Listening to Teachers

Quick follow up to previous post about the NYT article about Google in classrooms. I talked about how Google is exceptional at listening to teacher needs and empowering teachers to let Google know what works.

Alice Keeler is an active blogger and edtech voice.  She is a tireless advocate for using tech to empower learners. (I’ve never met her, but have had some fun Twitter conversations with her. Perhaps I can meet her this year at ISTE!) Alice posted about a new feature in Google Classroom

I love it when I am in the middle of giving a training and stumble on a new feature. GIGGLES! More evidence that the Google Classroom team listens to teacher requests! Now when you go to get the class code there is an option to COPY the code! This is a feature I have personally requested several times.

Alice works closely with Google, so I’m sure she can easily give them feedback. But I’ve seen how quickly Google can make changes specifically to meet teacher requests. I’ve been testing Google Classroom since it launched. We’ve been using it for internal PD (until just a few weeks ago, Classroom was only useable to people inside your organization, no outside email addresses could be added), and at every training we mentioned how quickly it changes. Literally, new features would be there one day that were not there the day before.

While this can get a bit distracting and annoying, it is mostly fabulous. It’s always something you’d been wanting — or something that just made things better that you never knew you needed. I know these changes were in response to teacher requests. At ISTE last year, there were more Google Classroom sessions than just about anything else. Google was there, they were listening, watching and asking for feedback and input. They obviously valued the teacher input — something that not all companies do — and made teachers feel valued and important. And Google even follow through – they make the changes teachers want. Good for them.

Education or Business?

Why is the New York Times so opposed to education in technology? The article, “How Google Took Over the Classroom” is another criticism of education working with any commercial company to provide better learning for students.

The first Times article I saw critical of ed tech was critical of Apple’s business practices of getting technology into schools.

This article criticizes Google for its business practices of circumventing administrators by going right to teachers and using teachers to convince other teachers of Google products. Let’s look a little closer.

Google was the first tool that allowed collaborative editing and such easy sharing of materials. This was a game changer in schools from a pedagogical perspective. It had a profound impact on how teachers could deepen learning for students, pushing further up the SAMR model by allowing for learning experiences that were not possible before technology.

Perhaps teachers embraced and promoted Google and Google tools because these tools led to better learning? It was not, as the article implies, a bad thing that teachers were involved in deciding on the technology to be used. This is a good thing.

Google listened to teachers. Google worked with teachers to create tools that teachers wanted for themselves and for their students. I have a hard time seeing why this is not a good thing…..

As for students being steeped in Google by the time they graduate, why is that worse than being steeped in Microsoft or Apple products? If it wasn’t Google, it would be Pages and Numbers from Apple, or Word and Powerpoint. Schools are going to have some sort of office software, and students will be more comfortable with whatever they use.

Apple and Microsoft

Apple was first out of the gate, and appears to be losing ground recently. The iPads jumped into education right after it was introduced, even to Apple’s surprise. Microsoft just this year (many years after Google) introduced a series of products that are created specifically for the K12 education market. Seriously, this is almost 7 years later – an eon in technology time. Microsoft made some huge errors early on — I still have one of the first Surface tablets Microsoft gave away at a big teacher conference trying to convince teachers to use their stuff. Needless to say, that early version of the Surface was a bust – I haven’t turned that thing on in years.

Microsoft, Apple and Google have really different ways of interacting with teachers. Honestly, they all watch each other closely and will likely really keep building on each others mistakes and successes. Criticizing Google for how it works with teachers is just crazy.

Privacy

I do fully acknowledge the privacy concerns. However, I’m not sure why this article focuses so much on the transition of a student’s school Google account to a personal account. I’m not so sure students will actually want to take all of their high school email and papers over to a personal account. Is this a common practice? There is not evidence in the article beyond one school example.

Positive Impact of Tech

Sometime, I’d love to see a Times article that addresses the positive impact of edtech.

 

Chrome Accessibility Tools

Posting this for my reference…. saw an article, “21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs.”  I’ll be testing a few of these, including the Text-to-Speech extensions and the ones that pull the ads/sidebars off the page.

I would like to clarify that personally, I struggle with calling these tools for “struggling students and special needs.” Many people benefit from these types of tools. I understand why they say this, but it really limits who will use these. It’s a basic UDL concept that building for the “margins” benefits everyone, and this is a perfect example.

I, for one, occasionally use extensions that take off the the ads and sidebars of really cluttered sites. Sometimes I use a text-to-speech extension.

In addition, there is a webinar going through all of these options.

Improving Learning

We can’t use tech because it is “cool and new.” It must improve learning. If it doesn’t improve learning, why are we spending the money?

I met Eric Sheninger when he did the TEDxBurnsville event at the Minnesota History Center (it’s complicated) in 2014. He is an idol, I was thrilled to meet him. Watch his TEDx talk…

Saw this interview with him. It’s worth a listen.

History Podcasts

I have become a podcast addict. It’s getting ridiculous — I won’t even mention how much storage on my phone is podcasts. But I learn a ton! So there.

For reference later – here is a blog post recommending podcasts for history teachers. I’ll check out a couple of these.

Bias

The last few weeks since the election have been difficult for me. I can’t even begin to process how people can possibly think that this political climate will be ok. There is much more I could write but I can’t even start — I won’t stop.

So, I ‘m going to post resources I find that could help me and perhaps others process, protest and persevere for the next four years. (It better not be more than that.)

Starting with a great series of videos from the New York Times that helps us understand and work beyond our own bias. Don’t feel guilty about it — work to understand it and not be a slave to it. (I do hope the NYT is making sure the ads before the videos are kid safe…)

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004818663