Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Young teacher asked - How do I get more training...

A young teacher in my technology for teachers course said, "I am going to be a math teacher in the future. Where can I get more training about how to use technology in the classroom?"

I encouraged other students to add to the list below. Please comment on this post and add your own ideas, I will share them with my class.

* Use the professional organizations to which you belong such as NCTM. They have a website with tons of support for teachers, they have conferences and publications. * * Join other related organizations such as ISTE.
* Get on email mailing lists for these organizations so you are alerted to new books, publications, articles, webinars etc.
* Search online for tutorials including YouTube and TeacherTube videos, Common Craft videos etc.
* Look at the resource lists from the math book publisher. Most of them have websites along with tutorials and virtual manipulatives.
* Use social media to build your professional learning network (we will discuss PLN's later in this course by the way). I use Twitter for this purpose, I know the minute a new article/blog post/news item etc. is published that I might be interested in. In addition my professional learning network will answer questions such as the one you asked here and will send me to new resources I might never have found...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teaching comes before Technology even in the dictionary

I have had a long email conversation with a student who is creating online technology integration training for teachers. I realized this is a conversation which should be shared...

The conversation began when I put this comment on a recent assignment.

Teaching comes before technology even in the dictionary
(quoted from Making the Move to eLearning). I would propose that you teach teachers how students can learn more effectively when using technology and not teach them about specific tools. If you look at the NETS-T standards from ISTE you will see the emphasis is not on tools and technology tips/tricks but on what technology can bring to learning. My little soapbox, I will get off it now but I couldn’t let this pass without asking for the focus to be curricular, not on tools.

My student replied... Whoa! Thank you. That expression is closer to what I was hoping to accomplish with Technology training for teachers. If teachers can use various multimedia to excite, peak interest and curiosity then the end result is more internalization of knowledge and skills for the students.

This has been my quandary since I started thinking about technology training for teachers a couple of years ago - do I present information on the 'how to' side of technology tools so teachers can become proficient using them? The expectation is once they know how to use technology, they will incorporate it in their lessons because they will understand its impact on their students. The other side is do I present the information of technology tools and their impact and leave teachers to their own devices on acquiring the 'how to' skills?

What I proposed in an earlier class was combining them by teaching the 'how to' side and requiring that the teachers use reality (project based) lessons to demonstrate an understanding of technology's use in the classroom. Am I on the right track with this?

Quite honestly, if I had my way in the classroom, those that have smart phones or notebooks would be able to use them in the class to do research. After Japan's tsunami, I used my iphone and document reader to show YouTube' videos on tsunamis and earthquakes to answer questions from a group of very nervous 5th graders who thought Alameda was going to be underwater - I had to use my iphone because the district's filter prevents access to YouTube and social sites but that's a whole other issue.

And I responded... The biggest fallacy is that if teachers know how to use a tool they will know how to integrate it into the curriculum. Really forward thinking creative teachers might, maybe. The vast majority need to see examples. If they see some examples they then can make the leap into new ways of using the tech in their curriculum area.

The way I was taught in the most intense but most valuable educational experience of my life was to be given a curricular task (just like we would give the students) be shown a few just-in-time tech skills to use with one or two tool choices, provided with or reminded of resources for figuring out other things with the tools (remember to use the Help menu... for example) and then given time and opportunity to struggle. Adults do not like to struggle but they learn from it.

Children tolerate struggling a little better, they seem more used to having to figure things out. We slowly train them out of that ability to figure things out on their own. By the time they are in high school they just wait for us to give them the answer because they know we will. If we let them create, let them find more than one answer, and if we accepted multiple forms of the answer, and we refused to step in and help them, they would keep that characteristic, but we don't. Think of how a child figures out a video game. They try, they lose, they try again and learn a new trick and make it a little farther. They share tips with friends and get a little farther. There is no manual, no help menu, they struggle and they love it. Schools train all this out of them, we teach them there is one right answer, the teachers knows the right answer, and if you wait long enough the teacher will help you get the answer they wanted all along. We might say we do something different in education, a few of us do, but the majority of education is exactly that for students... no wonder they prefer video games.

Bottom line is all the teachers are used to a world where there is one right way to do something, someone knows what that right way to do it is, and if you wait they will help you get it... Making them do something with multiple avenues to be right and letting them struggle on their own somewhat is good for them but uncomfortable.

The intermediate step is to give them the curricular task, give them a few skills to get them going, provide them with scaffolded resources in case they need them and a support network of other learners, and then help them before the frustration level is so great that they quit. The real trick in online ed is knowing when their frustration level is getting too high and it really is an art in online ed and I freely admit I have screwed up more than once and let someone get too frustrated.

