Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Technology That Teachers Want

Image used by license with
Which technologies do teachers want in their classrooms? Do they want Chromebooks, or iPads, or Windows tablets, or Android tablets? Do they want interactive whiteboards, or document cameras, or sound projection systems? In the end, those are not the decisions that will make or break an educational technology implementation. It is all about the professional development. A new nationwide survey of over 1,000 K-12 teachers shows that teachers are more interested in making sure that they get sufficient PD than they are in which devices get purchased.

According to that survey, 90% of teachers say that technology is an important piece of an instructional program. However, only 60% of teachers say that they feel adequately prepared to use technology in the classroom. More than one third of teachers, 37%, say that they would love to use technology in the classroom but simply do not know how.

Fortunately, there is plenty of research available on effective professional development. When dealing with PD for teachers on the topic of technology, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Make sure you are offering training on the basics as an option. Overall, 38% of teachers reports feeling the need for training on the fundamentals of technology use. That percentage rises as the age of the teacher rises.

2. Host PD opportunities during existing work days. Over 75% of teachers say they would like to have dedicated professional learning days on the topic of technology.

3. Many teachers like having an online alternative available. Consider offering self-paced online PD options.

4. Build an online community for sharing resources. The Web is full of lessons and other teacher resources, but 80% of teachers report wanting to have a place to share lessons with the other teachers they know.

5. Things have to work. Teachers need to know how to access technical support when they need it. Approximately 70% of teachers report not having tech support (or perhaps not knowing about it) to help them when they have trouble accessing something online.

Remember that the most effective professional development is ongoing. Whatever type of PD program you put in place at your school or district, make sure that it is repeated and enhanced each year with options for various levels of need.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School with Ed Tech

It is only August, but all of the districts in Riverside County are back in session. Some districts are already in their third week! This seems like a good time to share some trends I am seeing in educational technology.

Photo credit: @TrPatel20 
One of my favorite trends is districts giving space to educational technology in their professional learning days prior to the start of the school year. For example, Hemet USD had a focus on technology when they brought their management team together for a day of professional learning in July. Riverside USD featured educational technology in their day-long professional learning conference the week before school started. And Romoland School District also featured technology in a general session and several break-out sessions at their all-staff Return-to-Work day the day before all their students showed up. Pictured with me here is Romoland Instructional Coach Sonal Patel who, along with another instructional coach (Susan McDonald) presented a wonderful break-out session on Digital Citizenship. They had a classroom full of teachers using tools and discussing strategies for teaching digital citizenship. I was also impressed that Romoland's Chief Technology Officer, Vince Butler, jumped in and provided a break-out session that gave teachers a look at many of the technology tools available to them. Great things can happen when a district shows its priorities by giving space to them.

Image by Alice Keeler @
There are simply far too many fantastic digital tools for teachers to check out to even try to list them here. But one great tool that has been upgraded for the start of school is Google Classroom. You can read about the new features of Google Classroom by visiting the official Google site. But better yet, check out the Updates for Google Classroom blog post by leading Google Apps expert Alice Keeler. Some of the best professional learning you can get from the web is free - just follow Alice on Twitter. Or, you can splurge on the whole $20 it costs to buy the 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom book. One of my favorite upgrades to Google Classroom is the Google Calendar integration. Now, when you create a class in Classroom, a new calendar will automatically be created for the class and assignment due dates will be immediately added to that calendar. The assignments that do not need a due date can be toggled off so that they do not appear on the calendar. This is one more step toward helping teachers and students stay organized. It is also one more step Google has taken toward having Google Classroom become an actual learning management system on its own.

Screenshot used with permission from Keara Gonzales
Finally, the best thing about this back-to-school season is that my daughter has landed her first teaching position! She is now teaching first grade at Hemmerling Elementary in Banning USD - Go Mustangs! Making her father really proud, she had her teacher website up and running before the start of school. The point of showcasing my daughter's website is not just to embarrass her. The idea is that using digital tools, like a free Weebly website, can increase communication and collaboration between parents and teachers. It is a good reminder that teachers who set up something like this, within the parameters of district guidelines, will increase the sense of home-to-school community and reduce the chance of miscommunication throughout the school year.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

STEM in Action

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Victoriano Elementary School in the Val Verde Unified School District as they hosted a tour for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning Exemplar Schools awards committee. Students from all grade levels were eager to show what they were doing science, technology, engineering, and math. Primary students were studying botany and agriculture in the classroom and outdoors in their garden. Third through fifth grade students were learning about chemistry, robotics, and aquaponics.

