Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Building Relationships

I have only been an educator for six years. In that amount of time I have had various interactions with different groups of teachers to achieve a range of goals. Building professional relationships is important to do with any colleague as well as any student. In the realm of teaching technology, many users who feel they already are competent develop an attitude that conveys a message that they are not that interested in it, because they think they can already use do, whatever it is you are about to teach. I have to admit, I have had that type of attitude before. But, with some reflection and realization, often times you will understand that any interaction is an opportunity to learn tips and tricks you didn't' know before, even if you think there is not much left to learn. So how do you develop that trusting relationship with colleagues to be able to share ideas and methodologies in such a way where your voice is heard and respected?

One strategy I have used to gain the trust and respect of a group member who is already competent has been to ask them to share their expertise on the topic. If it is using a technology tool, I've asked them to share their experiences and describe any benefits or challenges using the tool. If the group member is willing to participate this gives them some ownership and allows them to realize that their knowledge is valued and respected.  Another strategy that could be useful would be to identify those individuals before hand, and ask them to play more of a leadership role in planning, organizing and teaching the content for the group collaboration.

 It is always a challenge trying to convince anyone to change their routine to incorporate new ideas. Developing that professional relationship through asking a lot of questions, actively listening to their responses,  getting to know more about their own work ethics, philosophy, and priorities can help build trust and respect. If you already have this relationship established, introducing a new idea is better received and colleagues may be more willing to try out the suggestion. Respect, listening, and understanding go a long way, especially when implementing change. An effective leader has the ability to grasp the attention of the group, establish that trusting relationship, and finally lead them through change. Establishing this relationship requires time and effort. It is not something that just happens, it has to be established over time. Whenever the leader is going to suggest change, they also need to model that change prior to the suggestion. In order for the group  to keep that trust, and be willing to change, they have to see that their leader has already embraced the change and is practicing what they preach.

Implementing change is always a challenge, and a convincing stick can only drive that nail in so far. If you are the leader implementing change, find your team members who are already experts and convert them to leaders. Model that change, and develop respect and understanding. If you do encounter a bad apple in a group, develop some good "fogging" techniques to avoid those interactions. All these techniques do, is mask the complaint and flip it into something good. For example, your are the leader in a classroom and a student starts to complain "we've done this a million times, I think we get it already." Instead of defending yourself, you could calmly and compassionately say, "I understand your frustration, but not all of us have mastered this yet. If you're confident with your knowledge, maybe you can help me help the others?" In so many words you're saying..."here's a box of tissues for your issue." ( ~_~,) When all you did was to flip the complaint to a  compliment  to get them to become a leader. These fogging techniques work well to engage those who think they already know what your teaching.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mock Scenarios For Integrating Technology

• Scenario One: Upon walking into the classroom of a new eighth grade English language arts (ELA) teacher, the teacher informs you that she will be teaching a lesson on fate versus free will the following week. She plans on using excerpts from Oedipus Rex and Dante’s Inferno. She has not put the lesson plan together yet but intends to have the students present examples from the readings to support their case through a persuasive essay.

Having not read these two books since high school, I don't really remember the content and purpose of these books, but I would suggest that the teacher organize the class into groups. Each group would get an excerpt from one of the books and be asked to use PowToon to create an animation based off the quote. The idea would be to illustrate the quote in such a way that it depicts the struggle between free will and fate. I would also ask each group to embed their animation into a Google Plus class "community page" or a Diigo Group page. Each member of the class would be asked to log into that page to have a virtual discussion about how the animation depicts fate, and free will.

• Scenario Two: A high school science teacher is presenting a unit on astronomy, specifically on how Polaris is no longer the central point of the northern sky. The teacher is confident that he can teach it out of a book but is anxious to give the students a better experience from the lesson. He is hoping that the technology integration specialist will be able to help make a more authentic study for the students.

Being an Astronomy teacher, the main concept that is being manipulated is Earth's "precession", and motion through space. Milutin Milankovitch developed a theory of Earth's Cycles based off Kepler's mathematical models of planetary motion, which attempts to describe the pattern and shift in the sky above us, ultimately leading to patterns of ice age. I would use a tool like Stellarium or SkyGazer to have students manipulate a virtual planetarium. Each of these programs contain simulations that illustrate Earth's wobble or precesion. I would ask students to manipulate the simulation to learn how and why this phenomena occurs. I would also have students respond to a discussion prompt in their class "notebook" on a tool like penzu or google docs. I would also ask the students to create some type of animation of their own to illustrate the same process. Students could use some type of animated .gif program like fotodanz, or create a movie and upload it to youtube.

• Scenario Three: In a fourth grade social studies class, the class is discussing the role of landscape and surroundings on early natives—what type of food they ate, the type of dwellings they built, and of course defensive systems or escape routes. Many of the students have never traveled out of their own state and are not familiar with alternate surroundings. The social studies teacher has requested that the technology integrator help her create a new lesson.

