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Three Points for Technology Integration

415a+cMgexL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Technology is not a tool for learning. As I described in my first book for ASCD, it is a tool to help facilitate a learning experience. People can discover new information through the Internet, they have access to software for collecting ideas and receiving feedback on their work, and they can share new and original content with a wide audience. Technology in and of itself is not the purpose of learning; it mediates the process.

So where might technology best fit within the flow of a lesson? Consider three phases: connect, curate, and communicate. I’ll be sharing more about authentic technology integration at this workshop on March 12 and during my session at ASCD Empower 2019.

Connect

This first phase typically happens at the beginning of a lesson or a unit of study. What content do we want students to explore? How can they access and interact with this information? Why is what we are discovering worth knowing now and in the future?

Ideas for Technology Integration

  • Padlet: Pose a provocative question on this digital wall and have students respond online to the inquiry and to each other. This gives students an opportunity to engage in online dialogue and practice digital discourse.
  • QR Code Menu: Create a board with QR codes that link to online videos, audio, podcasts, articles, and creative content that connects with a topic of study. We can differentiate our delivery in a relevant way for today’s students.
  • Twitter lists: Create a Twitter list of other classroom accounts and reliable sources of information to learn from others and pose questions online about our studies. Students can take new perspectives on issues while developing media literacy.

Curate

At this stage, students are immersed in the organization and selection of information that will support the development of their final product. What is the best way to manage different ideas and content? Are there specific skills and strategies for effective learning? How do we know if we are making progress?

Ideas for Technology Integration

  • Flipgrid: Have students respond to a question or task using video recording and publishing for others. The teacher and students can both observe their answers and assess their speaking and listening skills (if that is part of the work).
  • Google Forms: Typically we see these used as exit slips or pre-assessments. What if you asked kids during the lesson how things were going with their learning? Teachers could adjust their instruction when it really mattered.
  • Kidblog: Blogs can be presented as online journals that can be used by students to reflect on their learning and invite others to comment on their visible thinking. Time should be spent teaching students how to provide feedback effectively.

Communicate

Student products need an audience beyond their teacher. Where could students post their work as an appropriate forum? How might the concept of “publish” increase student motivation to produce their best work? How should their work be housed?

Ideas for Technology Integration

  • Google Sites: Students can develop their own website and post their best work from their Drive account. This portfolio can move with the student throughout their educational career if a district adopts this technology.
  • FreshGrade: For more immediate opportunities for students to post products of their learning, this tool has a social media feel that parents find engaging and mobile friendly. Comments and online dialogue are encouraged.
  • HaikuDeck: If students have to deliver a presentation, this slide tool is web-based and guides the user to be brief and visual with their content. There is also a feature to record audio and create a self-guided tour or module.
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Technology in Education and Opportunity Cost

During a regional principal’s meeting today, our conversation steered toward the integration of technology within instruction. Smartphones were a frequent topic, especially from the secondary school leaders. Distractions and inappropriate use seemed to be the common reason for some of the administrators’ disdain for students’ mobile devices.

I empathized, as a former junior high school assistant principal. My administrative career began in 2011 which is around the time that iPhones started to come into prominence. From the beginning of my secondary tenure until my shift to an elementary principal role four years later, smartphones grew in frequency and in use in school. I always had a few of them on my desk or in a drawer. Many of them were more advanced than my district-issued smartphone.

Today, every educator seems to have a different perspective on the use of technology during classroom instruction. Each one of us seems to have a nuanced point of view about digital tool integration. This perspective can change based on the content, the task, the students’ developmental level, and the technology itself.  For example, one administrator today stated that she does not know the best approach for managing smartphones in schools, yet she did believe that high school students needed more than a Chromebook for engaging in creative, original work.

We will not get to a point of consensus in the near future regarding “best practices” when it comes to technology in education. So how do we address these types of challenges with more intent? One approach when preparing a lesson or unit of study for our students is to consider the opportunity costs of the inclusion or exclusion of technology within our instruction.

The concept of opportunity costs comes from the financial world. Whether you spend money on something or you decide not to, there is a cost. Say you are saving up for a family vacation. Every purchase you make from the moment you create this goal to the moment you go on vacation has a cost. Should we go out to eat? Yes means you can enjoy a meal out with family, but you are not saving that money toward the vacation. No means you are saving that money, and the cost is not enjoying a night out at a restaurant. 

I think the same principle of opportunity cost can apply when considering whether or not to integrate technology with instruction. Next is a process as an example:

  1. What is the goal of the lesson/unit of study? These are the essential learning outcomes, usually aligned with a standard, a competency, or a larger understanding, i.e. “conflict” within a study of U.S. history. Really not a lot of opportunities to incorporate technology into the lesson (unless the instruction is focused on learning how to use the technology itself).
  2. How will I know that my students have learned? We are looking for ways to evaluate understanding with the best tools available. Deciding how to assess student learning might be a better opportunity to incorporate technology. For example, if we want to know if students truly understand the concept of conflict through the lens of U.S. history, a multiple choice test or a written essay may not cut it. What if we designed a performance task such as creating a podcast in which two students debated in a respectful manner over a decision made in our country’s past? We could hear whether or not students used the strategies for a persuasive argument, both the language they use and in the way they used that language. They could also self-assess their work.

So what’s the opportunity cost? The benefits of incorporating technology within the assessment may include but are not limited to:

  • a better representation of student’s understanding of conflict,
  • a more engaging activity for students to create a podcast vs. taking a traditional test,
  • an opportunity to publish work for a wide audience, further increasing engagement, and
  • the integration of 21st-century skills into instruction.

The cost of this opportunity to integrate technology into assessment may include:

  • possible implementation challenges for the teacher to do the work well,
  • potential lack of access to the appropriate number of devices needed, and
  • more time spent working on this project, which can impact future instructional plans.

