This semester I am teaching a class that is a little out of my normal realm of work. I’m teaching a leadership class in the Kinesiology Department here at the University of Kentucky. Most of the students want to be college coaches, rec coordinators, athletic administrators, or front office employees in the sports world. Although this class is a bit different from much of my other current work, I was very excited to teach the course. I’ve been very involved with athletics and sports organizations in many different roles throughout my life. I also recognized that the meat and potatoes of this course were certainly leadership skills and sports were just the gravy that adds flavor to the conversation.
While “tweaking” the syllabus of the former instructor, I carefully considered ways to enhance the course. With that in mind, I decided to add a component that focused on developing personal learning networks through the use of social media. In our first class, students actually created a “Low-Tech Social Network” by creating avatars and tags on note cards. They then had to make connections with one another. Unfortunately, my board was too small for the group that I had!
(Check out Gamestorming for this activity and many others that are great for work with groups.)
Last week our class dove more deeply into social media, and I was encouraged to blog about my findings :)
Prior to class students read a series of articles around the use of social media in sports organizations. They also participated in a class discussion board led by two moderators. I was surprised by how much the discussion threads focused on the student-athletes use of social media. Much of the conversation focused on ways to educate, filter, monitor, or block students use of social media. Although I found that conversation fascinating, I was more interested in two other ways social media can be used in athletics. I wanted them to become aware of ways that organizations were using social media. More importantly, I wanted to help them recognize how they can use social media to stay connected and informed about their profession. I think this is so important that one of their assignments for the semester is to grow their social presence. My criteria are fairly lenient. Some may choose to grow their network by connecting and interacting with others in their field. Other students may just dip their toes in and use social media as a listening station where they can gain insight from insiders and others in their field.
Although there are sure to be individuals in this new information rich interconnected society who succeed without such tools, they won’t be the norm. Organizations and individuals who embrace social media will be able to connect in ways that are not possible without the use of technology!
I recently read a blog post that is certainly worth reading. Brett Clark’s post, 6 pillars of a 1:1 initiative, is a good read for current and future 1:1 educators. His list included:
- Learning initiative
- Professional development
- Digital Citizenship
- Time and patience
His list stresses many of the things that I talk about frequently. However, his point about choice is one that I don’t talk about nearly as often. I like the concept of student choice, and it is certainly a powerful way to engage students in many educational activities. I also wonder what that looks like in a school setting. How do teachers deal with it and support students? How about tech directors? I’m not opposed, but I get lost in the logistics. I’d love to know more!
This week I will have the opportunity to work with a school that has implemented a pilot 1:1 program while simultaneously focusing on implementing inquiry based instruction. Last year I had the opportunity to work with a group of their teachers as they planned to make this change to their learning environment. According to early reports, things have gone successfully thus far.
Their implementation was different than the ways that many schools implement 1:1, but it is a model others should consider. The change in their learning environment focused on an instructional change (inquiry based learning). A 1:1 pilot program was just one part of the plan that would support teachers as they changed the ways that they taught. Too often, 1:1 schools approach their implementation with a far different approach. Some simply set their goal as going 1:1, and fail to connect that goal to any learning initiative. For those of you that have been reading this blog for any length of time, that last sentence should sound familiar. I am extremely concerned about how often schools transition to 1:1 without having a goal other than “transitioning to 1:1”. In fact, I think this problem is becoming worse as more and more schools implement 1:1 at a very rapid pace. There are a couple of good question to ask yourself and your colleagues. How does 1:1 connect to other learning initiatives in your school? Is it something separate or is it a tool used to support other plans in your district? My hope is that more 1:1 schools are able to provide answers to these questions that indicate that 1:1 is connected to a change in the teaching and learning in a school.
It is that time of year again when many people make their New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, many of those resolutions fail for a multitude of reasons. Two common challenges are that the goals are sometimes unrealistic or there may be a lack of support for the goals. With those considerations in mind, I’ve created a list of possible New Year’s resolutions for educators along with possible support networks for them. Change: Begin to replace outdated or irrelevant print materials with more rigorous online resources.
- Support: Don’t throw out all of the resources you currently have. It may be better to target just one course, or only portions of a course.
- Support: Find another educator who teaches similar content and ask them to do the same thing and share resources with one another.
Change: Create or expand your personal learning network.
- Support: Schedule a 15 minute block once each week to build your network.
- Support: Find someone who has created a successful PLN to ask about recommended resources. If you can find someone with similar interests, that will be more helpful.
Change: Implement an online/virtual component to a course that expands the learning experience for students. You could partially flip the classroom, bring in virtual guest speakers, or collaborate with another class from a different location.
- Support: Chat with another teacher at your school or elsewhere who has implemented some of these items.
- Support: Recruit students to help with the technical aspects of these items.
Change: Observe other teachers who are using technology in innovative ways.
- Support: Ask your administration for class coverage so you can observe another class. Although you couldn’t do this all of the time, most administrators would be happy to do this a couple of times.
