Teacher-librarians Constructing Understanding through Inquiry is a strategic partnership between the Saskatchewan School Library Association (SSLA), a special subject council of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, and the Ministry of Education. The intent is to develop supports for instruction to be used by educators, particularly teacher-librarians, as they strive to understand and actualize their role in an inquiry-based learning environment.
The partnership invited educators to participate in the live webinar series for Inquiry. I was honoured to share ways inquiry can be enriched through the use of technology, such as developing questions, information seeking, reflecting, documenting, assessing, and presenting learning.
Educators are discovering powerful apps that allow for student creation. Apps, such as Educreations and Popplet, foster the demonstration and synthesis of their learning.
With the multitude of digital files, attention must be directed to workflow and organizational management. How do students submit digital work products? And… How do teachers then provide feedback ?
In a paperless world, teachers and students can easily find themselves just as disorganized and unstructured with digital artifacts housed on different computers and the cloud. Productivity apps offer promising solutions to workflow issues. Workflow, as defined by Dictionary.com, is the sequence of processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. The productivity apps increase students’ workflow by leveraging the power of the cloud, allowing students to create, collaborate, and receive feedback anywhere and anytime.
The presentation outlines apps that enhance students’ workflow within a shared environment.
In a recent article in Edutopia entitled ”How the iPad Can Transform Classrooms”, Ben Johnson raises awareness of the difference between using mobile devices as a way to teach students versus the mobile device as a tool to learn for students.
The lesson planning questions I hope my teachers will learn to ask will change from “How can I teach this content?” to, “How can I get students to learn this content?” I hope they will answer this question with open-ended learning activities rather than saying, “I have an app for that.”
Johnson calls for the paradigm shift in seeing mobile devices as a TOOL TO THINK WITH:
Sure there may be some useful apps that help the student gain the skills, knowledge or insight into the subject, and a teacher might want the class to do it together, but focusing solely on the apps, or student control, limits the true potential of the iPad — “a tool to think with.”
Tolisano, in her Langwitches blog, states the level of disconnect between the teacher and curricular outcomes and the pedagogical relationship that needs to be in place for an app to be a match to use in a classroom or with an individual learner.
A disconnect often reveals itself through requests for app recommendations, such as questions such like:
“What app could I use to help my students practice their mathematics facts?”
“What app would you recommend to help my students read?”
“I want to use iPads in my Science class. What app is good for that?”
The power of mobile devices is not its entertainment value or to be a replacement for quality instruction. Mobile devices do not teach students, not do the devices help students acquire understanding of a concept or skill. To be blunt, the app will not help students understand a concept they are already having difficulty mastering. Tolisano encourages eductors to look at the difference of using an app to automate and substitute a task versus informate and transform in her post Enhancement-Automating-Transforming-Informating ).
The questions, therefore, should focus on:
The value an app can bring to a learner (and being able to articulate the value). It is not a direct replacement of a task traditionally accomplished without the mobile device
The connection from the app to curriculum content (and being able to demonstrate the depth of that connection)
The possibilities the app can bring to create, communicate, critically think, and collaborate
The flexibility of the app to personalize and differentiate to meet students’ individual needs, and
The ability of the app to be used as evidence of learning
As school-embedded literacy support, I wanted to incorporate technology into reading. The apps chosen foster a deepening of practiced skills and concepts.
What is the forecast for 2013 in regards to technology and education? Changes to the way education is approached are peppered throughout the various innovations and advances. The following lists my top five predictions, based on the readings of the industry’s top gurus, of which technology trends will be the most interesting or influential this year.
1. Using the Network To Connect and Produce
Today, there are more things connected to the Internet than there are people in the world. In 2013, teaching and learning will be increasingly connected, integrated and flexible. Students will be empowered by the network; they will be able to quickly and easily access needed content pertient to their inquiry and connect with global experts to further their knowledge and view diverse perspectives. Not only will students be able to access and connect with needed information and resources, the network will also foster the individual design of their learning experiences.View TechyTeacher for more ideas!
2. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing technologies support networking. The cloud provides students with access to resources, including data and applications, without the restrictions of a single location or computer. It also allows the opportunity for students to contribute to, and sychronize work, on any device with an Internet connection, whether it be a laptop, desktop computer, smartphone or tablet device. Cloud computing facilitates ease of collaboration. Some services allow several users to be created, and students can then choose to allow other users, or even the general public, to access some or all of their files, with read or edit rights as desired from anywhere and from nearly any device. Services such as Dropbox and Windows Live SkyDrive offer users a fast and easy way to transport documents and files between a user’s individual and the school network, potentially eliminating the need for lost USB sticks and other portable storage options. The continuity among devices provides a continuous experience for users. View TechyTeacher’s Online Research Containers for ideas!
