Thoughtful Tech for Students & Teachers

I am on a serious podcast kick. My forty minute to an hour commute affords me ample time to consume almost a podcast a day. Vox editor, Ezra Klein, consistently refers to himself and his guests as “infovores” and while I wouldn’t dare put myself in a class with Ta’Nehisi Coates and Tyler Cowen, I would like to consider myself an infovore too.

Here’s what podcasts I’ve been tuning into lately:

  • S-Town – A strange saga of a small Alabama town and one of its eccentric denizens
  • The Tim Ferriss Show – Work and live smart, but don’t expect to be as successful or productive as Tim Ferriss himself
  • Recode Decode – Tech- and media-centered podcast featuring the incisive Kara Swisher
  • The Ezra Klein Show – The Vox editor interviews fantastically interesting and important thinkers and infovores (my personal favorite podcast)

Last, On Being with Krista Tippett has been a podcast and radio staple for years now. If you don’t know her soothing lilt and curious questioning, you should! Recently I listened to her discussion with Anil Dash, a serial tech entrepreneur turned thought-leader on tech ethics and purpose.

I was ignorant of Dash before listening to the podcast, and found it pleasantly surprising to come across an industry leader asking all the tough reflective questions that seem to go unaddressed each time a new iPhone iOS is released. Dash and Tippett cover the gamut too, including personal tech use and best practices, social media pros and cons, automation, self-driving cars and machine learning.

The whole conversation is worth a listen, but if you are an educator you should listen especially closely to the section where Dash describes his thoughts on how children should engage with technology. Below is a transcript of that section of their conversation:

MS. TIPPETT: So my children are, right now, 18 and 22. And even in those four years, there was such an acceleration. And it was interesting also in terms of the platforms they and their friends use completely shifted.

MR. DASH: Totally different tools. Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: And I’m actually — I find myself being really grateful that I’m not a parenting — we were still in that window where I could say, “No, you will not have an iPhone until you’re 14,” or something, which I just don’t think you can do anymore, right? And so they were already kind of formed before all of the technology entered their lives. And I know it’s changed so much now in the meantime, and you have a 5-year-old. I mean, I wonder how are you thinking about that question.

MR. DASH: We don’t have a very intelligent cultural conversation about how kids engage with technology at all.


MR. DASH: I think…

MS. TIPPETT: It’s like a guinea pig generation.

MR. DASH: Yeah. Well, it’s also — I also think of the concept of “screen time.” When you’re with young kids, you’ve heard this, right? “Do you limit your child’s screen time?” And it’s like, no. I engage

with what he’s specifically doing. I don’t limit his page time. I just choose whether he’s reading a book or a magazine or whether it’s something that’s like a bunch of — he’s 5 years old, so he likes poop jokes. But — how much of that and how much of, like, smart stuff? And so the idea that they’re both on pages and are therefore equivalent is absurd, and yet we talk about screen time that way. I’m like, is he playing chess on the iPad? Or is he watching funny YouTube videos of animals falling over? Which is also awesome, but different.

And so that really — that always sticks with me because I think it’s a very unsophisticated way to look at things, and then we carry that forward. And that’s when they’re very, very young, right? 2, 3, 4, 5. They first start seeing screens. And my son maybe spends 15 minutes a day on the iPad, and he loves it, and that’s all he gets. But that’s always been the rule for him, so it doesn’t matter. And I limit it mostly just because we limit everything. I mean, you just don’t let a 5-year-old do whatever they want, or you end up in hell.


MS. TIPPETT: Are you saying — so, this is a radical idea. You apply the same wisdom you apply to other things to technology?

MR. DASH: Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, well that…

MR. DASH: Well, that’s the thing. It’s part of your life. I think that was the thing. I saw so many parents — and this is not judgment. I don’t judge other parents. Other parents are fine.

MS. TIPPETT: No, we’re all on this frontier, and we’re learning a language.

MR. DASH: But as we’re figuring it out, they treat it as if there is life — they say this — like, “This is real life, and then there’s computer world.” And I’m like, “That’s not the thing. That’s not how their lives are gonna be.” And I think I had an unusual perspective, in that I did start using computers before I was in kindergarten, just as my son has.

And he has way better programing tools. I was like, “Gosh, if I had these things.” He’s got — because we had to do these primitive blocky green graphics on the screen when I was a kid, and he’s got this Star Wars robot that he can go on the iPad and give it programming instructions, and it follows his directions to roll around the living room. And I’m like, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Like, you wait until they go to bed so you can play with it.


MR. DASH: And that’s — no, he’s going to listen to this I bet. So — I don’t do that. I don’t do that.


