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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Adaptive Assessment and the Purposes of Educational Technology (AERA, Part 3)

Roy Pea has long-studied educational technology and, in this interchange with Larry Cuban hosted by Tapped In, reminds us that:

A second caution is replacing flesh with silicon. The point here about technology is to augment physical, hands-on learning, face-to-face encounters, not to replace it, and yet, certainly, there may be places that come to feel that interactive programs, simulations, teleconferencing, travels in cyberspace, are cheaper, more effective, and easier to conduct than the real thing. Let’s watch out for that. (The Pros and Cons of Technology in the Classroom, 1998)

That said, as I listened to him talk about adaptive technologies that monitor and respond to student progress (ala Khan Academy), I became increasingly concerned. Captured in these tweets, here are some of the “benefits” that Pea described, without much in the way of critique, posted in reverse chronological order:

Troy HicksTroy Hicks ? @hickstro

Being an #edtech advocate, I am becoming concerned about the focus on collection of student metadata, both implicit and explicit. #AERA2012

Roy Pea: adaptive systems create large scale testbeds to do experiments in comparative pedagogy; expand social networks for learn #AERA2012

Roy Pea: Expand learner access to data in relation to others creating a networked systems of learners in adaptive learning systems #AERA2012

Roy Pea: expand data gathering outside of school contexts; give access of data to learners themselves (performance dashboards)#AERA2012
Roy Pea: learner perceptions and motions (& emotions); capturing uses of written language; expanding our sense-making techniques#AERA2012
Roy Pea: By expanding profile metadata, greater context of learner’s history of learning, capturing learner perceptible aspects#AERA2012
Roy Pea: How can adaptive technologies become trusted resources for students, teachers, and policy-makers? #AERA2012

The idea of a “school of one,” while appealing on one level to anyone who has ever talked about differentiated instruction is, ultimately, terrifying to me. Not because it will eliminate the teacher, per se, although teachers do become more like technicians in this model where they work to support students without really teaching anyone anything directly, or engaging in more substantive conversations in small groups or as a class. While it could be beneficial for students in many ways, my fear is that the implementation of adaptive assessment will inherently isolate students from one another and, as Leigh Graves Wolf reminded me of in a tweet (or three), will create data sets that are ultimately intended to evaluate (and, arguably) punish teachers. This idea of adaptive assessment ties with another popular ed tech trend, one that is perhaps seen as more “progressive,” but in effect is really not much more so, much like many recent edtech fads. For instance, as Ira Socol noted earlier this year, the concept of “flipping” the classroom is very problematic:

But the “Flipped Classroom” is worse than ‘typical homework’ – it literally shifts the explanatory part of school away from the educators and to the home, however disconnected that home might be, however un-educated parents might be, however non-English speaking that home might be, however chaotic that home might be. So, kids with built in advantages get help with the understanding, and kids without come to school the next day clueless. (Changing Gears 2012: rejecting the “flip”)

So, to hear Pea and other distinguished educational technologists talk about adaptive technologies in this manner was, at best, disconcerting. At worst, it is terrifying to think that our children will be measured by computers, as the recent hullabaloo over computer-based writing assessment reminds us. As the CCSS assessments come online, literally, my sincere hope is that teachers continue to question not only their validity as a measurement tool, but also the unintended consequences of such assessments on their students, curriculum, and instruction.

Footnote: Of course, we are all now familiar with the TED-Ed initiative to “flip” videos on their site, and this could be another interesting twist in the conversation. At least with TED, teachers are still in control of the learning process since they create their own versions for the flip.

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Webinar with ENG 315

ENG 315 Logo

Earlier this evening, I spent my ENG 315 class time for the night teaching via webinar rather than in a F2F session.

Using CMU’s access to Wimba, I invited my students to post three slides related to their experience attending a conference or otherwise engaging in personalized professional development this semester. Also, we back-channeled in a public Google Doc.

The assignment was straightforward enough, asking them to attend six hours of PD and then to write a professional response that describes their experience at a professional conference or workshop, integrating what you learned from a presenter who talked about teaching writing with principles from ENG 315.

The results, I felt, turned out to be pretty good. Minus some technical hurdles and the fact that our class time stretch to about two and a half hours (which is what we normally meet F2F, although I had promised an early finish tonight), the results from a final survey were good. Here are the overall results:

Survey Results

There were some negative responses to this activity, including the amount of time it took and the fact that many of my students admitted to falling into the temptation of being online and got distracted. That said, there were some positives, too. I asked “What is one positive aspect of participating in the webinar, in terms of the content, working with your peers online, or your experience presenting?”

