Balance is the Key

Just watched this video clip and felt a bit like he was speaking to the choir with me. A tech integrationist, (teach students tech in context in their rooms when they need it) I am constantly having to defend tech. I am having to defend it because most of the information going out to people about tech is how bad it is for everyone.

What about how good it can be? What about that student who doesn’t speak English who I sat next to and used google translate to help him understand the purpose of an assignment. Who then lit up like a light bulb because he finally understood what he was supposed to be doing in the class?

What about the student who has motor skill issues with handwriting but is able to publish a story using audio that is just as good as their peers?

I have this debate nearly every day and I am not all tech all the time. I have often asked teachers, why are you using tech wouldn’t it be easier and faster to just have them write/speak/draw something.

But to globally discount it because someone proved it’s bad, drives me nuts. I especially get nuts when they start talking about serotonin & stress levels. Baby’s crying creates stress in a parent, nobody is suggesting that they leave or get rid of the baby to manage their stress.

I agree that BALANCE is key. And just like not everyone gets it right with food, alcohol, exercise or anything else. It doesn’t mean we get rid of the thing but we educate better about the thing. In this case the “thing” is Tech.

Evaluating eLearning

My homework for my E-learning Theory and Technology course at the Cork Institute of Technology is to review this Wall Street Journal website about the Kowloon Walled City.

We were asked to spend time exploring it and then reflect on the following three points:

  • Engagement of learner
  • Quality of interaction
  • Advantages and disadvantages over traditional ways of learning.

First I would like to say that we were supposed to spend 10 minutes exploring and reflecting. Here I am 25 minutes later beginning my reflection while trying not to return to the website and explore more!

So as far as the engagement of the learner goes I think that this is an amazing site. The following things are the positives I would say the site has for engagement.

  • It is visually appealing on every page.
    • Each page is unique but to me, that unique element does not distract from the experience but heightens it.
    • One of the points the digital story makes is that the Kowloon Walled City was a maze of buildings, alleyways, and people. I think that the visual changes in the story build on that maze feeling and reinforce the chaos that many people must have imagined it to be like, yet the site also reflects the order that the residence described as the reality.
  • The story uses sound, images, and text.
  • The short clips are just the right length to keep the learner engaged but not lose interest because they drag on.

As for the quality of the interaction, the quality of this digital story is amazing. The elements are put together in a way that tells a story if you go from point A to point B through the site, but also tells the same story if you play a bit of alphabet soup along the way! Everything ties to something eventually. The way the stores of real people who lived within the walled city are woven throughout the site makes you the reader feel what it would have been like to live and work there.

The advantages of this type of learning platform are that a learner can attack the learning in whichever way they prefer. They can watch a video or just read the text. Nearly all of the text on the first page (People) reinforces the video, yet does not copy the video 100%. You are getting less information if you only choose one method but you are not “missing out” on the whole picture of what the walled city was like.

This type of platform allows for someone to experience through first-hand interaction a place that they may never get to visit. Having recently visited Hong Kong and hearing about the tiny apartments and “cage” houses still in Kowloon, it was very interesting for me to see what it had once been.  As a way of learning, first-hand experiences are a good way for learners to connect with a learning experience and make emotional connections with them. Even if those first-hand experiences are only through video interviews and not live person to person interviews.

A disadvantage to this type of platform is that for some it can be visually overstimulating. They may get distracted easily and jump from place to place within the site without really engaging with the learning.  This could be especially true when they get to the “Imagination” page and begin watching video clips of movies.

Overall I think that this is a great learning piece if you just want to get a feel for what it was like to live and work inside the walled city.

If you wanted a detailed look at any element of the walled city, I don’t think that it would achieve any level of detailed information.

Personally, I like this platform. For me, it was just the right amount of information to keep me interested in exploring without losing interest or getting off task (which is a huge problem for me!).

 

Don’t forget the learning!

I have just begun a short certificate course in preparation for a Masters program which I will begin in January.

I was asked in one of the courses to review a couple of sites to critique the advantages and disadvantages of them as eLearning sites.

Advantages – They were both visually appealing. Visually they were interesting and understandable to a general, basic level. They both give you basic information in both text and image format.

Disadvantages – Once you got past the Ohhh, Ahhh of both you realize they each had flaws.

NY – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/new-york-city-skyline-tallest-midtown-manhattan/
This one used the scroll down to scroll sideways which at first I found interesting but then when I stopped twice along the way I couldn’t remember how to move.