MR. DASH: But the thing that I think about is that that’s part of his life. It’s not over there. It’s not an artifice. It’s not the virtual world. It’s just life. And I think about that with so many experiences where, when we were fighting for validating social media and social networking, saying these would be important, these would be part of our lives and there’s a reason to include it, it was about this idea that sharing makes something better.

I fully reject the argument — people say this all the time. You know, “I saw this young person in a restaurant on their own, on their phone, not interacting with anyone.” What do you think they were doing? They were talking to people.

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.

MR. DASH: They were interacting with lots of humans all at once. And it makes me furious because I’m saying they’re being deeply social. It’s not in the mode that you know, but it’s actually better than when they were sitting alone at the diner with a book. And I think there’s been this misunderstanding and this misapprehension about what the tech is doing. It is connecting us to people.

And there’s so much attention paid — and with good reason — to the bullying and the other things, the cyber bullying and all those. A general rule of thumb is anything that begins with “cyber” is a lie. Like, if you say “cyber bullying” or “cyber crime,” it was probably — that’s one of those rare areas where they — it’s a behavior that existed before, and the “cyber” is not the issue. So children being unkind to each other…

MS. TIPPETT: Right. So nothing happens online that doesn’t happen offline.

MR. DASH: Right. And so being able to integrate it — now it can be worse because of the network effects. It can be amplified by the immediacy and the fact that it happens in your home. But the principles can carry across. And it has to be an integrated conversation, and that’s the key. It’s like, how much time do you limit your child talking to their friends? I don’t care if it’s on the phone, on the computer on messaging, in real life, in person, out in public, whatever it is. If you have a set of rules, they apply across these things. But that demands a literacy and a fluency that I think takes a serious investment in time and understanding your child’s context. And that’s the hard part.

A few key takeaways:
  • Screen time versus quality time on technology is the tech equivalent of blended learning versus traditional learning. We get tripped up thinking too much about the amount of screen time or the specific innovative model of learning, and forget that quality is key no matter what we’re talking about. I have always thought that I would limit the screen time of my own children, and I probably still will, but now I’ll remind myself that the important thing is the quality of time spent on a screen or in the neighborhood, and both can be positive for children.
  • “Nothing happens online that doesn’t happen offline.” However, the tech affect can amplify an experience in certain ways.
  • Mr. Dash: “But the thing that I think about is that that’s part of his life. It’s not over there. It’s not an artifice. It’s not the virtual world. It’s just life. And I think about that with so many experiences where, when we were fighting for validating social media and social networking, saying these would be important, these would be part of our lives and there’s a reason to include it, it was about this idea that sharing makes something better.

    I fully reject the argument — people say this all the time. You know, “I saw this young person in a restaurant on their own, on their phone, not interacting with anyone.” What do you think they were doing? They were talking to people.”

    This whole section gives me pause, because I’m not a digital native, nor do I desire to be. I want to leverage technology to serve me as a human, not the other way around, and maybe, just maybe, help create a technology that serves HUMAN learning, not machine learning. This leads me to bifurcate my life between the virtual, online world and the “real world”. While I realize that these two worlds are already indistinguishable in many respects, and I recognize that Dash’s son’s generation, the generation of my 2nd grade students, are going to see tech as a fully integrated part of life, I’m not yet comfortable with that. And I don’t know what this means for me as a teacher and ed tech user.

    Please let me know your thoughts on this tech educator dilemma if you can relate. And, if you know of any great and compelling education podcasts out there, please do share!

Going Global in Korea with Skype

This article originally appeared in the May issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here

Going Global

In 2012 the Korean Education ministry announced it’s ‘SMART Education’ plan, the ‘T’ of which stands for technology. In an effort to create an education system which is less passive, more creative and more adaptive, the plan called for wide scale integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In fact, the plan set 2015 as the deadline for digitizing the entire school curriculum to make it more accessible to 21st Century learners. Yet in spite of the reported 67% of Korean youth ages 5-19 that have smartphones and the widely touted high-speed broadband access in Korea, ICT is not leveraged for learning in most classrooms yet.

This is where Skype in the Classroom comes in. Most of us have a broadband internet connection, a computer connected to a classroom monitor, a classroom document camera, headphones with a microphone, or, if you are an online “J-Distance” teacher, you have a webcam with a built-in microphone. This is all it takes to get started and begin using the ICT in your classroom to connect your EFL students with native English speakers the world over.


Where To Start

If you do not have a Skype account, you should start there. If you already have a Skype account, you can use that as your login for Skype Education. You can create a distinct teacherly profile name, like Mr. Short, add a professional profile pic, enter your location in the world and give a brief description of your aims for using Skype in your classroom.

