Troy Patterson

Educator, Thinker, Consultant

EdTech Trends – Part 4

Let’s finish up our look at the EdTech Trends of 2017. In previous posts, I’ve looked rising trends and the waning trends. Now, let’s review the “just emerging” trends. As previously noted, I

took note of:

  • “Seamlessness” in digital instruction
  • Moving beyond teacher skill development

Seamlessness

This is where we’ve been heading for a while. This is actually very good news. Digital tools and resources are becoming just tools and resources. We have finally hit a point where technology is starting, just starting, to become just part of the process.

We certainly aren’t there yet, but we are heading toward a time when using technology will be nothing special. Technology will just be a “thing” that you pick up and put down as needed.

Teacher Skill Development

I’m not so sure about this one quite yet. Teachers certainly need to develop skills (heck, we all do). From what I’m reading around the web, teachers are not quite at the “moving beyond teacher skill development”. If the teachers don’t have the appropriate skill, they will not implement new things in the classroom. We’ve seen continued growth in using technology, but we still have a long way to go. Look around at the headlines:

  • 1001 Tech tools that you need to implement in your classroom
  • 101 Tech tools that you should master
  • 67 Tech tools for writing

OK, I made these up, but you’ve probably seen many just like them.

So, I think we’ve got quite a ways to go on this one yet. I hope that I’m wrong and that we will see the need to develop teacher skill be unnecessary soon.

EdTech Trends – Part 3

Last post I talked a bit about the “rising trends”. I’d like to continue looking that 2017 EdTech trends with the “waning” category. At least the ones that stood out for me.

  • Bring your own device
  • Gamification for gamification’s sake
  • “One size fits all” teacher professional development

Bring your own device

I’ve always thought that this one was interesting. I certainly understand the concept of getting devices into schools. The premise of getting this done for free (hey, kids already have devices, let them bring them) is always attractive. However, there are many things to consider. Do all kids really have devices to bring to school? Those educators who work in impoverished areas may have a different story to tell. Kids certainly don’t want to look poor. Sometimes if you ask them, they will say that they do have access to a computer or smart phone. It is not the same experience as many who come from well heeled economic areas.

Then you have the issue of usage. Having a teacher trying to troubleshoot issues with a wide variety of devices isn’t fair to the teacher at all. Each device can have a myriad of issues pop up. People who are really dedicated and interested in technology can sometimes need several minutes to troubleshoot issues. Asking a teacher who should be focused on pedagogy, student behavior and the learning process to also be an expert in troubleshooting never seemed really prudent.

Bring your own device always seemed to me to further inculcate that digital divide.

Gamification

Here’s another one that I never understood. Gamification for the sake of gamification. Oooh, shiny! Now, gamification has a role in education. But not just purely for the sake of gamification. It is crucial that understand how technology can help the learning process. Just getting a kids attention isn’t enough.

I’m not completely convinced that this one is “waning”, but I hope so.

“One Size Fits All”

Ah, professional development. We’ve spent decades talking about making professional development relevant. We’ve spent the last couple of decades discussing the importance of customizing professional development to meet the needs of the individual teacher. I’ve seen great growth in professional development being much more customized and relevant for teachers. Truthly, that seems to vary by school too.

Like everything in education, there is no silver bullet in professional development. There is a time and place for “one size fits all” professional development, just not as much as we do.

We do now have some very powerful tools to provide much more customized relevant professional development. Here is one area where technology can make a huge impact. Chris Kenniburg has done some terrific work to assist in the creation and delivery process for professional development.

This is one area that I do hope is “waning”. It doesn’t need to go away, it just needs to not the only way that we provide and experience professional development.

EdTech Trends- Part 2

I want to dig a bit deeper into the last post about EdTech trends. Specifically, I want to take a look at those points in “rising” category that I found of interest:

  • New classroom models: blended, flipped, virtual
  • personalization

Let’s start with the “new” classroom models. Certainly, none of the three listed are actually “new”.

Flipped Classroom

Flipped classroom was all the rage a few years ago. I remember this being a darling child in 2015. Maybe you read the “Flip Your Classroom” book that was published in 2012. To oversimplify the strategy, a Flipped Classroom is where the students watch a video for homework, and then do the hands on, application in the classroom. That way, the students can watch the “lecture” (this can be a straight lecture or some other video that demonstrates the concept) as much as they need to. Then, the students do the practice work when the teacher is there to intervene, check for understanding and support the learning.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with this strategy. It is true. Some kids will watch the lecture. Some will come to class prepared and ready to go. Some kids will truly benefit from having the support of the classroom teacher as they work through the “homework”. However, this also will not work for all students. Some won’t watch the videos. Show need the social support of questions and answers during the instructional phase.

Flipped Classroom strategies are a great skill for a teacher to have. It can be a powerful weapon to assist students in learning, growing and skill acquisition. For most teachers though, this should not be your only strategy.