My first thought was to take the students on a virtual tour of the area either using Google Earth, Google Maps . Another option would be to arrange a Google Hangout or skype conference with an expert from the local historical society. Students could form questions they would want to ask through this conference to gain answers. They could present their findings in a Glogster poster. Another option, depending on the classroom, the teacher and the amount of time for the lesson, they could divide into groups where each group becomes the expert on the topics. For example a group could research food, another could be dwellings...etc. Each group could still participate in the initial Google hangout to gain info, but create a collaborative presentation with Glogster, or Prezi, or google apps to share with the class and teach them about their topic.

• Scenario Four: According to the math teacher, math is everywhere. The teacher is concentrating on a geometry unit discussing area and volume. The teacher is hoping to have the students design a home consisting of 1500 square feet of living space with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, and a kitchen. A playroom or dining room are nice to have but are not needed. In the past, the teacher has asked the students to draw it out with paper and pencil; however, this proved to be a poor choice for reasons he has not given. The teacher is currently thinking of using craft sticks and glue to have the students build models, but this does not fall within the budget. The teacher is turning to the technology integrator for help.

I would suggest using a tool like Sketchup, FreeCAD, or floorplanner to create digital models of the home. Sketchup is an easy tool to learn how to use and make nice models, it is a bit tedious to make them exactly to scale, it requires a local installation and only runs in windows or mac. FreeCad is a great tool, but also requires some patience and attention to detail to be able to manipulate easily. Being opensource it runs on most platforms and also requires local installation. Floorplanner is a free WEB2.0 tool and requires users to make accounts, however it is very easy to use to create blueprints. The choice of tool would depend on how much the teacher would plan to use the drawing programs and what skills they would want to obtain from the use of them.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Strategies for Motivating Teachers

Motivating teachers to use technology is not an easy task. Teachers who have been teaching for some time, have already developed a routine in the classroom. They've experimented and changed things up and have landed on some solid techniques that work well for them and seem to work well for the students. Trying to convince a teacher like this to experiment and change again can be a challenge. Teachers are usually open to the idea of new ways to enrich learning. However, when push comes to shove, often times they hesitate and reject change. Most teachers will recognize and agree that technology is a major player in the 21st century learning initiatives, the common core, STEM, NGSS, NCLB (Beetham, H. Sharpe, R., 2013).

(Missing APY for the IEP subgroup, changed the PLC's focus to rTi, because NCLB requires SES.---Sorry, I couldn't resist a little acronym humor. Oddly enough, to those teachers out there, this makes sense.) 

The problems with technology arise when teachers are asked to start using technolgy. There are wide ranges in abilities and attitudes towards the tools. The most common complaint is lack of time for appropriate training. The second common complaint is usually around the computers that are available to run the tool. Whatever the excuse, teachers need some convincing to use technology. One good way to make technology training more efficient would be to provide some pre-training surveys to create a technology training that was differentiated to suit the needs of most. People are naturally motivated when they are invested in the content. If teachers are given the choice of technology to learn, they will most likely be more invested to learn a tool they want to learn than to spend time pretending to learn something because it is mandated. 

Another way to increase motivation is to prove that WEB2.0 tools and other digital tools enhance learning opportunities, and students are actually more engaged with the content when they have some control over the lesson (Sadaf, A. 2012). How do you prove that digital tools enhance learning? One way would be to use actual student work from that school to show that students can use the tool in question, and can produce high quality work. On another note, many of these decisions to enhance education seem to trickle into education from the top down. Students are rarely ever asked what they want and how they learn best. Some people might be rolling their eyes right now thinking "come on, like a kid really knows how they learn best. They just want to avoid work." In some instances, that may be true. But, if you never ask them, you'll never get a real answer. Students should be included in some of these decisions and training to show how they can learn these tools, and show what they can produce, when given the opportunity. 

I think the technology integrator has to be the cheerleader, the expert, the motivator, and the ice breaker for using these tools. They need to be the "go-to" person to reassure the teachers that it's not so bad, and these tools can actually make your teaching life easier. Instead of taking the time to plan out a lecture, why not take less time to plan out a Blendspace lecture, followed up by a class discussion? There are ways to make the content more engaging, and ways to incorporate the tools without teachers feeling as though they were sent to the wolves. The technology integrator needs to have a strong presence and needs to be a patient person willing to work with all types of people. 

Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (Eds.). (2013). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning. routledge.

