Read & Subscribe to one of these online education blog sites – good.is/education or medium.com/bright . While exploring the site you selected, choose one article to Tweet and post a reflection on your blog. Please include the link to the article and an image that supports the topic.

This is the article I read:

https://medium.com/bright/the-rise-of-open-curriculum-68959f08380d

oer-art

Open curricula, or Open Educational Resources (OER) is free, adaptable curricula that can (and hopefully will) displace traditional textbook publishers. Using open curricula saves a school district money. Instead of paying for textbooks, which are incredibly expensive, they spend on printing and/or a web-based platform for hosting and managing digital curriculum. The article states that this can cut costs by as much as $50 per student. The article goes on to give four reasons why open curricula will replace the traditional: 1) The transition to digital is accelerating. More and more schools are going digital. 2) The number of full, open curriculum options is growing. EngageNY provides one option for open curriculum , and more are being developed. The K-12 OER Collaborative, an initiative supported by eleven states and a host of organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and The Learning Accelerator (TLA), is helping to seed the development of multiple full-course, high-quality open curricula. 3) The user experience of open curriculum will get much better. As the number of options expand, so too will the quality of the experience. One of the big limitations of open resources has been the user experience. Until now, open curriculum hasn’t been able to take advantage of the web’s power to make difficult, time-consuming things happen at the click of a button. Even the EngageNY curriculum is paper-based. Teachers must download large PDFs and read them like old-fashioned instructional manuals. But this is changing rapidly too. 4) Open curriculum is more teacher centered. One of the biggest benefits of open, digital curriculum is that it invites teachers to make changes to the lessons.

“We have an opportunity to take back the curriculum!” education technology consultant Karen Fasimpaur told educators at a SXSWedu event. “What if we took the $5 billion annually spent on textbooks and invested that in teachers and their work?”

This is exciting and potentially a game-changer. No longer constrained by the textbook adopted by a school district, teachers can access free content and also edit and adapt it to their own needs. The concept is based on MOOCs (massive open online courses) that have been in place at the post-secondary level now for a few years. As more schools go digital this will allow for teachers to tailor content to meet their student’s needs more effectively, and for free. My own school hasn’t adopted new textbooks for years, I’m assuming because of cost (instead, we have spent a gazillion dollars on a 1:1 MacBook Air program). This another way to level the playing field for both teachers and students. Even poorer school districts could have access to the same high-quality curricula that better funded school districts have. I look forward to the day when education is equal-access, free and open, and it won’t matter what neighborhood you live in, you can still get an excellent education. It seems a long way off but the open curricula is a good start.

Read & Subscribe to one of these online education blog sites – good.is/education or medium.com/bright . While exploring the site you selected, choose one article to Tweet and post a reflection on your blog. Please include the link to the article and an image that supports the topic.

Post at least 1 response about the discussion on equity. Include strategies that you can use in your classroom.

In response to the post “Study: Free Computers Don’t Close The Rich-Poor Education Gap” on TechCrunch, I have to say I am not surprised to find out that simply having a device doesn’t make that much difference in “grades, standardized test scores, credits earned, attendance, and disciplinary actions”. The conclusion is that family and environment are largely responsible for outcomes.

Unfortunately there is little educators can do about those situations where expectations at home are low, but I do think we can provide higher expectations in the classroom for these students and help them rise to meet them. We need to show these students that they can meet and even exceed these expectations, and that we are there to help them and guide them. We need to provide the scaffolding for them so that they are challenged but not frustrated. As I navigate my own way through the digital world, I can really appreciate this!

In my school, we are adopting a 1:1 policy, where every incoming freshman gets a MacBook Air. Last year was the first year of implementation. I can attest that simply having a device did not level the field. It does provide equal access, which is important, but students who had home environments with low expectations didn’t improve at school. The students who were struggling before were still struggling. It is our job as educators to use technology in ways that empower all students to become lifelong learners. Technology can enhance and transform learning in and out of the classroom, but only if done mindfully and purposefully. It is frustrating that we received no professional development about how we could incorporate this technology in our instruction, but instead were just expected to “start using them” in class. Many teachers, struggling with how to implement, simply don’t and tell students to put them away and use them at home to do homework in whatever way they see fit (or not). Regardless, it is up to us to figure it out on our own time. We have an ITC who is available to help us, but only one for almost 200 teachers. This is unfortunate, since many teachers would be eager to adopt technology and digital media, but are already stretched so thin that without professional development built in, cannot possibly manage it on their own. Every once in a while they have information sessions, but it’s during our planning time, or outside of contract hours, and often conflicts with other professional responsibilities. So, it becomes more of a distraction than anything else, as overworked teachers don’t have the skills themselves for successful implementation and instead keep barking at students to put their devices away and pay attention as they fall back on what they know.

Changing-Digital-Divide

While I struggle with this reality, there are some things I can do to help bridge the gap. I can be available to students before and after school, to help them as much as I can, while they use our network at school to get connected if they don’t have access at home. I appreciate that there are places they can go, like libraries, McDonald’s, etc., but I don’t think it’s fair that they have to go to these places when other students don’t. It’s time consuming and sometimes difficult getting to those places, and not always an environment conducive to focusing on learning.

