How the Digital Age is Altering Education’s Landscape (it’s not the gadgets…)

“There’s something powerful and exciting about the society-wide experiment the digital age has thrust upon us.” ~James Estrin, National Geographic¹


Drip Effect

Whatever shape our personal digital involvement takes, the above statement has become irrefutable. With an exponential quantity of global interaction on our hands, we can already identify many ways our lives have changed.  However, time has yet to fully reveal the long term and unintended impacts of technology, known as “drip effects” (Peter Skillen gives the example of cars, where their original purpose was to simply transport people places; the unexpected drip effect became the phenomenon of city sprawl and suburban life²).  To us, the most thrilling aspect of this “society wide experiment” lies in education.

Sudden Educational Evolution

For many years, education remained fairly static.  Professors of education could share similar concepts and resources for decades, with little deviation.  Sure, the pendulum would, at times, swing between such matters as phonics vs. whole language, but nothing altered too radically.

Now, all that is changing thanks to technology.  It’s not just social media platforms that create customized professional development for teachers.  It’s not just cloud storage like Google Drive that foster global collaboration.  It’s not even just Youtube videos that provide instant tutorials for every topic under the sun.  It’s a revolutionizing and unexpected drip-effect: the manner in which teachers are pioneering new practices.  Since even those who graduated college 5 years ago were unlikely to have possessed a textbook on the benefits of Twitter in the classroom, teachers are tinkering and experimenting with new resources themselves–learning and growing right alongside their students!

The Counterintuitive Effects of Vulnerability

This kind of pioneering requires teachers to share their personal, authentic, and vulnerable learning processes–the out-loud wondering, the messy brainstorming, the trial and error, the failed projects–all are brought front and center in the classroom.  What is the result when students watch adults experience genuine learning?  In the “Pencil Metaphor” below (as shared in other posts), the erasers, ferrules, and hangers-on may fear that exposing their limitations could result in a loss of respect, productivity, or control.  The the rest are discovering the true results: strengthened relationships as students see their teachers as more human; heightened motivation as students are inspired by what lifelong learning looks like; and abundant empowerment for everyone in an atmosphere where it is safe to experiment, fail, discover, and grow.

Retrieved: Clouducation (original creator unknown)
Retrieved: Clouducation (original creator unknown)

During the most recent #5thchat (held Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET), Tyson Lane summarized this approach well:

Such common sharing and learning is also reinforced by the findings of vulnerability and shame researcher, Brene Brown, when she describes the necessary shift in education and business alike, “from controlling to engaging with vulnerability–taking risks and cultivating trust”³ (p. 209.  See her terrific manifesto for leaders here).

Walking the Talk

I was always surprised at how much one phrase delighted my students: “I don’t know.”  Giggles and slightly dropped jaws would consistently ensue, followed by profound discussions on whether I should find out myself (while modeling to them), or whether they could help me figure it out.  My most carefully crafted inquiry questions rarely elicited as much engagement from my students as those three words.  Similarly, I once attempted to create a DIY interactive whiteboard with a Wii remote–a venture that ultimately proved completely ineffective.  Though one might expect that students would respond to such failure with scorn, my students were keenly supportive through every step–and in turn, showed increased willingness to try and share new ideas themselves.

Through blogs, Twitter, and more, I have learned from exceptional individuals who are boldly learning with their students. Listed below are a few:

Trying new technology to improve your classroom is risky.  But even if the intended goal fails, the drip effect of being vulnerable with your students and allowing them to watch you authentically learn is priceless.

Sources:

  1. Estrin, J. “The Visual Village.” National Geographic. October 2013. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/digital-village/estrin-text
  2. Skillen, P. “The Drip Effects of Technology.” http://theconstructionzone.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/the-drip-effect-of-technology/
  3. Brown, Brown. Daring Greatly. New York: Gotham Books, 2012. Print.

