Mid-Summer Thoughts: Technology Use in Class

Recently, a conversation on our department’s listserve sparked me to offer a rare response. Most of what you need to know about the conversation on the list is embedded in my comments below, and I would welcome ideas for how you help students use technology during class in productive, ethical, and responsible ways.


Colleagues,

This conversation about student technology use comes for me at an interesting point in the summer, having just a few weeks ago finished our summer institute with the Chippewa River Writing Project (which was a four-week, laptop intensive experience for participants) and as I plan for teaching and professional development work this fall (in which computer labs and internet access will be a critical part of the work). Having been on vacation and just now catching up on the conversation, I have a few thoughts on this. While I surely sympathize with all of you who have students using laptops for off-task behaviors in class (and have had similar experiences myself), I am quite disturbed by the general tone of this conversation in regards to students, their social skills, and technology uses. To me, the suggestion that we “selectively shut-off the WiFi in the classroom” or “forbid in-class use of laptops and any of those smaller things” is akin to something like censorship, an act that we would rally against.

While I am not condoning the use of Facebook during class time or other types of distracted behavior, I think that there are two aspects of this issue that haven’t been addressed — the ways in which we invite students to be academics and our own pedagogical styles, both in relation to technology. For the first, I find the suggestion that students not use the internet during our classes or outside of class to be ridiculous, as it is our responsibility to teach them how to use it productively, ethically, and responsibly for many purposes, not the least of which is communicating with us, engaging in research, and creating digital texts. For the second, I think that we all have a responsibility to think about the ways that we ask, even encourage students to use technology in our classrooms, above and beyond simply taking notes.

My experience — having taught in labs for the past three years and with the writing project this summer — is that simply setting norms for technology use and, periodically, revisiting these norms will eliminate most of the problems and help you learn from your students how best to employ technology. If you want them to take notes, why not have an interactive Google Doc with the day’s agenda posted for the all to take notes, post questions, and add links to pertinent web resources? If you are worried that internet searching and instant messaging is killing their critical thinking ability, then why not engage them in online discussions and model the types of responses you would expect them to give? In other words, don’t blame the technology causing bad behavior when you have opportunity to employ it in productive ways.

As I have done with undergraduates, graduates, and teachers in professional development settings, when we were having trouble with off-task behavior this summer, I simply paused in class one day to ask everyone to brainstorm with me in a grid about the positives and negatives that the laptops had for us as teachers and learners. Many people expressed great appreciation for the fact that they could be connected to one another in class through our wiki, Google Docs, and other collaborative technologies. Some were concerned that these technologies could be distracting when they couldn’t get the right log in password or find the right settings to make changes on a website. Many admitting to quickly checking their email or Facebook during class time, and agreed that it should not be done while others were presenting their teaching demonstration or when we had a group discussion. In fact, we agreed to make an effort to ask for “lids down” moments when we really wanted everyone to attend carefully to what was said in this face-to-face setting and “lids up” moments when we wanted them to do something hands-on with their computers.

In short, I fear that this discussion about limiting students’ technology use in class treads on very dangerous water, as we are fortunate enough to have the computer labs that we do have and making broad claims that we would want to turn off the internet or ban technology all together seems, at best, anti-intellectual and, at worst, a violation of students’ right to learn in whatever manner they see fit.

Beyond that, I haven’t even addressed some of the latest research about how young people perceive technology use in their own lives and the social shifts that are happening because of it. If we ignore these shifts, it is at our own peril, because students will find other ways to learn. For more on that, I recommend that you check out this book (available as a free PDF download) — Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (MIT Press) and this FRONTLINE Special, Digital Nation.

My hope is that we can continue to talk about productive uses of technology, both for our students and for our teaching while not simply resorting to the “kids these days” kinds of comments that have been evident in the earlier threads of this discussion.

Troy


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Notes from Thursday Afternoon Sessions at SITE 2010

A smorgasbord of sessions from SITE 2010 with the notes I was able to catch from each (some more than others)… enjoy!