Principal Caryn Lewis (follow her @VictorianoChief) makes STEM a priority at Victoriano. You can hear that in the voices of the teachers as they talk about the dedicated professional development time and the team planning time allocated for STEM. You can also hear it in the voices of the students who use scientific language to describe their inquiry process, their data collection and analysis, and even their job titles. One aquaponics team introduced themselves individually as the water chemist, the marine biologist, the botanist, and the system engineer. Even the parents came in to talk to the committee about what a difference the focus on STEM is making for their children.

Rancho Verde High School and Citrus Hill High School also get in on Victoriano's STEM activities.
Rancho Verde sends students to work on the agriculture and robotics programs, and Citrus Hill teachers help lead the large-scale aquaponics projects. Talking with these students makes it clear that science learning is a regular part of their day. The students convey excitement about their projects with their language and their actions. First graders were able to teach the five steps of scientific inquiry to the whole group of adults present. When first graders can explain photosynthesis to visitors, you know that great teaching and learning is happening there!

Whether or not Victoriano ends up receiving the P21 award, this school is a STEM education leader in Riverside County. If you have the opportunity to visit, Principal Lewis will make you feel welcome, the teachers will impress you, and the students will teach you about science. Ask any student at Victoriano about the scientific inquiry process and be prepared for an explanation using academic vocabulary and corresponding hand gestures.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scanning the Horizon

The New Media Consortium (NMC) is an international community of experts in educational technology - from the practitioners who work with new technologies on campuses every day; to the visionaries who are shaping the future of learning at think tanks, labs, and research centers; to its staff and board of directors; to the advisory boards and others helping the NMC conduct cutting edge research.

Every year the NMC publishes the Horizon Report highlighting educational technology trends, challenges and emerging technologies that are likely to enter mainstream use within the next five years. One of the things that I like about this report is that it goes beyond the gadgets. The report delves into the shifts in education, the practices involving educational technology, and the supporting research. This is a document that should spark discussions in your site and district PLCs, committees, and cabinets.

This year, the Horizon Report focuses on trends, challenges, and developments that should get those conversations going. When you read the full report, you will see the significance of each of the following points.
Key Trends Accelerating Educational Technology Adoption in Schools
  • Fast Trends: Driving educational technology adoption in schools over the next 1-2 years
    • Rethinking the roles of teachers
    • Shift to deeper learning approaches
  • Mid-Range Trends: Driving educational technology adoption in schools over the next 3-5 years
    • Increasing focus on Open Educational Resources
    • Increasing use of hybrid learning designs
  • Long-Range Trends: Driving educational technology adoption in schools over the next 5+ years
    • Rapid acceleration of intuitive technology
    • Rethinking how schools work
Significant Challenges Impeding Educational Technology Adoption in Schools
  • Solvable Challenges: Those that we understand and know how to solve
    • Creating authentic learning opportunities
    • Integrating personalized learning
  • Difficult Challenges: Those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive
    • Complex thinking and communication
    • Safety of student data
  • Wicked Challenges: Those that are difficult to even define, much less address
    • Competition from new models of education
    • Keeping formal education relevant
Important Developments in Technology in Schools
  • Time to Adoption Horizon: 1 year or less
    • BYOD
    • Cloud computing
  • Time to Adoption Horizon: 2-3 years
    • Games and gamification
    • Learning analytics
  • Time to Adoption Horizon: 4-5 years
    • The Internet of things
    • Wearable technology
I encourage you to read the full report to get a sense of the impact that these trends and challenges may have on teaching, learning and creative inquiry.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Making it Personal(ized)

Download free ebook @ ISTE
Personalized learning, as a teaching approach, is gaining a lot of traction in the education community. In fact, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) just published an ebook on the topic. You can download a free copy of Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology, or you can purchase a hard copy. Either way, it is a great read on the what, the how, and the why of personalized learning.

I find it easier to understand personalized learning when I start with a compare/contrast with individualized learning. Individualized learning, which is fundamental to good teaching, focuses on the instructional needs of students. Personalized learning is an approach designed to go beyond individualized learning and to include learning activities which consider students' interests, goals, and styles of learning.

The authors of the ISTE book describe personalized learning as, "An invitation for educators to create opportunities for learning that take advantage of the digital skills most students already possess. Personalized learning is specifically tailored to each student's strengths, needs, and interests while ensuring the highest standards possible. This approach is a major paradigm shift from the traditional "one-size-fits-all" approach to education. Personalization encourages educators to be more flexible, so that students can become more invested in designing their own personal learning paths. Students engaged in personalized learning at their various paces are given access to tools and feedback that motivate them to capitalize on their unique skills and potential."

In practice, personalized learning requires several things to be in place:
1. Students need ready access to computing devices.
2. IT needs the capacity to ensure a wireless infrastructure that is ready and robust.
3. Teachers need ongoing high-quality professional development.
4. Teachers and students need easy access to high-quality digital materials.