This is a really long answer to tell you that I would suggest you design curricular tasks and projects and embed the necessary skill-building and resources into the support for the tasks. And keep the lines of communication open between them and other students, and between them and you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Names on your "papers"

The following is from a class I recently taught which had a small number of enrolled students. This is important for all of us to remember as we set up technology projects so it is shared here for all to see.

As I gathered all the Final Project documents so that I could email comments to all of you I realized that 4 of the 5 had no name in the document or in the file name. This was something we did not cover in the course protocols or the course materials but is something to consider as you work with technology and your students.

Imagine if you had 20 students and they all turned in ProjectX.doc to you? First of all, your computer might overwrite each item if they have the same name meaning you will end up with only one document in your folder. Or... it will change the file name for you to ProjectX1.doc ProjectX2.doc but you still have no idea whose work you have in your folder until you open the document. Even then, you will only know whose work you have if students have put their name inside their document. If the ratio from this course 1 of 5 with a name continued on for 20 students you would have 4 documents with names inside and 16 without names.

I don't bring this up to embarrass anyone, but instead this is something to really think about before doing tech projects. Usually I teach my students a file naming protocol and I prescribe it for each assignment. Usually it is last name first initial and the name of the project. So for this assignment in our course my final project would have been named


This is my fault for not prescribing a file naming protocol. Telling teachers to put their name inside their document, in other words, "put their name on their paper" is something I don't think I should have to say. However, I know I do. I had a professor in my Master's studies who really took me to task when I did this same thing. He told me it was "inexcusable at the graduate level to submit an assignment with no name in it." I don't think I have forgotten to do it since then.

As you all move forward, think about file naming protocols and title page/slide/name on your project protocols. Think through the methods for students showing you which work is theirs. Put those procedures in your directions for your technology projects and reiterate them during the creation and submission phases.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When is an onion not an onion

I come from Walla Walla, WA where we grow sweet onions. In fact, our Walla Walla sweet onions are so sweet you can eat them like an apple. Seriously!
Yesterday I was thinking about this and I realized even though you CAN eat them like an apple, I never use them in recipes which call for apples. I only use them in recipes as onions. Why is that?
We see things in categories and an onion, however sweet it may be, is an onion. This is the category in which it belongs. To truly be creative and wise, we have to think outside of the box, or in this case, the category.
We tend to think of software and technologies the same way, each in a well-defined category. For example, word processors are for typing and creating 'to be printed' documents. Spreadsheets are for organizing data and creating graphs. Yet most (good) pieces of software can be used in a wide variety of ways.
My students and I used Excel, a spreadsheet program, to make maps of Ancient Egypt. We used PowerPoint to make interactive stories and animate architecture. How do we learn to see the new possibilities for tools? Here are a few ways I have learned to battle my own ignorance and see outside the category!
  1. Watch young people use technology. Today's youth have grown up with technology and they more fully explore the possibilities of all tools. They collaborate with one another sharing ideas and findings. They are not afraid to open menus, push buttons etc.
  2. Open menus and push buttons. Try out the tool, right click/hover to see what the menu choices are in various areas of a window, push buttons to see what happens.
  3. Use the Help menu. The Help menu may be the most underutilized tool in most programs. Using Help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of intelligence. Help is where the ignorant, like myself, look for wisdom and enlightenment.
  4. Ask others. Discussing any tool with others opens the door to learning more, especially if the category 'others' is not limited to those in the immediate vicinity. Using Internet sites to reach out to others and ask questions is a great way to battle ignorance. Here are a couple of the major teacher discussion sites, there are lots of others. AtoZTeacherForums and Discussion Lists.
  5. Use Explanation sites. One of my all-time favorites is How Stuff Works. Their technology section is fantastic but don't limit a stop at How Stuff Works just looking for computer info, their site explains how everything works! Love it! Another favorite is Common Craft. Plain simple English explanations using paper!
  6. Use Tutorial sites. Tutorials are different from explanations. Tutorials show a procedure, they don't explain how the technology works, they explain how to do something. There are tons of tutorial sites, many specific to teachers and education such as: Education World Techtutorials, Actden Internet4Classrooms and Teach-Nology Tutorials.
  7. Use the Manufacturer or Publisher. Most technologies and software have robust sites offering help, tutorials, templates etc. Many, even those products which are not specific to education, have large education sections. For example, Microsoft has a robust collection of teacher tutorials, tips, templates and more.
This is not a comprehensive list of ways to further explore the possibilities of software and technology, but it is a starting point. The only way to become wiser is to admit what you do not know and move forward from there! Yours in ignorance!