Course 1 Final Project: French + Tech

Although I’m not actually teaching French at the present moment, I wanted to go back and adapt some of the lessons I’ve done. In my classroom last year my students had access to Chromebooks, Google Apps for Education, iPads and iPod touches (yes, I know we were very fortunate!). I have done elements of this lesson in the past but never all together. I think my students got a lot out of the instant feedback & discussion that the Google Form provided them when doing their bellwork. I also had great success with speaking activities using video prompts and commenting on student writing (while they are writing it) with Google Docs. My students never blogged but if I went back to the classroom I’d really like to experiment with student e-portfolios using blogs or sites. I’ve also been inspired after reading Nicholas Provenzano to have my students create and others interpret. I really like how this idea can be adapted and molded to fit any content and grade level.

I can’t believe Course 1 is over already! Looking forward to Spring Break in Bangkok and Phuket 🙂

Collaboration = Ultimate Success

During my 3 years teaching HS French I slowly incorporated more and more technology into my units (with the help of awesome colleagues). As I look back on how and why I integrated technology, I keep coming back to collaboration. The days that stick out in my mind (and also seemed to have the biggest effect on my students) were the lessons where they were able to collaborate – with their peers in class or with other students outside of our school walls.

Technology allows us to collaborate in a way that was not possible before. Technology is truly redefining the way we work with others…and that’s what it’s all about, right? No matter what you teach, where you are or how old your students are you can help them make connections to people around the world. Their ‘peers’ are no longer just the students sitting next to them in class each day. The teacher no longer has to be the only ‘sage on the stage.’ There are classrooms and experts out there waiting to connect and collaborate.

One (and maybe only?) thing drawing me back to the classroom is the chance to help my students make connections and learn about the world around them. So in my current position, helping teachers find ways to collaborate and connect with other classes around the world is probably my favorite topic of discussion and biggest passion. I wish more teachers would step outside their comfort zone and put “flattening” their classroom at the top of their priority list…the learning objectives and standards will come.

As we put more technology into the hands of students and teachers we need to CHANGE what our classroom looks like (thanks Jeff L!). It’s not going to be easy. But luckily it can be free. While I think projects like Flat Classroom are great, you don’t have to pay lots of money to get out there and find ways for you and your students to collaborate and connect. Wikis are free. Blogs are free (if you find the right ones). Google Apps for Education is free (if you’re non-profit). Twitter is free. Skype is free. Do you get the point? Start talking to other teachers and make exploring outside the 4 walls of your classroom a priority.


I recently ‘hungout’ with a few principals in my former district to discuss  virtual field trips and thought the topic fit quite nicely with this post 🙂

Technology Integration Ramblings

Digital citizenship is a hot topic right now. I guess it has been for about as long as we’ve been talking about ’21st century learning.’ Digital citizenship encompasses many topics and is an entire curriculum. But how many educators actually view it this way? Tim Childers helped inspire me to reflect on one mistake…maybe this is another one. Similar to at Tim’s school, I think there are a lot of students doing things that the teachers and admin don’t approve of with the iPads we’ve given them. But have we taught them any different? Are we assuming that students are going to do the “right” thing with technology when we haven’t taught them what that looks like? Are most teachers even digitally literate and know how to be a good digital citizen? I agree with Andrew Miller – “More and more, we’re hearing the term ‘Digital Citizenship.’ I think we should simply call it ‘Citizenship.'”

But then there’s the next problem…the digital world is always changing and adapting. How do we actually teach our students how to navigate it?

Not only are literacy standard and culturally specific, but they are constantly changing in tandem with technical changes and a rising bar of cultural sophistication. Following from this, it is problematic to develop a standardized or static set of benchmarks to measure kids’ levels of new media and technical literacy. (Living & Learning with New Media, page 38)

Sometimes we think that simply blocking sites is the answer. But then what are we actually teaching kids?

When kids lack access to the internet at home, and public schools and libraries block sites that are central to their social communication, youth are doubly handicapped in their efforts to participate in common culture and sociability. (Living & Learning with New Media, page 36)

When students make mistakes with technology (whether we have taught them how to behave or not), what consequences have we put in place? Is the solution just to take it away?

Simple prohibitions, technical barriers or time-limits on use are blunt instruments; youth perceive them as raw and ill-informed exercises of power. (Living & Learning with New Media, page 37)

Is not teaching students to be digital citizens at the root of all of this? What if we look back even further? If teachers see technology use in school as an extra, something special, then won’t the students see it that way as well? As George Couros put it, teachers need to understand the difference between “learning about technology” and “learning with technology.” Until educators and students alike learn how to learn WITH technology, we’ll have issues. Chris Lehmann‘s series on what technology must be really spoke to me. I want educators at my school to see technology as ubiquitous and invisible. My job is to help them do new things in new ways. I hope I’m up for the challenge and frustrations!

It’s about time…

I’ve been a little uninspired lately. I’ve been trying to figure out what my Technology Coach position actually looks like (it’s a brand new position this year). We’ve spent most of this year going with the flow of our “1:1” iPad program (it’s quite far from 1:1 and we’ve had several stumbling blocks). Most of the PD we’ve offered at our school has been app specific. Teachers want to know how to incorporate the iPad into their lessons and the questions usually ends up being “What’s the best app for xyz?” or “What can I do with this new app?” This kind of technology integration has never been my style…but I’ve gotten sucked in and am now dealing with the consequences. It seems that much of our staff see integrating technology as “How can I use the iPad?” and view it as an extra, something special. I don’t blame them as (it seems that) this is how the majority of educators worldwide view technology.

