Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Talking about Technology

As Tech Coordinator one of my jobs this year is to meet regularly with every grade level and all the specialist departments to discuss technology and learning.  Sometimes these meetings are concerned with some of the "housekeeping" tasks (distributing equipment, setting up accounts etc), sometimes they are concerned with training (how to use various peripherals, different Web 2.0 tools, ePortfolios etc) and sometimes they are about technology standards for both students and teachers.  For the past few weeks these talks have been about the ISTE standards - we've been looking at the NETS-T rubrics to self assess where we are as individual teachers and as a grade, and where we need to move forward.

At my first meeting with each group I explained to teachers that the standards that we are looking at now are in fact the second version of the ISTE-Ts.  The first ones that were published in 2000 dealt with technology operations and concepts, the curriculum, productivity, integration and so on.  The new NETS-Ts published in 2008 differ considerably as there is more focus on 21st century skills.  In his book Digital Community, Digital Citizen Jason Ohler notes that there are 6 words that appear in the 2008 standards that are absent in the earlier version:  creativity, innovation, digital, citizenship, culture and global.

The implication of these 6 words are huge.  As Ohler points out, "we must move beyond technology integration toward idea generation ... beyond mere curriculum integration or as a means to simply update the status quo with new tools.  Instead we need to use them to generate, explore and use new ideas that challenge and redefine the status quo." This is something that I think many schools still don't "get".  They are still talking about tech integration and tools.

One of our discussions today was about helping students to engage in a global community.  Our Grade 2 teachers discussed the importance of this in an international school in Mumbai with children of 50 different nationalities, compared with, for example, children in a rural/monocultural part of the USA or indeed any other country.  Students everywhere do need to understand a multicultural, pluralistic, interconnected world.  Our students, of course, are faced with these every day.  We also talked about how important it is that our students can participate as citizens in "local, global and digital communities simultaneously" and as a natural part of their everyday lives.  Being connected brings an added dimension:  students move from thinking in terms of "I" and "they", and start to think in terms of "we".

Photo Credit:  Me, We by Joe Stratton, 2011 AttributionNoncommercial

Redefining Citizenship

One of the strands of ICT in the PYP is becoming responsible digital citizens.  In the document, the Role of ICT in the PYP, it is defined in the following way:
Becoming a responsible digital citizen involves using ICT to make informed and ethical choices while acting with integrity and honesty.  In a globally connected digital world, learners are empowered to be responsible for their actions, to value others' rights and to practise safe and legal behaviours.
I've been thinking about this as I have started to read Jason Ohler's new book Digital Community, Digital Citizen.  In the introduction to this book Ohler writes about how it is the shifting of society that is leading to a redefinition of citizenship during periods of large-scale transformational events such as revolutions.  What emerges at the end of these periods is a new understanding of what is truly important as individuals' rights, duties and participation change in a new social order.  The important point about this redefinition, Ohler writes, is that as societies redefine their hopes and aspirations, what they want their education system to accomplish also changes.

Over the past few years we've been told by prominent writers and speakers such as Seth Godin and Sir Ken Robinson that the education system that was designed to fit the factory economy is no longer relevant.  As we think about what new skills our students need for their lives, we cannot do this without also thinking about the technology that will be part of their lifestyles.  If we as teachers don't address the emerging issues such as internet safety and responsible digital citizenship, then who do we expect will do it?  Jason Ohler writes:
If schools don't make it their primary mission to help students understand not only how to use technology but also when and why, then we have no right to expect our children to grow up to be the citizens we want the to be and that the world needs them to be ... If we don't help our digital kids balance personal empowerment with a sense of community responsibility, then future generations will inherit a world that does not represent anyone's dream of what is best for humanity.
Photo is of a wall painting at our secondary school campus 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Multi-device approaches to learning

While many schools are switching to iPads, others are questioning whether they are really the ideal tools for students to use for creation.  Following a prototype last year, my own school stipulated that for the BYOD programme students must bring a laptop, however I'm on an R&D Task Force that is investigating tablets, smartphones and so on as a second device for students to use.  Currently we are involved in research and I'm reading as much as I can about how students are using mobile devices in addition to their laptops, so I was very interested in a report that I came across today about the use of technology by university students.  This study highlighted the following:

  • laptops are the tool of choice for production (creating coursework content) 
  • 83% of students owned a laptop
  • mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are used mostly for consumption and communication
  • 19% of students own tablets and/or eReaders
  • 96% of students who own tablets also own laptops

The tablets are therefore being used as part of a multi-device approach to learning and the important thing, it seems, is to help students to use the right tool for the task.

