#COETAIL4 #FinalProject #ISSmeetsSocialMedia

Social Media animated gif

I made this animated gif on gifmaker.me with content from Somacro on DeviantArt

As I am the Director of Technology, this “unit” is a project that I will work on across the entire school community literally. This project is a social media education program that spans the entire community.

In the first prong, I will work to educate parents on the world of social media. Many parents have a Facebook account and are familiar with that single website, but many many more do not keep up with the other forms of social media that their children are using. I find most parents live in fear of tools like Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter. Also they don’t see how these tools could fit into their lives in either a purely social or educational way.

I find there are two things that work best with parents and I will plan to pursue these areas as I progress through this “unit”. The first are general informational settings with lots of resources embedded. Essentially this will be a big group in the theater or library, with me advertising the session to parent ahead of time (using the parent association is key!) I’ll present an overview of social media with some tips for the parents to use at home etc.

The second piece that I will use with parents is a more hands-on session where they can try out about the various social media tools that are out there. This may be a session where I invite students as well, but my first thought is to make this a parent-only session. This part is essential as most parents who will attend the “teaching session” will not actually go home and try out the tools I mention.

The second prong is teacher education. This one will be fun! Sure there are a handful of teachers out there who are using social media for personal goals, but the number of teachers using social media in the classroom is very small. In some non-scientific preliminary research (AKA water cooler conversations) most teachers at my school feel that social media is for personal use (catching up with friends etc.) and they should not cross the line into educational social media. It’s interesting to me, as the social media I use the most, Twitter, is completely professional for me. I very rarely post personal content.

Through faculty meetings, after school workshops and personal meetings, I will paint a new picture of how social media can be used. I think it will be best to connect teachers within the school first. In this way they will have their own little social network. Quickly though, I will link these small groups to the larger world since that is the point after all! There is much work to be done here and there are some unique laws in Norway regarding the use of social media but I am truly excited about starting this fire in our faculty.

Students. They are the focus of the last prong of this project/unit. As we know, students are typically the heavy users of social media, but they are creating and consuming on social media with a (mostly) non-educational purpose. It’s a means to connect with their peers, not necessarily  to truly connect with the world. I also find that many students do not understand some of the basic guidelines for social media. So my approach with students will be to educate them about best practices and also get them to see the value of connecting their lives and their work to a broader audience.

This “unit”/social media project is going to rock some worlds here at my school! I know there are some parents, teachers and students who are ready for this step, but there are plenty that are not. Wish me luck as I endeavor to expand the personal learning networks of our entire community!

LINK to my UBD “unit” plan for this social media project.

The Power of the Project

Chis Lehmann's Schools We Need Screen shot

image credit: via Chris Lehmann’s video on YouTube

When reflecting on PBL I always think of Chris Lehmann‘s now classic talk “The Schools We Need” that he presented at Ignite Philly 2008. In that talk he paints the picture of schools that are, among other things, heavily project-based. He’s got a great hierarchy that illustrates the need for what he calls an “understanding driven” system. We used to put tests at the top of this pyramid but he suggests that place be reserved for projects. And I agree with him.

I’ve got three main reasons for buying  into this idea that project based learning should be the ultimate assessment.

#1 We teach kids not content

Chris mentions this in his talk. This is the core reason why PBL works so well. Students are more engaged when there is something real on the line (authentic assessment) or at least when there is the illusion of something real (mock trial for example). Because we are humans it’s in our nature to work on teams with a common goal. We are simply wired to be drawn to projects, goals, tasks. This is of course, why the opposite is true for memorizing facts. Of course, there is a place for facts. It’s a little tough in a debate about world hunger to have to stop and Google a simple fact about international food supply, etc. It would kill the argument. But overall humans like to completely engage in something like a project. And we are teaching humans, remember!

#2 PBL Forces Teacher Collaboration

This one may seem a little out of left field but I feel this hidden power behind PBL is worth mentioning. This may be true to some extent with any new initiative in a school, but PBL really does make teachers collaborate in new ways. If your high school, for example, makes a move towards PBL this would mean that your teachers who may have previously worked more in isolation would be forced to collaborate more. This happens because in true PBL work there is quite a bit of cross curricular work to be done. In extreme cases where a school goes all in with PBL this means teachers have no choice but to work together on what becomes total cross-curricular projects. For example I know that ISB Beijing is experimenting with PBL using a school-within-a-school concept. They have completely adjusted the schedule, allowing time special project time on certain days of the week. Any kind of PBL that is operating at that level must bring teachers together. In another case in Danville, KY 40% of the teachers have left the district since they started PBL. This sounds extreme, but what it means is that those who remain will be stronger collaborators. Those people who believe in the direction the district is taking remain and will carry things forward as a stronger team.

#3 It Fosters Individualized Learning

With PBL there are always roles and responsibilities. When every student does not have the exact same role, that lets students shine in the area where they are more specialized. For example, when a group chooses some form of multimedia to present their findings, there are likely going to be students who excel at certain elements. Someone in the group will be able to see the bigger picture, getting students to focus on the right part of the project. Someone else may be a whiz at the video editing piece. The resident artist or writer will have their place. This will allow students to individualize their learning, taking their own personal perspective on the project. By making it their own, they get the chance to use their skills, really prove themselves in an area of interest to them. In the perfect scenario the teacher allows time for good cross-training as well. With enough time the “coder” and the artist get to show each other their work/techniques. Everyone wins.