Next, you can ‘find a lesson’ or ‘find a teacher’. There is a really cool map with classes and teachers pinned all over the world. You can zoom in and out and see more or less teacher pins appear as a result. If you click on a pin it will automatically scroll down to that teacher’s Skype Education profile and from there you can select that person and message them directly.

My suggestion is to ‘find a teacher’ first. I spent some time searching to ‘find a lesson’, I signed up for lessons, and did not get any responses from those teachers. However, when I started searching for teachers in our general timezone, for example, classroom teachers in Australia and New Zealand or International School teachers in Japan and China, I had much more success messaging them directly and proposing a Skype classroom collaboration.


A Global Lesson

The trending Skype lesson on Twitter is #MysterySkype. This is billed as a “global guessing game” where students in each class prepare questions, hints, show and tell items, etc. that allow the other class to guess their location. Skype Education recommends that #MysterySkype beginner classes start off playing 20 questions, preparing that set of questions and a few hints to give to the other class. This is ideal for our EFL students because it allows us to pre-teach the target language; questioning, locations, directions, place specific vocabulary and more. You can scaffold the whole process and interaction for your timid Korean students by helping them fully prepare before so they know what language to expect once you are in the Skype call.

There are many more ways that innovative teachers are using this all over the world to support a wide range of content learning. Students are brainstorming conflict resolution strategies via recorded Skype messages across the world and teachers are designing standards-based social studies lessons to compare and contrast their own customs and traditions with that of a foreign culture. The tool can be used as simply as a 21st century version of penpals or as complex as a collaborative research and writing project.


My Plan

I am currently planning my first #MysterySkype lesson with a 6th grade teacher in Hobart, Tasmania. For my first lesson I want to give my students the best shot at success, so we have agreed to limit the lesson to the Australian class guessing our location through questioning. This will allow my students to answer questions concerning basic facts about Korea, which they will know. And those questions and answers can be more easily supported by a bilingual Korean co-teacher. I suspect that the creation and translation of questions from Korean to English in order for my students to figure out where in Australia those students are would be very time consuming and possibly discouraging for both parties. At least this first time, I want to be able to scaffold this process so that both parties walk away feeling successful and encouraged.

The other way you can use Skype in your classroom is via a recorded message exchange with another class, similar to the old school pen pal programs. This allows for classes to have an exchange or do #MysterySkype in spite of impossible time zone differences. So, for those of you who know a teacher back home in Canada or the U.S., there is a way to connect with them even though they are in school there while we are asleep here.

I am working with two teachers right now to set up this kind of recorded message exchange, one classroom is located in Florida, U.S.A. and is interested in doing a basic show and tell cultural exchange, while the other classroom is in northern China and wants to do a #MysterySkype lesson over the long-term. In both cases we are planning on recording one short message per week.

Our first message from Ms. Hart’s class in China.

Final Tips

As you can imagine, considering the timidity of many of our Korean students to produce authentic language on demand, planning, preparing and practicing a recorded lesson might lead to a more fruitful exchange than a live Skype lesson. However, there are ways to prepare students for the live chat as well, introducing key vocabulary, sentence stems and making it completely clear in Korean the purpose and goal of the Skype exchange.

The planning and preparation will generally require significant buy-in from your Korean co-teacher, which I know may be a tall order for many of you. You may have to put significant effort into identifying your curriculum’s target language that will be used authentically in the Skype lesson. You may also need to start with a baby step like recording a simple message for another class one time, and then checking in with the co-teacher about the possibility of an ongoing exchange. It is probably obvious to you that the value of the lesson and the time it will take to schedule and plan it may not be immediately understood and committed to by your co-teacher.

Lastly, it is important to strategically choose a class you feel has the makeup to do well and get something out of this kind of global live lesson. You know your students best and you know the ones who are outgoing and who try and chat in English with you all the time. The first few times you experiment with this kind of lesson, you should lean on those students and those classes, if you have them.

I will check back in with more info and tips once I get a few Skype lessons under my belt.






Student Survey Infographic

Nearly six months ago I conducted one of my first student interest surveys as a teacher. It was a modest attempt to learn about the learning habits and preferences of some of my 5th and 6th grade English students. To fulfill the requirements of the Teach-Now assignment I had to create and execute the survey using the Survey Monkey site. Since then I have learned to create Google Forms, added the Google Forms template gallery to my GAFE repertoire and played around with the results of such forms in Google Sheets.