In 2012, “bring your own device” model took root. Many classes allow for the seamless use and integration of students’ personal devices for educational purposes and facilitate connections to school networks. Education is realizing people live in, and thrive in, a multi-device mobile world, where students are increasingly relying on their iPad and smartphones for just about everything. Bring Your Own Device has transformed the classroom by creating new opportunities for learning, such as the use of different media to differentiate learning needs, the control of, and personalization of learning, and interactive learning using specialized apps. In SPS, two elementary and one collegiate are piloting a BYOD initiative.
4. Connecting Using SMS
SMS allows eductors to connect with their students using the networking and communication channels of students’ choice. SMS can be used to update students of pending deadlines, schedule changes, and other newsworthy information. Communication is instantaneous and can be accessed on any Internet connected device. View TechyTeacher’s Shifting The Classroom for more ideas!
5. Using Social Networks
Friending on Facebook, to photo and video sharing on Instagram and Vimeo, to creating playlists on Spotify and Songza, 2013 will bring more custom networks that gateway to smaller, more focused social networks. Students can customize their learning to suit their evolving needs. Visit TechyTeacher’s Personal Learning Network for more ideas.
What tech trends do you anticipate seeing in 2013? What would you like to see?
According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life survey, 86 percent of teenagers believe that writing well is important. However, the teens do not view their writing as authentic. Yet, ironically, it is the writing in which they find the most pleasurable, that they do most eagerly and, arguably, that they do most successfully.
The “Digital” in Digital Writing
What distinguishes “digital” writing from traditional writing? Digital technologies facilitate “writing” in new ways. Computer applications and digital publishing spaces allow students to construct and weave multiple media (e.g., images, voice and other sounds, music, video, print, graphics), layered together across space and time to produce interactive, hyperlinked artifacts. The artifact can then be easily shared, and connected, with a global audience.
However, the use of technologies is only part of digital writing. Digital writing is not teaching writing with technology, but rather teaching writing in spaces that allow students to write with technologies. This involves a powerful pedagogical shift, and all powerful changes are cultural. Writing has been radically changed by the collaborative and conversational affordances of networked technologies. Technologies allow writers with access to an online network to become not only publishers and distributors of their writing,but collaborators and communicators. Therefore, audiences and writers are related to each other more interactively in time and space.
Digital writing is not only networked, but involves new modes and media. Writers can easily integrate the work of others into new meanings via new media and rescripting of existing media—text, image, sound, and video.The depth and breadth of this type of collaboration—both implicit (“borrowing” from others) and complicit (communities of writers)—may be one of the most significant impacts of technologies on the contexts and practices of writing (WIDE Media Network). This context presses up against larger issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, access, credibility of sources, and dissemination of information (DeVoss, 2001; DeVoss & Rosati, 2002).
Making “the Digital” Work for Teaching and Learning
In most classrooms, “writing” entails composing words on paper, prose in sentences and paragraphs. And from this perspective, technologies are incidental to writing, simply a means of producing, it but not actually part of the art or process of writing. Digital writing, in fact all writing, is more than style, syntax, coherence, and organization—meaning at the level of the sentence and the paragraph.
Embracing a digital writing environment involves a shift in pedagogy based on these principles:
Situated in contexts of rich affordances for writing. Affords basic infrastructural and semiotic wrtiting choices for students
Linked to a thoughtful, critical consciousness of technology. Facilitates a thoughtful, critical selection among tools for performing writing tasks and preparing compositions among many options
Anchored by multimodal approaches to writing. Juxatposing, scripting, and layering multiple media, including photographs, charts, video, images, audio, diagrams, hyperlinks, and more to create sophisticated messages
Digital writing means starting and sustaining discussions about approaches to integrating different technologies for different tasks and goals. Fostering a digital writing environment means students having the technology and skills they need to progress their writing at their immediate disposal. The list of technologies to help students in terms of production (process) and distribution (delivery) are numerous; however this blog’s sister site,TechyTeacher has categorized substantial process and delivery technologies.
In the information age, it is becoming increasingly important that students have the literacy skills to effectively and efficiently locate, analyze, and use information that is current, reliable, and relevant. Information literate students understand how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to remix information in such a way that others can learn from them.
This month, The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released How Teens Do Research in the Digital World.The study renders mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies. According to their survey of teachers, the Internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up. The teachers believed that digital search tools have a mostly positive impact on student research, they had serious concerns about student distraction, their use of a narrower range of resources, their expectations of quick answers, and their difficulty finding credible sources.
Despite viewing the overall impact of today’s digital environment on students’ research habits as “mostly positive,” the teachers rated the research skills of their students as modest. A focus on digital literacy was identified as a pressing need for today’s students.