So I encourage you as an individual teacher to get out there and try PBL. Just because your whole school is not on a PBL kick does not mean that you cannot get your feet wet and try this out yourself. I am sure you will see the benefits!


To Flip or Not to Flip is Not the Question

Over the last few years there’s been a lot of talk out there about flipping classrooms. Of course, the main idea is to give you more time with students when they need it the most: when they are working on their “homework”, when they are applying their learning, when the deeper understanding is taking place.

I’ve read articles that claim the flip does not work because students will be lost without instruction. Just asking students to watch a video will not work. I’ve also read the opposite, that teachers need to spend 100% of class time helping students think, not teaching content. This camp would advocate that if it can be Googled or viewed on a website or video you should not be covering it in class.

There are a lot of factors at play that make flipped instruction work differently for different situations. I would even argue that it works best in certain subject areas. And I will admit there is power in the flip. But I think the real power of this whole flipping idea comes when teachers really reflect on their practice and consider how their students learn and how to best engage them.

If you teach the humanities for example there is a lot of benefit to using flipped instruction. Sure there are endless facts and dates that are just begging to be memorized (that can happen during the flip time), but isn’t the main event, the big idea, to learn about people? And what better way to do that than through interacting in class, debating and discussing ideas, the sort of thing that is tough to do with standard flipped instruction. On the other hand, courses like math or other courses that have that “exact answer” nature may be better suited to flipped instruction.

The most skilled teacher will certainly flip parts of their course, knowing that students can learn certain content on their own and do the real processing and consolidating in class. They will also recognize that there are times when their classes need some direct instruction.

This is absolutely true in the classroom of life, where I have three students (my own kids in grades 1, 3 and 5). Just the other day my son and I were stacking wood. Winter is coming here in Norway and we heat our home mostly with a wood stove. My son was very excited about the gigunda pile of wood that was dumped into our yard. As he and I started working on the stacking process I noticed he had no idea how to stack wood in such a way that it would stay put against the wall. After a minute or two of watching me my 6 year old quickly figured out how the wood fit best. There was simple task to be learned, the sort of thing we can flip as a teacher.

A day or two later I was helping my 3rd grader with spelling. Truly this is the sort of thing kids can learn on their own. It’s classic “drill and kill”. Especially in the English language I find myself saying to my daughter, “I don’t know why it is spelled that way, it just is.” This is the perfect opportunity for flipped instruction. There’s not a lot of consolidation and processing needed here, just get the facts in your head, right?

My 5th grader, on the other hand, is at the age where she is starting to think more deeply about friendships, why people do what they do, etc. Our talks tend to be more of a learning conversation. For example she has been working lately on a persuasive essay about school uniforms. We’ve both been enjoying the conversations that have been sparked at home since this project was assigned. Something as simple as the persuasive essay needs a conversation and cannot be taught completely through reverse instruction. To me, the perfect hybrid of Flipped and Traditional teaching would be to have my daughter watch a persuasive video (or ask a parent to advocate for one side of the argument during dinner) You get the benefit of the flipped classroom but the student is not being asked to “learn it all on their own” via videos.

So where are we heading now? What are we to do? I’m advocating for flipping as needed and thinking carefully about what content we flip. I maintain that the best teachers know what needs to be done in class and what might be possible at home. The strongest benefit is that all of this flipped classroom talk is making teachers think again about their approach to teaching and learning. Honestly that may be the most powerful benefit behind most of the trends we see popping in and out of education. They make teachers reflect on their practice!


Works Cited

“The Flipped, Flipped Classroom.” Stanford Daily. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <http://www.stanforddaily.com/2013/08/05/the-flipped-flipped-classroom/&gt;.

“We Need More EdTech, But Less Technology In The Classroom.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2013/08/26/we-need-more-edtech-but-less-technology-in-the-classroom/&gt;.


From Oregon Trail to Classcraft – Immersive Games in the Classroom

I have never been a gamer in the traditional sense of the word. Of course I had a Nintendo and I admit to playing Parsec on the TI-99 (that was a computer not a calculator). But I have never really been into games like many people. But I did play games in school. Specifically I spent a lot of time on Oregon Trail and LOGO. And I loved them. I know for a fact that time spent on “games” like those had a major impact on my love for technology and certainly increased my knowledge and skills in other areas.

It is certainly true that games have their place in schools. Few people out there would argue that fact. After all computer based games have been used in schools since the personal computer was invented and games in general have been used in school since the beginning of time. There are the drill and kill basic games that help us remember multiplication facts or the Period Table of the Elements. There are even some more advanced games that involve some kind of reward and a bit more competition. But please allow me to make a distinction here. The use of games in school is one thing. True gamification is another.

As a director of technology I always like to use the business world as an example so here goes. Look at the number of apps and websites that gamify everyday things. There is the OKDOTHIS app which allows users to “challenge” each other to create new photographs. It’s a fun app, and I personally love the idea that people can challenge each other with the latest “DO of the Day”.