Lo and behold, what arrives in my inbox just today? An update from the incredible infographics web creator, Piktocharts, announcing that you can now import Survey Monkey results and instantly make eye-catching charts! And what do I find when I start playing around with the beta version of Survey Monkey imports in Piktocharts, that I am able to link Google Sheets (and thus, the results of a Google Form) into a beautiful Piktochart infographic as well! You can watch a quick tutorial of how to import your Survey Monkey results into Piktochart here.

Needless to say, it was a good and productive day. Below you will find the results of my student interest survey in the form of an easily created Piktochart infographic. So easy and so cool and just the first of many to come!

Heads up: click on the infographic for best viewing on the web.

TN Student Interest Survey

An Ed Tech Interview with ME!

I was recently asked by a friend of mine, who is going through a teacher preparation program, to respond to a series of questions about technology in my classroom. As a current English teacher in a South Korean elementary school it may surprise the rest of the world how little technology i see used everyday at my school. One-to-one, not a one. BYOD, nope. APCATBOTD, All Phones Collected At The Beginning Of The Day.

In fact, I did my own informal survey of several students in the 5th and 6th grade and not a single said they regularly used their smart phones as a learning tool. They all had smart phones, they all had data plans and access to the internet twenty-four-seven, yet it never occurred to them that the thing was anything more than an entertainment and communication tool. It was astonishing for a much ballyhooed techie country like South Korea.

I think my answers about the limited use of technology in the different classrooms I have worked in over the years will surprise no one. The common barriers are cliche at this point; lack of PD, device access, and access to integrated lessons that are at least enhanced, if not transformed, by technology. I’m working on it, I’m motivated to experiment, I’d love some good PD and, in the mean time, I’m improvising to leverage technology any chance I get. PLN, PLN, PLN!

Here is the transcript of my Ed Tech Interview:

At what school and grade level do you teach?  How many years of teaching experience do you have?

I teach 3rd through 6th grade English as a Foreign Language at Ansim Elementary in Yeosu, South Korea. I have about eight years teaching experience, in my own English classroom, as a bilingual instructional assistant at a Seattle public elementary school, teaching adults, children, in American and many countries abroad.

Have you had any opportunities for professional development to help integrate technology into the classroom?  If so, please describe.  If not, do you want to learn more about integrating technology?

While I was an instructional assistant with Seattle public schools, we were given our own iPads to support English language development in ELL students, along with math support. However, we were given no professional development support and we had to find our own apps to support learning and design our own ways to integrate the technology. It was an interesting experience in how much work it is to truly leverage technologies for learning and how easily they can become expensive paper weights without the proper training and time for prep.

While I was going through the Teach-Now program, there was more PD on how to integrate technology, of course. In my current school district in Korea, there does not seem to be any push to leverage technology in the classroom to support or enhance learning and therefore I have received zero tech PD here. I have tried to use the knowledge and practices I gained from the Teach-Now program to integrate the limited tech that I have in my classroom and even let the students use learning apps on my own smart phone sometimes.

Describe your classroom simply, highlighting the technology available to you.

I have a large flat screen monitor connected via HDMI cable to a computer. That’s about it. Students have their smart phones taken away from them at the beginning of the day. I teach a couple extra classes after school and try to utilize my students’ smart phones then, BYOD style.

What’s your motivation for using technology in the classroom?  

I particularly like the SAMR model for tech integration in the classroom. I think technology can have a motivating power over some students, it can facilitate collaboration and authentic learning via publishing or researching on the web with other students and experts in a field. It can also allow students to exercise their curiosity whenever and wherever they want if they know the tech tools and resources available to them on the web. Tech can also encourage and enhance parent-teacher communication and collaboration.

Which form of technology do you use the most?  Why?

I use to create English vocabulary and target language mastery tests. I am planning a digital storytelling unit for 3rd and 4th grade to create stories collaboratively using I have used smart phones to look up and translate new words for students. I use ClassDojo for a visual class management system. I use them because they are free and effective in engaging my students.

What are some of the challenges of using technology in the classroom?

The limited hardware or devices I have available to me, the culture of tech integration for learning in my school and the students’ limited ideas about what a smart phone is for, ie games and texting friends. But most of all it’s the lack of identification and training on curriculum aligned technologies to support English literacy. This makes it so that I have to do all my own research on what technologies I want to use, how they work and how they would fit into a lesson and achieve what language objective.

Please provide a brief example of a lesson that went well and that integrated technology.  Why was it successful?

I have created learning centers in my extra classes, where students are working at different stations independently or in pairs, practicing a language acquisition target. The most popular center is the computer station where students independently take a quiz on new and old material that they need to master. Students love the visual elements of it, and the continually updated score that indicates their level of proficiency or mastery. They all want to get 100% and conquer the test.

