Please Join Us: K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century MOOC

Follow the MOOC via Twitter @k12techcourses

Though I am a little late to the MOOC movement, I’m excited to be participating in a venture this fall — K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century — that will be facilitated by Rick Ferdig, Kristine Pytash, and a host of other educators from around Michigan. Here is a quick summary, and you can register on the MOOC’s main website.

This free course runs from October 7 to November 8, 2013. It is aimed at high school students, pre-service teachers and in-service teachers who are interested in a conversation about using 21st century tools for teaching.

My hope is that we can use the MOOC to foster rich dialogue about the nature and uses of digital literacies, looking for themes within and across the experience of teachers at various stages of their career and in different professional contexts. More on this next week as we get closer to the October 7th kick-off date.


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Information on the 21st Century Youth Project

After an email exchange with Antonio Rowry, a cofounder at 21st Century Youth Project, I felt it was appropriate to share the work of their organization here on my blog. They describe themselves as “an innovative after school initiative to do a small part to change education” and here is more straight from Antoinio:

The idea first came to us when we read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. To give a quick synopsis, one of our major takeaways from the book is that to become very successful, it’s a combination of several elements: perfect place, perfect timing, with the proper training. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell highlights the massive forces that combined to produce Bill Gates and Bill Joy. They had access to computers and equipment that enabled them to code far before most of the people their age. What does the 21st Century Youth Project entail:

  • Mobile App Development: We are using the Google Android platform where the students will each create their own unique app. The fun part about this is that they can create apps for their friends, family, schools, places of worship, or for the general community. We want to develop leaders, and we’re excited about the power of a student creating an app for their school, and receive recognition for the contribution in the same way as a school athlete.
  • SAT Training: We want to develop students for the next level, being college. Enabling them to slowly receive instruction, we hope to improve their scores so they can attend the school of their dreams. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to give ACT/SAT math training to communities where paying $1,000 for a class isn’t an option. In many ways, your scores on standardized tests are directly linked to income levels and training, and we’re aiming to bridge that gap.
  • Business Planning: In addition to building an app, we want the students to understand the business implications and executions of their concepts. They will be formed into teams to discuss their business opportunities and create value for their customers.
  • Mentorship: The founder, Prof. Emile Cambry, Jr. is excited to give back because he was very fortunate to be a byproduct of many free educational programs that exposed him to business. Growing up, he thought he was going to be a doctor, but his mother always enlisted him in several programs to learn. It has led to his intellectual curiosity and more importantly; he realized business was his calling. He had attended the LEAD Program in Business and in many ways; the 21st Century Youth Project is based on their implementation. The students will be taking tours to college campuses, primarily those with strong computer or engineering departments, attending technology events in Chicago, and attend lectures taught by Chicago software developers.
  • Open-Source Educational Curriculum: We are slowly enabling, on an invite-only basis, an opportunity to create a dynamic curriculum to be used in the classroom.  This curriculum can be edited like Wikipedia and by keeping it open and dynamic, we hope to develop the best curriculum that isn’t based on state mandated codes, but instead, on what is best for the children. We will have topics in business, technology, finance, film, music, fashion, etc. We only care about providing instruction that the students respond to and learn the most.

After nine months of meetings, conference calls, presentations, and pitches to parents, students, faculty, and administrators, we are finally launching the 21st Century Youth Project. Our first day was February 12th, 2011, one of our MOST personally and professionally satisfying experiences. We’re documenting the progress of the pilot in hopes that we can gear up for a highly successful summer program.

Quick Thoughts on the State of Tech Ed

Earlier today, I was sent a request for an email interview from a CMU undergraduate. I only had a quick turnaround time to reply (so she could get enough info to write her paper about technology in education), but her deadline encouraged me to be brief in my responses. With her permission, I share her questions and my answers here. As I prepare for many professional development events coming up in the next few weeks, this was a good time to capture some of my thoughts in such a succinct manner.