  • Cool to work online, never done this before
  • I really enjoyed the way we could share powerpoints and so much information in the webinar.I liked seeing the slides of everyone’s professional development.
  • I think it made sharing documents and direct information much easier. It was also nice to hear about the experiences of everyone because it is nice to compare and contrast experiences we have had throughout the semester
  • I think this was a great experience.  I have never done anything like this before.
  • Although I enjoyed it, it was hard for me to sit here this whole time without getting fidgety.
  • The content is all digital. I like that i can go back and look at everything if i need to or want to.
  • It wasnt a presentation that you do and then is gone forever.
  • it takes the stress and nerves off of presenting in front of the class
  • I think a positive aspect to the webinar was just the practice of having an online experience such as this. It is nice to be able to see the links while we are taking turns talking and be able to return to the information later
  • i really like the presentation aspect, i wasn’t nervous to present opposed to in the classroom where i normally experience anxiety.
  • One positive aspect was that everybody got a chance to talk about their experience. Learning a new technology tool was a positive aspect and it was a nice alternative to having class so close to a break. It relieved some of the pressure of presenting in front of the class and I  liked that.
  • I enjoyed being able to have a side conversation or make comments in the conversation box during the presentation for educational purposes. I also liked sharing slides this way.
  • You can do it from anywhere so great idea with Thanksgiving coming up!
  • I think it was an interesting way to incorporate technology and it was cool to use wimba.
So, in general, they found it to be a positive experience. I did too, and I have shared the video (all 2.5 hours of it!) here on Vimeo if you are curious to see how some of it progressed.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=32550515&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

ENG 315 Professional Development Reflection Webinar from Chippewa River Writing Project on Vimeo.

Wow… two blog posts in one day. I think I have reached my quota for the month.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Designing PD Experiences: Can You RELATe?

This afternoon, second year students in MSU’s Master of Arts in Educational Technology presented a conference – in person and virtually – for their teaching colleagues: RELATe (Rouen Educational Leadership and Technology Conference, #relate11). This conference comes in the middle of the 4 week summer program, and is one of the main projects for Year 2 students. As one of the instructors for the course, and a mentor to them during the planning process, I have asked them to reflect on the process of creating this conference, so I also want to add a few thoughts to the conversation about technology, leadership, inquiry, and learning.

  • Planning – I have coordinated about half a dozen conferences, numerous summer institutes, countless workshops, and more than a few online events. Given that the focus of this event was for the teachers themselves to plan the event, it was difficult to step back from the planning in many ways, yet I still offered my informed opinion and helped scaffold a discussion about the conference by having them talk about effective PD, analyze past conference schedules (and lack of materials online), think about back-channeling and  archiving, and the overall presentation/hands-on balance within the conference. For the most part, I think that they did a good job planning an effective day, although I do wonder if the kiosk/hands-on times worked in the way they thought (as a combination passing time and opportunity to work one-to-one with presenters). It seemed like most of the sessions either ran over into that kiosk time, or people left because they weren’t quite sure what to do during the kiosk time.
  • Thematic, not technological, approaches to organizing sessions – rather than highlighting specific technologies in session titles and descriptions, as had been done in years past, the group took a more thematic approach to designing the sessions. I think that this worked well, as it really helped them focus on the content and pedagogy aspects of TPACK (not that technology was excluded by any means, but it certainly was not the star of the show). I hope that this thematic approach guides the MAET students as they approach PD plans in their own schools.
  • Social media – there was a team for social media (as well as for other aspects of the planning) and they did a great job producing a series of viral videos, sharing the hashtag, and tweeting/back-channeling during the conference. This has helped me really think about how we can, conscientiously, work with conference planners and attendees before, during, and after conferences to enhance their experience. As one MAET teacher mentioned to me — I’ve been to conferences before, but I never realized how much work goes into planning and promoting it. This is amplified even more in an age of social media. Given that many of the professionals we target for writing project and other literacy PD are still on the fringes of heavy social media use — and it was still tough to get everyone from our very techie group involved today — I wonder how we can more effectively employ social media for groups like MRA, NWP, and NCTE.
  • Web streaming – I was genuinely surprised when, a week ago, I asked if anyone in the group had been a part of a webinar before and found out that no one had. Leigh did a great job setting up the Adobe Breeze rooms, and most of the actual connections worked well during the conference. One link from the Weebly site had an extra two spaces at the end and, in turn, directed people to the wrong “room” on the MSU server. Once we figured out that the spaces needed to be deleted, we were back in business. Also, we realized quickly that presenters were not advancing slides in the Connect rooms, so the virtual visitors were not on the same slide. Also, one presenter used Prezi, and the Flash interface wouldn’t play in Breeze. Then, it was tough to monitor the in-room and Twitter backchannels both at once.
  • Virtual keynotes – fortunately, we had the keynoters record their sessions before hand and just join in for a Q/A session. The first one went fine, but we lost the Breeze connection on the closing keynote. So, being sure to have a back-up plan for that is important, too.