We can find another example in the once-popular 0boxer.com tool. The idea was that you got badges/awards for getting your inbox numbers down. I tried it back in the day and it was just plain addictive. I actually found myself deleting messages that I may have genuinely needed,  just for the rewards!

And don’t even get me started on the gamification of fitness. Robert Appino has a great post about some of the popular apps that could be models for schools.

My contention here is that the games, the plain old games, will always have their place in schools, but the gamification of learning has massive untapped potential. Imagine if your history class was nothing but a huge immersive game. You’d have to carefully construct the reward system and be aware of the benefits and pitfalls of serious competition in your classroom, but I think the risk may pay off.

My first exposure to immersive games was probably when I was about 10 years old when I learned to play Myst. This game takes the player to a foreign world where there is not just one thing to do or just one goal. Basically the user is immersed in a world where they can do anything virtually. Today some of these games have taken the form of MMORPG and other immersive fiction games.

The type of immersive games I am interested in exploring are those that involve the whole class over an extended period of time. I’ve seen a few examples of this like The Dragon Collective that are immersive games where the entire class is involved. In The Dragon Collective students are learning Chinese while at the same time being immersed in a game that keeps them motivated. Students collect clues, solve riddles, etc. This idea reminds me of the Assassin game. I have always loved the immersive nature of this game and would love to see how teachers could use a similar technique to involve kids in learning via immersive game play.

These games’ value lies in the fact they they are so engrossing. Using this type of game in education could be as powerful as language immersion is for language learners. The idea behind language immersion is that when a student is surrounded by the language and many times the culture, they will learn by osmosis.

What do you think the potential is of immersive games in the classroom? Is anyone trying something like this? Hit the comments section and let me know.

Update: Has anyone seen the immersive game of “Classcraft“? In my research for this post I have stumbled upon this site. It’s an online game designed to be used in the classroom all year with all your kids involved. I love this concept and would like to investigate further!

SAMR Ceiling?

Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

Is Redefinition really the top of the Slope of Enlightenment? Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

I have taught the concept of SAMR to teachers for years. We’re like old friends. But if I was honest I’d have to say SAMR and I have had a few fights and attempted to make up over the years. I think many educators are misunderstanding the stages of SAMR. One particular PD session I helped with years ago made this clear. We asked teachers to read educational scenarios and decide where they fit in the model. Some scenarios were simple to figure out but many of them were tough to slot into “S” “A” “M” or “R”. When we reviewed the “answers” teachers pushed back, giving great reasons why certain scenarios fit in various categories. “Do they just not understand?” I wondered, or was the model broken?

I’ve seen blog posts over the years that reinforce these wonderings. Excellent, well-meaning educators have blogged about SAMR, some even with examples of work that fits in the four different levels. But at times they seem to be saying conflicting things. Have a look at this article published in Edutopia where they tout shared Google Slides as “Redefinition” Wow. If that is Redefinition then I am left feeling like there is nowhere else to go. But have I, among many others that do things like share presentations online, really maxed out on the SAMR scale? Reid Wilson has a new take on this and I’ll have to say, I am in total agreement with his article and I could not have said better myself.

“At the redefinition tier, we are not really imagining and conceptualizing as much as we are applying what has already been thought of before.”

Wilson, I believe, is saying that the SAMR model limits us by steering us to think about the tools. The higher level, he calls it conceptualization, is another space above redefinition that allows for people to not just put the same old technology together in new innovative ways, but rather to think of things at a whole new level. We can conceptualize things. It’s beyond putting things together. It’s conceiving of ideas and it has a much higher ceiling than redefinition.

I chose the above image because its creator added this element that shows progress over time and I like this new dimension in the SAMR. Take a look at the line. Once we get into the “Redefinition” area we enter the “Slope of Enlightenment” but notice it is just a slope.

This diagram is begging for a new level but I am cautious about suggesting one. I almost want to leave the model behind and talk about this new “conceptualization” idea of Wilson’s, separate from the SAMR model. It leaves the troubles of the model behind and takes to to a new place where we can stop talking about tools and what we do with them and start talking about ideas and concepts.

Actually I like this concept of a revised Blooms’s taxonomy from Kathy Schrock of all the parts working together. There is no hierarchy, no top or bottom. All the processes work together like a machine.

My goal is to push my teachers to the next level or to an entirely new place if it is not a level. Will you join me in this healthy challenge of the SAMR model? Will you join me in liberating teachers from the idea that they must figure out new ways to “do technology” in order to climb to the top of the SAMR model?


Disclaimer: Like Reid I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject and certainly not even close to Puentedura himself. I am just a heavy user with quite a bit of hands-on experience working with teachers and talking about this model.


Side note: there are some very entertaining versions and modifications of the SAMR model out there, many inspired by iPad apps. Check this one out. May I make a general plea to the ed tech world? Please don’t create any more of these iPad app charts, wheels, diagrams, etc. It’s a bit like getting a tattoo on your arm of the number one song on iTunes. It’s going to be out of date by the time it’s done!