Please provide an example of a lesson that integrated technology but it didn’t go well.  Why was it unsuccessful, or how could you improve it?

I can’t say that I have enough experience in experimenting with new technologies at this point to give an example of a lesson that fell flat. I hope to have that opportunity to fail with tech integration and learn from it and improve one day soon!

Do you have a tech coordinator at your school?  If so, what’s his/her role, and have you utilized those services?

No, we do not have a tech coordinator at my school. We have IT professionals, but no one who is in charge of integrating tech into the learning.

IDEA Mind Map

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - 14 Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was originally passed and signed into law in 1990, its most recent major amendments were added in 2004. This important education law ensures the “free appropriate public education” for each and every student with a disability in the United States. Among its far-reaching impacts is the creation of the Individualized Education Program (IEP), which nearly all teachers in the US are familiar with in 2015.

My teacher education program, Teach-Now, asked us to create a Mind Map of the thirteen specific cognitive and physical disabilities covered under IDEA, along with describing or providing an example of what each disability entails for the child. And finally, we were asked to provide an example of a potential individualized intervention or accommodation that a teacher would put in place in order to make the learning appropriate for a child with that specific disability.

You can view my average Mind Map on the Mindmeister website here.

However, I was recently sent a newsletter from Mindmeister informing me of a couple things of which I was previously unaware. First, if you do not sign in to your Mindmeister account for six months it will be deactivated, FYI! Second, Mindmeister has a serious catalogue of searchable public Mind Maps that anyone can access and reference (as long as you give proper credit to the maker). Check out the education public maps here.

Finally, I was blown away with a few Mind Maps that I encounter during my casual perusal of the public catalogue. I wish I had spent some time viewing well-developed Mind Maps on the site before creating my own rudimentary ones. For example, here is a thoroughly better version of an IDEA Mind Map created by Sarah Euphrasia.

What’s all the fuss about ClassDojo?

Make sure to read the comments section of this post on the pros and cons of ClassDojo. The conversation is a good one!

And here is ClassDojo’s official response to The New York Times article:

Lehrer Werkstatt

Recently the New York Times published an article bashing an app for education called ClassDojo.  I was quite shocked at the negative tone in the article.  Teachers were being accused of releasing harmful data about children into the universe.  The app was being accused of making money on advertising, even though I’ve never seen advertising on their site.  Basically, teachers were being accused of openly shaming students into being good.

Bottom line, a good app does not a good teacher make.  As with any app or with any use of positive feedback, things can go wrong.  Teachers can abuse students using discipline programs that were created to promote a more positive classroom atmosphere.  If you are not good at controlling your students, if you don’t have a positive relationship with your young scholars, a fancy app is not going to help you become a better teacher.

How I used…

View original post 584 more words

Steve Hargadon’s Interview with Jim Knight

I recently listened to one of Steve Hargadon’s EdTechLive podcasts that featured an interview with Jim Knight, author of High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching and associate research professor at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. You can find Knight’s website here and you can join his “The Big Four Ning” professional learning network here (my own membership is pending). You can also find Jim Knight on Twitter @jimknight99.

The conversation between Hargadon and Jim Knight centered around instructional coaching, high-impact strategies and teacher professionalization methods. But the conversation did not solely revolve around education jargon and get lost in the weeds. Instead, Knight and Hargadon balanced a worm’s eye view with the bird’s eye view, presenting the big picture and then drilling down to minutia within a given topic. Here is the central theme of the interview and of Knight’s latest book:

One reason why many teachers are not striving to be there best is that poorly designed professional learning can actual inhibit growth by de-professionalizing teachers, treating them like workers on an assembly line rather than professionals doing emotionally complicated knowledge work… If we are to get the schools our children deserve, we need to start by treating teachers as professionals.

Knight starts out by making his big pitch; that there is a fundamental irreconcilability with two underriding assumptions in the teaching profession today. There are some that assume that teachers are intrinsically motivated to improve their practice, and others that assume teachers will not be motivated to improve unless there is a carrot and a stick, for motivation and accountability, i.e. value-added measurements tied to teacher evaluations (the stick) and higher pay for higher impact teachers (the carrot). Knight makes no bones about it, he cites Daniel Pink’s hugely influential book Drive in making the case that teachers are generally intrinsically motivated and that extrinsic motives, coercion and punitive accountability measures are actually detrimental to the development of the profession.  He succinctly stakes out his position when he states, “The distinction between power with and power over is really fundamental to establishing a positive learning community.”