As mentioned in a previous post, a survey of our elementary teachers showed that their 2nd device of choice is a smartphone.  There could be many reasons for this, but I suspect the most important of these is that they are small, very portable, always with us and always connected, whereas tablets are larger and rely on a wifi connection.  Just today I looked around the faculty meeting after school and noticed several people taking notes on their phones and some may well also have been checking their email or sending messages.  I also saw phones being used earlier today by both teachers and parents at the Curiosity Project Breakfast Party to take quick photos or maybe even short video.  All the students had laptops, so there was no need to use any other devices to check websites, however I did see some parents pulling out their iPads and using them in addition to the laptops as reading devices.  Another reason why I think phones scored so highly in the survey of secondary devices is that they are small enough to put into your pocket, so teachers carry them around more.  Again, checking in the lunchroom earlier I noticed teachers with their phones on the tables (whereas I didn't see any iPads there).

Our middle and high school teachers will shortly also be filling in a survey about their choice of secondary devices.  I'm curious to see if the results of this survey match those of our elementary teachers.

Photo Credit:  The iOS Family Pile by Blake Patterson, 2012 Attribution 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rethinking and Redefining Roles

One of the highlights of the ISTE Conference in San Diego last summer was going to Will Richardson's presentation on Unlearning.  I was really pleased, therefore, when I was given the book last week Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, to see that Will has written the Foreword to that book.  The amazing thing for me to read was that by the end of the decade it is predicted that 5 billion people will be connected through smart phones, tablets, laptops and whatever else may be developed between now and then.  That's absolutely incredible to me.  Twenty years ago nobody was connected:  from that to 5 billion in less than 30 years is mind-blowing.

So what does this mean to schools?  Well thankfully there are many educators who understand the importance of preparing the next generation for their connected future.  Others don't seem to see the urgency.  And as Clay Shirky points out, many educational institutions "try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."  I really don't know how long they can continue sticking their heads in the sand!  Last week in Independent Studies our Librarian and myself were talking to 3rd Graders about how the problems they are facing in pursuing their interests are completely the opposite of what ours were at their ages.  If we wanted to find something out we could go to the local library - maybe there would be a book there that would answer our question, maybe not.  Nowadays students can find the answer to almost anything they want to know - though they have to know what is a sensible question to actually ask. For example today I had to steer a student away from inquiring into what Alien babies are like and into questions about the possibilities of life on other planets.  The problem our students face is not that it's hard to find the information - for all I know there may actually be a website out there about Alien babies - but that there is just so much information that it's hard for them to know what is actually good information as compared with what is simply rubbish.  As a result our roles as teachers are shifting - Will Richardson describes this in the following way:  "In no small way, this shift is going to require us to rethink and redefine the roles of schools and classrooms - and our roles as teachers - in students' lives.  And at the center of that rethink will be technology."

I was an IT teacher for 12 years.  In that time I saw my role change tremendously.  I moved from teaching students who came to the IT lab once a week and who saved their work on a school server, to a BYOD programme where students use their own computers in all their lessons and where their work is stored almost entirely in the cloud.  I moved from a time when collaboration involved working with the person sitting next to you, or perhaps having to have 2 people share a computer to create something.  Today our students are collaborating with their peers, quite literally half a world away.  For example today in our Kindergarten Tech Meeting we were talking about communicating with other Kindergarten students in Japan, Thailand and the Netherlands as we work on a collaborative project using VoiceThread.  Above all technology has ceased to be a "lesson" and I have stopped being a tech teacher - the homeroom teachers and specialists use the technology as they see fit and my job is to work with the teachers to plan for student learning.  At my current school we often refer to technology as being in our DNA - it's quite simply a part of what we do, how we teach, how we learn.