Change (Administrator Specific): Provide specific feedback to teachers around the ways they are using technology.
- Support: Identify an “expert” who can help you with your initial walk-throughs.
- Support: Identify a simple, easy to understand vocabulary that you can use to provide feedback. Bernajean Porter’s Spectrum is a favorite of mine!
It certainly isn’t realistic or healthy to try to implement all of these changes at once. However, these items by themselves are things that can be implemented with some effort and commitment. Good luck and Happy New Year!
Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to work with a group of teachers at the American Embassy Schools in New Delhi who are currently or will be implementing a 1:1 program of some sort. Unfortunately, I only had one hour and we didn’t get to have as deep of conversation as I would have liked. During that time, I wanted to provide teachers with some things to consider in their classrooms, and I gave them three big ideas to consider.
Focus on HOW you are using technology rather than just IF you are using technology.
I cringe when I hear conversations that focus on whether or not technology is being used (at schools or at home). Sometimes we equate technology use, any technology use, as an improvement to instruction. As teachers and school leaders, the focus needs to shift to HOW technology is being used. Does it improve the learning experience for students?
Consult the experts about ways to use technology to enhance teaching and learning.
We often think of tech integrators, media directors, and tech savvy teachers as our technology experts in the school. They certainly are extremely valuable resources. In addition, I strongly encouraged teachers to also identify the experts that exist within their classrooms. All students certainly are not technology experts, but it is HIGHLY likely that there are a few in nearly every class.
Create a professional network and stay informed on trends related to your topic.
Developing networks outside of your school building is one way to stay current on whatever you teach. Technology should certainly be a part of the conversation with any group of educators who come together to discuss educational topics. Technology is also the tool that will allow teachers to make those connections even when they are not able to meet face-to-face on a regular basis.
Although this list certainly isn’t all inclusive, it hopefully captures a couple of major points to consider for all 1:1 educators. Keeping these ideas in mind when preparing or working in a 1:1 environment may better prepare teachers to use technology as a real change vehicle.
After only one week at the American Embassy School (AES) in Delhi, I’ve had the opportunity to gain some great insight into the school from the perspectives of students, teachers and administration. I’ve conducted some classroom walk-throughs and met with multiple groups. One meeting in particular stands out in regards to the use of technology at AES. On Friday, I met with a student group and listened to them discuss their thoughts as they prepare for the transition to 1:1. Part of that discussion was around the device that their school will choose. The school is debating whether to move to 1:1 with iPads or the Mac Air. Interestingly, although most students (80%) already have some type of laptop, the large majority of students indicated they would prefer moving to 1:1 with the Air laptops. I was surprised by this finding from the student survey. The school is also meeting with each department to assess which device will better meet the needs of their department. Although the conversation around the device is certainly interesting, I found other parts of the student’s discussion much more interesting. In particular, students highlighted two extremely important points for all 1:1 educators. I must also say that I was blown away by the way students participated in the discussion. Not only were they extremely articulate, they also truly listened to one another and were able to respectfully debate with one another.
The first major point students made was about the ways that computers were currently being used. They delivered a message that I often try to deliver. They described how technology was often used in ways that didn’t really change what they were doing. It helped them with their organization and may have increased their efficiency, but it didn’t necessarily change the ways they learned. That message aligns with the ways that I often see technology used. My challenge to the administrators at that meeting was to aggressively try to empower teachers to use the technology in ways that will truly change the learning experience of students. Next week I’ll be working with the entire administration team, and I hope to help them develop a walk-through tool that can assess the ways in which technology is being used.
The next major point students made was that they wanted to be able to personalize their devices as much as possible and make them their own. The students had questions about the things they would be able to put on their devices as well as summer use. Obviously, both of these issues present challenges on school owned devices. They do, however, raise some questions to consider. Are there ways that students can keep their devices over extended breaks? If not all students, can some students submit “proposals” why they need their device? Are there other ways that students can make the device more personal so that they don’t need a second laptop or desktop?
When describing the design process, my colleague ,John Nash, always highlights the importance of hearing from all stakeholders. AES faculty were wise to meet with and listen to their students. The concerns, questions, and opinions they shared should help the school as they transition to 1:1. Similar conversations with student focus groups could also be valuable for any 1:1 school.
*On a personal note, I’m excited to say that I wrote this on my way to the Taj Mahal! It was more spectacular than I imagined!
For the next four weeks, I’ll be in Delhi, India working alongside educators at the American Embassy School (AES) as part of their new visiting scholars program. AES implemented a 1:1 program at their middle school last year, and are currently making plans for their high school 1:1 deployment. My work here will focus on ways that they can use technology to strengthen an already very strong school. One component of that work will involve conversations around a walk-through tool to use with teachers. My work with school leaders as well as individuals involved with ed tech has revealed that there seem to be two major mindsets around how to use walk-throughs to assess how technology is being used in classrooms.
- Camp 1-Technology is specifically assessed including the frequency and ways in which the technology is being used.
