Creativity and Tech

Here’s an article in Forbes about how Google and Chromebooks have overtaken Apple/iPads in the classroom.

I’ve seen this shift. When I started building content for schools, it was nearly 100% iPads with very few laptops. Chromebooks didn’t exist. Five years later, we see over 50% Chromebooks in classrooms. Although we started building for iPads, thankfully, we built something that is accessible to iPads and browsers (including Chromebooks). (We have never had a request for an Android app.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I see the reasons schools move: Chromebooks have keyboards. Chromebooks are cheaper. And – I think most importantly – Chromebooks are much easier to manage from an IT perspective.

Chromebooks have come a long ways, but I still see the iPad as a more creative tool. Critics say it’s only a device of consumption, and the Chromebook is a device of creation. I disagree. The iPad is much stronger in video, audio, music and photography production.  You can’t beat iMovie or the plethora of photo editing apps. Garageband is beyond compare for music production. Chromebooks can do these things, but not nearly as easily or as intuitively.

So, who drives the move to Chromebooks? Is it IT? Admin? Finance? Or is it the education teams that are choosing them for pedagogical reasons? Somehow, I don’t think so. Is technology becoming just really expensive paper? Are computers just a fancy Xerox machine, allowing worksheets to be delivered digitally instead of on paper — without expanding education beyond fill-in-the-blanks teaching, avoiding creativity? This is a broad overgeneralization of course, but….

ISTE 2016

Back from #iste2016. Once again, I return inspired, motivated, energized — and exhausted!

Themes

From my perspective as a museum educator, there were some clear themes we saw this year:

  • Google, and Google Classroom in particular. Classroom had an strong presence with at least 10 sessions. Many of the sessions were full. I was relieved to find out that I’ve learned the tool well, as the ones I did get into were mostly things I already knew. I’m watching Classroom to keep growing and improving, especially after Google sees all the teacher use. Google Cast has huge potential, even though it really doesn’t impact me.
  • 3D printing/scanning, AR and VR were huge. I mean really huge. One presenter said there were 46 sessions about the AR/VR/3D modeling.  It feels like it’s becoming mainstream. Teachers are using it frequently in the classroom and companies are out with all sorts of things. My favorite sessions were about Paleoteach.org and one from @stemnation about a fantastic project getting kids to print 3D versions of printing “press” typefaces.  There were more 3D printers in the exhibit hall than you could count.
  • Free. Again, free is a common thread at ISTE. I heard complaints about software that used to be free now charging. I heard questions at my session asking about if a resource is free. If not, teachers won’t even look at it. It is essential that publishers and content providers keep this in mind.
  • Inclusion and UDL: I was happy to see quite a presence of accessibility and inclusion sessions. I attended a Playground about UDL and learned a few new tips/tricks. I sadly couldn’t make a couple of the sessions, but have downloaded the handouts. Hoping I can glean info from them.

The “disruptive” theme continues. ISTE attendees tend, as a group, to not like standardized tests and such. As a group, they lean towards empowering students and less about the top down. I’m not always sure what this has to do with technology, but I love it, and I love how the tools of technology are seen as a means to an end of empowerment and learning, rather than as the ultimate goal. I felt there were fewer “use this app” sessions, and more sessions about tools for learning.

Networking

This year was a networking year for me, which was so fun.

The Smithsonian’s Learning Lab officially launched at ISTE with a big splash. Having watched the Learning Lab from afar for a few years, it is really exciting to see it officially go live. I enjoyed talking about it at my poster session and was pleased to hear that many folks from my poster stopped at the Learning Lab’s table!

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Meeting a blogging icon, Glenn Wiebe!

I also met a blogger icon, Glenn Wiebe of historytech. I was beyond giddy! We always read Glenn’s blog – he does fabulous work keeping an eye on the combination of social studies and technology. I fully admit we “borrow” (with credit of course) ideas from Glenn. It made my conference complete to connect Glenn and Darren Milligan (Smithsonian) about the Learning Lab. Glenn also published a far-too flattering post about my session. THANK YOU, Glenn! I look forward to working with Glenn in the future.