All in all, I feel that the RELATe conference was a success, both for the participants and, more importantly, for the Year 2 students who led it. I look forward to reviewing and discussing the evaluation data with them, as well as thinking about how they can transfer what they have learned about technology, inquiry, and leadership back into their own teaching contexts.


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2010 MVU Online Learning Symposium

Notes from 2010 Michigan Virtual University Online Learning Symposium
November 9, 2010 at Michigan State University

Opening Keynote: Steve Midgley, Deputy Director of Education Technology, US DOE

  • Context
    • National Technology Plan (released just today), Four Components: Mobility, Social Interactions, Digital Content, Print to Online
    • This does not mean that we will have a “teacherless” curriculum, but the online marketplace offers many interesting opportunities
    • How do we find the right content and connect it with the right student with the right teacher at the right time?
    • Challenge from President Obama: “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
    • The crucial thing about this is that if you graduate every student in the pipeline today, we will still not meet this goal. Stats show that many students are not graduating from high school, so this implies that many people need to get re-engaged. This will only happen with online learning.
  • Content
    • Teaching, Learning, Assessment — Infrastructure — Productivity
    • Assessment the way it is working today is pretty fouled up
    • Using $350 million to develop new, next generation assessment
    • DARPA project to assess Navy ensigns “in the field”
  • Learning
    • Some major points
      • 21st century expertise
      • How people learn
      • Personalized learning
      • Universal design for learning
      • Informal + formal
    • Social search — more people go to YouTube from Facebook than from Google
      • What does it look like in a social context that is professional?
    • New models (Netflix/Blockbuster) — what does this look like in education?
  • Assessment
    • Major points
      • Measure what matters
      • Embedded assessments
      • Real time feedback
      • Persistent learning record
      • Universal design
      • Continuous improvement
    • New models of assessment being developed being developed
    • NOTE: I haven’t read up much about this, but there is information about it being distributed through MDE and other news outlets.
  • Teaching
    • Main points
    • What does “highly effective” really mean in an online environment?
    • Connected
    • Online
    • Informal + formal — we can’t organize in ways offline that we can online — some technologies require connectivity to work at all (e.g., Wikipedia)
    • Inspired
  • Questions and Answers
    • Wikipedia — many schools block it, and then students are expected to use it in college to get started with research — this is crazy
    • What other “spaces” can we create for teachers to share ideas and resources? What is officially sanctioned by the state, and what is not? What is the role of textbook publishers and other research-based work to integrate with teacher knowledge?
    • We can’t test everything that we say we want kids to learn, only certain things, and some kids are learning more at different times and in different ways. So, then the question becomes what happens to kids as they figure out seat time/credit hours?
    • Intellectual property — how do teachers’ ideas get recognized in these online spaces? Creates problems with copyright and fair use. Creative Commons and Open Courseware as one option, but also some states and districts have earned RTTT money and are sharing through other avenues.

