How many?

I’m a fan of Vicki Davis. I think that she is generally very practical. She seems to really work with real kids, in real classrooms. She also seems to have a real life. However, a recent post of hers got me to thinking. The post was about 11 ESSENTIAL EDTECH ACTION STEPS FOR BACK TO SCHOOL. In the post, she mentions several tools that she (and, in some cases, her students) use. Which then lead to my wondering just how many tools she (and her students) use.

Now this matters to me because I work with a wide variety of teachers, parents and students. One of the frustrations that parents end up expressing is how many different sites and places that their kids have to go to complete assignments. Some of these parents express how frustrated their kids are at not being able be successful. Some of these kids are special needs.

So, here a quick list of the tools from that post:

Now, let me be fair. Some of these are things that a user would be interested in. Some are choices (either this or that). But, if you are not a techie, this is overwhelming.

Then I read a bit farther down. There is a link to the “163 tools Superhandout!”.

11 Essential EdTech Action Steps for Back to School 2016-07-30 15-22-11

163 tools. I’m afraid that this leads to the habit and belief that one must check out and use all of these tools. I’d much prefer teachers to learn a few really powerful tools at a deep level than to dally around with 163 tools.

163 tools. I still can’t get over that. We already know about the paradox of choice. I believe that this is part of the reason that technology hasn’t had an even bigger impact on education. We need to focus on the how, the why and then the what.

Now I also know that as a blogger, we need to blog regularly. (I’m guilty of not blogging regularly. I blog when I truly have something to say, the time and the motivation. That certainly doesn’t help with popularity. Popular blogs post regularly.) Lots of bloggers want (need, should, etc) make money from blogs. Making money depends on sponsorships, ads and lots of posting.

Again, I’m not really being critical of Vicki Davis. I respect what she does and talks about. I think that she is important in keeping the conversation going. I just want to put forth that sometimes quality is the most important feature. I hope that teachers will pick a couple of tools (preferably school-wide) that will help students learn and be successful.

How many tools will your students use this year?

ISTE Day 3

Monday was the full on ISTE Conference experience. Lots of walking. Lots of learning. As a side note, I’m attending ISTE with an iPad (and an external keyboard) and an iPhone. I use Notability for taking notes, the ISTE app to know where I’m going, Safari (and Chrome) for web browsing, Messages for staying in contact with the rest of my team, Mail to keep up with email and Mr. Reeder to stay up on the news. I also use tchat.io to keep up with Twitter at any conference. Using split view allows me to stay on top of at least two things at a time. 

Here are a few of the sessions that I attended:

  • Blended Learning
  • Create Your Own Digital Curriculum

  • GAFE App Management

The Blended Learning focused on the different models of blended learning. It was noted that we traditionally stay at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

Create Your Own Digital Curriculum didn’t really fit my needs. It was too much about a variety of tools without specifics on how it is being used. 

GAFE App Management was OK. I did know most of the material, so I didn’t necessarily learn much. I did think that it was interesting that there were quite a large number of attendees. This is a session that would’ve benefitted Super Admins in GAFE. Most of the attendees didn’t sound like they were Super Admins. 

Once again there was lots of good stuff. Some of the best parts of the conference were hallway conversations. One such conversation was with another attendee prior to the GAFE session. She had attended a session on Google Apps and shared some really good resources. 

ISTE Day 2

ISTE Day 2 was predominately two things, the TeachMeet and the Keynote. The TeachMeet was an interesting experience. Essentially, the attendees can sign up (via Google Form) to present to the group. You can present pretty much whatever you want. The only restriction is that it can’t be a “sales pitch”. The morning session of the TeachMeet was filled with people and had lots of energy. Then we had lunch. The room went from full to about a quarter of the room occupied. There was still lots of good stuff presented though.  

Individuals completed a form that included their name, their topic and the time that they wanted to present (2 minutes, 7 minutes or 20 minutes). There is no vetting of the speakers or the material. Yet most of them were really well done. I even talked my Tech Coach into presenting on a couple of projects that she did with elementary student involvement. 

A couple of speakers spoke twice. This seemed less than optimal. It really kind of changed the feel of the event from a democratic, share what you know, to more of an “expert” presentation. I greatly preferred to hear from each presenter once. 

By the afternoon, things were wearing a bit. Maybe it was the much lower number of attendees and lower energy level. Maybe it was just that the brain loves novelty and the novelty had worn off. 

So, here’s my suggestion. Combine the UnConference and TeachMeet. Get people together to propose different sessions. Then have one (or a group) talk quickly about the general discussion. In other words, identify some topics to discuss and then “pitch” them for 2 minutes. Then break out into those sessions. 

The Keynote, by Michio Kaku, was good as well. He was engaging and informative. 

ISTE Day 1

Day one of ISTE was all about registration and the UnConference. I attended several sessions. These sessions are all proposed, discussed, decided and delivered the day of the UnConference. These are a terrific opportunity to network with a variety of other people. It is also a great opportunity to find out what other schools and school systems are doing. Many times these conversations are hugely valuable because you can have real conversations about real environments. The chance to ask questions and get personal answers are very specific. This also skips over people feeling like they have to present the best possible “face” of the district and answer in depth. 