What are some specific topics you have researched in technology?
My research focuses on the ways that teachers integrate technology into writing instruction. In particular, I am interested in how K-12 teachers blend a writing workshop approach to instruction with specific technologies such as blogs, wikis, collaborative word processing, digital stories, and other multimedia to engage students in meaningful writing and learning.
What are the “hot topics” right now?
Given President Obama’s interest in STEM and the new national educational technology plan, I think that the main focus on technology use in education is for science and math instruction. Also, with the push towards more student engagement, paperless classrooms, increased wireless broadband access, and tablet computing, I think that we have an interesting opportunity to change the ways that teaching and learning takes place inside and outside of school.
Describe the current debates of using technology in the classroom
I think that the main debate centers less on why we should use technology, as that is more or less a given, and more on why to use it. On the one hand, we have advocates for online/virtual learning that acts as a supplement or replacement for instruction. On the other, we have advocates who suggest that students should be using the technology to communicate and create, not just for remediation. As we continue to push for technology in schools, I hope that we invite students to be collaborators,  communicators, and creators, and not just to reinforce old models of instruction with newer, shinier tools.
Have you read any informational journals or books on technology?
I do read journals and books, and those are helpful resources, but get most of my news comes from educational bloggers/tweeters and eSchool News.
How do you conduct research?
For the most part, I do research with teachers as we co-design curriculum and instruction that is technologically-rich and pedagogically-sound. This involves time talking and planning with teachers, working with them and their students, doing follow-up interviews and surveys, and then integrating my thoughts and ideas into the existing literature and knowledge about technology in education and writing.
Where do you get funding to support your research?
Mostly from grant dollars which allow me to have release time. For instance, we currently have a grant from the National Writing Project for our local CMU site, the Chippewa River Writing Project. Also, I am working on a Title II Professional Development grant, WRITE NOW.
If I were to look for sources to write grants, where would I go?
For your own classroom, you would look most likely to local sources like community or school foundations. For the district or regional level, you would look to other agencies such as the Michigan Department of Education or National Writing Project.
What are the most enjoyable parts of being a researcher?
For me, the most enjoyable part of being a researcher is working with teachers to help them develop their own passions and ideas into classroom practice. The second most enjoyable part is being able to write and talk about those ideas in my own CMU classes and in professional development sessions that I lead around the country.
Do you ever work with a partner? How?
I am almost always working with partners. From the teachers that I meet with and plan projects to other CMU staff and faculty who help me develop and implement grants, I am working with partners all the time. Especially with writing, I am constantly working with colleagues to do grant applications, human subjects research applications, chapters, articles, books, and presentations.
What are the frustrations of being a researcher?
My main frustration is that I have to divert my attention away from research, writing, and collaboration to write reports and attend meetings that have little to do with my research. Yet, I understand that this is how the university works, and I really do enjoy being a researcher so I am willing to put up with the frustrations.
What do you think will come with the future of technology in education?
That’s a huge question. While I am not 100% sure of what will come, what I would hope will come is something like this: all teachers and students will have ubiquitous and uninterrupted one-to-one access to a tablet or other computing device, high speed wireless internet, and numerous online, open educational resources. This would allow for anytime, anywhere learning that truly pushes us to be instructional coaches and leaders for our students, since the answer to simple questions will only be a Google search away, and we can spend our time answering the bigger, more complicated questions through project-based learning.
Are there are connections to other disciplines? Or opportunities for interdisciplinary research?
Yes, there are many, many opportunities for this when you think about writing and technology. I think that you could connect to any discipline given the interest that you can generate from working with colleagues in that discipline. In particular, I am interested in how English teachers and librarian/media specialists could work together to address concerns about information literacy, copyright, and plagiarism.


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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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Free Tutoring via TutorJam’s Access Program

A note from Nathan Arora, Co-Founder and President of Tutor Jam:

I know your time is very valuable so I’ll try to be brief. TutorJam (www.tutorjam.com) is an online tutoring company with offices in Waterloo, Canada and Chapel Hill, NC offering K-12 tutoring to students in math, science, English and social studies. A key part of our founding vision is to ensure that our services also address the educational needs of limited-income families through our Access Program. While we’ve seen excellent growth in our paid tutoring services, we haven’t been able to get the word out to families about the availability of our Access Program’s free tutoring services.