- Camp 2-Individuals who believe technology should not be specifically monitored in the walk-through. Instead, administrators should just focus on effective instruction recognizing technology is part of that model.
Throwing walk-throughs around technology into two camps is certainly oversimplifying the subject a bit. However, I do think this oversimplification highlights much of the conversation around what things to include on a walk-through in a technology rich school. So where should 1:1 schools or other tech-rich schools fall? My strong belief is that “it depends”. For schools that are new to 1:1, or are just moving into a technology rich environment, Camp 1 seems to make sense. After investing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in technology, I would want to know two things immediately.
How frequently is the technology being used?
How is the technology being used?
- How is the technology impacting student learning?
- How is the technology impacting teaching?
Although those are pretty basic questions, they can help paint a picture of what is happening in classrooms. They can also provide insight when planning and developing professional development. As schools become more comfortable with what is happening with technology, the focus of their walk-throughs may certainly change to what I referred to as Camp 2. Their walk-through may become a bit more traditional in what they are looking at. Rather than looking at the tools that are being used as well as the frequency of their use, these walk-throughs looks at the “big picture” of what is happening in the classroom. Technology may become a bit of a footnote on the walk-through. However, I would argue that most schools are not yet in a place to ignore how technology is being used in classrooms. Continuing to assess the frequency and ways that technology is used may provide very valuable for even more veteran 1:1 schools.
Although the data that is collected is certainly important, the next step is much more crucial. Schools must actually DO SOMETHING once they have collected their data. Creating professional development and learning opportunities based on that data is essential. Walk-throughs may also provide the opportunity to provide teachers with feedback and allow them to reflect on their practice.
I recently ran across a very interesting blog post titled How Should We Respond to Teens’ Racist Tweets. Reading the post and the tweets reinforced my belief on how poorly most schools are doing educating their students about digital citizenship. Although the sample is relatively small, the tweets from the teens are disturbing. I certainly do realize that schools can’t be responsible for all of the actions of their students, but I also wonder how well the topic of digital citizenship has been addressed with these students. Of course, digital citizenship is only part of the issue here. The racist message the teens shared was certainly the true problem. That post along with the tweets may be great conversation starters for your students around some very important topics!
One fear that I do have any time I read a post like this, is that technology will be held responsible as the cause or driving force behind this issue rather than the racist message the teens posted. Is the medium, technology, truly the culprit here, or is it simply a new broadcasting device? Although I don’t believe technology is the culprit, I do believe strongly that technology adds a unique dimension to this issue. The audience and publicity of the message certainly change things. Schools need to focus on educating students about all of the ramifications of their digital footprint. Unfortunately, that focus is often on the negative things such as this. A common message is, “Don’t post X, Y, or Z on (insert web 2.0 tool here)”. That message certainly needs to be shared with students, but it shouldn’t be the only message. There should also be a focus on all of the positive things students can accomplish using social media. Social media can also be used as a tool for positive social change! I worry that a post like the one mentioned may encourage people to dwell on only the negative aspects. Schools should not forget to focus on the good, as well as the negative, uses of social media!
Last week I had a virtual book study on Leading Technology-Rich Schools by authors Barbara Levin and Lynne Schrum. We were fortunate to have Dr. Schrum join us for the conversation to give us additional insight into the book. The book included multiple case studies of schools that had successfully integrated technology into the learning environment, and most of the schools were 1:1 schools. If you’d like, you can view the entire video by clicking here. There were some things that Dr. Schrum said that really stood out to me. Those points included the importance of:
- Effective leadership
- Dr. Schrum stressed how leadership was key to systematic change.
- A clear vision
- I have frequently observed the lack of vision as one of the most common flaws with schools that implement 1:1. The school leaders in the book established a clear vision for their school.
- Risk taking
- Dr. Schrum talked about how teachers were able to be risk takers and were not afraid. Does your school encourage that type of behavior?
- Changing teaching practices
- A big focus of many of the schools was project based learning. She also talked about how many of the successful teachers focused on students “showing” their knowledge. One example she used was of students who were able to choose the format they would use to present information.
- Teachers also used technology to easily collect and sort data so that they could adjust instruction.
It may be interesting for you, or your leadership team, to consider where you fall in regards to each of these items. Can you improve the effectiveness of your 1:1 initiative by focusing on one of these things?
I recently read Leading Technology-Rich Schools
, and am excited to announce a book study with co-author Lynne Schrum. Throughout the book, Lynne and Barbara Levin did a very nice job identifying effective practices for effective school leadership centered around technology and then highlighted those practices through case studies of numerous schools. The case studies make the book different than similar books that cover the same topic. Those real life stories are extremely helpful as schools transition to a more technology rich learning environment. Many of the case studies in the book did focus on 1:1 schools. Even if you haven’t read the book, you can still join our conversation on Thursday evening.
When: Thursday at 6:00 p.m. EST
How to connect: We’ll use Adobe Connect for our conversation. Click here
and log-in as a guest. If you haven’t used Adobe Connect, you should test your system prior to the conversation by clicking here