Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two out of Three Dentists Still Use Hand Cranked Drills...

Can you imagine this headline? Who would go to a dentist that claimed that it has worked in the past, so there is no need to change?

Two out of three of my students out student teaching or in practicum, report something along this line (actual text) "So far in this semester, I really have not seen a lot of technology used in the classroom."

The fact that in 2015 this is still a norm in many schools reminds me how big a task we still have.

Digital technology is part of our everyday lives. It should be part of the learning as well. Even if your students do not have 1:1 devices all schools have access to mobile devices of some kind that can be brought into the classroom or a lab you can go to.

If you or a colleague are still not quite there, I have a few suggestions.

Here are my top three ideas for supports you can find at your school:

1. Talk to knowledgeable peers. Most teachers who integrate technology already love sharing what they are doing and helping along. Find them and use their energy.

2. Get a preservice teacher. They are likely to take courses in tech integration so they can bring ideas and another set of hands when trying new ideas is always good.

3. Get professional development. EdCamps, Workshops, conferences and excellent grad courses are all places to learn with others about the possibilities. Short PD can motivate, but only long-term support will truly help you get going and keep moving.

Three things to do immediately:

1. Find out what resources you and your students have.

2. If you have only a few devices use them as part of stations or rotation. Do not use them as a reward! All students need to learn about and through technology.

3. Use technology for short bursts of formative assessments using Kahoots, Socrative, Google forms, or Plickers. Short activities with some planning would get both you and kids going without imposing too much on your instructional time.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

How to Talk to Parents about Tech?

Tech EDGE Parent Meeting in China Jan 2015
When we started using iPads in the Reading Center, we added a session about technology to our orientation evening. As the room filled with parents, I was sensing apprehension. It was the early days of iPads, and I was not sure how parents will react. I briefly explained why and how we were using the iPads with striving readers and writers. One father rose up to express concern. "I am not sending my daughter here to play video games; I am sending her here so she can become a better reader." He continued to explain that he thought his daughter needed something more traditional at this time.
Digital Literacy with Parents Lincoln NE 2015
Not surprisingly we hear similar concerns wherever we work with parents. As a parent to four boys, I understand the instinct to protect your children. When I visited with parents in China, we heard the same concerns. I believe that it is important to listen to parent concerns and help them weigh the benefits and risks using a concrete understanding of what we as teachers do to protect students and teach them.
Parent concerns are usually:

1. "My child is not safe online." Parents are afraid that their children will not be safe online. They are concerned with inappropriate material (photos, text, video), cyberbullying, and predators. These concerns are fed by media reports about the dangers of the internet. Most of these events are extremely rare, but we need to address parental concerns respectfully and honestly.

2. "I don't want my kids information out there." Parents are often concerned with student products, pictures, and information that is shared online. Some do not like the idea of different organizations and companies collecting information about their children. There is also the fear that information shared now can be used later to harm their children.

3. "They have enough video games at home; school is for learning." Parents often view technology as a medium for games that have minimal educational value. They often see it as a way for the teacher to avoid work. The real work of school involves seriousness and effort working on paper. This belief stems from their own school experiences as well as their experience with their children during leisure time.

4. "It is not good for them; they sit too long as it is." Years of research and public discourse on screen-time, obesity, and in some places eyesight have made parents wary of and even guilty about device use. They view digital time as too sedentary and taxing and are concerned (justly) that if their children are constantly on devices they are not moving and socializing enough.

There are a few ways to help parents think about their concerns and understand what we do to protect all of our students. Meet with parents early on to have this conversation and provide the information in a few ways. The best is still face to face meetings.

1. Explain all regulations and protections your district has in place. Most districts have a set of rules about the use of technology in place, make them known.

2. Share your Digital citizenship curriculum and highlight the importance of learning to stay safe and healthy in a world that is increasingly becoming digital. The focus on responsibility and good decision making are what parents want for their kids.

3. Talk about the benefits of using technology. It is easier to consider risks if there is a clear upside. I find that parents are always more willing to have the conversation when they realize that there are excellent learning opportunities for their children in and out of school. It is great to show parents some fantastic tools and student products.

4. Provide opportunities for parents to learn about ways they can use devices with their children to benefit learning. Opportunities can be in meetings but also through monthly app recommendations sharing websites (e.g. Commonsense Media).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Four Ways to Start Integrating Technology in your Class Tomorrow

(Almost) Thirty years ago I jumped out of an airplane. It was after about a week of practice, and I knew I wasn't ready. Our guide disagreed, "you will never be ready until you have done it". I found her logic faulty but got on the airplane. When the doors opened, I was sure I was not ready. I advanced with the rest and one by one we all jumped/ were pushed out. Six years later I was driving our car to the hospital with my wife who was experiencing contractions. "I am not sure I am ready" I tried to say. She just looked at me glaringly.

We all have to start somewhere. We all have to take a leap. Like parachuting, it is often scary and full of unknowns, but it is also exciting and exhilarating. In technology integration, it is also like labor, we cannot undo the way technology has permeated our lives.

As educators, we must all take the plunge so here are three practical ways to start:

1. Plan a short formative assessment with technology. Build a quiz, group race, or a Q & A with technology. I prefer Socrative because it allows open-ended questions and works across platforms. Start with two warm-up questions that are easy to make sure everyone understands the technology and then have about 6 -8 harder questions. You can also use websites like Quizizz or Kahoot- the advantage is the high number of shared assessments that you can search. Even if your students do not have devices, you can use a system like Plickers to get a similar result. Formative digital assessment is a short but useful jump into tech that engages students and produces quick results.

2. Have students introduce themselves or a topic using a simple presentation. You can use HaikuDeck Google slides, or even a single pic found online. Keep it short and simple 1-3 slides for each group or student.

3. Assign a digital product replacing a written one. The idea is not to add to the workload, vary it and allow students to use a tool and another way to express themselves. The key is to enhance productivity.

The idea is to add engagement without adding too much to our workload. We have to jump sometime, or someone will push us. Just start doing something.