We need the professional development and time to make the adoption of technology in classrooms work, for both teachers and students. Perhaps only then can we close the digital divide.

Post at least 1 response about the discussion on equity. Include strategies that you can use in your classroom.

Read the latest report from Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey. Create a post with your reaction of this report and detail how it will help you plan your instruction.

The report emphasizes:

  • Reinforce learning concepts introduced in school, but at a preferred pace for the individual student
  • Present academic content in a learning modality best suited for the student’s learning style
  • Provide an avenue for the student to explore academic topics and ideas to a deeper level than in the classroom
  • Challenge the student with new ideas and the development of different perspectives on acquired knowledge
  • Develop college and career ready skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity
  • Provide a digitally relevant way for today’s student to explore careers in a low risk, highly engaging and personalized environment

The emphasis seems to be “this is what kids want, so we should find ways give it to them.” I agree that meeting them where they are as digital natives, rather than where we want them to be or where we are, is more engaging for them. I think we should be careful though, and make sure that technology is actually improving their learning, rather than only making them seem more engaged, but without educational benefits that make it worth utilizing. Having said that, obviously I need to get on the bus or get left behind in irrelevantland.

So: it matters a lot how the teacher presents these opportunities. I continue to struggle with keeping students on task rather than using their devices for distraction. But one point I really identify with is that this allows for self-paced learning (I am thinking of the flipped classroom). A student who learns quickly can watch a video once, but a student who needs to watch it multiple times can do so until they feel they understand the material. That is HUGE. Traditionally, I would lecture, and then answer 30 requests to explain it again, either because they weren’t paying attention anymore after 10 minutes, or they didn’t understand it when they were paying attention. This eliminates the problem of the kids who just won’t raise their hand to ask for help, as well as putting the onus of attention on them with a video that can be replayed if they get distracted. It frees me up to actually help, instead of being a broken record.

I also really appreciate this:

“Additionally, these students are also more likely to self-direct their learning outside of school by tapping into mobile apps, finding online videos to help with homework, emailing their teacher with questions, and even posting online content they create…”

I think it’s really important to model these lifelong learner skills, and get them excited about the variety of tech resources out there, so that they will pursue them on their own. I have students who see school (and learning) as an adversary, and rebel by refusing to participate unless absolutely necessary, and sometimes not even then. I will work to encourage my students to pursue this mindset by modeling and introducing them to exciting and engaging tech resources.

I have students who are kind of a mess, organizationally. There are apps that help with keeping track of due dates, etc which could really be beneficial for them. I am eager to show them how much they can help with these skills many students lack.

Even though I struggle with implementation, I don’t think that is a good enough reason to not allow tech in the classroom (although it IS tempting), and I hope to create a parent/student info page with my philosophy and expectations about appropriate use.

One thing that might be a problem is I mostly let them use tech to look up information while completing an assignment. I think I need something more purposeful. This site talks about ways to keep students focused when using technology

http://www.edudemic.com/7-ways-to-keep-students-focused-while-using-technology/

and suggest that asking for more participation could be a way to keep them focused. I haven’t tried the survey-response apps but I’d like to. It also talks about keeping them more directly engaged, for example if I give them a “webquest” that directs them to specific learning sites. I have done this with better success, but again there are always those students who don’t or can’t self-regulate and get distracted because they are basically provided with a tool that enables their distraction. It seems that nothing solves that problem. Then you end up with the ADD kids getting their devices taken away, and in my classes these kids are becoming the majority. Anyway, the idea that students are not distracted just because you banned tech in your classroom is false: this is from

http://byotnetwork.com/2015/01/18/the-distraction-myth-of-learning-with-technology/

The Distraction Myth

Haha. True! So I will (begrudgingly) get off my soapbox about the distraction. Those kids will be distracted no matter what, and hopefully by using tech I can engage them a bit more.

This site:

http://www.ecampusnews.com/top-news/distraction-students-ipad-024/?

talks about keeping your students so busy they don’t have time to get distracted. It starts out with this :

To give a student an iPad is to place him in front of a bay window open to an endless sea of distraction.

Right??

So the key is to “think about what you’re doing every ten minutes.”

“The lecture may begin with a poll. Next, they could be told to consult their peer’s blog posts written from the previous class. Halfway through the course, they must take a quiz. After that, they all watch a video. A review and class discussion of some relevant tweets follow. Suddenly, class is done for the day.”

That sounds nice 🙂

Read the latest report from Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey. Create a post with your reaction of this report and detail how it will help you plan your instruction.

Watch at least 2 of the TED talks below and create a post (on your personal blog) with a reaction/reflection for 1 of them.

