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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The View from CUE - Reflections on the 2014 CUE Conference

Like all of the other 5,300 educators who attended the CUE conference in Palm Springs last week, I walked away energized and ready to try out some of my new learning. It was great to see that large of a crowd at the conference. Mike Lawrence, Executive Director of CUE, announced that the conference attendance was the highest it had been in recent history. Further evidence of the swelling ranks of CUE attendees is that I had standing room only during my session (Technology in the Common Core Age) on Friday afternoon.
Photo used with permission from Moreno Valley USD

CUE is famous for always having some great keynote speakers and a large selection of impressive concurrent sessions. This year was no exception. The keynoters included: Dan Meyer who spoke about picking the right technology tools for the classroom, LeVar Burton who spoke about digital media and reading, and Sal Khan (founder of the Khan Academy) who encouraged us to rethink education. I attended sessions on Twitter, Blended Curriculum, Personalized Learning, Mobile Learning Initiatives, and others. One of the great things about an educational technology conference is that most of the presenters publish their handouts and resources online for all attendees. Check out the sessions you could not get to in person by going to:

But no matter how great the keynotes and the sessions are, my favorite part of the CUE conference every year is the Student Technology Showcase. This is where the students get a chance to show everyone the outcomes of all the hard work that they and their teachers put into 21st Century learning. The Student Showcase is where all of our talking and writing about educational technology becomes actual doing. And these students do it well!

Of course, I am partial to the students of Riverside County. We had students from North Ridge Moreno Valley Unified School District. There were students from Temecula LuiseƱo Elementary School in the Temecula Valley Unified School District. And we had the long-standing Student Showcase participants from Victoriano Elementary, and Val Verde Model Continuation High School from the Val Verde Unified School District. All the students, elementary through high school, were well prepared to show off their projects and their learning. Students would step out into the crowd and ask people if they would like to hear about the class project. The students, and the parents who were there, were clearly enjoying the opportunity to "showcase" their projects.
Photo used with permission from Val Verde USD

The districts are proud of what their students have accomplished and how they are able to communicate to the audience. Aaron Barnett, Director of Information Systems and Technology for Moreno Valley USD, told me that "Students from MVUSD are excited to showcase their computer programming skills at the CUE conference. While engaging many of the attendees, the students are able to exhibit the technical skills needed in the 21st Century." Phil Harding, Technology Integration Coordinator for Val Verde USD, said that "This event shows that continuation students have what it takes to compete in the global community. The evidence is their film product that has taken them all over the world - from Japan to Brazil to England."

It is wonderful that the CUE conference continues to grow. I am already looking forward to next year's Student Technology Showcase!

Dennis Large
educator & learner
follow me @dennislarge

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scholar+ at Perris Union High School District

Image used with permission from PUHSD
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit the Perris Union High School District to learn more about their innovative Scholar+ program. I had heard great things about this new program which included a 1:1 device per student program using Chromebooks. Fortunately, the team at PUHSD was very open to sharing what the program is, what the thinking was behind the creation, what the challenges have been, and what the next phases are. I met with Joseph Williams (PUHSD’s Director of Technology), Charles Tippie (Assessment TOSA), and several members of Joseph’s IT team.

As soon as the group started talking about Scholar+, it became obvious that this was more than a Chromebook purchasing plan. These folks did their research. They brought together a stakeholder group, they read journal articles, reviewed national reports, met with local experts, and even visited districts in other states. Then they wrote a comprehensive plan that starts with stating their desired outcomes, covers the goals and instructional tools, outlines the professional development, and discusses the required infrastructure. Finally, the plan examines how to fund the devices. PUHSD provides an iPad for every teacher and a Chromebook for every student - all 10,000 of them! When asked about the impetus for going to a 1:1 model, Joseph cites the research and pulls up the quote from the National Education Technology Plan that ended up on page 1 of the PUHSD plan, "Ensure that every student and educator has at least one Internet access device and appropriate software and resources for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration for use in and out of school."

Joseph and Charles also point out that a good deal of time was spent on just coming up with the name for the program. It was important to the entire stakeholder group that the name be reflective of students and learning, not technology and logistics. Scholar+ was adopted as the name. A logo was designed, and each of the Chromebooks has that logo etched on the top cover.