Conversation with Michigan Online Teachers of the Year

  • What has surprised you about online learning?
    • The personal connection, the human touch. Part of this is about the evolution of the internet and how we use social networks today. It is very easy to develop the relationships.
    • When you never see students face-to-face, and you are teaching 125 a semester, when someone writes that “you are my favorite teacher” — that is motivating. The additional thing that surprises me is the connections that you make with your mentors and how much of a factor that they play in their students’ lives.
  • What are your major apprehensions?
    • The fact that the technologies continue to change. Need to keep on top of things, for instance with the 21 Things for 21st Century Educators. (NOTE: I am not so sure that I agree with this statement — I think that there are generally principles about online learning and digital literacy that we need to know, but that we get way too caught up with the tools.)
    • If we don’t teach kids how to use their mobile phones properly, how will they learn these life skills? (NOTE: Again, I am a bit concerned about the tone that we take when we assume that we, as educators, have the “right” answer about how, when, and why we use the tools. Not that I disagree with the principle that we invite them to use these devices and applications, but I do worry that once we co-opt the digital tools and spaces that they are familiar with, we are changing the purposes and audiences for which they write and work).
    • Assessment is built in to the system — the fact that student time online is logged.
  • What are the roles that teachers and students play in the process of online learning?
    • If you are just introducing it, you have to give it time. Initially, it depends on the success of the students that are there — highly motivated kids are successful and motivate other kids to continue working, too.
    • This is rewarding for teachers — we enjoy having the opportunity to teach in a more flexible model. Old model was to have AP kids in advanced classes and remedial kids in other courses (kind of a dumping ground, without mentor support). We have now moved to a model where most students who are in our courses actually get to work and achieve a passing grade.
    • We can bait the hook, but students need to bite. People talk about the way that online learning is better because it offers students new opportunities as compared to what they have experienced in school. This is especially true for students in credit recovery. Still, they have to be motivated and self-directed. (NOTE: So, in what ways does online learning really change the paradigm? That is, if students are reluctant to engage in school, for whatever reason, does the flexibility of online learning really overcome the negative feelings that they have towards school?) Can you meet them online through Skype and Adobe Connect or other similar tools?
    • What are your strategies for connecting with online students? It is not about loving your subject, it is about loving your students. Students see it and recognize it, and they reciprocate.

Lunch Keynote: Milton Chen, Senior Fellow and Director Emeritus at George Lucas Educational Foundation — “Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools” and Edutopia

  • Interesting note — Chen was born in Negaunee, and his father was a mining engineer
    • “I am here as an accident of history” — China was an ally, and my father was able to come to the US and learn about mining at Penn State, and my parents were married in 1945, although my mother didn’t arrive until 1949. They didn’t plan to stay in the US, but the stayed and I was born in 1953.
  • Imagine an Education Nation: “A learning society where education of children is teh highest priority, equal to a strong economy, high employment, and national security, which rely on education.”
    • The book is a “curation” of many resources from Edutopia; interesting that the magazine has been discontinued; e-books now outsell print books
    • “I think this is the first decade of the twenty-first century for education.” — we are at the tipping point.
    • Innovation — the key to creating an education nation; it is a “must do” than a “nice to know”
    • Bugscope
    • Google is 12 years old, YouTube is 5 years old, Edutopia YouTube Channel
    • Clay Shirky — we are witnessing the biggest change in human innovation and creativity in history; every media that we have ever known is now on a device in our pocket next to every other media
  • These are old ideas… Dewey
    • “From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school… within the school itself while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school.” The School and Society Lecture, University of Chicago, 1899
  • 6 Leading Edges of K-12 Innovation
    • Thinking
    • Curriculum and Assessment
    • Technology
    • Time/Place
    • Co-Teaching
    • Youth
  • The Edge of Our Thinking: Ending the Education Wars
    • From the either/or to both/and hybrids
    • Phonics and whole language
    • Arts and core curriculum (opening minds with the arts)
    • Learning in nature and technology
  • Curriculum Edge: Globalizing the Curriculum
  • Technology Edge
    • We want all students to use technology; weapons of mass instruction (one-to-one is the weapon that we need to employ)
      • We need to reduce the 1:6 student/computer level to a one-to-one (it can be done for $250 or less, per year)
    • iPod, iListen, iRead: EUSD iRead Program
      • Technology is only technology for those who were born before it existed
      • Using the iPod as a device to record students’ own voices reading: the “missing mirror” in literacy instruction
      • This is not about just getting to the standards, this is about having kids learn more, and learn earlier
      • Have students see how other students are learning; what are the different paths that other students take and how can we learn from this public learning process?
  • The Time/Place Edge
    • Getting kids out into the community for place-based learning
  • Co-Teaching
  • The Greatest Edge: Today’s Youth
  • What is your definition of a great school?
    • Make it short, make it measurable — are the kids running into school as fast as they are running out of it; are the kids so excited about their work that they do not want to leave school?

