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These are the answers to all of my questions…

Because at least once a month I am trying to introduce some new technology or device to someone or a group of people, this chart is so fitting.  My latest questions were about “the Seesaw app“.  Now I know the answer.  Although I would still ask a few more questions, given it presents excellent features and could be a game changer.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Technology

 

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From Tech class to Tech integration

A learning common

As a new tech integration specialist, moving to a school where they were changing from the tech class to the tech integration model there were certain things that needed to be understood beforehand.

Some of these key ideas I posted in a post called Technology Integration: a six-pronged approach.  Other ideas, however, had more to do with dealing with the emotions of colleagues and I will touch on this now.  I would liken these Kübler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief” to the emotions that many of the teachers went through when learning they were dealing with a new strategy for technology:

Denial: Most home room teachers who have been at the school for sometime, upon hearing that their school will be moving to this model will be in shock, and do not really understand what this means.  Some may decide that they do not have time to meet with or interact with the new ‘tech integrator’ assuming this stance as one where they can keep their heads in the sand as long as possible until they will have to deal with what has been given to them.

As a tech integrator it means you need to explain the process to teachers, knowing full-well that many of the words you say or write are falling on deaf ears.  It is of utmost importance that you have patience knowing that they are dealing with change, and are there to offer reassurance, help and support when they are ready to receive it.

Love

Anger: One of the biggest gripes from teachers is that they “have lost their prep. period”.  They do not see the big picture yet and feel like they have gained nothing, but definitely lost what most teachers treasure most – time.

As a tech integrator, this means that you have to be ready to act as the messenger, fully realizing that some teachers will be ready to shoot you.  Again, patience and understanding are key here.  Note that I am not saying, “push for your right to integrate tech”.  A tech integrators role, especially in the early stages, has more to do with empathizing and supporting than it does with integrating technology.  Be kind, be patient, listen, and support.

Bargaining: At this stage many teachers are still not ready to accept the role of the tech integrator and may decide that they will ‘leave for a coffee for the entire period’ while you teach the class in their classroom.  Although this may need to happen at first to ease into the transition there needs to be bargaining and compromise from both sides.  For instance, the tech integrator eventually needs to explain that his role is to be working with the teachers to integrate technology into the classroom.

The tech integrator eventually wants to work his way out of the job.  Essentially, he should be developing computer skills in all the teachers to such a degree that he can begin focussing his role more as a learning coach than a tech integrator.

Another worry from teachers is about how they will do the tech teaching themselves, how they are going to mark, who is going to mark, etc. These questions should all be explicitly focused upon over time with the tech integrator helping out along the way.  Remember, this is not a journey that will take a year.  In my experience and that of others, it takes between three and five years to fully move to tech integration.

Depression: There may be some hidden or some outright depression along the way.  Teachers may say things like, “I don’t know how to teach technology; I just don’t have the skill set; or Please, can you come and teach my class.”

As a tech integrator, the initial stage will mean getting to know all the teachers needs through regular meetings and setting up classroom visits.  However, upon you understanding the support necessary for different teachers, accommodation takes place at different levels.  For example, some teachers may want a lesson to be taught completely by the tech integrator.  Others, may want to team teach.  Other still, may want you there only as moral support or support when something gets tricky.  And finally, many may want you to teach them individually either for personal or professional purposes.  This is where the acceptance stage has started kicking in.

Acceptance: Not only is there a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a bright shiny light when everyone reaches the end of that tunnel.  Here are some reasons:

  1. The students have a higher chance they are learning technology through authentic means, and not in a separate class where the end goal is to learn technology.  The computer and it’s peripheries begin to be thought of as a tool to help a student come up with better or altogether new ways to create solutions to genuine problems.  Ideally, the teachers and tech integrators are integrating with the highest levels of the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model.
  2. Tech integration improves student learning processes and outcomes because teachers who recognize a computer’s capacity move from a Behavioral approach to a constructivist approach as noted in this article.
  3. Technology integration enables total engagement of the class with tools like Google Docs, Microsoft One-Note, Socrative, Edmodo, and one of my new favorites Todaysmeet.  Integration also allows for students to enlist the help of other classes, schools, or even experts in a field to find the answers to the questions that may be posed.  Students or teachers can post in blogs, on social networks, through ePortfolios and through so many other forms.
  4. As a tech integrator, your colleagues can learn from you in so many capacities.  As mentioned above, they can learn while you are teaching, while they are teaching, or by themselves at their own pace.
  5. Finally, another advantage for you, the tech integrator, stepping into so many classes is that you are gleaning best teaching practice.  I like to think of a tech integrator as a bumblebee pollinating flowers, or carrying best practice from one class to the next. This again is teaching teachers, but it has reciprocal advantages.

