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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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Collective Biography: Using Canva to Capture Our Commonalities

For students to be and feel successful in school, we have to build relationships. One way to do this is to get to know each other by sharing about ourselves.

A collective biography is a poem-like piece, where a group writes down all they have in common. The idea comes from Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author of several children’s books.

The commonalities that would constitute the biography can be curated and rendered using a digital tool such as Canva. What you see below is a creation from a workshop on digital portfolios in CESA 4.

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Three Steps for Successful Technology Integration

Consider these three steps for successful integration of technology in the classroom or a school. I’ll be facilitating a workshop on technology integration in West Salem, Wisconsin on Thursday, April 12. If you are in the area, sign up today (click here).

“If math is the aspirin, what is the headache?” A high school teacher posed this question. In her context, she was explaining why she always needs to make a case for mathematics with her students.

Replace “mathematics” with “technology”, and the opposite may be true. Many educators cannot help but adopt more technology in their classrooms and schools. We want to be 1:1, even though we may not be able to provide a good reason why every kid needs a laptop.  Distraction can increase with this digital influx. Are we creating more problems, when we should be giving students the right tools to solve problems they themselves created?

Are we creating more problems, when we should be giving students the right tools to solve problems they themselves create?

The point to make here is that before we start selecting digital tools to integrate into instruction, we have to a) determine why we need the technology, b) discern what resources are needed to be successful, and c) decide how and when to use technology.

1. Determine the why

This step involves examining one’s beliefs and values about teaching and learning. The process involves reflecting on our current practices and being honest with ourselves about what’s working and what is not. School assessment results, student surveys, and peer or administrator feedback can be helpful in getting started.

One process I like for examining beliefs and values in order to determine why we might integrate technology in the classroom is “This I Believe”. Here are the steps suggested for this reflective experience, either independently or with a group.

  • Listen to/read Luis Urrea’s response (“Life is an Act of Literary Creation”) to This I Believe as an example.
  • Write a personal reaction regarding what you believe about assessment and education for today’s students.
  • Post it on your blog or share it with a trusted colleague.

Through this process of examining our beliefs and values and determining why we want to use technology to improve students’ learning experiences, we can make more informed decisions about instruction.

2. Discern the what

When I initially wrote this post, I had this section last. Pedagogy trumps technology, right? Yes…but we also don’t know what we don’t know. It can be hard to decide what technologies and other resources we might need to enhance instruction if we are not aware of them.

That’s why I do like to explore a wide range of digital tools with teachers as we design instruction with technology in mind. Playing with different applications and ideas for how we might use them in the classroom is an act of creation itself. With a broader perspective about our beliefs and practices we find effective, the tools are less likely to drive our instruction and instead enhance it.

Next is a list of ideas shared recently at a workshop I facilitated on implementing digital portfolios for English learners.

Family Engagement

  • Share information about home literacy activities through a notification/announcements function of a digital portfolio (DP) tool. (FreshGrade, Remind, Seesaw)
  • Teachers can take a picture of a book to be sent home and post for those students, accompanied with ideas for families to explore it at home. (FreshGrade, Seesaw, Smore)
  • Encourage parents to use the DP parent app to email teacher (linked) about questions they have regarding their child’s reading progress, words that were tricky for them, etc to be used for future instruction. (FreshGrade, Remind, Seesaw)
  • Post a survey questions, asking parents to share favorite book titles in their home in the comments. (FreshGrade, Remind, Seesaw)
  • Send “interview” questions through DP for parents to ask their child to guide home reading.  (FreshGrade, Remind, Seesaw))
  • Have students reflect in DP about their current reading instead of a formal reading log, using video, audio, and/or text. (FreshGrade, Kidblog, Seesaw)

Scaffolding Literacy Experiences

  • Provide multiple days at the beginning of a unit for students to read and immerse themselves in the focus of the study. (OverDrive, Kidblog, Biblionasium)
  • Offer a choice board in media to explore to build background knowledge around the topic of study. (QR Codes, YouTube, podcasts)
  • Include audio versions of selected texts so students can access literature they are interested in during the study. (Playaways, OverDrive, Audible)
  • Give students choice in a primary text to read during a unit of study, and facilitate a book club with guiding questions and discussions. (Google Classroom, Edmodo)
  • Document student discussions, both in small and whole groups, to prepare for future strategy instruction. (iPad, Apple Pencil, Notability; MacBook, Day One)