Featured Image:

Jason Paluck

Closing the Edtech Teacher Gap

The dialogue on “digital divides” is extensive with regards to student learning and accessibility.  But what about digital divides for learning and accessibility among teachers?


No Teacher Left Behind?

When I graduated from college in 2009, I had never heard of concepts like PLN’s, teachers using Twitter professionally, or encouraging elementary students to create digital portfolios with blogs.  When I began teaching at a fairly new school filled with other recently graduated teachers, our video projectors were as high-tech as it got–though most classrooms still had overhead projectors, too.  And when I finally began to explore 21st century educational technology years later (social media in particular), I discovered a rather counterintuitive pattern: despite being raised with the internet, younger teachers as a whole are not the fluent edtech masters one might expect.

Putting the Pieces Together

The more I started to catch up on edtech, the more aware I became of this pattern.  For example, as the Flipped Learning Network has gathered statistics on flipped classrooms, it has shared findings using various Infographics.  The one below states that 85% of teachers flipping their classrooms have at least 7 years of experience; another shows that for 46% of teachers polled, that number jumps up to 16 years!

Source: Flipped Learning Network, retrieved from Edudemic
Source: Flipped Learning Network, retrieved from Edudemic

Additionally, a 2012 report released by the National Association of State Boards of Education points out:

“…the majority of Gen Y teachers grew up using the Internet and technology.  Given this simple fact, it would seem to be only a matter of time before a cohort of tech-savvy, actively tweeting, social media-integrating teachers take over our schools.  The reality, however, is more complicated…being born at this time did not necessarily mean being born into a world of social media…nor did it necessarily mean being educated in a technology-rich learning environment.”

With regards to teacher education, it further states:

“Surprisingly, given that the vast majority of those entering the profession are digital natives, new teachers are no more likely to integrate technology into their practice than their veteran peers.  The research indicates that it is not a lack of access, but primarily lack of knowledge and practice integrating the technology into their instructional pedagogy.”

To an extent, the shortcomings of collegiate teacher prep makes sense.  As a recent Huffington Post article points out, college in 2005 was dramatically different from today (ie, neither MacBook Pros nor Twitter existed yet, and Facebook was still limited to college freshmen).  Even the professors were unfamiliar with rapidly evolving educational technology tools and practices.

Meanwhile, teachers whose careers were already established when such tools debuted became the prime candidates for becoming the digital literates in the field.  Thus, I would contend that older teachers are even more likely than younger ones to integrate technology in their teaching practices and professional development.

Closing the Gap

So how do we close the gap of teachers who do and don’t effectively integrate technology?  The above-mentioned NASBE report cites policy and institution-based solutions such as improving technology instruction at the university level, as well as implementing quality, ongoing professional development and peer mentoring.  While these are sure to help address the issue, we suggest it can also be remedied when teachers take individual action.  With the wealth of free professional development available online (ie, communities of teachers on Twitter that share, discuss, and support), teachers can be quickly brought up to speed on the latest ideas.  Our post on ways to become a 21st century teacher has specific ideas for such action.  Let us endeavor to close any digital divide that arises to strengthen our global community of teachers and learners!

Featured Image Credit:

Earnest C.

10 Tips to Help Your Class Blog Stand Out

No one likes dedicating time to an unproductive, thankless task–especially if you’re a teacher maintaining a class blog that no one checks!  Here are 10 of our time-tested strategies to improve your blog, and to encourage your students and parents to visit.


#1: Consistency

Some teachers see this word and want to run for the hills–after all, the list of educational strategies with this recommendation could probably stretch for miles.  However, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be a time-intensive commitment when you employ one or more of the following tips:

  • Maintain a regular post structure so you don’t need to design a lengthy, creative piece each day.  For instance, start each post with some quick highlights from the day, followed by a list of homework, and ending with upcoming school/class events. See my old class blog for an example.
  • Copy and paste content from the previous day and just make changes as needed.  With the above example, you can just edit the highlights section and update any homework/events.
  • Download the app for your blog’s platform if it’s faster or simpler for you to post from your tablet or smartphone!
  • Use the post scheduling feature (included on both WordPress and Blogger) to publish at an exact time each day (that way, you can prepare it whenever you have a few minutes, but you won’t have to worry about hitting “publish” at a specific time after school).