Over the 12 years that I was an IT teacher I worked in three schools that embraced the changes that technology could bring and one that did not.  In the latter school I had to deal with administrators who wanted to lock down the entire system, were skeptical of any new initiatives, dismissed the impact that technology could have on learning, introduced a one-size-fits-all approach with IWBs (introducing them even after all the evidence showed that there were much better technologies that could impact learning), and brought in a visiting speaker whose main message seemed to be that using technology would make you sad and lonely.  Studies over that 12 year period however pointed in completely the opposite direction:  that integrating appropriate technology into classrooms could move them from teacher-dominated to student-centred, that it could lead to students working more cooperatively, making better choices and playing a more active role in their learning.  Above all, numerous studies have shown how technology can allow teachers to differentiate instruction more efficiently and reach students with different learning styles.

I truly believe that students following their passions and their curiosities, learning independently with the guidance of their teachers, is going to be the future of education.  The content itself is not really that important, though the outcomes are.  My role is to work with students wherever they are and to teach them to be information literate.  It is to help teachers to find answers to questions and to help find resources to support instruction.   It is to design and present professional development to teachers and to parents so that they can "keep up" with their kids.  It is to try out new things and be creative in working around obstacles.  It is to constantly learn about new idea and strategies.  It is to be a lifelong learner myself and to model this for my students and teachers.

Image credit:  Rethink by Depone 2008 AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Allowing natural curiosity to flourish

I came across and blogged about this video more than half a year ago, but I'm revisiting it again as I feel it ties in quite well with all the thinking we've been doing recently with our Grade 2s about curiosity and with the introduction of Independent Studies with students in Grades 3 - 5.  The more I stand back and simply observe and think, the more I appreciate how important it is for teachers to step to the side and facilitate learning by giving students the skills that they need to pursue the curiosity that they already have.  I've been amazed by some of the subjects that have sparked the curiosity of our elementary students and look forward to seeing where allowing student to follow their passions will lead them.


Born to Learn from Born to Learn on Vimeo.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Collecting the dots -v- connecting the dots

I have loved reading Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams, so I was keen to watch this TEDx talk when I saw it being tweeted out today.  Seth asks what is school for?



In this talk Seth covers many aspects of traditional education and calls instead for flipped classrooms, open books and open notes so that if you need to know something you can look it up,  access to any course - anytime anywhere, personalized education, different sorts of tests that measuring experience, the end of compliance as an outcome, cooperation instead of isolation, teachers becoming coaches, lifelong learning and the death of famous colleges.  And all this in less than 20 minutes!

You learn from experience, and every experience, both good and bad, can teach you a lesson.  Bad experiences can destroy you only if you let them, so it's important to be strong and stay true to your values and beliefs.  When you look for the lessons in bad experiences it can actually make you stronger.  If you are strong enough to walk away from them, you are likely to end up in a better place.  Here is my take away from Seth's TEDx talk, based on my experience in mediocre school, from the perspective of now being in an excellent one:
  • dare to speak up against a system that is working
  • persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is priceless
  • if you care enough about your work to be criticized about it then you have done a good day's work
  • standing out is a long term strategy that takes guts and produces results.
Every day that I am here, in my current job, I feel grateful that I am valued as a professional.  I'm glad I didn't allow the way I was treated at my last school to grind me down and rob me of my dreams. I love teaching, and yet I could so easily have simply given up.   It's a joy to once again work with forward-thinking educators who are encouraging students to go out and ask questions and to seek the dots that they want to connect.

Curiosity - where the spark comes from


Yesterday I was in one of the 2nd Grade learning spaces while the teacher, Scot, was talking to the students about curiosity.  He explained to them that everyone learns new things all the time, but that curious people learn on purpose.  He described it as being like a light bulb being switched on - they get curious and they really want to know things.

Once our curiosity has been sparked, we learn by asking questions.  He explained to the students that questions are like food for the brain - they are the things our brain likes to eat.  When a question comes into your mind, it means that this is what food your brain is asking for.  Pay attention to your questions as they are important to help you learn, and capture your questions because if you don't capture them and write them down, then they will just go out of your brain.  Scot explained that for curious people the questions are never really done.  These people listen out and notice for more questions to appear.