Blended Classrooms

Blended classrooms are certainly not “new”. There is research and references that go back to the 1960’s. CD-ROMS were a big push for blended learning in the 1990’s. The advent of the Internet brought much hope for blended classrooms. There have been many models presented of various blended learning models (Purnima Valiathan in 2002, Graham in 2004, Staker and Horn in 2012, Clayton Christensen in 2013). Michael B. Horn, Heather Staker and Clayton Christensen have published quite a bit of work on blended classrooms. My point here is that the concept of a blended classroom is not new.

Blended classrooms are still quite the rage. I’ve seen programs listed as “blended programs”. The “blended programs” can range from a class that has a web page with a bunch of links to a program that is truly blended (in classroom and online activities). It seems to me that all classrooms should be blended at this point. Technology has become such a part of the fabric of our lives (and, more importantly, our students), that it should be a natural extension of the learning process. Thus, including this in the “new” classroom models seems odd.

Virtual

Virtual classrooms are also not new. I’m not completely sure exactly what the definition of “virtual” really is. This can mean online classes. Or this could mean the virtual reality classrooms that are being predicted.

Virtual classrooms being an online experience has had mixed results. The practicality of virtual classrooms hasn’t always met up with the idealism. Certainly we can learn things online. Personally, I’m a much bigger believer in blended classrooms in general. I do believe that virtual classrooms can have a role to play. For certain students in certain situations, a virtual experience could be just the right choice.

Personalization

Personalization is an emerging trend. We are just getting to the point where the AI algorithms can effectively provide differentiated experiences for students. However, those still will pull from a limited construct. In fact, a couple of schools recently have backed out of the Summit Learning Platform (which provided personalized learning).

This is an area where I could see growth in the future. I just don’t think that we are quite there yet. I do believe that this is coming and will play a major role in education. It’s just not quite ready for “prime time” yet.

As always, I don’t believe that there is a single “silver bullet” that is going to be effective for every student. Learning is messy. Humans are messy. There is no replacement for an excellent teacher with a wide range of skills and strategies at her fingertips.

2017 EdTech Trends

K-12 BITS held a webinar on EdTech trends Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow identifies three different areas of trends in EdTech.

Three different areas of trends identified are:

  • rising
  • just emerging
  • waning

I found these interesting.

Among the “rising trends”, there are a couple that caught my eye:

  • New classroom models: blended, flipped, virtual
  • personalization

In the “just emerging” category, I found these of particular interest:

  • “Seamlessness” in digital instruction
  • Moving beyond teacher skill development

Finally, in the “waning” category, these stand out:

  • Bring your own device
  • Gamification for gamification’s sake
  • “One size fits all” teacher professional development

*Please note that there are more trends identified than I’ve pointed out as of interest.

In the rising trends category, I’m quite surprised that blended, flipped and virtual are included. These have been heavily discussed. There has been tons of virtual ink spilled on these areas. Schools have not universally implemented these (and probably with good reason). All of these take some adjustment within the system. First of all, students have to have some kind of reasonable access to devices. A bigger issue is teachers having access, training and support on implementing these pedagogies. While implementing any of those can be powerful, it does take work. Districts need to support teachers by providing them with platforms and training.

Personalization is a trend that we are all trying to really wrap our heads around. I doubt that it will look like what some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are pushing, but I think that it will clearly have a role in education. I would’ve place personalization in the “just emerging” category.

The waning category is of particular interest. Many schools and teachers are still debating the “bring your own device” issues. These aren’t really as clear cut as some would make them out to be. In the real world, some of these issues are extremely complex. Gamification just for the sake of gamification should never have existed. This is one of the touchstones for me about the Glorification of Technology (see The Glitteratti).

One size fits all teacher professional development does seem more and more on it’s way out. More and more I see opportunities targeted much more closely to teacher need instead of one size fits all. That’s not to say that one size fits all is dead. Not by a long shot. However, we do seem to be moving quite purposefully to more appropriate professional development that is targeted to need. (Let’s hope that ends up translating to student education too).

Powerful words

“You make me a better educator.”

 

Words can be powerful. Sometimes, you never know where that power is going to come from.

I was finishing up a meeting with some wonderful Moodle users tonight. We had chatted about a variety of strategies and use cases. A few shared what they are doing in Moodle. It was a good meeting with some great people. I’ve been in plenty of meetings like this.

This one turned out different. As I was leaving, the organizer of the group thanked me for coming. I thanked her in return for allowing me to be part of the group and her efforts in connecting people together. Then she said something that floored me

“Thank you for all you do. You make me a better educator”

WOW. I didn’t really know what to say. I’m sure that I wasn’t very elegant in my response. I know that I thanked her and said something about being in this for learning. But, I’m sure that it wasn’t as powerful as the gift that she gave me.

I’m very thankful for what she said. I hope that if someone makes a difference for you, you share a similar expression with them. I can tell you that those powerful words touched me very deeply.

Where have I been?

I’ve been focused a lot on work lately. Usually, work isn’t quite as time consuming as it has been through the last couple of months, but this year it has.