Last week I’d had enough and decided we needed to re-focus on how we are integrating technology. I wanted to (finally) introduce SAMR. I had a great brainstorming session with Christina, read some great blog posts (more on that later) and was inspired…ready to get moving, shaking and changing!

The SAMR PD plan (just an idea right now)…

1. Share this article with all staff and ask them to read it prior to coming to PD.
2. Spend 20 minutes introducing SAMR in the elementary and high school divisional meetings and the middle school grade-level meetings. (Idea: In groups ask them to come up with everything they know about SAMR – prior knowledge, info from NASSP article, Google searches, etc. Come together and share out about it. Would love to use Jeff‘s circular SAMR visual. Give them division specific examples of what SAMR looks like in the classroom, making sure they align with the IB philosophy. In closing, ask teachers to brainstorm how they have/could integrate(d) technology at the SUBSTITUTION level for our next meeting.)
3. Spend time in the MS/HS department meetings and the ES grade level meetings (small group). Ask teachers to share how they have integrated technology at the substitution level. Lead a brainstorm/workshop session for how they could start transforming their lessons.
4. Start weekly (bi-weekly?) PD sessions for all staff focusing on technology integration through the lens of SAMR. Example: A workshop on what formative assessment looks like at the 4 SAMR stages. What might that then look like using an iPad? A laptop? Some other session topic ideas: summative assessment, projects, etc. The goal would be to make the curriculum the focus, NOT the technology.

We’ve gotten the okay to introduce SAMR to the middle and elementary schools next week. The rest is still a work in progress. This school year has been a work in progress. I’m excited to move forward and see some transformation of the education at our school.

I would love any ideas for my above plan. Have you introduced SAMR to your staff? Have you ever been in a PD workshop about SAMR? How can I best get my staff to move away from ‘there’s an app for that’ to redefining their lessons?

How would you change teacher preparation programs?

As I was reading through my Google Reader last week, I came across Josh Stumpenhorst‘s newest post. In his opinion, we need to go back to square one in order to ‘fix’ public education and start changing teacher education programs. There were some great comments (Jeff L. and I’s among others) – more proof that making connections and developing your PLN help you think outside the box and grow as an educator.

I didn’t take the standard path to becoming certified…I actually never thought I would become a teacher. I was offered a job teaching HS French and completed PACE in South Carolina over the course of 3 years. It was on the job training with coursework throughout. One could argue that it was better or worse than the traditional route.

No matter how you came to teaching, how did you learn to become a connected educator? Many of us probably explored by ourselves, others might have been introduced by a colleague and a few might be connected for the first time through COETAIL. Nothing from PACE ever talked about Twitter or blogging. My husband (who went through the teacher prep program at our college) never took a course introducing him to the wide world of #edchat (granted he graduated in 2007).

If teacher preparation is in need of a change, why not incorporate a class on being a connected educator while we’re at it? If every teacher college, university and alternative certification program required students to take a course that taught them how to create their PLN, blog for reflection, and more – imagine what kind of teachers we’d see come into the profession in the next 5 years! So Jeff…when are you going to start offering COETAIL Course 1 for pre-service teachers? Get a few major universities on board and maybe it would catch on. 😉

Update: Just found this great article on Twitter via ISTEConnects written by Katrina Schwartz. The research (done by Project Tomorrow) is quite interesting…go check it out!

Passionate About Collaboration

When my husband convinced me to join Twitter in May of 2010, I didn’t know the opportunities for collaboration that it would provide me. I started as a lurker and was astonished by how many educational resources were being tweeted about on a daily basis. In August of 2011 I decided to become a contributor – I started my blog and was actively looking for a French class to connect with my class. I found @freddav our adventures began! From connecting with teachers on my Twitter account to connecting students using class accounts, the last couple years have been extremely rewarding.

As I’ve transitioned from being in the classroom and in control of my lessons to my role as a technology coach, collaboration has continued to be my favorite form of technology integration. I saw how tweeting with students halfway across the world affected my students and I believe that education would be much more meaningful if all students could have those experiences on a regular basis. Connecting students to each other is just the beginning – Skype Classroom has also been working to connect classrooms to experts around the world. Every time I read about ideas to make collaboration easier, I get excited about the future.

As I was reading World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others by Will Richardson, I almost made my neck sore from all my nodding along. There are an incredible number of challenges when putting technology in the hands of kids and letting them communicate with others in the name of education. However if students are given the right tools and skills, the educational value is infinite. Through collaboration, we can “bring the world” into our classrooms. Student learning is no longer confined to the four walls of their classroom.  Wow! Talk about education reform!

The opportunity to control my own collaboration and classroom exchanges is almost enough to entice me back into the classroom. Instead, I hope to be able to have an effect on many more teachers and students. Like Will Richardson, I believe we’re in the ‘Collaboration Age’ and it’s our job as educators to harness this powerful tool for the good of students worldwide.