So should we integrate podcasting into our performance task? Here’s the thing: there’s no clear answer. We cannot say “four to three” in favor of the inclusion of technology. Every school and every teacher are unique. Maybe one teacher doesn’t feel comfortable introducing podcasting as an assessment tool by herself, but she has a library media specialist who is more savvy about these tools and happy to co-teach this part of the unit. 

Educators have to use their professional judgment when it comes to classroom technology integration. This requires both an open and a discerning mind, a mix of strong pedagogical knowledge along with enough social imagination to understand that teaching and learning are in a constant process of change. If you try out this process, of analyzing the opportunity cost of technology implementation within your instruction, let me know how it goes. 

In my book 5 Myths About Classroom Technology, I tackle five misconceptions regarding the integration of digital tools in schools. You can purchase my book through ASCD here.

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Book Signing Today: Barnes & Noble, Madison West @ASCD @bnbuzz

Today, Saturday, January 20, 2018, I’ll once again be selling and signing my two books published by ASCD at Barnes & Noble – Madison West.

I am scheduled for 1-3 P.M., maybe longer. It is Educator Appreciation Days – most items are on sale at 25% off for teachers and school leaders. Be sure to bring your school ID.

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If you are in the Madison area today, I’d love to chat educational technology with you!

 

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Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Interview with Karen Fadum via @FreshGrade

On the FreshGrade blog, you can read my initial interview with Karen Fadum, a helping teacher in British Columbia, Canada. This text is reprinted from my book Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Showcasing and Assessing Student Work (ASCD, 2017).

When I signed the contract with ASCD over two years ago to write this book on digital portfolios, I realized that I had a lot more learning to do. Unlike my last book on the topic, this resource would be directed toward teachers. I had not been in the classroom for almost a decade, although I have observed many classrooms in that time as a school principal. Still, it is not the same as having the main responsibility for student learning.

It was educators such as Karen who provided essential knowledge and experience for me to write any type of #edtech guide worth a teacher’s time to read. I am thankful!

-Matt

P.S. FreshGrade has been giving away free copies of my book. Check them out on Twitter for more information.

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Digital Portfolios in the Classroom – Introductory Video

Below is a short video I recorded to promote my new book through ASCD. Below the video is the transcript for the hearing impaired.

Have a great weekend,

Matt

Digital Portfolios in the Classroom – promo video from Matt Renwick on Vimeo.

Assessment is messy.

We try to make school and learning clean by attaching numbers, grades, and levels to evidence of learning. But what do we lose when we take the messiness out of assessment?

I think we lose quite a bit. Maybe it’s the visible enthusiasm of the student presenting the final project, or the curiosity in the students’ voice when they pose an important question to research. This information can be just as important as any quantitative assessment results.

Let’s embrace this messiness and capture students fully as learners with digital portfolios. The ability to use video, audio, images, and text can make evidence of learning come alive. The opportunities for content creation with the possibilities afforded by today’s technology is hard to pass up. Digital portfolios can reframe assessment as a way to see the whole child and not just as a number.

Assessment is messy and complex. Instead of trying to simplify this important process to teaching and learning, what if we accepted and even honored all the ways students are smart? Digital portfolios, these online collections of artifacts that represent student achievement and growth, can be the answer.

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Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Now available!

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This was a nice surprise to come home to yesterday. ASCD is great to work with.

It’s great to see my book finally in print. I signed the contract for this project almost two years ago to the day. In that time, our family moved to Mineral Point, took on new positions in education,  and became a part of a new community. Exciting times and something I don’t need to experience again for the foreseeable future!

Here are some book-related updates.

  • Right now, the book is only available in print and only through ASCD. The publisher and I prefer orders through them directly, although I realize Amazon can be more convenient. As for print only, I am checking with ASCD on that. Stay tuned.
  • If want an overview of my book, click here to check out the archived webinar I did through ASCD.
  • In our Google+ Community on the topic of digital portfolios, I am giving away three books to anyone who +1’s this post. You have to request to join first.
  • I’ve written a draft curriculum for an online course on digital portfolios. It will likely be a companion to the book and provide multimedia content that can’t be delivered through a book alone. If you have suggestions for what should be in the course, leave your feedback in the comments.
  • While I am working full time as an elementary principal, I do have some availability to facilitate teacher workshops on digital portfolios. Click here for a description and feedback from a workshop I led this summer (scroll to the bottom of page). Here is what one attendee said about this professional learning experience:

What I liked most about the workshop is the wealth of web-based resources the instructor shared with us to help support technology-based student activities and projects. I am not very tech-savvy, so giving me the sites and time to explore the applications for building technology integration into my class was very beneficial.

  • I’ll be speaking on digital portfolios and technology integration at the following events this school year (so far). If you are able to attend, let me know and we can connect!
    • October 5-6, 2017 – Wisconsin ASCD 2017 Fall Conference (Wisconsin Dells, WI)
    • October 25-26, 2017 – Illinois ASCD Lead & Learn 2017 (Schaumburg, IL)
    • February 21-23, 2018 – AcceleratED & IntegratED (Portland, OR)
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ASCD Webinar: Digital Portfolios in the Classroom

DigitalPorfolioOn Tuesday, August 8 from 2-3 P.M. CST, I will be hosting a free one-hour webinar for my upcoming book Digital Portfolios in the Classroom: Showcasing and Assessing Student Work.

I’ll go over some of my favorite tools for facilitating digital portfolios and share teaching strategies for making this authentic approach to assessment work in the classroom.

Time at the end will be provided for participants to ask questions and discuss technology integration and student-centered assessment.

Click here to register. I hope you can join us!

-Matt