#2: Use Tags

Add a tag or two to each post to help students and parents easily navigate your archives.  Be sure to remember to add the tag widget to your sidebar as well!

#3: Share Pictures

Nate Edwards
Nate Edwards

Students of every age love seeing their pictures, and parents love seeing their kids in action at school!  The result: an effective way to draw in your audience.  This is where your platform’s app may come in handy as well so you can post directly from the device with which you took pictures.  Of course, you may find you’d prefer to microblog your pictures using Twitter, but you can always also add a Photo Gallery section to your blog for students to explore.  For posts with pictures, remember to add a “pictures” tag!

#4: Have Students Make their Own Blogs!

Not only does this get students excited about the concept of blogging in general, but if you put links to each of their blogs on your homepage sidebar, they will have an added incentive to visit.  Get started using our practical (and teacher-tested) guide to student blogging!

#5: Add Helpful Resources (really)

Creating a few drop-down menus of organized student and parent resources is a fantastic way to increase your blog’s usefulness and traffic!  If you’re an elementary school teacher, you can make one page for each subject area that’s packed with links to relevant games and tools.  However, be sure to screen every link, both for safety and for quality–even young students are tech-savvy enough to see through an arbitrary list of “games” that aren’t actually fun!  Check out our list of student favorites!

#6: Don’t Get Discouraged!

It may take a few months before your class blog catches on with a regular traffic flow.  Just keep looking for ways to make it as useful as possible for your students, soliciting their ideas to find out what resources would help them!

#7: Layout: Go for Simple

Ask yourself: do YOU enjoy looking at busy web pages with patterned wallpapers of dogs or bright bubbles that make the words difficult to discern?  Keep the colors solid behind all words, and play with fonts, sizes, and text colors to ensure easy reading.

#8: Add a Twitter Feed & Some RSS Feeds

If you have a class Twitter account or hashtag, make sure you add a widget to your sidebar that projects that Twitter feed (see our post on unlocking Twitter’s classroom potential).  Also, ask students whether they’d be interested in seeing RSS feeds from sources such as TIME’s picture of the week, NASA’s image of the day, daily science news, or even a daily comic strip.

Mkhmarketing
Mkhmarketing

#9: Add link to your email signature

In all the back-to-school paperwork, be sure to promote your class blog link as much as possible!  Let parents know the link is in your email signature, and remind them as necessary throughout the year!

#10: Throw in Intermittent Rewards

A fun way to encourage visitors is to periodically throw in an incentive.  Give students a “Secret code word” in your post every now and then, telling them to write it on a slip of paper and to covertly hand it in the next day for a treat or bonus.

Photo Credit

niXerKG (featured image)

Nathan Edwards

Mkhmarketing

Top Online Games for Upper Elementary Students

Whether you are looking for games to add to your class blog or to your class computer bookmarks menu, we have compiled ranked lists based on games most visited and praised by 5th graders over several years!  All the games are free and kid tested.  Be sure to check out other ways to improve your classroom blog here(All links last checked for safety and functionality on July 29, 2016).

Continue reading “Top Online Games for Upper Elementary Students”

5 Teacher Resources for 21st Century Learning

Whether you’re implementing a BYOD classroom, teaching students to develop PLN’s, or planning a Twitter debate in your class, these 5 tools may help you with some unexpected logistics.


The Importance of Keeping Up

Anyone involved with teaching today is familiar the swift and exponential nature of changes in 21st century education.  This is true to the extent that even if you graduated with your teaching degree within the past few years, your pedagogical training probably did not leave you fully prepared.  We hope that the following 5 resources will be valuable to you as you adapt to modern learning strategies.

