Monthly Archives: June 2010

ISTE 2010 Opening Thoughts

I am currently in Denver attending the 2010 ISTE conference. This is my first time at the conference and so far it has been a fantastic experience.

Denver itself (with the exception of my hotel, unfortunately!) is the perfect city for this kind of event. A short walk and you can get to wherever you want to go. Even with the access to amenities we have here, I still managed to have both lunch and dinner in the same place (got to love those “chili’s” ribs!).

The opening address this afternoon by Mario Armstrong was full of energy and set the stage perfectly for the days ahead. Mario depicted the four major obstacles to the use of technology as mythical beasts in a Scrooge-type dream sequence. The four beasts, “The Locked Net Monster”, “The Dollar and Cent-aur”, “The Mediogre” and “The Abominable Noman” need little in the way of further¬†explantation. Mario framed the modern equipment available to these (in the form of exciting give-aways), and gave the message that perserverance and a willingness to overcome obstacles are key factors when making any attempt to be innovative.

When reflecting on the state of innovation in my district, I feel good that sufficient funds are being allocated to new technologies and that a network of support and guidance has been established to help teachers with these innovations. The next frontier for us has to be spreading the word. As we were reminded in the subsequent presidential address (not Obama!), the ISTE mission is to advance teaching and learning through innovative and effective uses of technology. Being able to see what this looks like is a big step for educators, and then being supported in doing it themselves another challenge.


“But Where Can I Get These Ideas?”

In my role as an instructional coach I was frequently asked to model lessons and effective teaching and learning strategies. As a teacher who incorporates technology into much of what I do, these lessons usually contained some component of technology, most commonly the use of an interactive whiteboard or a web 2.0 type application.

I found that once teachers were comfortable with the logistics of the board (where do the wires go? Where do I put the board? How do I orient the board? etc) they were struck with the realization that they had no ideas on how to integrate content into their lessons. The question I was most frequently asked was “where do I get the ideas from”.

I like to keep links to web resources, and was always happy to share the content I have created. The web pages I most often recommended where those that provide ideas rather than resources. In my experience, all to often when provided a resource, teachers skip over the requirement to think for themselves.

Via a twitter post by @web20classroom, I found the site “Ideas to Inspire“. The organization of the site makes it very easy, with content divide by curriculum, hardware and software. It also appears to be a network effort in many ways, and seems sure to be a growing resource.

This site is an excellent resource for ideas and will certainly be high on my ‘recommended sites’ list next time a teacher asks me “But Where Can I Get Ideas?”.

Making Movies

The highest level of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy is ‘create’. There are clear and obvious links between this and the potential use of technology in our classrooms.

I saw this post from the Instructional Technology Division of the Winston-Salem School Board. It outlines some very simple ideas for using Movie Maker in our classrooms. I have used these ideas and many like them in the past and have always been struck by the ease the students have using this (and similar) software even at a young age. For example, I have used the “moving timelines with pictures” idea with students as young as grade 3.

My point here is that these ideas of ‘creation’ are not limited by grade level. The act of creating something new out of your learning is something students should be engaged in from JK to Grade 12. Our job as educators is to provide these opportunities and not to limit the creative process. If students are comfortable with software, or even with learning the software, we should allow them to do so. Their first efforts may not be as eye-catching or effective as a traditional pen and paper approach, but let’s face facts: by the time these students enter the workforce what are the chances they are required to do anything with pen and paper?

Using Twitter and Facebook in the Classroom

Recently I have been making attempts to find the value in Twitter and Facebook as educational tools. As previous posts will show, I am very much a ‘convert’ to social networking and have only seen the value of using them when I developed a purpose for their use.

In Ontario schools we currently use a structure know as “Teaching and Learning Critical Pathways” to address immediate needs in the class, based on current assessments. My role as an instructional coach has required me to support the development of strategic plans to address these needs and to teach model lessons to demonstrate high-yield strategies.

A class I am working with is having trouble identifying the ‘main idea’ in a story or passage. The issue is that they include many, many ideas and essentially are retelling the passage blow-by-blow, rather than inferring a meaning to what they have read and identifying an overall theme. So the question became, “How can I make them write less?”. I am sure by now you can see where this is going!

The class all signed up for a Twitter account. The task was simple – 140 characters to identify the main idea or message in a story. Sure enough, the work was outstanding. Perhaps more tellingly, the feedback from the class was not that the 140 character limit was the key piece of help, but that doing something which involved technology was a motivating factor.

Here are some links to places offering more ways to take advantage of Twitter and Facebook in the classroom.

Need For Expanding Use of Technology Is All Around

In recent posts I have discussed the need for educators to embrace the use of technology in their programs. Last night I realized this is a need not just for educators.

I am a Detroit Tigers fan. Last night I was on the edge of my seat as Armando Galarraga pitched the 21st perfect game in Major League history. Or so I thought. As the 27th out was completed, the first base umpire called the runner safe. click here to see the video. Even non-baseball fans will have no problem spotting the mistake.

Two years ago Major League Baseball took a step toward accepting technology by instituting limited instant replay to refer calls relating to home runs. This was a major leap forward for an industry with ideals rooted in the past. To draw an analogy with educators, they now had computers in their classroom. Last night’s events were an example of them still not being able to use them effectively.

This morning, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, wrote a piece on the Galarraga incident titled “A Missed Call That Could Change Baseball”. It is a good read, but I was drawn to this paragraph late in the article:

Expanded instant replay in baseball always was a matter of when and not if. It was going to take a generation of people who grew up comfortable with technology moving into decision-making positions in major league baseball. Jim Joyce just put that timetable on fast forward.

I specifically noted the phrase “…generation of people who grew up comfortable with technology…”. Does this happen by accident? Obviously not. We, as educators, have to be the ones who are giving opportunities for this comfort to exist, for students to be able to apply what they know about technology to solving problems which exist around them in the world. Is there any reason that baseball should not adopt a model of two “red flag referals”, akin to those in tennis and football? Verducci is spot on in his observation that this is about comfort. As educators we are comfortable doing what we have always done. That is no longer in the broad interests of our students, and we need to embrace technology in the same way we expect others to, and in a way which gives our students the comfort to be innovators.