While the stages are not the same for all teachers, a technology integrator stepping into these shoes in a school where they are changing from tech classes to integration is unwittingly going to stumble across some, if not all, of the teachers in one stage or another.  He needs to mentally prepare himself for the situation and recognize that he won’t be liked by most upon arrival.  He needs to remember to support, support, support.  In two or three years he will be loved even more than the tech teacher who would take the kids off the teachers hands so they could have a break.  Eventually, he will become the most loved teacher through all the school, even more than the gym teacher!!

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Technology

 

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Are proxies at home a good idea?

“Should I?  Shouldn’t I”

These are the thoughts I have behind the idea of putting a proxy (physical equipment or a software program used to allow or block certain websites) into my home.  On the one hand it seems like a great idea because the proxy is a safeguard for little ones which helps prevent them from stumbling upon unwanted adult websites.  However, there are drawbacks.  First, as adults, we are taking away the ability to our kids to make the right choice for themselves.  Second, we may be kidding ourselves into thinking that we have battened down the hatches and secured the fort.

Older kids, and sometimes younger ones are figuring ways around proxies faster than we can implement them.  Proxies including, the free OpenDNS, or inexpensive NetNanny, etc can soon be circumvented by the sly child.

My advice is to:

  • Talk with your son or daughter about the kinds of dangers and annoyances are on the internet.  Sometimes pornography is the least of your worries.  Cyber-bullying is becoming more of a concern with students online.  Good ole Facebook is one of the prime playgrounds where this happening, but it could also be taking place in many of the other social networking sites, like Hi5, MySpace, Second Life or even Club Penguin, which is designed for younger ones.
  • Move the computer into family space like the kitchen or family room.  Back in the days of one computer per household this was a more easy task to perform, but with the advent of one (sometimes more) laptops per member of the home, this can be a arduous task.  As a parent, insist that your son or daughter work on their homework or play their games in the public space.
  • Be aware. Recognize that “Alt Tabbing” (Switching between programs with shortcut keys) is not a secret feature only your son or daughters knows.  Be sly.  Look at running programs in the task-bar. Look to see they aren’t running things in hidden mode.  There are plenty of ways to play games inside of otherwise workhorse programs like Microsoft Word or Excel.
  • Join your son or daughter in their world, the cyber-world.  Have them show you what they are doing and how they do it.  Take a genuine interest in their MMORPGS, their social networking, their blogs, their shopping sites, their games, and anything else they will show you.  They have so many things tricks up their sleeves, why not learn it from the horses mouth?  Not only will you be more wise to them, but in allowing them to teach you, you may grow your relationship into another dimension.
  • Words of warning: Sure there are ways to key-log, track and block everything they do, but think to yourself:
  • Are you really helping them?
  • Are you invading privacy unnecessarily?
  • Would you read through their journal, if they kept one?
  • Would you want someone else doing this to you?
  • Embrace | Educate | Explore together
 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Technology

 

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Kids don’t need to take notes in Tech class

This was a web clipping update that Jeff Utecht took “Colorado schools are beginning to write off cursive handwriting” found here at Coetail@Bkk.

I thought the clipping was interesting and also agreed.  In fact, I was just talking with another teacher about how I don’t usually allow students to hand in assignments that are hand written.  I like to read assignments that are typed “10 or 12pt Arial, Helvitica, Garamong or Times, single-spaced, narrow margins, double-sided”.¹  The reason for this is that I like the standard, easy to read font and the lest three traits are to save with paper.²

In my class I most often have students using a digital device to write notes.  More recently I have had a few ingenious [read: crafty or possibly even lazy] students who have asked if they could just take a photo of the board after I have written or typed notes, so just as this title suggests, they are no longer taking notes in my class.

Now that I allow students to be friends with me on Facebook I also often notice that notes, book clippings, photos of the board and many other things pertaining to assignments in classes are turning up as photos on walls.

It’s definitely a different world that we are living in.  I can’t even imagine if I asked my teachers back when I was in high school or elementary school if I could take a photo of the board and how they would have reacted.

As a teacher I can see the benefits of writing the notes.  Writing things down means that we are visually and physically processing all of the information.  Still, due to time constraints I will allow students to take photo notes with their gadgets … AND some actually even seem to refer back to these photos.  Cool.