Knight is talking both about the learning environment in the classroom between teachers and students and the learning environment among professional peers striving for improved instructional practice. Knight is an expert on professional learning and Hargadon draws parallels between how Knight talks about positive and productive learning environments for professionals and those for young students, parents and children, institutions and the community. Knight picks this point up and runs with it, surmising that often what happens when schools ‘loose’ parents during the IEP process is when they are not equal partners at the table.

What follows is a discussion on the finer points of the differences between different professional learning strategies from peer learning to positive deviance and appreciative inquiry. I was not at all familiar with these approaches before listening to this podcast and so some of this part of the conversation was lost on me. However, that does not mean I will not encounter these methods in the future and I’m glad to be aware of them. A cursory google search of these strategies immediately got me reflecting on the professional development approaches I have experienced and witnessed here in South Korea. Culturally, I would say the education profession, nor many other professions on the peninsula, have embraced any of these power with instead of power over professional learning methods.  In any case, Knight’s conclusion seems to be that there is no silver bullet in terms of professional learning, the key is “freedom within structure” whatever that structure may be.

Jim Knight’s list of 7 principles that educators should use to guide their actions with colleagues:

  1. Equality
  2. Choice
  3. Voice
  4. Dialogue
  5. Reflection
  6. Practice
  7. Reciprocity

The discussion gets into some deep waters at this point, as Knight cites Bob Sutton’s leadership research (side note: I googled Bob Sutton and found a fascinating interview with the aforementioned Daniel Pink, check it out!) and Paulo Ferreira’s concept of ‘mutually humanizing’ learning and collaboration. Again this sparked an immediate reflection on the work and learning culture here in Korea, which has produced unquestionably miraculous results in the six decades since the Korean War, but is a far cry from what I envision to mean ‘mutually humanizing’. I wonder if other cultures do not need a sense of power with instead of power over in order to be successful in a collective effort. Whether it is Confucian tradition, nationalist pride, or filial piety there is definitely a different intrinsic motivator at work in Eastern cultures. I also wonder if this motivation is limited? Will it evolve to look like something more collaborative with lower power distance between authority and subordinates? Will I appreciate the greater autonomy and more collaborative spirit of teaching in the US after my experienc here in Korea? Or, will I be convinced by colleagues that the Common Core, the district central office or my principal is dictating too much of what I teach and how I grow professionally?

There is great Ted-Ed video that was recently released on understanding power structures among individuals and societies. It’s a video that students 4th grade and up could more than likely understand and engage in a discussion that could help set a classroom culture of power with instead of power over.

They move into a discussion of the use of data of professional learning in education. What is notable from this discussion is their agreement that you need to have a “clear picture of current reality” before you can make a high-impact goal. Knight says that the best use of data in the business world is when it is not used punitively, instead as an improvement tool, one of many.

Next comes content planning, which is probably the most practical portion of the discussion, especially for a new teacher like myself. Knight lays out the two most important components of excellent content planning; first, the knowledge, skills and big ideas that the students need understand and acquire. Second, is content mapping, a visual representation of the path the students will take in their learning. The common theme with both those components is that the research says that students learn best when they understand the big picture and can make connections between the individual steps and tasks of the learning along the way and how they fit into the end goal. During my Teach-Now academic studies we were required to make a variety of graphic organizers such as mind maps and infographics. This is definitely a goal of mine for my first year of teaching. I am a believer in learning maps and graphic organizers.

There is more, much more that Knight and Hargadon touch upon, all of it resonates greatly with me. Knight makes the connection between gamification and flow, the idea that if we gamify learning students could potentially enter a state of optimal experience while personalizing their own learning. The discussion then moves to the importance of storytelling in education, which is a favorite theme of mine. Then on to the moment when a little girl, Natalie Gilbert, faltered in her singing of the national anthem at a Portland Trailblazers game, was first heckled by the crowd and then assisted by Maurice Cheeks, the Blazers head coach. What ensues is heart-warming and as Knight says, literally an inspiration to all educators to be a coach like Cheeks. Open questioning as a high impact strategy to get student “authentically engaged” and how to get teachers to shift their practice to leverage it. Authentic learning as doing science, not learning about science. Knight summarizes that teachers really need “caring and control” in order to be effective, a control that comes out of . He then gives one practical tip for teachers to use to make sure they are systematically attending to all their students’ needs; make a list at the end of every week on students she may have overlooked that week and came at the end of the list, then note the positive strengths of those students at the end of the list, and make sure the following week that they are not at the end of the list (witness to the good), i.e. teach yourself to notice what’s going well.