#1: Citing Social Media
via TeachBytes
via TeachBytes

We recently published a post designed as a student guide to social media citation.  However, this may prove helpful for you, too, as you guide your students not only toward broader digital literacy, but toward continuing the responsibility of adequately giving credit.

#2: Google Drive Hacks

If you are not already using Google Drive in your classroom, add it to your must-try-asap list!  From elementary school on up, it enables effective digital collaboration.  As an added bonus, it cuts down messy stacks of papers!  Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorite time and sanity-saving tips to maximize your Google Drive usage in the classroom:

  • Teach students to use the “Comments” tool for peer editing and revising.  That way, students can have actual conversations about the feedback they give one another without actually altering others’ work!
  • Self-grading function: If you are currently using or are interested in using Google Forms to quiz students (for free!), make sure you look up how to make it self-grading!  (Check out one tutorial here!)
  • Revision history: Make sure that both you and your students are familiar with this tool in the “File” menu just in case one student accidentally alters or deletes another’s work.
  • Take Advantage of its share-ability: Long-gone are the days of needing to upload each student’s PowerPoint to a flash drive (see our article on Powerpoint alternatives), or even asking them to individually email you their digital project.  Instead, have students create all projects that are compatible with Google Drive in one class Google account that you can easily access and manage.
  • Use Google Spreadsheets for a multi-purpose class roster: Keeping track of missing permission slips, student project groups, or anecdotal notes is a cinch with Google Spreadsheets.  Google Drive’s app makes this especially appealing as you can whip out your phone or tablet to view your notes as you walk through the class!
#3: Digital Classroom Management Tips:

Establishing quality classroom management strategies is a critical skill for every educator.  However, such techniques can quickly get complicated when BYOD is introduced–how do you manage a variety of phones, tablets, and laptops when such devices can already be distracting?  Jennifer Carey, a director of educational technology, shared her top 5 tips for digital classroom management in an Edudemic article, from setting clear expectations, to recognizing that it’s OK to put the technology away at times!

#4: PLP’s Twitter Handbook:

Instrumental for me in discovering the professional usefulness of Twitter was a handbook released by the Powerful Learning Practice Blog. It includes very specific details on how to get started, definitions, and practical uses! Especially if you’re still unaware of Twitter’s usefulness in the classroom, this resource is an absolute must! (We reference it and more in our Twitter’s classroom potential post).

#5: Fluency Poster by Delia Jenkins:

In the 21st century, students need to be less familiar with memorizing specific facts and more familiar with how to manage it all.  Author & educator Eric Jensen states it well in the following image:

via Larry Ferlazzo
via Larry Ferlazzo

One way we can cultivate this shift is to foster digital fluency in our students and ourselves.  One excellent resource as you consider your approach to is Delia Jenkins’ Fluency Poster “Cheat Sheet,” available in PDF format.  Watch for our post on digital fluency coming soon!

Photo Credit:

Sources:

When & How to Cite Social Media: A Student Guide

Sure, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media may be a great place for exchanging selfies and cat videos, but what about when you come across legitimate information in social media that backs up your research?


Over the course of the past couple decades, we have moved from card catalogs, to library computer searches, to articles published online, and now on to social media!  It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the most modern methods of research, especially when it comes to the various APA or MLA citation formats.  Hopefully, this post will be a useful resource for you as you decide when and how to cite social media finds!

How

The TeachByte graphic below is an excellent general guide for both MLA and APA citations.  However, as anyone who has done any research knows, certain instances can get more complicated than general guidelines.  For instance, what if you want to cite an expert who sent you a personal communication, and it’s not publicly visible for audiences to click on?  Or how do you know how to cite in-text vs. your bibliography reference list?  The official APA blog answers these questions and more in greater detail using examples from their post in October!

via TeachBytes
via TeachBytes

When

As with all research, you will want to make sure there is plenty of variety among your sources.  Just because it is now acceptable to cite social media does not mean it should consume most of your bibliography.  Additionally, because of the unique nature of social media Tweets, posts, and videos in that they can go viral even if they are inaccurate, you will want to be particularly careful when considering whether to use one.  The information literacy website, EasyBib, provides an excellent Infographic to help you in that decision-making process.