Another great thing about the UnConference is being able to baseline where you are and where your district is. For example, the Tech Coaches for the district (Amy and Bob) came with me to the conference. One of the things that they have discovered is that they do really great work. I can tell them that (and I do), but for them to realize where our teachers are compared to others, is extremely powerful. 

ISTE 2016

ISTE 2016 Unconference starts today. I’ll be heading off to listen, learn and share with others. This is always a great opportunity to listen and reflect on where we are in Education, regarding technology and more. It’s also a great opportunity to figure out where we should be going next. 

There will be lots of great people here. They’ll have lots of great ideas. There will be lots and lots of walking too. 

EduTopia Recognition

Edutopia frequently has some good articles. Lately, they have really nailed it. They have recognized the Middle School Matters podcast as one of the podcasts that you should listen to.

Check out the article. Here is the write up from the article:

This show has over 300 episodes and includes some very practical conversations about the day-to-day life of a teacher. It really is like hanging out in the teacher’s lounge after school – equal parts “shop talk” and hanging out. I appreciate the specificity of their conversations and their chats about pedagogy (rubrics, teaching strategies, the Middle School Science Minute). Their website offers detailed show notes of what they chat about in every episode.

Thanks Edutopia.

The Top 25 Tools…You won’t believe #4

Below you will find a list of the top 50 tools that you can use in your classroom. You won’t believe how incredibly powerful number 4 is. Number 4 can completely change your classroom.

25 Moodle
24 Moodle
23 Moodle
22 Moodle
21 Moodle
20 Moodle
19 Moodle
18 Moodle
17 Moodle
16 Moodle
15 Moodle
14 Moodle
13 Moodle
12 Moodle
11 Moodle
10 Moodle
9 Moodle
8 Moodle
7 Moodle
6 Moodle
5 Moodle
4 Moodle
3 Moodle
2 Moodle
1 Moodle

 

Now, if this was a real Buzzfeed article, you would’ve had to click through lots of pages to see each tool. But here’s the thing, instead of playing around with 25 different tools, learn one that will truly help your students. Moodle can do exactly that. Moodle can help allow for specific, timely feedback. Moodle can allow students to time shift their learning. Teachers can provide students with experiences that students can review and reuse.

I certainly understand the fascination with new tools. I’ve sat through my share of 60 tools in 60 minutes presentations. I’ve played around with lots of different tools. But, it really comes down to the classroom. It comes down to the students. The students don’t need new tools to play around with. They need tools and experiences that will help them learn and grow. Moodle will do exactly that.

So take some time to invest in yourself and your students. Learn some Moodle today.

Standards Based Update

Moodle 3.1 has added Competency frameworks to the mix. This fascinates me. Competency based is called Standards based education in the United States. The implementation in Moodle ties activities to specific standards. Interestingly, an activity can be set to multiple standards.

At this point, I have more questions than answers. But I am excited about the possibilities. I am currently playing around with the Competencies, and do have a few answers.

  • Competencies need to be site wide.
  • A site can have multiple competencies.
  • Competencies can be assigned to students manually be a teacher.
  • Competencies can be set so that a student has to “pass” multiple instances before being assigned as “competent”

There is also the new option to create a Learning plan based upon competencies. I haven’t had a chance to look at these yet, but the concept is assigning students a variety of competencies to master.

There is lots to like about this so far. It does look as though it will add a few steps to the process. However, there is no shortcut to monitoring these standards for students. Teachers have to identify an activity and associate it that activity to standard. The devil is in the details. Will the process in Moodle be easy enough for teachers to actually use? Will the benefits outweigh the additional work?

The jury for me is still out. However, I’m optimistic after my first bit of exploration. The real question will be in whether or not teachers will use the capability. An additional challenge will be in associating that information into our Student Information System. If we can do that, teachers will be very interested.

Our next steps will include taking the standards that we have in our district and formatting those to import into Moodle. There is a plugin to import standards from the RDF – Achievement Standards. These include the Common Core Standards as well as the standards for the State of Michigan.

Shiny New or Doing the Work

Should educators check out the latest and shiniest of web sites? Or should they do the hard work of developing skills?

I work with a lot of teachers. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with new teachers and their mentors. When I work with teachers, I try to do a ton of listening. It is in listening that I usually really find out where the individual is on their journey. By far, most of them are doing really excellent work.

I noticed something recently. It’s nothing new really. But it stuck out. I had several teachers tell about multiple web sites that “you’ve just got to check out”. I knew most of them. But, I ask them a couple of questions:

  1. Why do you like this site?
  2. What do students do with it?
  3. How does this fit into the curriculum?
  4. What are the potential problems with the site?
  5. Do we have something that does that already?

I usually get pretty similar answers. Teachers tend to like a site because it is “easy to use” and attractive. Those are two good and important features in educational tools. However, the rest frequently falls down. All too often, teachers don’t consider all the options. There are many teachers who are leaders on the Internet listing the “10 Portfolio Tools for students” and the such. The thing is, you don’t need ten, you need one that works.

I’m not blaming teachers in the classroom. It is human nature to want the fun, new thing. There are lots of competing interests trying really hard to capture the attention of teachers. However, it’s really not in the best interest of education and students that we constantly change what we are doing just to change what we are doing.

So here’s my call to spend some time and do some work. It may not be quite as much fun as constantly checking out new tools, but it will lead to better implementation and thus, better student learning. Free up yourself to really pick a few tools and focus on them. Learn how to really, truly use them effectively.