I was able to connect with the team at Georgia Public Broadcasting who publish the 8th grade Georgia history textbook and virtual field trips.  GPB uses the same digital publishing software that we use, so it was extremely helpful to connect with them and share our successes and frustrations.

The now-annual Minnesota Tweetup was also a fantastic place to reconnect with old friends and make new connections. These are often folks I see on Twitter or at conferences, so it’s a great chance to actually talk.

Sessions with iconic bloggers always makes ISTE fun. I saw Chris Lehmann, Will Richardson and Pernille Ripp around the conference. Why all three were scheduled at 4 p.m on Tuesday is beyond me. Why, ISTE????

Talking to strangers also makes ISTE fun. For example, I met @im_alastair and @mpickens813 on the train to the airport. Lively conversation made the long ride much more fun!

Session

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Thanks to Mike Walker for taking this shot!

I did another poster session, although this one was on my own! Once again, it was about digital primary sources, “Reading Primary Source Images like a Book.” It was a busy two hours of sharing about primary source analysis and resources.

On to 2017 in San Antonio!

PD

In my work, I talk about professional development quite a bit. I do training with staff at my job, but a huge part of my work (and that of my colleagues) is teaching teachers.

In our experience, the PD for teachers when it comes to technology is lacking. Seriously lacking. Except for a few high flying exceptions at any school, it is more common to find teachers that aren’t getting the support they need to use the 1:1 technology they’re given (or had forced upon them). Many have trouble with the basics – turning it on, etc. This means they are not even close to using the tools in a real productive way — there’s little in terms of teaching pedagogy, classroom management, 21st century skills and how to move up the Bloom’s taxonomy ladder with the tools.

I was recently asked for some input on PD for a district. It may seem presumptuous of me to give any input, and I suppose it is. However, we benefit from seeing this tech PD from a broad perspective. I know the kinds of questions I’m asked, I know how often we get them.

Please note, I am in no way being critical of the teachers asking these questions. Just because I gravitate to tech tools very naturally and it comes really easily to me, I know it’s not that way for everyone – nor should it be. Nor should every teacher be expected to be a master of this. Some of the best teachers my kids have had have been basically luddites. It’s all about the attitude and pedagogy.

Anyway, here is are my thoughts about what a successful tech PD plan should look like:

  • embedded: there is a instructional technology person — not a network person — in the schools and accessible. It’s not a special thing.
  • frequent: happens as needed as well scheduled
  • leveled: lets the rabbits go quickly and the snails move at their comfort level
  • modeled: administrators embrace the tool, show excellent digital citizenship and use the tools when communicating with students, teachers and parents
  • paradigm shifting: includes more than just the hardware/software. It’s a mindset, and it takes time
  • flexible: it is responsive to changing tools and changing needs
  • student focused: both in terms of why districts do this – meets kids where they are, uses tools they know outside school. AND allows students to be part of the process. Embrace these kids. Let them be part of the solution, create student tech teams.
  • 4 Cs: it’s not really about the tool. It’s about empowering us to communicate, to create, collaborate and to think critically about our world. The iPads (whatever) are just a way to get there.

iPad Implementation

Interesting piece in edudemic.com about successful iPad (or 1:1) implementation, “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads.

I’m watching my daughter’s district get ready to roll out iPads to 7/8 next year. Since my daughter is older, I’m not directly involved, although I have a good sense of what they’re doing from conversations with teachers and admins.

The five errors this article addresses:

  1. Focusing on content apps
  2. Lack of teacher prep in classroom management
  3. Treating the iPad as a computer/laptop
  4. Treating iPads as multi-user devices
  5. Not having a good answer to “Why iPads?”

From my vantage point, the district is handling a few of these well, while falling right into these errors on others.

Apps: I’m not totally sure what apps they’ll be recommending, but from my conversations with teachers and the questions I hear at a couple of committees, the focus is on content apps. I’ve reviewed a few grant requests for iPads, and they tend to list 20+ content apps. As this article discusses, the powerful apps are the “consumption, curation, and creativity” apps, such as iMovie, Educreations, etc. These are the apps they should be requesting.

