Sunday, April 14, 2013

We’ll Know We’ve Changed Because….


The title of the blog post is the last part of the inquiry process that I use when working with teachers on technology learning teams.  It’s about gathering evidence that the changes you made in your classroom has made a difference compared to  the method you were using before.

At the beginning of a Technology Learning Team journey, a lot of participants become concerned with learning about how all the features of software and hardware work.  This is normal, but I don’t think we should stop our thinking there.  Usually having a focus from the outset on what kind of data we can gather that will tell us if the technology has made a difference with our students’ learning. 

One of the things people could look at is how their teaching impacts one student.  This is a perfectly valid inquiry – do teachers not spend a lot of time on a small percentage of the population?

Here are some things people could measure when it comes to technology making a measureable difference:




A student has trouble with losing their work, or does not hand it in on time. Teacher has student use their SharePoint virtual classroom to launch, edit, and save their work right in a document library on the website. With the right settings on the folder, only the student and the teacher see that student’s assignment The student doesn’t lose work, and is able to work on it anywhere they can access the internet. 

The teacher can give feedback while the assignment is still in progress.

The work is always in the folder, and is therefore “handed in” to the teacher on time. It may not be quite done, but at least the teacher can do a timely assessment and see what the student is capable of doing within a given time
Student has a lot of trouble with written work The teacher gets the student to use some form of technology like SMART notebook or Explain Everything (iPad app) to show their work.  Teachers may need to help students get started with the software, and rehearse their narrations before recording. Students can use images, some text, and their voices to narrate and show what they know.  This results in teachers’ getting a better picture of what their students truly know (and what they don’t know).  This leads to more accurate assessments, and better follow up strategies.
Teachers wish to improve communication between school and home about homework and special events Teacher uses an  online homework calendar that supports RSS.  At the next parent night, parents put their email address on a list to subscribe to the teacher's calendar on their computer or smartphone.  Using MailChimp or a program like it, RSS feeds can be turned into email messages (fine if your parents don’t mind their email address being used by MailChimp). Parents check their, reader app, their inbox, or their phone and get the latest homework and updates on events in class.  This could mean that more kids could show up with homework completed, or better prepared for field trips.  There might be more parents participating as volunteers and drivers at events as the calendar updates serve as reminders of coming events.


I think that technology does not offer a blanket solution that revolutionizes every child’s learning in the same way, and every day.   I do think that thoughtful use of technology can make a difference in different learners’ lives, which add up to saving the teacher time and effort and improves that student’s learning. 

That sounds like good data to me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing–Perfect!

Teachers who are masters of instruction in an area have a feeling of comfort in the classroom.  I have learned that these types of teachers may be more likely to teach in different ways, and more likely to accept work in different ways.  Mastery of an area of instruction isn’t everything, but it sure helps.  I am reminded of the saying “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.”  The thinking is that knowing a little about something and then doing something with it could mean you don’t know enough to get yourself out of trouble.

Except in the area of educational technology.  In some cases I think it might be enough that teachers are aware of what software can do, model a little bit of how it works, and then let students get at it.  
In recent visits to classrooms, I have been modelling the use of OneNote for students to create projects.  After I have helped the students get started with the software, if I taught one person one thing (right click vs. left click) that person answered the question when it came up again.  The teacher in the room focused on creating groups that worked, brainstorming topics, providing starter questions, and modeling thinking like a researcher.  If we had a technology question after the first 30 minutes, we dragged other kids in to solve it. 
It’s true a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but when it comes to educational technology, it could be a “disruptive” thing.  And sometimes that’s a good thing.