Closing Keynote: Richard Ferdig, Kent State University

  • Building the plane while we are flying it — and that’s OK
  • Is K-12 online learning academically effective? — this is not the right question
    • Example of TV and video games — not good for kids, right?
    • Actually, depending on the TV or game, it is good for you.
    • Asking the right question — when are courses taught “better” online as compared to face-to-face?
    • Quote from USDOE: “On average, online learning students performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
  • So, the better question is “When is online learning academically effective?” or “Under what conditions is online learning academically effective?”
    • How is online more effective? What are the conditions under which it is more effective?
    • Is “X” technology better for learning? — Sometimes (under certain conditions)
  • So, when is K-12 online learning academically effective?
  • So, what do we look at?
    • Student and Teacher
      • With teachers, we know that a teacher has a significant role in mentoring students through their online experiences
      • Highly qualified teachers matter in virtual schooling as well
      • How can we get highly qualified teachers?
        • Professional development — because not any teacher can teach online, they need particular skill sets for teaching online — engaging parents and mentors, using virtual school resources
        • Teacher education is not the answer — they are not working with K-12 online schools. Do they have virtual internship programs? Most teachers leave colleges of education without any preparation to teach online.
        • Lack of PD opportunities – not all have online experiences, only 21% had a customized experience
        • Does PD work — sometimes. PD only works when teachers take charge of their PD experience.
        • PCK — talk about teacher knowledge for practice, in practice, and of practice
        • Classroom — inquiry — community
        • Suggestions/Recommendations:
          • Record and reflect on exemplary practice
          • Ownership of the PD model, using innovative means and tools
      • Does online learning affect student retention?
        • Retention is a significant problem, and they drop out for different reasons such as their own individual reasons, or institutional reasons. This happens at key transitions points, students are myopic, and there are disconnected understandings about what is happening and why.
      • Solutions
        • Better communication
        • Individualized instruction
        • Additional mentoring
        • Connections to jobs
      • Why did it work?
        • Accepted by peers
        • Accepted by online teachers
        • Learning styles were met
        • Connections to real world
        • More opportunities for expression
        • In short, all the reasons they dropped out of their F2F school is why they succeeded online
  • Understanding Virtual Schools
    • 80/20 — most of what happens across states is common, although there are some unique features depending on the state
      • Partnerships — including school, university, research, and evaluation
      • Exponential growth
      • Retaining both students and teachers
      • The funding dilemma/opportunity
    • Best practices
      • Engage in attention on pedagogy, innovation with technology, etc.
  • What are some ways to get to better practice?

Reflections on the day

Along with all the technology interests that I have had over the years, my formal introduction to online learning began around the turn of the century when I was trained as an online instructor with the Michigan Virtual High School. Because of a variety of reasons, not the least of which was starting grad school, I taught my last online course for them in 2002. Given my continuing interests in online and hybrid models of learning — especially in professional development for teachers — it was good to come to the conference today and get reconnected with the state of online learning.

I do have significant concerns about the commercialization of online learning and how models like MIVU, Blackboard, textbook companies selling products, charter schools and other organizations who are working, in one way or another, for a profit versus the model of open courseware, collaboration, hybridity, and free or opensource web-based tools. This is a significant wedge that continues to grow. For instance, I set my courses up with a wiki, invite students to use free tools for collaboration and bibliography management, and engage with a variety of other tools. contrast this with the subscription that my university pays for to use Blackboard, including all the proprietary tools and content management.

One of the resources that I was reminded of, and I know I need to continue my participation in, is Edutopia. Milton Chen talked about the many ways that educators are innovating, and that the “internet makes learning international.” It’s been one year since I was invited to be a moderator of a group on Multimedia Literacy, and I need to get involved again.

Also, the implications for professional development for online teachers has just as much, if not more, resonance with our needs for traditional professional development. One of the main points that I will take from the final talk by Richard Ferdig is the fact that teachers, like students, need customized, just-in-time learning opportunities to find out more about how to teach and learn in their own context. I hope that we are doing some of that with our work this year in the CRWP/CGRESD partnership, and I look forward to seeing results from that work.

It was an interesting day, especially in the sense that this conference was one that I chose to attend because it was outside of my normal areas of conference-going, yet remained on the border of them and moved my thinking forward in new ways.


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