Today the students were writing about where the spark had come from for the questions that they are going to investigate for the Curiosity Project.  Here is what some of the students are curious about and why:

Crystals:  I chose this topic because I really like crystals.  And also one day I found a crystal in my 
own garden. And thats how I always was  wondering about crystals.  (Tisha)

Buoyancy:  I'm been curious about buoyancy because my mom said the word and I said to myself, "What is that?" It just flipped in my head! That's the story of how I became curious about buoyancy. (Reza)

Polar Bears: I first became curious about polar bears because I saw a big poster about polar bears in my room so I got curious to know abut the bears.  I got my idea when I was staring at the poster (Anjali)

The heart: I became curious about the heart and dissecting because I love science and you might see me with my friends making a frying pan with stones in playground.  And I love finding bones and dissecting things, and about dissection, I always see what's inside rocks. I became curious about hearts because I wanted to know what was inside them and how they work.  That's the story of how I became curious about dissecting and hearts. (Nirvaan)

Miniature gardens:  When it was the queens diamond jubilee, my cousin entered a contest where he had to make a miniature jubilee garden.  He won! Then when the curiosity project started, I thought back to that day, and decided to do it on that. That is where my curiosity started.  (Zainab)

Dogs: Everywhere that I go I see dogs. We are going to get a dog so I became curious about dogs. I became curious about different dogs because there are all kinds of different dogs, but the ones I like the most are poodles. That’s the story of how I became curious about dogs. (Shahd)

What occurs to me is that it is sometimes the tiniest thing that sparks curiosity, and that if nurtured this curiosity can turn into a lifelong passion.  As parents and as educators, nurturing this passion is an awesome responsibility.

Photo Credit:  Question mark by Leo Reynolds, 2006 AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

3 Things EFL Students Can See and Do with Skype in the Classroom


A guest post by Kate Willson

Skype in the classroom is an awesome tool that allows teachers and students to connect with other classrooms and subject experts to expand their learning opportunities. Like regular Skype, Skype in the classroom is a video chat service, but there are a few key differences that make it more classroom-friendly.

One difference is that the service has partnered with various organizations around the globe to offer Skype lessons. These lessons are pre-planned and participants must register in advance to take part in discussions. Multiple subjects and topics are reviewed. Current Skype lesson partners include the British Council, Microsoft, NASA’s Digital Learning Network and the New York Philharmonic. Individual teachers and experts may also organize and host a Skype lesson.

For EFL teachers and students, Skype in the classroom can be used to learn more about cultures associated with the English language and to listen and speak to experts whose first language is English. Listed below are three specific things EFL students can see and do with Skype in the classroom.

1.     Find a “pen pal”: If your classroom is lucky enough to have access to multiple computers, then your students can find an English-speaking “pen pal” on Skype. Under the Collections tab on the Skype in the classroom webpage, look for Pen Pals to Write Home About. This is where you can search for classrooms that are interested in chatting and post your classroom’s interest. Even if you only have one computer, your classroom can still participate in a group chat with another classroom.

2.     Learn about cultural practices: Search for experts or classrooms who can teach your students about particular cultural practices, such as food, music, art, holidays, fashion and other traditions. Lessons related to culture can be found on the Culture Club and Food for Thought pages on the Skype in the classroom website.

3.     Connect your students to other teachers: Language professionals sometimes conduct lectures via Skype. Teachers can search for existing lessons or create their own lessons with other teachers they know personally. This is especially helpful for teachers whose first language is not English and who want to teach their students about accents and dialects.  

      Skype in the classroom is a great way to enrich the EFL subject and can potentially help students learn and speak the language more fluently. To use Skype in the classroom, teachers must first create an account. This is a free service. If you already have a personal Skype account, you may use it to log in to Skype in the classroom. To learn more about Skype in the classroom, check out its Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Kate Willson is a researcher/writer for CollegeCrunch.org. Her articles cover several topics related to learning, including trends in online schooling, advice for new college students and recent grads and college preparation for high school students. Please leave any questions or comments for Kate below.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The amazing things that 2nd graders are curious about

We are now into week two of the Curiosity Project with our 2nd Graders.  Having thought about what curiosity is, and found out about some teachers at school who have followed their passions, the students have started to narrow down the things that they are curious about and want to find out more about.  I'm constantly amazed by the minds of primary children - how much they want to know about some very complex subjects.  Here are some examples:


First I wanted to learn about the sun, but then I figured out that my thoughts about the sun came from my brain and that all thinking comes from the brain too. This is why I want to study about the brain. (Herman)

How do cheerleaders do the splits in air?  How do they learn to tumble and do back flips? (Ashlynn)

I'm going to learn what buoyancy is because I want to know why the Dead Sea is so buoyant. I am going to test  how much salt is needed to float a dozen eggs. (Reza)

I think I might choose how text messages, telephones and the internet work. (Mya)

Next week Grade 2 are going to have a Curiosity Project Breakfast Party.  Parents have been invited so that they can work with their child and support their child's investigation.  At the party parents will help students to gather information from the internet and books, and they can help their children to design experiments and create interview scripts so that the students can interview experts.  These experts are members of the ASB community, their families and friends who are knowledgeable about the topics that the students have chosen.