Technology Enhanced Collaboration – Schools and Teachers Engaged in Professional Development
Tim Frey, Kansas State University
  • Context
    • Two districts that are 65 miles apart and both rural
    • 20 teachers, K-12 (web cam and stipend)
  • Online facilitation through KState Online
    • Primarily used video postings
  • Project-based professional development
    • Series of relevant tasks that serve as a stimulus for critical thinking and knowledge building (Howard, 2002)
    • Relatively long-term, problem-focused, and integrate concepts from previous learning
  • Design of TEC-STEP
    • Structured a step-by-step intervention project
    • Collaborative learning community
    • Extended engagement in activities
  • Project examples
    • Using webcam to improve reading fluency
    • Student created video for parent/teacher conferences
    • Students recording stories to be “read” to preschool classroom
    • Peer tutoring videos in math via VoiceThread
    • Teachers recording lessons and allowing students to view them as podcasts
    • Using video projector to add to content presentation
    • Social skills modeling and role play
    • FFA recording for presentations
  • Preliminary results
    • Developed collaborative relationships across districts
    • Creating a supportive group of professionals who are willing to take risks
    • Most teachers chose to use the web cam as a part of the project
    • Most projects were student-centered
    • Even minimal project reports were inconsistent and seemed challenging
Developing a Framework for Teacher Professional Development Using Online Social Networks
Kinnis Gosha, Clemson
  • The main point:
    • To develop an application that enhances professional development by harnessing teacher connections on online social networks
  • Current PD process:
    • Required by admin, options given by admin, self-initiated, hybrid
  • Challenges:
    • Teacher diversity and different interests
    • Teacher feedback is inconsistent
    • Milestones vs. Opportunity — some see it as something they have to get through, others see it as a real opportunity to learn and grow
    • Various teacher groups within and across districts
  • Online social networks (OSN)
    • How do I make it? From scratch? Customize existing networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube
    • Do teachers really use online social networks? Do they use them for personal reasons, or professional ones? Would they be willing to participate and give feedback in an OSN?
  • Survey results
    • Many used Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, but in different ways
    • Only about 50% likely to give feedback, and split on comfort level in participation (35% willing, 35% not willing, 30% said it depends
    • Teachers don’t trust Facebook
  • Goals:
    • Fill in domain gaps
    • Learn more regional PD trends
    • Distinguish pre-recession and post-recession PD procedures
    • Recommendation of tool features

Mobilizing Educational Technologies in a Collaborative Online Community to Develop a Knowledge Management System as a Wiki
Nancy Copeland and Anne Bednar, Eastern Michigan University

Digital Storytelling Viewed Through a Post-process Lens
Martha Green, Texas A&M
  • Educational context
    • NAEP Writing Assessment showing 33% proficiency at 8th grade
    • Integrating technology into all methods classes
  • Post-process theory: Writing is public, interpretive, and situated; communication is a cultural activity; reading and writing is an active construction
    • Seeks to use life experiences that students bring into the classroom
    • Places interest in the meaning of the work at the core of the experience
    • Trimbur — university classes have lost the view on the “circulation of writing”
  • Connecting post-process to digital storytelling
    • Adaptation of oral storytelling
    • Intentionality, reflection, self-evaluation, and revision
    • Written to be shared; private to public
  • Methodology
    • Culminating project of the semester
  • Observation
    • Sharing their stories was an important part of their experience
  • Results
    • Pre-service teachers felt empowered by the process of reflecting on a past event and constructing a digital story about it
    • Would use digital storytelling in their own classroom
  • Digital Storytelling Resources from WorldRoom Website

Effectiveness of a Hypermedia Video Case-Based Library for Inservice Teachers’ Professional Development
Mary Cockburn, Purdue

  • Hypermedia resources for pre-service teachers have shown documentd benefits
  • Ten preschool teachers had access to 100 video cases of best literacy practices
  • All teachers felt positive about the use of hypermedia; there was no current resource available and “… it was much better than having to search through Google to find teaching strategies.”
  • Implications
    • Improving in-service PD via hypermedia may be effective
    • Minimal training is required
    • Familiarity with computers is not a prerequisite
    • More research with a larger and more diverse sample is needed

Preparing Teachers to Purposefully Plan Technology Integration that Encourages Curiosity, Creativity, Independence and Collaboration
Dina Rosen, Kean University

  • What does it look like when you are using technology to really encourage creativity and collaboration?
  • Four key characteristics of quality tech integration
    • Learner centered
    • Representation centered
    • Community/real-world centered
    • Build on existing practice


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Notes from Lisa Dawley’s “The Evolution of Teacher Education in a Digital Learning Era” at SITe 2010″

The Evolution of Teacher Education in a Digital Learning Era: Transforming Knowledge in the Global Network

