are more likely to succeed when we believe we can be successful. There is quite a bit of empirical work supporting this construct. More than that self efficacy is the best motivational predictor of academic success.

Recently, however, I've had read personal narratives of failure from teachers who are innovating in their classroom and school. The thing that immediately emerged is that self-efficacy cannot be the prime motivator because they actually do NOT always think they will be successful. Often they actually say "I don't know if it's going to work". In my work on democratic education I actually said "I don't even know what it looks like but I think it is important to do."

So what are some ways to think about the motivation to innovate despite the high probability of failure:

1. Value- while self-efficacy is important we also have to consider the value of our actions. If the value is high enough we may be able to consider failure and the potential personal fallout from it.
2. Long term success- while we may not believe that we have it figured out right now we have a belief in our ability to work it out through trial and error. This is closely connected to the idea of grit or stick-with-it-ness/stick-to-it-ness recently highlighted.
3. Self delusion- you can have self-efficacy that is completely unjustified. Sometimes it is better to believe that you are going to be successful despite best evidence to the contrary.
4. Identity- when individuals assume the identity of an innovator (or even entrepreneur) makes self efficacy for a specific action less important than your sense of competence as an innovator. You believe not that you can do the next step but in your ability to overcome the odds and problem solve.
5. A community of innovators. The knowledge that peers around you will support your efforts, share your experiences and appreciate your willingness to dare.

For me it comes down to "surfer attitude" (temporary name)- this is what I am calling it now. It is the deep understanding that to gain expertise you have to fail, since you are constantly pushing the envelope without quite knowing your limits or whether you can hang on. For me it is all five previous aspects wrapped into one. It is what keeps teachers innovating despite not knowing if they will be ultimately successful.

It's good to be back blogging.