Key takeaways:

  • Weekly list of students, positves of students at the end of the list
  • Two components of content planning: 1) content definition 2) content visual mapping
  • Seven principles of collegial interaction (see above)
  • Power with instead of power over in all learning environments

The Google Starter Toolkit for Teachers

Google Toolkit for Teachers

This Daily Genius infographic displays the basics in getting started using the suite of Google productivity mobile- and web-based apps and programs. These tools can help a teacher stay organized, curriculum map, lesson plan, create original materials, get student feedback, foster peer-to-peer collaboration, along with a host of other 21st Century skills. As a Teach-Now student-teacher we collaborated on assignments, shared research materials and communicated via these GAFE tools. On top of that, I have a Chromebook, which I absolutely love and recommend as a classroom device. In the above infographic you can see red boxes that I need to check because I am NOT yet using those Google tools. If you see a colored circle, then I am already using that tool in the classroom or as a professional productivity helper. Below I will briefly describe how I am already using the tool, if it is circled. Or, how I might use a tool that carries a red box next to it and could be leveraged in the future to further my teaching practice. My aim is to establish a baseline for my tech toolkit as a professional and see how it grows and evolves over the years.

Privacy & Security Tools – I have used a two-step verification (although it becomes a nuisance if you live or travel abroad), incognito mode to hide my history and not leave cookies, and I have learned that opt-outs are really important when managing a group of students on the Drive suite, for example. The opt-outs allow you to manage how students can interact, and more importantly, can control how they cannot interact.

Drive/Docs/Sheets/Slides – When I bought my Chromebook, it came with a 100 gigs of free Drive storage, which is not a tremendous amount, but enough to get you started using Docs, Sheets and Slides to your heart’s content. I am currently sharing videos of the lessons I am teaching for the clinical portion of my Teach-Now certification program with my cohort-mates. If you desire more Drive storage space, Google offers comparable monthly cloud storage plans to those of Dropbox and others.  Docs is a powerful collaboration tool, for creation and research. I have converted many Excel and Powerpoint files to sheets and slides, respectively. That allows me to have access to them on my phone or via the web at any time without the need for a physical storage device.

Calendar – Quite possibly my favorite Google productivity tool, I admit to being completely dependent upon my GCalendar. It’s the only way to keep track of a busy life, in my opinion. You can make as many personal or professional calendars as you like and share them with those who need access to your schedule. I know teachers who use GCalendar to curriculum map and as a weekly lesson planner.

Forms – I have little experience with Forms, but I am in the process of creating my first Forms quiz, which I will use to provide mastery vocabulary, phonics and reading practice for a small group of 3rd grade ESL students I work with after school here in Korea. My Teach-Now clinical instructor, Robert Mace, uses Google Forms regularly as a simple testing platform because Forms automatically analyzes and gathers the results of the test into a Google Sheet. When he uses it as a formative assessment, he immediately grades the students directly following the quiz, same class, same day, on the class projector, for all to see and learn from. He teaches high school science and has built a classroom culture that is positive and supportive enough for this to be appropriate. I am not sure I would use it in that same exact way at the elementary level. It is also recommended by many tech savvy teachers as a great parent and student feedback tool.

Mapmaker – Looks like an awesome community building, data or geography lesson waiting to happen. I have no experience with this tool as of yet. Stay tuned.

A Google A Day – My fiance and I are always commenting on the different ways we use Google to search for the same thing. Everyone seems to have a preferred practice or different tricks they know to get the best search results. I have a few Pins saved on Pinterest related to effective and efficient Google searching. Check out the plethora of graphics related to the subject on Pinterest here. Intentionally teaching search tips would be a practical lesson for all students and is certainly one strategy to use to close the digital divide between affluent and high-poverty students.

Google Now – I don’t currently use Google Now as my home page. I have in the past. In a quick search, I did not find anything obvious that recommended the use of this tool for teachers.

Accessibility Tools – I am not familiar with either the specific tools or how they are used in special education. However, I have seen tablets and apps used in special education classrooms to aid non-verbal and physically handicapped students. There are certainly some powerful tools out there for this use.

Blogger – Obviously I think blogging and social media should become more widely used as learning tools in the classroom. Their relevance for students cannot be questioned and the power of the collective information that can both be accessed and created via blogs and social media is immense. Conspicuously, I am posting this on WordPress. In the past I used Blogger to share my experiences working and living abroad. There are many great blogging platforms out there from the slick Silvrback to the clean creative space of Medium and the micro-blogging marketing monster that is Tumblr. Determine your purpose, identify the best platform and get posting!