It also only showed the color coding key at the very beginning.

BBC – http://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/20140304-how-big-is-space-interactive/index.html
This one scrolled down and down and down and when you got to the end it helped you understand a bit of scale but the elements along the bottom that were supposed to help with scale were completely mathematical in nature and not visual. Telling me that 1 Pixel – 1,000,000km does not help me understand the scale (not to mention that the UK uses miles so it means even less to people!). Also, I never did figure out what the graphic on the right was supposed to be showing me.

Neither of them uses any sense but the eyes. If you don’t read or can’t see well you have no way to interact with these sites.

They both were lacking in further information. On both, I wanted to click into the boxes/areas that had a sentence description and have more detailed information pop up. Neither did.

While I learned at least two new things while scrolling through the BBC site, only one was learned by reading (Nuclear test went farther than the ISStation the other fact I learned I had to Google because the site did not fully explain what it meant.

This type of thing is what I deal with on a weekly basis in Education. Teachers ask me for apps or resources that look fabulous, but when you get to the actual nitty-gritty of what it is teaching, you get not a lot. But the ones that maybe look less interesting actually teach what they need to teach.

It is important to focus on visuals because without them nobody will use your learning product, but you can’t only focus on the visuals at the expense of the learning.

It’s Done

My final project is done! Well, actually that is only 1/2 true. What I need to complete my video is done, but the project is ongoing and will be hopefully for years to come!

Please watch the video to learn more about my project:

 

My further reflection on the course, because you don’t want to have to watch a 20 min video to hear all of this, is that Redefinition is hard. It sounds easy enough, but what I kept finding was that each idea I threw out to my teaching partner was at best Modification. It was difficult to think of ideas that could be taken all of the way to Redifinition.

This project also made me realize that for many projects in Elementary school going to Modification is okay. For that project, that teacher and those kids at that time of the year, Modification is sometimes, pushing them enough. But that I, as a Tech Integrator, and the teacher should always be thinking about the next project, how can we build on their skills so that we don’t have to spend so much time skill building and can spend more time creating. How can we move other projects along the SAMR path?

Sometimes Redefinition just falls in your lap, but rarely, it takes work and planning. I was very lucky that the teacher I was working with was not only open to new things, she was open to seeing these new ideas fail and succeed. She was not afraid of a lesson completely flopping or a plan changing at the last minute. That allowed me to use my Design Thinking strategies to problem solve throughout the project. Being nimble in our planning allowed both the teacher and I to test ideas quickly. This led to some quick changes to homework sometimes even while students were working!

Now that I have completed this project with three G2 teachers, I have a better idea of the time involved for set up. This helps when I recommend it to the G3 teachers for the 2018-2019 school year. It also helps me better understand how to help the G2 teachers at the beginning of the year get their Home Learning set up. This will help them get a jumpstart on their technology learning even earlier in the year. This will allow for them to use their 1:1 iPad program more effectively in their classrooms because they can use the Home Learning to reinforce new technology skills introduced in class.

I have enjoyed working very closely with the three G2 teachers who helped me complete this project and I look forward to helping them continue to grow for the rest of the school year.

It All Takes Work

What’s a PLN you ask? Well, a Personal Learning Network is an essential part of being an educator these days, in my opinion. I can’t imagine how I would have survived the last 5.5 years without one. PLN’s allow you to connect with other educators in your field or just other like-minded educators. They are not always in similar jobs but generally have similar styles. My PLN journey started out small. A few contacts I had made through professional development (PD) that I would regularly email and ask questions. It began to grow when a Google Trainer told me this story about how to use Twitter. This started a journey that is continually developing as I wrote about in my post “It’s all about the PLN

One of my goals in that post was to become less of a lurker and participate more. I can’t say that I have made huge progress with that but I did try to make more effort during this course.

Staying involved in my PLN is what helped me complete my Course 5 project though. Without my PLN I would not have been able to move the project into Redefinition. It all started with this tweet to my PLN. This tweet resulted in two teachers working with me to help complete my project.

Another place that I am active in my PLN is Facebook. At first, Facebook was only for personal stuff. But now there are some very good PLN groups on Facebook and I find myself engaging with them more and more. For example, this one for Book Creator. Instead of traditional twitter chats, they have their chats online in a book. So instead of answering questions in posts, you answer questions by making pages in the book. Now with their new collaboration tool, it is even easier! I wasn’t going to be awake during this online discussion so I snuck in and added my answers to the book the morning before they held the chat!