To help build awareness of this free program, we’re initiating a grassroots campaign among bloggers to help promote this service to their community.

While I haven’t used TutorJam, and I can’t attest to it, I do firmly believe in their mission to provide free tutoring to those who most deserve it, so that is why I am sharing their information here. I hope that it helps many of your students.

Rough Draft Thinking for a Hybrid Professional Development Experience

Well, we have a hybrid professional development experience coming up on September 24th for the Project WRITE teachers. In trying to meet a number of constraints and opportunities, I have set up a wiki page for the evening’s activities. Here is some of my thinking about why and how this is set up this way, as well as a screencast of my thinking, too. I would be very interested to hear your feedback about how (and if!) you think this will work.

First, we had to have a way for participants who choose to go the hybrid route to both log their “seat time” for SB-CEUs as well as be connected to what’s going on. Originally, we had planned to use ANGEL through MSU, but for a variety of reasons, not the least of which we can not have enough guest accounts to invite all the Project WRITE teachers in, I didn’t figure that was the best idea.

Second, even if we had enough accounts, I didn’t want to have to have people log in to something that they were not familiar with and try to navigate multiple tabs on a night that they would be using a new tool, Jing, anyway. Thus, I wanted an easy, open way for them to both “login” and monitor their seat time, while possibly having a back channel for communication AND being able to get the stream without having to have a separate tab or media player open.

Third, and perhaps most important to me, I wanted to make sure that what ever we did was easy and accessible to the teachers, so they could replicate this process in their own classroom. After hearing about Meebo and UStream from many other edubloggers, and seeing that they could both embed in wikispaces quite easily, I figured that this would be the easiest way to go. So, I set up the Meebo chat room, the UStream channel, inserted them side-by-side in a table and, voila!

Now, I am sure that someone else has figured this out, and also I now realize that you can have a chat right on your UStream page if you want. However, I wanted to make sure that the interface was clean and connected to the wiki, so this type of embedding made the most sense. And, what is even more amazing is the fact that I don’t even know how I would have imagined doing something like this even a few months ago (although I am sure that the technologies existed then)… instead, this came as a solution to an institutional problem about how to both monitor seat time and create a workaround for the university’s sanctioned CMS that wouldn’t let us do what we wanted to do

So, this will be an interesting experiment in trying to figure out how to have a hybrid session, implementing digital writing tools while also teaching about digital writing tools. I am excited to see what comes of it, and look forward to any suggestions that you might have for me to streamline the process before we make a go of it here in about two weeks.

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Reconsidering the “Grammar of Schooling” in a Digital Age

Tom Hanson from Open Education recently emailed me and alerted me to a post about technology infrastructure and professional development in schools.

How Do We Ensure Our Schools Are Staffed with Technologically Savvy Teachers — Open Education

Unfortunately, in many schools and for many teachers, the above five suggestions simply are not happening on a regular basis. But the reason that most teachers are not up-to-date on technology is that they are simply too overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of their existing schedule to be able to stay up with the technological advances that are occurring…

Therein lies the basis of the problem for teachers. While students in other countries spend more time at school than American children do, most teachers in other countries do not have additional instructional responsibilities during that extra time. Instead, time is built into the school day for teachers to collaborate, to prepare lesson materials, and to receive professional development.

This reminds me of discussions that I have been having for awhile now; to take a phrase from Tyack and Cuban,
we need to reconsider the “grammar of schooling” in a digital age. This
is not a completely new argument, yet it merits renewed attention in
this election year and as OLPC machines roll out across the world. If
we are now considering how the grammar of writing is changing in
digital spaces, so too shouldn’t we consider what happens in schools?

Tom shares some insights into what teachers could do in the rest of this post. Also, he has a great deal of other postings dealing with copyright, open source software, open course ware and other related topics. He’s in my Google Reader now, and I encourage you to subscribe as well.