Open Online Education – Course Builder has changed to Open Online Education, I was completely unaware of this Google product until now. I know of teachers who use Google Sites to create an online classroom platform. And, like many, I am anticipating the release of the Google Classroom learning management system (LMS) to a larger audience once it gets beyond beta. Course Builder is different because it is the MOOC building platform for Google and is therefore meant for a massive student audience. I have taken a few MOOC’s, but none on the Course Builder platform and I have not seen much buzz about it on social media. If you are interested in designing and creating an Open Educational Resource, here is a 7-step guide from Julie Willcott and EdSurge.

Google+ = I have just begun using Google+ as part of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I have taken part in a couple professional development Google Hangouts hosted on Google+. The CUE GIE Summits are held on Google+ and all of their Hangouts On Air are recorded and archived for future access. I am a member of the Buck Institute for Education’s (BIE) community on Google+, a community focused on project-based learning (PBL). Right now the BIE Google+ community is collaborating on the creation of the BIE Gold Standard for PBL. Finally, this Deeper Learning MOOC used their Google+ community as the principal collaboration and communication tool of the course.

Chrome – You already know that I am a Google fan. Chrome is their best product in my opinion. For me, it is even more essential than their search engine. I use the TechSmith SnagIt extension, my favorite for impressing friends with maps and labeled graphics. I also use the Diigo and Pinterest extension buttons for social media bookmarking. I use the Google website shortening extension for Twitter posts. And finally, and most importantly here in South Korea, I use the Hola Better Internet VPN extension to access content (mostly entertainment) that is limited by region. The predominant web browser here in Korea is Internet Explorer….IE!!!!! It is offensive to me.

Moderator – Not sure about this one. It looks like an out-of-date Google site to me. Not sure if this is a product they are still updating and improving and see as a future asset. It was intriguing because the caption mentioned its usefulness as a PD tool. I have my doubts though.

Translator – The website and the app are in heavy use by me. Of course, it has its limitations and one should be cautious of the fluency and grammatical accuracy it will produce, especially depending on the languages translated. However, when I was working as a Spanish language bilingual instructional assistant in a Seattle public school, myself and the rest of the bilingual staff that was called on to translate the school newsletter, permission slips, and legal documents constantly relied on Google Translate for quick reference. Use it with reasonable expectations. It could certainly be used in classrooms to get the gist of a piece of information that was found in foreign language.

Sites – This is an easy way to create your own website, with limited design possibilities. One of my Teach-Now instructors used it as his online classroom platform and had built himself a large cache of great education resources that could be accessed by students and teachers alike. I have not created a Google Site myself, but may consider in the future.

Groups – My primary experience with Google Groups was in my capacity as a board member for Long Way Home, a non-profit building a sustainable school out of repurposed waste materials in rural Guatemala. We used Groups to communicate, share documents, and collaborate on assigned domains of responsibility between US-based board members and Guatemala-based staff. It is easy to use, easy to set up and can facilitate collaboration in many basic ways and can be a closed classroom community as opposed to a Google+ community which is public.

Chromebooks – There is a lot to write here, from the basic pros and cons of the device in the classroom, to the policy debates around large tech role outs like the botched, highly-publicized iPad adoption by LA Unified School District which got a superintendent fired. There are Bring-Your-Own-Device proponents (BYOD) and those who point to the digital divide and say we need to spend the money to close the gap among students of different socio-economic backgrounds. This is a subject for a whole other post. For now, I will say that I am typing this post on a Chromebook, I have used my Samsung Chromebook for the entirety of my online teacher certification program with Teach-Now, if you are in need of a new computer and don’t want to invest in a costly Apple product, then consider buying a Chromebook. The cloud is the future and the present, Chromebooks operate primarily in the cloud and I am a big proponent of it as a professional device and a classroom device.

Scholar – I think Google Scholar has been around long enough that most educators and students of a certain age are aware of it as learning resource. As more open source academic, peer-reviewed content becomes available on the web, Scholar should grow as a hub for that content. It is a the best free search tool in establishing the most important or most recent scholarly articles on a particular subject or by a particular academic. But it is limited by copyright in terms of what can actually be accessed and read or downloaded from it.

Cultural Institute – Last, but certainly not least, is the Google Cultural Institute, which if you click on one link in this entire post, it should be this one! Do it now! This is a huge rabbit hole of art, history, art history and cultural heritage in one digital museum site. I was unaware of this resource until making this post and upon first look, I am thoroughly impressed. The collection of historic images alone is a fantastic resource for teachers and of personal interest to me as history lover. I could see teachers accessing high-res images important works of art from The Art Project to show and lead a Visual Thinking Strategies discussion. I recommend perusing the collection of Life Magazine photos for starters. And as a resident of Korea, I am planning on perusing the Jeju National Museum archive as well.