Sadaf, A., Newby, T. J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2012). Exploring pre-service teachers' beliefs about using Web 2.0 technologies in K-12 classroom.Computers & Education59(3), 937-945.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Conrad Wolfram's Talk

Wolfram's talk about using math describes the use in math in real world situations through various career paths. The general message is that math is not strictly this subject where you learn how to "calculate." He suggests that math helps people to use technology to help with daily automated tasks. Understanding the foundation of a calculation helps people with critical thinking skills when using computers to be able to apply math to create models, design structures, and analyze large amounts data to draw conclusions. The traditional ways of teaching math through drill and practice may not be the best way for students to apply their knowledge. This idea is true among all content areas. While some drill and practice may be necessary for aiding in the foundations, it should not be the only way to learn the content. The structure of drill and practice also needs to evolve with time. Traditional pen and paper activities may help build some skill, but applying the same skills with the aid of technology can enhance learning and provide rich opportunities to delve into understanding the concepts in more detail. These ideas apply to all aspects of learning. Technology has enhanced the professional careers and should enhance learning.

This talk is very inspirational to the use of technology in education. Wolfram's search engine is a great example of how computers can bring content to life. It is a powerful engine that provides significant data about any topic, and potentially offers 3-D models of concepts. This talk could help teachers understand that traditional methods of teacher may have some value, but the behavior of the world is changing, and therefore we should prepare our students for the technical world they face with their careers. The world is much more automated and digitized now, than ever before. If the trends continue, technology will just keep getting better and more accessible. This video could be used as a tool to deliver that message to teachers, that technology should be taught within the content to learn how a professional, in that particular field, might use technology. 

When working with teachers and attempting to instill the value of technology, the process can be enhanced through the use of technology to allow teachers to collaborate. Many people don't recall that the internet was initially a giant collaboration experiment to allow scientists to quickly share information. Now, the internet is a powerful tool that connects the world. Collaboration is all around us. It is now much easier to "meet" with a group of professionals to accomplish a task than it was years ago. Prior to technology many collaboration projects required each person to physically be present for meetings. With the aid of technology, collaboration is much easier, and fits into any individuals agenda. When teachers start to work together or with a tech integrator they need to understand that collaboration is a give and take partnership where each role does what they can to participate in a respectful manor to arrive at the same goals. Teachers often worry when they need to work with each other, because they always feel as though they might be the person to carry the group. Collaboration is an important aspect of learning. It teaches the individual how to work with others and learn from others to arrive at a common goal. In the way of the digital, automated world, individuals need to collaborate frequently to develop new products, and brainstorm cutting edge ideas. Finally, a collaboration partnership is one that is relies on trust. The individuals collaborating must understand that there is a certain level of trust where each team member has a responsibility to participate, be respectful, offer appropriate constructive feedback and not destructive feedback, and needs to be flexible to "go with the flow." Collaboration efforts are almost always impacted with unexpected changes. If the appropriate trust is gained, group member's will understand and adapt when changes occur.


Wolfram, C. 2010. Teaching kids real math with computers. retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/conrad_wolfram_teaching_kids_real_math_with_computers.html


     Penzu may not be a great tool for a PE teacher, but might be a great tool for English teachers. The trick is to find tools that appeal to just about everyone in the audience. With the millions of tools available to educators, it is difficult to find the one tool that will spark motivation. The tech integrator needs to learn how to model appropriate classroom use of a tool, and demonstrate how it can enhance the curriculum (Cofino, 2010). During technology training or presentations, the tech integrator needs to share, model, and have teachers use appropriate tools for the audience.

The push for using more technology in the classroom, and using it efficiently has increased over the last few years. Some teachers were able to make that adjustment and were successful taking on the challenge of finding tools that fit into their teaching style and meshed with the curriculum. However, the expectation is that all teachers use technology in their class, they use it well, and the evolution to include more should be seamless. There are varying abilities and comfort levels when using technology in education. Some teachers require more assistance and training than others. When a teacher can have a concrete connection to the tool, and really find the value in how the tool can enhance their curriculum, they will be more motivated to learn how to use and implement the tools.

     Another way that would be appropriate to spark motivation would be for the technology integrator to truly embrace differentiated instruction to provide opportunities for all abilities, interests, and be able to draw upon experience and knowledge. To be able to provide to all teachers, the technology integrator would need appropriate pre and post assessments of training opportunities. Knowing where teachers are with technology before might help to choose and provide opportunities to use tools that are easy to learn and can enhance the curriculum. Gaining the post data would help inform the tech integrator about the quality of training and discover what worked well and what did not. Many teachers balk at the idea of technology training. This hesitation can manifest from a variety reasons, the important thing is to know what teachers want to do, and use their time efficiently and effectively so they are motivated to use the tools they've learned and provide students the chance to discover how technology can help them engage in the content.

Cofino, K. 2012 Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration. Retrieved from http://kimcofino.com/blog/2010/03/20/creating-a-culture-of-collaboration-through-technology-integration/