EasyBib Infographic
EasyBib

Remember…

…It’s all about giving each individual the credit they deserve for their efforts and ideas!  When in doubt, discuss your concerns with your teacher or professor!

Photo Sources:

Pete Simon (featured image)

TeachBytes

EasyBib

Source:

Chelsea, L. (2013, Oct. 13). How to Cite Social Media in APA Style. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2013/10/how-to-cite-social-media-in-apa-style.html

10 Tips to Become a 21st Century Teacher

Be sure to also stop by our interactive infographic, “21st Century Cheat Sheet” for a great visual!

What does it mean to become a 21st century educator?  Effective technology integration certainly plays its role, but it’s also about accessibility and individual perspective shifts.  Find inspiration in our 10 tips…


Start Small

When we refer to becoming a 21st century teacher, we certainly recognize that technology plays an enormous role in how quality education has evolved.  However, we feel it also reaches into simple attitudes that are shifting.  It’s likely a reciprocal effect: the more technology use and global networking has grown, the more recognition has spread for best practices; the more the recognition for best practices has spread, the more technology has been examined to assist in this innovation.  Still, as adept as many teachers are in adopting 21st century attitudes and strategies, we know many others feel overwhelmed by it all, from first year teachers to veterans nearing retirement.  We feel that starting small, one attitude or strategy at a time, is the best method!

#1: Reject “Content is King!”

A quote from the above video that bears repeating:

“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” ~Karl Fisch

If we allow our teaching to exist mostly as delivering information that students memorize, our job descriptions could be quickly outsourced to Google!  Worse still, our students’ limited skills would also be highly replaceable by search engines and video databases like LearnZillion.  21st Century teachers and learners alike must realize that education is no longer about what we’ve memorized, but about how we learn to evaluate and utilize information!

#2: Recognize that Change is Essential!

Ken Robinson has been a tremendously influential voice when it comes to the need to change our thinking in education.  Some of the primary changes he suggests include the way we think about “human capacity,” collaboration, and the “habits of institutions.”  On a similar track, author and educator Shelly Blake-Plock outlined 21 Things that Will be Obsolete by 2020 (reflection post), including current systems of standardized testing for college admissions and organizing classes by age and grade.

A prominent example of current change is the Common Core (see our CCSS article).  Some parents are frustrated that it does NOT involve a back-to-basics, “finding the answer” approach.  (See one example of a parent who allegedly exclaimed on his child’s homework page that the “real world” would favor faster, simpler vertical subtraction over evaluating misconceptions using a visual number line.  We would point out that a calculator is even faster and simpler, if speed is really the highest priority in “the real world”).  In their fear of education looking different than it did when they were kids, these individuals seem to miss that the emphasis is now on critical thinking, a crucial shift when you think back to our tip #1 in particular.  There is a difference between education and learning, and fortunately, the 21st century is moving more toward the latter.  

#3: Develop a PLN

Retrieved: Clouducation (original creator unknown)
Retrieved: Clouducation (original creator unknown)

A PLN (Personal Learning Network) allows you to maximize your professional development as you use social media and other platforms to learn and collaborate with teachers around the world.  If Shelly Blake-Plock is correct about the way school Professional Development is moving toward teachers taking the lead, PLN’s will prove increasingly important for every educator to have in place.  Our article on PLN’s is a great resource for beginners!

#4: Encourage students to develop PLN’s

Caroline Bucky
Caroline Bucky

The above word cloud took shape when creator Caroline Bucky asked members her own PLN what their individual PLN’s meant to them.  If students were enabled to create such meaningful networks, imagine the ramifications that would have on their ability to contribute to a global society (another major aspect of the 21st century)!