Lisa Dawley, Boise State University
  • The Unavoidable Evolution in Teacher Education
    • Travels around the world, others saying that American students are creative; yet, still calls for reform, especially in teacher education, keep happening here in US
    • New US EdTech plan, too
  • Growth in Online Education
    • Over 1 million K-12 kids learn online; 47% increase in the past two years
    • Fall 2007, 20% of college student were enrolled in an online course
    • 45 states offer some kind of state supplemental program online, as well as fully online K-12 programs offered as charter schools
    • Idaho K12 virtual schools — 14,000 students enrolled last year
  • K12 Online Options
    • Moving along a continuum from traditional integrated tech classroom to hybrid course to online tech enhanced schools to full-time virtual schooling
    • Other hybrids exist, including options that are in brick and mortar schools and homeschools
    • iNACOL – The International Association for K-12 Online Learning
  • Effects of online learning report
    • The effectiveness of online learning is tied to learning time, curriculum, pedagogy, and opportunities for collaboration
    • Gives learners control of their interactions with media… move, use, remix, edit, build, chance, click, interact, change…
    • Online learning can be enhanced by prompting learner reflection
    • What doesn’t impact learning
      • Incorporating online quizzes
      • Media combinations don’t matter, but control over them does
    • Henry Jenkins and participatory culture: MIT TV clip
  • Pedagogical Framework from Dawley: Social Network Knowledge Construction
    • Identify
    • Lurk
    • Contribute
    • Create
    • Lead
  • How do we design programs to rethink teacher education?
    • At Boise State, it is only graduate degrees and certificates
    • Fully online for past seven years; students throughout the world
    • Moved from Blackboard to Moodle, integrating web 2.0 tools into portal
    • Integration of videos from YouTube, TeacherTube, WatchKnow
    • Avatar creation through Voki and SitePals
    • Graphic blogs through Glogster
    • 3D learning games such as Conspiracy Code
  • Open source and free content
    • iTunesU
    • 3D virtual worlds: Opensource metaverse, croquet
    • Moodle learning management systen
  • Mobile learning
    • Educational apps
    • Texting
    • LMS access
    • Multimedia
    • GPS-based curriculum
    • In three years, mobile devices will become the main interface used to browse the internet
  • Exergaming
    • State-wide online tournaments for gaming
  • Innovative courses, participatory networks
  • Help lead the teacher education revolution


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Notes from “Blending Online and On-Site Spaces and Communities: Developing Effective Practices”

Notes from “Blending Online and On-Site Spaces and Communities: Developing Effective Practices”

Niki Davis, Julie Mackey, Ann Mcgrath, Donna Morrow, Lawrence Walker, Nicki Dabner, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

  • E-learning blends to discuss
    • Blending physical and virtual spaces
    • Blending teacher’s online learning communities and local communities of colleagues
    • Blending teaching practice online with teachers redeveloping K-12 education
  • Online learning?
    • Learning with and through digital technologies
    • Online courses and resources for teachers, students, and the wider community
    • Online and blended learning is more effective
    • Creating learning communities
  • Characteristics of a learning community
    • Common cultural and historical heritage — build heritage with mediated artifacts
    • Interdependent system — sense of shared purpose and identity
    • Reproduction cycle — moving in and out, legitimate peripheral participation
  • Context of the two studies
    • Teachers participating in a graduate course, geographically dispersed across New Zealand
    • Took the ideas from the class back to their local classrooms, communities, families — need to think about how to value their local communities and classrooms in a way that lets them talk about the process that gets them to the point of participating in the online course
    • Blended learning, then, is a combination of the online class and the communities in which the participants are situated
  • Blending physical and virtual using Web 2.0
    • Doing more with less
    • Maintaining quality and integrity
    • Enriching the students’ authentic experiences
  • New Imperatives
    • Move to larger classes
    • Effectively model ICT as a tool
    • Wanted to model what may be reality in school
    • E-learning lab
  • Pedagogy re-thought
    • Creating a physical space that allows for large group, small group, and individual work that is collaborative
    • Screens around the room can display various screens from students, teacher, or multiple sources
  • Portfolio assessment — not connected to university network, students are able to use it outside of school
    • Grading the meaning that students have made from the process of creating the portfolio

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Announcing MSU’s EdTech Hybrid PhD

Last fall, Sara and I had opportunity to sit in on some conversations about MSU’s EdTech Hybrid PhD program, and Punya Mishra has recently written about this on his blog:

And finally, if you still aren’t satisfied… you can also work towards a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology! (Link updated 9/17/2012) Designed for bright, established professionals currently serving in K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, policy centers, and research institutions, the goal of the Ph.D. program in Educational Psychology & Educational Technology is to prepare the next generation of educational leaders with the requisite skills to direct learning as it forges forth at the intersection of the growing world of digital media, online learning environments and traditional face-to-face practice.  You can complete the Ph.D. program either on-campus in East Lansing (with graduate assistantship or fellowship support) or, (and this is the most exciting) keep your day-job, and complete the program over summers, with courses taken online, in a new cohort-based hybrid option. You can read my initial abut this here.

Exciting!! Edupunk refresher, hybrid PhD & more…

Curt Bonk, author of The World Is Open, a book I am reading right now, also interviews Punya on his blog.

As I continue to think more and more about the possibilities of online learning, especially hybrid models, I will be curious to see how this doctoral program develops, both personally (as an alum of MSU and the spouse of a current student) and a professional interested in what we can offer through our own writing project. Best of luck to my colleagues and friends at MSU!


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