The Curiosity Project is unfolding extremely well.  I'm looking forward to the breakfast party!

Photo Credit:  Bulle by ClĂ©ment Seifert, 2006 AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making the Shift Happen

Over several blog posts I have written about my thoughts following my reading of Kipp D. Rogers' book Mobile Learning Devices.  At the very end of the book he writes about the fundamental shift that is needed:  "a deep cultural shift, a fundamental rethinking not only of how education is delivered, but also of what education means today."  He writes about the impact that mobile learning will have on bringing about pedagogical change, "placing students in the driving seat of their own education."  Mobile learning is going to challenge the status quo:
Mobile learning challenges many of the basic assumptions that have been made for decades about education.  It challenges what it means to learn and what it means to teach.  Mobile learning challenges the accumulated research and traditional mortar and brick spaces where established pedagogies and the value of traditional tools and resources have been commonplace.
How can we make this shift happen?  It seems there are three things that need to change:

First we need to change the practice - this will lead to a change in beliefs.  It sounds like this is the wrong way round, but Rogers' argues otherwise, quoting from Tom Guskey when he writes "we have to get people to act their way into thinking, rather than try to get people to think their way into acting."

Secondly, to change practice teachers have to be involved in ongoing professional development that supports them in using mobile learning devices.

Thirdly, in order for teachers to understand the need for integrating technology, administrators have to model it.

There are very few schools that I've come across where all 3 of these conditions are in place, but I'm lucky to be working at one of them now.  As we start to prototype a BYOD - Device 2, I think we are about to enter very exciting times.

Photo Credit:  Abstract Colorful Universe Wallpaper by Tom,  2008 AttributionNoncommercial

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Doing new things in new ways

I think one of the things I feel most strongly about with technology in education, is that if all we are doing is using it as a substitution, to do old things in new ways, then we are really missing the entire potential that technology has to transform learning.  When I hear statements from some educators in other schools such as "there is no evidence that technology improves learning", it only reinforces my belief that these educators are using technology in old ways, that they are still thinking of technology as a tool (not even as a toolkit).

One of the joys of working in my current position is that as part of the R&D core team we are looking at many different emerging technologies and investigating the impact they can have on teaching and learning.   If students are going to be bringing in their own secondary devices, for example, then it is up to us to consider the changes to teaching that must take place to fully harness the benefits of these devices for student learning.  We are not like some schools that make decisions on what hardware to purchase, throw it into the classrooms and then pat themselves on the back believing that their job is done and that somehow the technology in itself is enough.  We know that we must very carefully consider the pedagogy, and give teachers the time and support they need to develop the pedagogy, to use these mobile devices in the best ways possible.

Our recent survey of elementary teachers has shown that they are already using their smartphones in many different ways:  they are using them as calendars, notepads, calculators, timers, alarms, voice recorders, MP3 players, still and video cameras, messengers, to surf the internet and (sometimes) as a phone.  As they are already comfortable with using their phones for all these things, it seems that they would also be comfortable in introducing activities to their students who also bring in their phones.  For example they could have students do old things in new ways, such as recording their homework assignments on the calendars on their phones rather than in an agenda or taking notes on their phones rather than on paper, but they could also do new things in new ways too.  For example they could have students listen to audio books and podcasts, record their reading or record interviews with others, use them as a polling device, use them for flashcard reviews for new vocabulary in the language lessons, create photo stories, use them for data collection, use them for watching videos or playing educational games.

Our aim this year is personalized learning.  All of us have our preferences as to how we learn best.  Kipp D. Rogers outlines some of the many benefits of mobile learning in his book Mobile Learning Devices:

  • varied learning conditions - students can master skills at their own pace and in places where they are most comfortable
  • collaboration - mobile learning is often combined with group activities and promotes students working collaboratively
  • day to day learning - with 24/7 access to information
  • instant feedback on writing, videos, music and art that students are creating so that students can improve on their performance
  • authenticity - real and relevant experiences on the students' own mobile devices where they can multitask and network with others
Photo Credit:  Rubic Apps by Cesar Poyatas, 2011  AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

How are teachers using mobile devices?