I do enjoy my day job. I get to work with a wide variety of wonderful people. I also get to focus on student learning, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.

I do want to post more of the great ideas and implementations of student learning that I come across (and occasionally develop). Here are a couple of things that I need to post:

  • Student submitted videos in Moodle
  • Using Moodle to help develop vocabulary skills
  • Creating a Reading Log in Moodle
  • Students sharing work in Moodle
  • FlashCards in Moodle (I’ve posted about this before)
  • H5P and interactive videos in Moodle

Hopefully, I can start posting about some of these projects soon. Until then, keep working hard for student success.

The Glitteratti

The Glitteratti. This is a term for teachers (and others) who seek the Glitter over the gold. (Please note that this post was very much inspired by the Tech Coach Blog post “Glue, Glitter and Gold, by Bob Harrison). Glitter is the fun, shiny, attractive parts of educational technology use. Gold is the substantive learning.

As humans, the glitter is very attractive. We are attracted to glitter is real, fundamental ways. However, we also need to be careful about not chasing after “fool’s gold” instead of the real thing.

A quick search of ISTE sessions for this year (I wasn’t able to go), provides this as the very first result of Concurrent Sessions: 101 Free Tech Tools for Teachers. The very first session. Skill level to evaluate, understand and process these 101 Tools? Beginner. (In case you’d like to preview the 101 Tools, I’ve provided a link.)

Now, I am just as guilty. Years ago, I attended some of these same sessions. Heck, I may have even presented a similar session. However, it’s not just one of these sessions. There are lots of them. (Check out 60 in 60, which has an entire web site and business associated with it). I’m also pretty positive that these folks mean well. However, if we are going to move Educational Technology forward, we need to focus not on the glitter, but on the gold.

Technology is becoming a fundamental part of education. Whether or not it makes the kind of impact that is possible or not is up to us. We need to make sure that we are leveraging technology to achieve accomplishments that we could only dream of in the past. Those accomplishments are geared around the latest glitter, but are deeply embedded in valuable gold.

Invest in…

“I wasn’t always a fan, but I’m a convert now.”

That was a quote from one of our county people about Moodle. See, this person was big on BlackBoard. After all, BlackBoard was offering great prices. The county was comparing BlackBoard to Moodle and BlackBoard was “prettier” at the time. (And I would agree, BlackBoard was a bit prettier then, but I had some other usability issues with it at that time.) So the county pushed local districts to adopt BlackBoard.

Anyway, the county always thought that we were the odd balls. We liked Moodle. We worked to make it more user friendly. (In fact, I was able to do some contract work to make another Moodle more user friendly. Those teachers were blown away by the changes that I thought were pretty simple and obvious.)

See, I’ve always proposed that you are investing in something. You are investing your time, your energy, your efforts, your thoughts, your money and more. The question for me has always been are you investing in yourself or in someone else. Now to be clear, it is necessary to invest in others. There is no way that you can do everything your self. However, for really important things, I generally prefer to invest in us. I consider lesson delivery pretty important. So I invested in us.

A few years later, at least one of our county people agrees. BlackBoard pulled the great funding rates and suddenly districts were faced with significant costs if they wanted to continue using BlackBoard. Most districts couldn’t take on that kind of cost. We stayed the course with Moodle and have continued to develop our skills. Chris Kenniburg has grown from being an excellent Moodle Administrator to developing Moodle plugins. Great things can be done if you are an excellent Moodle Administrator, but even more control can be had by developing your own plugins and themes. (Seriously, check out the Fordson Theme and Easy Enrolment, these focus Moodle on the K-12 environment).

Teachers face a similar situation with the various tech tools out there. Many teachers follow the “fun, shiny” of a wide variety of apps, sites and more. Much time is spent learning how to certain things, training students, etc. This is an investment in someone else. Some teachers will invest in themselves by learning a great tool and becoming an expert at that. Moodle provides such a vast range of tools and learning opportunities. It is open source. And if you fortunate enough to have(or persistent enough to demand) a Moodle Administrator that cares and will put the effort into making Moodle work for your environment, you can count on a fantastic learning environment for your students.

You are always making an investment. Be sure to know who you are investing in and why.

Leadership

This is Leadership. Leadership looks and sounds like this.

It’s not about divisiveness. It’s not about winning and losing. Rather, this is about thoughtfulness. This is about being willing to look at reality and ask not what is easy but what is necessary.

 

Just a few quotes:

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

 

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

Heck, go read the transcript or watch the video.

Fun Stuff

It’s always fun to see a different way of looking at things or doing accomplishing goals. Here is a different way to tow a car.

This method has a couple of advantages:

  • It’s quick
  • Less likely to damage the car (nothing is connected to the frame or body)
  • It’s efficient

There are a couple of disadvantages:

  • It requires space on the right side of the car (doesn’t look it work either way)
  • It requires a solid surface around the vehicle

Let’s face it though, this is pretty cool.

What can we do differently in education and achieve excellent results?

 

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