When all is said and done I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water.  I counter my argument with the fact that everyone will need to pick up a pen or pencil to fill in a form or write something down the old fashioned way.  In these cases, students do need to have knowledge of how to write with their hands.

I ponder this thought about the future, but what will happen to synaptic connections in the brain and also to our hands fine motor skills due to the fact that we are using them less and less for holding a pen?  I know that the art of penmanship has gone out the window, but will there be other consequences?

I think, as with everything, there is a time and a place.  Technology is allowing new and useful ways for students to change their habits.  It is up to the educator to decide in what amounts they will teach or allow certain skills.  I look forward to seeing the next ingenious and crafty strategies my own students bring to class, as it usually brings humor to my day and also makes me think.

¹I also insist upon: Headers with ‘ClassAssignment TitleStudent’s Name‘; Footers with Page Numbers styled bold2 ‘Page 3 of 42‘; the use of Headings and Subheadings to be referenced with a Table of Contents; and a Conservative Title page with an Abstract

²Most of the time I try to have students hand things in digitally through one-note, a wiki, a Ning, or through Google Docs.

 
 

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Do teachers have right to their intellectual property?

I had a discussion the other day with a teacher about the idea of a teacher’s intellectual property.  In most teacher’s contracts, in almost every school, they state that anything that is made or created by a teacher during the time of employment becomes the property of said school, school board, or business.

Atlas Rubicon is a system many schools are adopting to consolidate these properties.  It seems like a fantastic idea:  Teachers put their curriculum, lessons, notes, Powerpoints, and any other digital materials into the system for others to use.  Not only do the teachers at the school have access to the lessons of others, but other schools who have signed up through Rubicon also have access to everyone else’s property.  Über-cool!

The drawbacks, however, were also part of this discussion.  One, is the fact that schools could use this system to weed out expensive (older) teachers.  They might ask these teachers to allocate their resources onto these servers and then ‘let them go’ in the future, in order to hire younger, cheaper teachers to replace them.  How is this affecting students?  Are they getting the best education they can?

I guess my argument against that is that schools and administrators would hopefully not base their hiring and firing practices on salary amounts, but on effectiveness of teachers regardless of their age.  But sometimes there is a bottom line.  My colleague countered this mentioning that international schools most often do not hire people over 60 years of age. Yikes.

Another con to Rubicon is the fact that they are the holder of all the digital knowledge, AND they are charging education systems a fee to subscribe.  This means that they have a monopoly on the information that we, as educators, hold dear and true to ourselves.  This means Rubicon could start to charge outlandish prices for something that we need and also created.  Hmmm…What are the safeguards that Rubicon won’t be unethical in pricing?

I really like the idea of being able to tap into every other teachers ideas, but I don’t like the chance of losing my own right to this property.  It is almost as if I am being assimilated into the Borg.  At what point does something that I create become completely my own?  Teachers usually work from contract to contract.  Does that mean that nothing they make until they retire actually belongs to them?  As a teacher I need to consider my future carefully.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Education

 

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Tech trends in school

Technology changes faster than we can blink an eye. That said, these are a couple things I have been reading about or think will become trends in schools in the near future:

  • Web-based instruction – The PhD I will start in the near future is specifically about web-based instruction.  Whether it is through Youtube videos in which kids are learning how to play the guitar, Facebook groups where students are chatting about math, any of the online collaboration tools I reference in another post, or through school homework sites that are built using Nings, Moodle or any of the numerous other CMS available, online is not about to go away.  It has so many advantages.
  1. For example, school closures no longer mean the need to make up days lost, because lessons can continue on through online systems that are in place.
  2. Kids who are sick can also continue on with their studies following regular updates about class lectures and homework that is expected.
  3. Kids and adults who are in remote places have access to schooling systems they would never normally have access to.
  4. People can choose huge varieties of courses that interest them.
  5. Settings of learning are semi-traditional or purely non-traditional.
  6. Learning times are less regulated, as the web is “on” 24 hours a day.
  • Cloud Computing – First of all, what is it?  From my understanding “Cloud Computing” means that programs and areas for hosting information are no longer hosted on the local computer.  For example, Google Docs is an prime example of cloud computing because every document is created and stored online.  The advantages to this system:
  1. It means that documents are available across a variety of platforms
  2. Documents are backed up with no fear of computers breaking down and all information is lost
  3. Multiple people have access to the same document at the same time.
  4. Permissions can be set in place by the owner of the document for read-only or read-write privileges.
  5. Usually zero cost is involved, which means that money can be spent on hardware rather than software solutions.
  6. Documents can be accessed anywhere, at any time.  If you are on vacation and you remember you need to print that file out, you can just pop over to the internet cafe and you have access to it without a flash-drive or CD to carry and worry about.
  • Mobile devices in classrooms – The sentiment among principals and administration in the past has always seemed to be: NO.  There is no need for mobile devices in classrooms.  However, these days I would argue there is great need for mobile devices in classrooms.  iPads, iPhones, Tablets, Slates, and even iPods are all finding there way into the education process.  What needs to be taking place more regularly is professional development for teachers about ways that these devices can cleverly be introduced into lessons.  The idea of 1:1 is already becoming outdated, as I talk about in this article.