As we get ready to prototype a BYOD Device 2 with our students in elementary, middle and high schools, the R&D Task Force that I'm working on decided it would be a good idea to investigate what our teachers are already using their second devices for.  Since we are researching what changes to teaching and learning will happen with the introduction of a secondary device, we are interested in discovering what is the secondary device of preference for many of the tasks teachers commonly perform.  Last week a survey of elementary teachers was conducted, asking which devices (smartphones, tablets, iTouches, eReaders and netbooks) were preferred for several different tasks.  The survey revealed the following data:

  • Smartphones were preferred for calendar alerts and reminders, audio recording, calculating, playing games, GPS, translating, microblogging, note taking, taking and editing photos, video recording and video conferencing, reading and writing email, instant messaging, playing media, data storage, browsing the internet and using social media.
  • Tablets were preferred for blogging, presenting and reading eBooks.  (eReaders also scored highly for this).  Many teachers commented that they used their phones and tablets interchangeably to do many tasks: browsing the internet, note taking and playing games scored almost as highly for tablets as for smartphones.
  • Netbooks were preferred for polling and for quizzes and tests.

We will survey our middle and high school teachers the week after next and I'm curious to see how the results compare with those of elementary.

Photo Credit:  New Addition by THEMACGIRL, 2008 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The importance of curiosity

I have written in a couple of previous posts about a project that is being run at the moment by one of our 2nd grade teachers called The Curiosity Project.  Curiosity is one of the PYP attitudes, and is seen as being an essential part of inquiry.  The document Making the PYP Happen explains this in the following way:
Children, from birth, are full of curiosity, and the PYP provides a framework that gives crucial support for them to be active inquirers and lifelong learners. 
Through inquiry students "develop their natural curiosity.  They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning.   They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives."

But what is curiosity?  How does a 2nd grader think about it?  Here are some comments from students in the class that shows how important they think that it is:


I think curiuosity means something you want to find out about. Curiosity is something you are excited about doing. When you feel curious and you find out things, that feels good.  I think this project is awesome because we can make, do and find out about ANYTHING we want to. (Nirvan)

Curiosity is when you want to know and learn something that you do not know about.  You want to know more and more about it and do not give up. You will be curious about something only if you are interested in it.  I think I am a curious person.  I keep asking my parents questions starting with “who”, “when”, “why”, “what” and “how”……. (Ayla)

Curious means you are inquisitive. You want to learn about the world. You discover new things.  (Anjali)

*You are curious and you really are interested in something  and you want to learn more about it.
*You are inspired about something that you have seen or done and you really get into it and want to use that in your life.
*You are a curious learner and learn about loads of things and every time you learn about something you want to learn more.  (Zainab)

Curiosity is something - the part of your brain where you dream or where dreams come from. Curiosity has another word - imagination. It is an important part. Without curiosity we wouldn't think of anything. (Reza)

Photo by Joe Benjamin, 2009 AttributionNoncommercial

How to Discourage Dishonesty in a Digital Classroom


A guest post from Lenore Holditch

Technology can undeniably make students' academic lives much richer. However, technology does at times make it easier for students to be dishonest. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are two particular problems educators have to deal with in digital classrooms. Fortunately, there are things you can do to encourage your students to use technology responsibly and honestly. Here are a few strategies you can try out:

Use a plagiarism detector
When students know you'll be checking their papers for plagiarism, they're a lot less likely to heavily borrow ideas from online sources. Plagiarism detectors like Turnitin help you catch academic dishonesty, so you can deal with it proactively and get students on the right track to writing papers that are original and give credit where credit is due. In a world where so much information is easily accessible, students need an educator at their side to help them analyze what they read and present how they understand it, from their unique perspectives, on paper. You have the unique and wonderful opportunity to be their guide and teach them the skills they'll need to avoid plagiarism throughout their academic careers.

Get your students' parents on board
Sometimes students are more likely to use technology in a dishonest manner when they're away from school. While they might not plagiarize as they work on a paper or project at school under your watch, they may be tempted to do so at home, especially if they're feeling overloaded with school work and want to finish their papers faster. So, make sure you let the parents of your students know what you expect of them in terms of academic integrity and ask that they help you help your students use technology with integrity.