Teacher Training: I definitely see a lack of teacher prep, both in classroom management and in how to use the devices to provide better education (and isn’t that the goal?) The district did give teachers an ipad, but as the blog post suggests, that isn’t enough. I was at a recent meeting about professional development, and it was painfully obvious that the teachers want more training. How sad that the Tech Training in next year’s PD schedule was in February. FEBRUARY!!! iPads are rolling out in September!

The best PD is training teachers do themselves, but they need to provided with that paradigm. They need time to work with the devices, to see the tools modeled and used in setting that are not threatening or have 30 kids sitting in the room. I’d love to see them do an EdCamp (I’ve offered to run it) or to create learning cohorts with teachers teaching themselves.

I have seen the admins at conferences, but have yet to see a teacher from this district. That, to me, is a big error.

Multi-user: Fortunately, they are going 1:1. They did a limited pilot last year, and found that classroom sets didn’t bring much change. The best results were in a 1:1 setting. I agree, and am happy to see them going down this path.

Communicating “Why?” There has been some good communication and reasoning around why they are using the iPads. One principal said it was to improve “individualized instruction, immediate assessment feedback…” Another said, “…to go beyond the classroom, giving kids a world view…” These are good goals.

I am concerned about this message, “…the iPad initiative will be monitored to see whether student learning increases and test scores rise.”  Student learning is not best measured by tests.

TIES Day 2, Many Days Later

Over a week later, here are the highlights of TIES#13, Day 2:

Session 1

Great session on “The STEM of Social Studies” by Elk River teacher Ron Hustvedt. Ron teaches 6th grade social studies in a STEM school, and I was overjoyed to watch him compare the work of historians to the scientific method! Ron said, “Inquiry is the scientific method” and showed how doing the work of a historian mimics the work of a scientist. It is an important perspective to share in this world that values tested subjects over the humanities.

My session

I presented a poster along with Craig Roble on our favorite topic, digital primary sources. Here’s our poster description:

A win-win situation: museum curators + creative educators = great digital content for your classroom. Learn how collaborating with local history organizations can benefit you and your students.

This is my second poster session, and I think I’ll stick with that format for awhile. It is tons of fun to talk with people, rather than talk at them. We had 15 people or so stop by, and had some really good conversations.

One teacher asked if MNHS will translate primary source documents into other languages. This is not something we can do, for a variety of reasons. (It’s expensive, way too many documents, and then the document is no longer actually a primary source!) We suggested she use visual primary sources with her students learning English. There are many powerful activities you could do with students using photographs or objects that don’t rely on strong English reading skills. For many native English speakers younger than high school, reading primary source written documents is a challenge. Use visuals! This seemed to be a new idea to many of the teachers who were talking with us. Hopefully they’ll try it! We definitely see teachers focusing on written primary sources.

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Pinterest Board with links to Digital Primary Source resources

We know teachers want new sources and places to find digital primary sources. Craig and I started a Pinterest board linking to various resources. It’s not a perfect solution, but we really liked the visual nature of Pinterest vs. a Google doc with a list of links.

 

Parent Session

George Couros presented a session, “Involving Parents in the Process of Learning.” See next post for a more detailed discussion of this powerful and motivating talk.

Don’t Use that Phone!!

Just got the following notice about cell phone use at my son’s school. (He’s in 8th grade)

Question: Is it okay for my child to bring a cell phone to school?
Answer: Yes, if they DON’T USE IT!

We do not allow students to use phones for any purpose (including texting) while at school. If they need to communicate with home, they should ask a teacher and use the school phones. If we see students using personal phones, we may keep the phone for a parent to pick up.

Wow. I hardly know how to react to this. Have an 8th grader ask a teacher to use the phone to call parents? First of all, I am rarely by a phone. I strongly prefer my son text me. Please. I can be reached by text anywhere.

Let’s teach kids how to use these tools. I bet the vast majority of kids have those phones in their pockets, and many have iPhones or Androids. My son doesn’t have a smart phone – just a phone phone. He has an iPad and is allowed to use that. Why is he allowed to use this when others can’t use their phones? It makes no sense.