Why Chromebooks? At the risk of oversimplifying Joseph’s response, it seemed to come down to price point and flexibility. The district had adopted Google Apps for Education back in 2010, so Google’s Chrome OS on the Chromebooks was a good fit. And at around $300 per device, the district was able to jump into a full 1:1 model. The model includes checking the devices out to students for 24/7 usage during the school year. And there is even some early stages of discussion around letting students take the devices home over the summer. There is, of course, some breakage and loss. But what they have learned so far is that there is not very much loss, and they spend far less on replacing these devices than they do on replacing textbooks.

Additionally, the Scholar+ team liked the versatility that the Chromebooks gave them in terms of preparing for SBAC and gearing up for the Common Core in general. Though the devices would help immensely with SBAC testing, the team felt it was important that the devices not be perceived primarily as assessment tools, but instead clearly be seen as devices for everyday teaching and learning in the classroom.

Dr. Diana Walsh-Reuss, Riverside County Associate Superintendent of Schools, and Jenny Thomas (Program Specialist with CTAP Region 10) joined me on this visit. All three of us walked away feeling impressed with: 1) how thoughtfully the whole Scholar+ program had been put together, and 2) how serious the team was about the data they collected on the impact of the program and how it could be improved. While the program was developed to help infuse technology into the classrooms, the focus was kept sharply on students and on learning.

Dennis Large
educator & learner
follow me @dennislarge

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Temecula Advantage Virtual School

In February I visited the Temecula Advantage Virtual School in the Temecula Valley Unified School District. The site, the students, and the staff were all impressive. It was a great opportunity to spend some face-to-face time talking to the people who make this virtual school work.

Image licensed from PresenterMedia
The principal, Dr. Todd Reed, gave me a tour of the facility. The first thing I noticed when I walked into this “virtual” school was that there were students everywhere. The site consists of two main rooms. One room has desks for Dr. Reed (who also creates and teaches some of the online classes) and the the two full time teachers. And the other is an open space where students can work in multiple configurations. In both rooms students were working in groups, in pairs, and individually. Dr. Reed explained that while the school has an enrollment of approximately 170 (and growing) full time online students, many of those students visit the physical site on a regular basis. Some come in for an hour to meet with an instructor for help on an assignment or to review their progress. Others come in for most of the day so that they can meet with instructors, work with partners or with groups, or just to get some schoolwork done without the distractions of their homes.

Mr. Balaris, the math teacher, was not available the day I visited. But Ms. Evans, the English Language Arts teacher, graciously took some time to talk to me. In between fielding questions from virtual and face-to-face students, she broke some of the myths about high school online teachers. Many people picture online teachers as being at home in their pajamas and working off-and-on throughout the day. I asked Ms. Evans to describe a typical day: She arrives before the doors open and is there all day. She meets with the students who come in to the physical site that day looking for assistance, and she meets with the students she called in because she needed to discuss some work with them. She logs onto the learning management system to check the progress of all of her students, and she makes contact via phone or email with any student who appears to be stuck on something (or has just been avoiding something). She grades assignments, gives feedback, and provides general support. Then in the evenings and on weekends she spends time creating new content for the courses she teaches.

I was also able to interview several of the students - and they had a lot to say about online learning. My first question was about why they chose to move from their comprehensive high school to the online school. There were almost as many different answers to that question as there were students in the room. One student is a competitive athlete whose training and competition schedule is not a good match for a traditional high school. One of the students is an actress who needs to miss chunks of time when there is a job that the agent lines up. Others felt that the social atmosphere of the traditional school was not a good fit for them. And some felt that the pace of the instruction (either too fast or too slow) at the traditional school was a barrier that the online school is able to remove.

I asked the students if they missed socializing with their friends. The majority of them reported that they still see their same friends outside of school. They feel like they get plenty of opportunities to socialize. Of course, some of the students said that they see their old friends and classmates less often, but they feel that is an advantage of the online school because being a bit less social helps keep them on track.

The Temecula Advantage Virtual School is definitely not a “one size fits all” situation. Some of the students choose to come to the school site almost every day because they know that they stay more accountable that way. Others come once or twice a week to see the teachers and to work with project partners or groups. And some only come when they need some specific support or when they need to take an assessment. It was clear that Dr. Reed, who also serves as the district’s Instructional Technology Administrator, Ms. Evans, and Mr. Balaris have created a flexible atmosphere both online and on site that meets the individual needs of each of these students.

Dennis Large
educator & learner
follow me @dennislarge