One example of matching high-quality digital resources to student interests and needs is the way Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) has adopted the use of Gooru LearningThe Gooru Learning web application allows teachers to create and share collections of high-quality web resources with their students and with other teachers. Supported by powerful partners (Google, CISCO, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others), Gooru's pledge is to be free forever. RUSD has recently partnered with Gooru to help kickstart RUSD's personalized learning initiative. RUSD's vision of personalized learning is to, "Prepare students to become purposeful contributors to a global society through learning experiences that promote student ownership of the path and pace of their education." Part of their approach is to develop personalized learning plans featuring vetted digital materials place into topic-centered collections by teachers. 

Ancient Civilizations Gooru collection
Ms. Smith teaches ancient civilizations for RUSD. She has used Gooru to create collections on the topic of early Egyptian civilization. Those collections include documents, images, videos, questions, webpages, and interactives. She can then assign all or some of a collection to all or some of her students. Additionally, other teachers from RUSD (or from anywhere!) can assign the same collection or make a copy of it and customize it for their own students. 

Riverside Unified understands the power of personalization. RUSD teachers are learning that, like the ISTE ebook explains, "When used correctly, the technologies and techniques of personalized learning allow for greater autonomy, engagement, individualization, and differentiation than ever before, while giving students more active, responsible roles in their own learning.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

Monday, June 9, 2014

Learning Goes 1:1 @ Coachella Valley USD

The Coachella Valley Unified School District boldly deployed an iPad for every student this year. From kindergarteners through high school seniors, all 18,000 students of CVUSD were able to get an iPad checked out to them for the year. The CVUSD staff acknowledges that the road to a 1:1 implementation is not always smooth. But through hard work, perseverance and belief in what they are doing, the teachers and students have made great strides in using this technology to enhance teaching and learning.

I visited CVUSD's Cahuilla Desert Academy (CDA) on May 29th. On that day, a group of educators from across southern California were given a chance to see middle school students using their tablets to transform learning in their classrooms. The morning started in CDA's high tech library media center with presentations by several students. And the visit ended with presentations from Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams, Director of K-12 Technology Michelle Murphy, and Mobile Learning Initiative Administrator Isreal Oliveros. In between those times, the group was able to visit many of the classrooms and see the technology in action. All of the visitors that day were impressed with the overall integration of technology into the curriculum.

In particular, I was struck with Mr. Ham's 7th grade biology class. Like many 7th grade science teachers in California, Mr. Ham had his students dissecting owl pellets. However, Mr. Ham's students were also engaged in a transformational use of technology. These students were using their iPads to capture snippets of video during each stage of the process of their owl pellet project. So by the time these students had gone through the process of dissecting the pellets, sorting and classifying the bones, and reconstructing the skeleton of the small mammal eaten by the owl, they had compiled a video montage of the entire process. Then they could then narrate their video in oder to deepen their understanding of body structures and to share their learning. With permission from Coachella Valley USD, here are a few of the final students video projects:
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

During his presentation, Dr. Adams pointed out the importance of having access to technology available to every student in the district. He stressed that the students in his community deserved no less than what students in higher wealth communities have access to. It was a powerful sight to move from classroom to classroom seeing students engaged in their learning.and seamlessly incorporating technology into their activities.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

Thursday, May 8, 2014

DIGICOM @ Palm Springs USD

Palm Springs USD held their 6th annual DIGICOM Student Film Festival on Tuesday, May 6th. The event was a great success. It was fun to see the students, and their parents, and their teachers all dressed up and excited about the awards ceremony. But it was the digital media projects themselves that were the center of the show.
Graphic used with permission from Palm Springs USD

All of the projects were deserving of the DIGICOM showcase, but my favorites were the personal stories. It was surprising to see such honesty and depth of perception in these student films. That is what brought me back to the event this year, and DIGICOM 2014 did not disappoint. What struck me most deeply as I was watching the films was that these students, from primary grades through high school, are really finding their digital voices. They are telling stories from their own perspectives, and they are using a wide variety of approaches - from fantasy, to informational, to persuasive, to drama and comedy. The common thread is that these students have gone beyond having the technology be at the center of the projects. These projects focus on content and storytelling. That is the real accomplishment of Dr. Lee Grafton (Digital Media Specialist for Palm Springs USD) who heads up this year-round project for her district.

I would like to congratulate all of the students and teachers who put so much effort into making these wonderful projects. The projects will all be posted at the DIGICOM website soon. Dr. Grafton, along with all of the teachers, professional developers, and technical staff who work throughout the year to make digital storytelling a vital part of teaching and learning in Palm Springs USD would appreciate having you visit the website to view these projects.

Dennis Large
educator & learner