Have a serious conversation with your students about ethical uses of technology
Let your students know that they're doing themselves a disservice when they use technology to plagiarize or use images and other forms of media without permission. As the leader of a digital classroom, it's a big part of your job to teach your pupils how to use technology to truly expand their minds. So, be clear about your expectations and honest with your students about who they're hurting when they're dishonest.

Lenore Holditch is a freelance writer and blogger who contributes to a variety of sites about her experiences as a writer and educator. When she's not working on professional writing projects for toponlinecolleges.com, she's reading about eLearning and mLearning trends.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Growing up with technoogy

Yesterday I was reading a Mashable report about tablets and textbooks entitled Do Tablets Really Improve Learning?  It's something our R&D Task Force is looking into as we design our prototype for a second BYOD in 3 different areas of the school:  upper elementary, middle school and high school.  The Mashable article explains that the format of the book is more important than the content: students who accessed the content on a iPad tested higher than those who accessed the same content in a traditional book.
Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tested an interactive, digital version of an algebra textbook for Apple’s iPad ... Students who used the iPad version scored 20 percent higher on standardized tests versus students who learned with traditional textbooks. The program, which replaced worn textbooks with interactive, digital versions with video, graphics and built-in quizzes that invited students to participate and give instant feedback, spurred positive comments that students using the iPad version were “more motivated, attentive, and engaged” than those with the paper algebra books.
 I was also interested to look at the infographic called Graduating with Technology (below) part of which also compares textbooks with eBooks.  On the other hand, other articles I've read recently point to iPads peaking in terms of being used as a learning tool, because of the limitations with printing and storage and with connecting them to Windows based networks.  There have also been well publicized cases of schools who gave up laptops for iPads and who are now wanting to switch back.   Our school is in no way thinking of giving up laptops.  Tablets, smartphones and the like will be secondary devices.   Our prototype will be to investigate the value that second devices bring to learning and the changes in teaching and learning that will be required to support two devices.


Graduating With Technology

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Using Technology -v- Integrating Technology

My role on the R&D Core Team involves looking at emerging technologies that will become important for student learning and getting the school ready to implement them in the future through prototyping them now.  At the moment our group is looking at the research that indicates users are moving beyond a single device (at present a laptop) and are using secondary mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.  Our BYOD - Device 2 R&D Task Force is currently in the research stage - we are investigating mobile technology integration with a second device - and one of the books I've read as part of this research is Kipp D Rogers' book Mobile Learning Devices.

It's very clear to me that there is a vast difference between using technology and integrating technology.  Many schools who claim to be integrating technology are, in my opinion, simply using it, because they have not yet questioned and identified the reasons for using technology.  Indeed I've come across administrators in those schools who have been unable to articulate the ways that technology can transform learning - they are still talking about it "enhancing" learning or calling technology "a tool".  In such places, it's not surprising to find that some teachers are simply using technology for technology's sake, without developing the habits of mind necessary for the true embedding of technology into their pedagogy.  On the other hand, as Kip Rogers writes, I've also experienced schools and classrooms where:
True integration of technology happens ... where technology is accessible and available for activities as they are initiated.  True integration of technology happens when form supports function when the tools support the goals of the curriculum and assist students in reaching their instructional goals.
For technology to be accessible and available for activities as they are initiated does imply a 1:1 programme or access to the students' own mobile devices.   In schools that don't have such a programme it's not always easy to plan for such spontaneous use of technology if you have to book a cart of laptops or a lab.

The TPACK framework seeks to address integration through a close relationship between three forms of knowledge:  content, pedagogy and technology.  Research shows that authentic technology integration occurs "when there is an understanding and explicit negotiation of the relationships among these three components" and that to be a successful integrator involves a teacher being capable of using all these relationships:  this teacher possesses an expertise that is considerably different from and greater than someone with knowledge in just one of them.

Reading this was an Aha moment for me.  It explains why I was frustrated in getting true technology integration at a previous school.  The emphasis was too much on one of these forms of knowledge, and not on the interplay between them.

Now that we are considering prototyping the use of a second mobile device, I feel it's important to examine these three facets and the relationships between them.  When considering learning and the use of  the many possible BYOD2s that students may have and bring to school, we all need to be very clear about how good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to both the pedagogy and the content of our programmes.  We need to be sure that we are truly integrating and not just using the BYOD2s.

The TPACK image is free to use and reproduce with attribution.