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
a. plan strategies to guide inquiry.
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
d. process data and report results.
But what does this look like in the classroom?
Perhaps it needs to start with a critical look at curricular practice – an examination of pertinent practice, purposeful practice, and the essentials for our learners. Stephen Wilmarth (2009) states that technology is altering the very nature of pedagogy. As educators, we cannot expect to “think the same” about teaching when the act of teaching is shifting dramatically as a result of technology and access to information. Tim Tyson (2009) concurs by stating that effort needs to shift the culture to one that “makes learning irresistible”.
If we want students to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies, we need to transform our schools into learning organizations based on pursuits that are worthy, relevant, and student-led.
TechyTeacher, our sister blog, provides digital tools and ideas for rethinking and reinventing learning opportunities.
Bring your own device (BYOD) refers to technology models where students bring a personally owned device to school for the purpose of learning.
Becta’s (2009) research demonstrates there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that digital technologies can have a positive impact on learners. Specifically, research shows that integrating digital technologies into the learning environment and embedding these technologies into teacher pedagogical practice can
positively impact on student engagement and motivation, including improving their confidence levels, attitudes towards their own learning, and behaviour as well as decreasing absenteeism
promote improved opportunities for students to control the construction of knowledge and to learn through collaboration and conversation, and
improve connections across sites of learning, and with the real world, through formal and informal online networks and access to global communities with expertise and perspectives that can enhance and enrich learning.
Digital technologies have changed the landscape of learning. Students can now have unlimited access to digital content, resources, experts, databases and communities of interest. By effectively leveraging such resources, educators have the opportunity to deepen student learning and to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours that students require to live, learn and work (Alberta Learning, 2012).
In Saskatoon Public Schools, we want our students to use technologies in transformational and inquiry-based learning environments with teachers who use a variety of technologies to create the conditions for deep learning.The Powering Up Students project was developed to support teachers and students in creating a rich learning environment through powerful instruction and students bringing and using their own devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops etc. One collegiate and two elementary schools, were selected from the applications to pilot the project.
Peter DeWitt (2012) counters the voices who speak against BYOD. DeWitt warns that if BYOD is going to be the mantra of the school system, they need to make sure that the end justifies the means. There has to be a reason that the devices are allowed. That reason must be to increase student learning.
It takes a lot of work for schools to be prepared for BYOD. Key structures must be in place such as policies surrounding infrastructure, hardware specifications, responsible/appropriate use, network access and bandwidth, equity of access, and parental communication.
Consideration of the school’s readiness for a BYOD model must be addressed including pedagogy, effective technological use, digital fluencies, digital citizenship, and evidence-based practice.
Combined with a sound infrastructure and pedagogy, BYOD has the capacity to help students personalize their learning, connect with other learners in dynamic ways, collaborate with global partners, and to express and share their learnings in robust ways.
Formative assessment ensures students are learning successfully, as we constantly review data regarding students’ learning performance and our implementation and modification of instructional strategies to improve student achievement.
What does good assessment practices look like? Cale Birk argues that schools need to be places where students are inspired to try instead of where students spend their time cowering in fear of failure. Bill Ferriter claims that we need to create buildings that take a mastery — instead of performance — orientation to learning outcomes. Mindshift also tackles this issue by stating the difference between mastery and performance orientiations to learning, is the difference between the kind of learning that students experience in summer camps and the kind of learning in today’s high-stakes classrooms. According to Mindshift, in summer camps, students learn for the sake of learning. Every day is an opportunity to explore, to think, and to experiment without worrying if you are correct or will experience failure.
In the words of Rick Stiggins, hitting targets is not half as important
as being willing to continue shooting in mastery-driven learning environments.
Dean Shareski has uploaded several videos about assessment to help teachers develop a positive learning culture.
Student Involved Assessment - This 2004 video is still relevant as educators delve into providing effective formative assessment. The video features various students and teachers talking about assessment for learning.
Rethinking Assessment - Jill Tressel looks at ways teachers are using student involvement and assessment for learning as a new approach to helping students.
A digital footprint is a trail left by your interactions in the digital environment; including usage of mobile phone, Internet and mobile web and other devices and sensors. How much of your information from your daily life gets recorded by big business and Big Brother? Play Discovery Channel’s simple scenario game to determine the digital footprint you are imprinting and leaving behind.
How do we help our students to have a positive digital footprint - to think about behaviors, expectations and skills needed when interacting with others in digital spaces? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a research project entitled Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites, aimed at understanding teenagers’ behaviour online. The report examined teens’ pro-social and anti-social behaviours, ranging from the creation of support groups to cyber bullying and cyber harassment in online spaces.