Representing and Celebrating Diversity

  • Have parents video record or write and share a story from their earlier lives. (Google Drive)
  • Record students reading a text aloud in both English and Spanish. (FreshGrade, Seesaw)
  • Read and record discussions of diverse literature in book clubs/literature circles. (FreshGrade, Seesaw)
  • Examine and organize your classroom library with students, focusing on the amount and quality of the culturally-representative text.
  • Maintain a wish list of culturally diverse books and share it with families regularly to purchase for the classroom. (Amazon, Google Site)
  • Develop a digital pen pal relationship with classrooms in other parts of the world. (Kidblog, ePals)
  • Create a bilingual book with audio, images, and text and share it online for a public audience. (Book Creator, Little Bird Tales)

Community Partnerships

    • Create original content where students teach others life skills, such as how to speak Spanish or how to use a computer. (YouTube, Vimeo, Book Creator)
    • Bring in a local family from another country to speak about their culture and values to kickstart a geography or storytelling unit. (Smore, Remind)
    • Develop a community room for visitors to sit in and learn about the school’s mission, vision, and beliefs, offering bilingual resources. (Google Translate, Smore)
    • Design advertisements for local businesses in both English and Spanish as a performance task for a unit on persuasive writing + economics. (Canva, Google Docs, MS Word, Pages)
    • Create a public service announcement (PSA) about a local problem, such as hunger or an environmental/safety issue. (iMovie, YouTube)
    • Assign volunteers to record themselves reading aloud selected literature via audio or video (Google Drive, Evernote, Vimeo)

 

3. Explore the how and the when

Integrating technology with instruction is both a technical and cultural change. It’s technical in that teachers are now tasked with including tablets or laptops as part of their lesson planning and delivery. “How should I model this application for the students – mirror it to the whiteboard, or gather the kids around?” might be one question a teacher would ask. I’ve encouraged teachers in the starting stages of integrating technology in instruction to avoid focusing on both pedagogy and technology during a lesson. Teach one or the other. This helps build comfort with using the digital tools while 20-30 students are watching you.

This process is also a cultural change. At least it should be. Some teachers only reach a technical change. For example, they may only use Kahoot! or Quizziz to assess basic student understanding of a prepared lesson. Instead, what about letting kids design lessons for peers and using these same tools to evaluate each other? They can be taught how to craft higher order questions to evaluate deeper understanding of the content. It’s still a teacher-directed classroom when the learning experience lacks at least some student ownership. Successful technology integration will only reach its potential when we position students as lead designers, learners and assessors.

To shift the learning culture, a place to start is by rethinking our classroom design. The spaces we ask kids to learn in should foster collaboration and creativity. Here are a few suggestions:

      • Replace most desks with tables and flexible chairs.
      • Let kids provide input in what furniture to purchase and how they might be arranged.
      • Reduce the lecture area to free up more space for collaborative work.
      • Arrange seating to allow for student movement and a variety of alignments, i.e. independent work, small group, whole group.
      • Release responsibility for bulletin boards, the classroom library and wall space to the students; let them decide what should be showcased with clear criteria for excellence in mind.
      • Put students in charge of classroom communications, such as the class website and social media accounts.
      • Expect students to maintain and troubleshoot most technology challenges. For example, assign students jobs such as “tech support” and “device storage”.

The how and when this happens is up to the teacher. It can happen tomorrow, next week, or next year. (Please note that the students are ready now.)

Disagree with what is shared here? What process have you found effective for technology integration? Please share in the comments!

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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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Join me at the @ASCD Annual Convention in Anaheim this Sunday! #digiportfolios #EMPOWER17

In a couple of days, I will be flying out to Anaheim, California for my first visit to the Golden State. Purpose: I am facilitating a session on digital student portfolios on Sunday, 3/26 at 3 P.M. Click here for location details.

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This session will be an opportunity to share new resources and ideas from my upcoming ASCD book (August) on authentic assessment and technology. The confirmed title is Digital Student Portfolios in the Classroom: Celebrating and Assessing Student Learning.

If California is a bit of trek, consider attending one of my upcoming summer workshops in the Midwest (click here for schedule). I may also be available to facilitate one- and/or two-day workshops in your neck of the woods; reach out for more information.