#5: View Time Spent Exploring as an Investment

Hakan Forss LEGO recreations of hand drawn originals with unknown authors
Hakan Forss LEGO recreations of hand drawn originals with unknown authors

The above picture pretty much speaks for itself on this one.  Just remember that every effort you make will not only invest in your own future as a relevant 21st century educator, but in your students’ quality of learning as well.  (See one blogger’s insightful perspective on this investment in relation to building her PLN).

#6: Allow Students to Own Learning

For many decades, ideas from student-centered pedagogy theorists like Jean Piaget have taught the importance of this attitude.  In fact, a wonderful Piaget quote on the topic of student ownership reads:

“The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” ~Jean Piaget

He said this in 1964. Think of the greater importance for students to “verify, and not accept, everything they are offered” now that the digital world provides them with a constant stream of information!  This kind of ownership for learning does not happen when our expectations are limited to students “repeating what other generations have done”–in other words, limited to the content and understanding we bring to the table.  Evidence that we can improve in this regard exists in examples such as the above screenshot we took today.

#7: Be Vulnerable with Students

A frequent 21st century dialogue in education involves asking, “How do we help our students become fully engaged in learning?”  We feel that a large part of the answer to this question begins with our own levels of engagement and vulnerability as learners with our students.  Brené Brown researches and writes on this very topic.  She created a leadership manifesto that outlines patterns from her research on how we truly connect and engage.  A powerful quote from it:

“When learning and working are dehumanized–when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform–we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas, and our passion.  What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us, and learn from us.” ~Brené Brown

In short, to prevent disengagement, we absolutely must stop pretending that we know all the answers or that we do not make mistakes.

#8: Examine Your Why

Gavin Llewellyn
Gavin Llewellyn

In our post on Flipped Learning, we reference Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle of beginning with the Why.  To succeed in the 21st century, becoming a life-long, self-motivated learner is not a nicety–it is a necessity.  Cultivating our own Why as teachers and then keeping that at the forefront of our endeavors is an influential attitude simply because we are modeling it for our students.  It helps them absorb the “point” of learning and to begin cultivating their own Why’s.

#9: Pursue Your Needs!

DonorsChooseHave a low classroom budget?  Is 1:1 technology nonexistent in your school?  Are you in need of high quality mentor texts in your class library?  Thanks to developments here in the 21st century, no longer are your frustrations limited to faculty lounge griping.  Tools like DonorsChoose.org allow teacher empowerment as you shop for items you need and write a simple, mini-grant (or project), asking generous donors for help.  Not only can you enlist your PLN to spread the word of your project through social media, but you can also look for help from programs in your area like Chevron’s Fuel Your School, which works to fund as many DonorsChoose teacher projects as possible during the month of October (be sure to wait to submit your project until October 1st to qualify)!  Additionally, you can work with your administration to implement innovative school programs such as BYOD (see our article on 10 tips for Bring Your Own Device programs) if you’re looking for more technology accessibility in your classroom.

#10: Use Technology to Make Best Use of Time

Anna Vital
Anna Vital

This infographic by Anna Vital gives several examples of creative ways to save time, including using keyboard shortcuts!  We would also suggest other simple strategies, such as keeping your  email inbox cleaned up, turning off phone notifications for everything except the things you truly want to interrupt your life (some phones even allow you to turn off notifications or calls at certain times or locations), and utilizing apps to keep your priorities organized.  Establishing such strategies that work for you can simplify your planning and  classroom time, allowing you to focus on what matters most for you personally and professionally.

Related Reading:

5 Teacher Resources for 21st Century Learning

Building PLN’s: Tips from One Beginner to Another

Photo Credits:

Denise Krebs (featured image)

Håkan  Forss

Caroline Bucky

Anna Vital

Gavin Llewellyn

Sources:

Cherry, K. “Jean Piaget Quotes”.