The schools that “get it” will be the ones that stay ahead of the tech curve. “As educators, we really need to stay on top of this stuff,” said Roland Rios, director of instructional technology at the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in San Antonio, TX, “instead of constantly playing catch up.”

  • Technology based assessment and monitoring tools – There are systems configured to record every keystroke that is ever pressed by students and coworkers.  There are systems like Faronics Insight to monitor screens of students in classrooms or public spaces like libraries.  But this idea is to enable even better surveying for student learning.  For example, ‘clickers’ for students are taken a step further with the idea that every students has an iPhone and sends in the answer to the questions that are presented.  Results can be recorded, tabulated and graphed.  Constant student assessment is enabled using technology.  The shy, quiet kids no longer get to recess into the backs of the classes.  Everyone is invited to join in on the learning, conversations and assessment.
  • Professional Development – Because technology is growing at such an unfathomable pace, teachers and educators alike need to be on the cusp of it in order to stay abreast of what is out there.  In order to do so, constant professional development has to be taking place.
  1. This can be in the form of a traditional classroom setting, an informal setting at home where educators are staying in the loop by accessing websites, blogs and other learning arenas.
  2. It can also come as it is with teachers learning from students and also allowing students to teach other students about their learned knowledge.
  3. Parents as well need to stay in this loop and educational foundations need to realize what they are and embrace this faction of their population.
 

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The MAC | PC debate

In a colleagues class, students were writing debates.  The students were allowed to create their own topic.  One student decided the “MAC versus PC” debate.  He decided to come ask me, “Which is better?”

“It’s not that simple,” I said.  For example, which Mac are you comparing to which PC?  At present Apple has the MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, Mac Mini, and the Mac Pro.  As well, there are a plethora of PCs tailored specifically to gaming, business, multimedia and cost.  In usual fashion, and even though most Mac owners do not like to admit it, the tailored PC is better suited for its purpose.

What is it then that people like about Mac computers?  Back in the day it was the graphical user interface with the Apple “Lisa” vs a PCs MS-DOS system.  There was also the “out of the bag” aspect that Mac has always had compared to a PC.  PCs needed most software installed.  The Mac didn’t.  Mac continues this “loaded applications on arrival” philosophy today.

The “Macintosh” developed slow clientele, but the introduction of the laser-writer printer and Pagemaker meant it was a desktop publishing machine for a home user.  Graphic designers flocked to it, considering it the machine of choice for a long time.

Mac supposedly released Firewire and the palmtop.  But even Firewire was a company acquired from Zayante. It was thought that Apple also invented such things as the trackpad on laptop, the mouse, multitouch, accelerometers, and the USB.  However, most of these innovations were created by other companies, adopted by Apple, tweaked, released and then marketed well.  See this article for more information relating to the misconceptions.

For an excellent history of apple releases with a neat time line, check out this CNet article.

Back to the question, “Which is better?”  I stick with my original posit that each computer has its advantages.  The PC seems better for gaming, modifying, over-clocking, software availability, budget and uniqueness.

Mac users like the start up speed, Safari Browser (Chrome is giving Mac a run), multiple applications loaded out of the box, superior editing and graphic production software, simplicity, and the idea that fewer malicious programs are written for it.  However, the botnet virus has some users feeling unsafe.

Things change daily in the world of electronics.  Advertising has a lot to do with it all.   It comes down to personal choice.  Note: Every computer coming out of the shops today has more than enough power, space, and speed for the uninitiated user’s needs.  They can all handle tasks like email, videos, word processing.  These should no longer be concerns for someone looking to buy a computer.  If you feel happy with the computer you are using, then this is the one that is better than the other.  Good luck.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Technology

 

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