 

I also try to share my expertise when I can through my PLN. I try helping out teachers who have questions when I can. My one caveat is that I make sure that I read the comments to see if my answer has already been stated. I hate nothing more than repeating what someone else has already said! That is what the “like” button is for!

Here are a few more examples of how I have participated in the Book Creator Facebook group.

 

 

My PLN is also a place for me to grow and develop. I learn new things every time I engage with my PLN. I am constantly forwarding myself posts to reread and review. I use Pocket to help collect articles to review at a later date or just collect ones that I may want to reference in the future.

My inbox in my school mail is full of articles that I want to re-read or share with my teachers. Sharing information with my teachers is actually one of the main reasons that I stay on top of latest changes. If I can give teachers information that will help make their lives easier than that is one of my goals!

One way that my teaching partner and I have been doing that is through interactive Google Drawings. I totally stole this idea from one of my PLN Peep Carrie Zimmer who creates Tech Tidbits. My teaching partner and I started creating our own. Here is one example, if you click on the link underneath you will be redirected to the interactive image (click around, though the cursor doesn’t change pretty much every image is a link).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another way that I have begun to help my teachers develop their PLN skills is to create an in-house Seesaw Chat group. It is starting out with a few select teachers as a place that they can go and help themselves if needed by asking each other questions. It will also be a place where I share Seesaw information that I think they may want to see from my other sources. I think this has a lot of potential, but I will need to see where it goes in the future to see if it fully develops!

When the Going Gets Tough!

I recorded this podcast about a week after our Rigorous PBL training. Since then I have had more time to explore using the idea of Surface, Deep, and Transfer in actual planning. One of the things that I have noticed is that just like trying to get to the R in SAMR is difficult, trying to get to the Transfer level is also difficult. This makes me wonder if this is why teachers struggle so much to get to these levels? Is it because it is one more difficult element in a long list of difficult elements that make up education?

Is it similar to why some parents, even though they know better, do things to make their lives easier, like letting their phone be a babysitter? Michael mentions John Hattie’s Meta-Analysis and that basically having any teacher in a classroom is on some level effective. I wonder if this isn’t why education has become so stagnate. We just keep doing what we have always done because it isn’t ineffective. I think this is part of the reason why I have stayed overseas. Other than the lifestyle and travel which are personal reasons. The professional reasons are that I am not interested in spending my time in a school that is just doing the minimal effective techniques to teach students.

I do know that I don’t have to go internationally to be able to be a part of the change that I think education needs, but I do know that international schools do play a role in leading some changes. I also know that there are many international schools out there that are doing just the minimal to get students education like any other school system.

I like to think of myself as someone who is motivated to be a part of the change in education. I am actively participating in my school’s research and development teams. I am actively staying on top of trending changes in my field. Do I do this because I am a single subject teacher and I have more time? Do I do this because as part of any technology job you have to stay on top of the tech and it changes so often? Do I do this because I am self-motivated and this is just my personality? I really think that it is a combination of all of the above and I hope that the drive never changes. I do know that the drive has become more developed with the development of my digital PLN. Until I started developing my PLN through social media, I was only able to stay on top of things through face to face PD and information from other teachers. Now I am getting information nearly as soon as it happens and am part of discussions sometimes from the very beginning.

I also feel that a huge part of doing this effectively is being collaborative. Working with others either in your field, school, grade level, whoever. Find someone who can help you and work with them to bat ideas around. When I was trying to come up with how to move projects that were apart of my Course 5 project along the SAMR model it too me and my teaching partner both batting around ideas before we could figure out how to move things along. One of us was not enough, doing things in isolation for me is not enough, I need to bounce ideas around with another person so that I can think through them more thoroughly and work out all of the elements needed. That is one thing I like about the international schools that I have worked in. I have been very lucky to have always had colleagues who are willing to collaborate with me!

I think that this is a great time to be in education because of the rate of information sharing and the speed at which change can happen, there is no excuse for not being a part of change if you want to be. You only have to take the leap and challenge yourself to do the hard things. Like, try to figure out how to take lessons involving technology to Redefinition and how to move your students into a place were Transferring their knowledge is normal and just part of what they do.

Is it hard? Yes! Should we do it anyway? Absolutely!