I watched the TED talk by Sugata Mitra. (Actually I watched all of them! But this one was my favorite). I thought it was interesting that he started out by describing our education system as based on Victorian culture 300 years ago. They created a global computer made up of people, called the Bureaucratic Administrative Machine, and they made another machine to produce those people, called schools. Those people had to be be identical, and they had to know three things: they must have good handwriting, because data was handwritten, they must read, and they must be able to perform basic math operations in their heads. This machine, however, no longer exists. The Victorian Empire is gone. Schools as we know them are obsolete. Schools are not broken, it’s just that we don’t need them anymore in their outdated form. Of the three critical skills only reading is still necessary, and not only that, but we need to be able to read discerningly. Also, future workers will work from wherever they want, whenever they want, so how are we preparing our students for this future?

He describes an experiment, the “hole in the wall” in which he places a computer in a wall in a slum, to see what happens. The children, with no knowledge whatsoever of computers, quickly figured out how to use it all by themselves.

Do we need school at all? Is knowing obsolete? Mitra says we know what learning looks like today: children eagerly engaging with their smartphones in one hand, and then reluctantly going to school and picking up textbooks with their other hand.  Encouragement seems to be the key, he says. Simply saying WOW. Tests and punishment are seen as threats, which cause the brain to shut down the pre-frontal cortex, where learning takes place. There was a time when we needed to produce people who could survive under threat, but now we need to shift that balance from threat to pleasure. If you allow the educational process to self-organize, then learning emerges. It’s not about making learning happen, it’s about letting it happen. Mitra intends to build self-organizing learning environments, which consist of broadband, collaboration, and encouragement and admiration. When tried, teachers stand back and say it just happens by itself. We need a curriculum of big questions. We have lost sight of wonder. His vision is to get children to tap into their wonder, and their ability to work together, by building the school in the cloud, where children go on intellectual adventures driven by the big questions.

This sounds pretty utopian, and I bet it’s not that simple. Still, it is worth considering his point that we have sucked the joy out of learning in our current system, and should think about how to redesign it to be more fun (and effective). I recently started teaching a lower-level class, and planned for it to only include the most important, relevant lessons and trimmed out all the extraneous stuff that wasn’t “necessary” in an attempt to focus on getting them to learn as much as possible. I realized that what I had done was cut out all the fun stuff that makes them look forward to class. Whoops! It is difficult finding that balance but it is what keeps them engaged in learning. I struggle to find that balance every day that I teach.

I looked into it a bit more. A quote I found from an interview with Sugatra Mitra on the School in the Cloud blog:

He argued that schools need to be able to assess children’s ability to live in the world today, not the Victorian age. “For probably the first time in their lives they have to enter an exam room and demonstrate that they can live without the Internet. Why?” Good question. He even argues we should let them use the internet on tests!

Check out https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/. It has resources for teachers who want to try self-organized learning environments.

I would like to try this. I am apprehensive: I teach classes in which a large proportion of the students project an attitude of indifference or even opposition to learning. Getting them to buy in will be tough. But that’s because most of them don’t have authentic, rewarding learning experiences under their belts. As educators we need to be willing to try new things. Sometimes all they need is someone who believes in them, and though heartbreaking some of them just don’t have that. I like his emphasis on encouragement. The word really means giving someone the courage they don’t have until they have it.

Watch at least 2 of the TED talks below and create a post (on your personal blog) with a reaction/reflection for 1 of them.

Are podcasts something you would consider for professional learning in the future?

I love podcasts and even more, I love the enhanced podcasts I just learned about! I listened to part 4 of the flip side. The topic in this series is common mistakes that are made when flipping your classroom.

This week’s podcast was actually a question: who should make the videos?

The podcast author, Jon Bergmann, says you. The argument goes why should I make my own videos when there are already excellent ones available? Because then your students probably won’t watch them. If you’ve taken the time to make your own videos, and you’ve made them according to your student’s needs, they can tell you’ve invested in them and respond accordingly.

I was kinda hoping to be able to use videos that already existed, and you can, actually- as long as they aren’t the dominant presence. But now I’m looking forward to making my own videos with this new way of thinking about it: as another way to connect with my students.

I consider myself to be an average teacher in general, but I do have a strength: connecting with my students. It’s the most important part of my relationship with them. If I could make a set of videos that were personalized for my classroom and flip it, this would enable me to connect with them in two new ways: through the videos, and through the classroom time that has been transformed by flipping. I really want to try it!

Are podcasts something you would consider for professional learning in the future?

Virtual Class Activity – Choose a resource from slides 59-65 (bit.ly/VKCfKL) to review. Share your review on a blog post (on your personal blog).

I chose to look at infographics. They seem to be everywhere these days, and I have always loved them and wanted to learn how to create them. I used Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything as a jumping-off point (an excellent resource).

I have been thinking about using infographics in my classroom for a while but never seemed to have the time to figure it out. (This applies to a lot of things unfortunately.) If I don’t know of someone or something to show me how, I immediately decide that I simply don’t have time to sit there and struggle with it myself, and waste time I don’t have, which is pretty much always, so nothing has happened on that front.

Now that I am taking this class, I am excited to learn how to use infographics and start using them. I was thinking that I would create the infographics for my students, but on Kathy Schrock’s page about infographics she has students creating them to demonstrate what they have learned, which is even better!

I made one!

http://www.easel.ly/viewEasel/2123197

I couldn’t figure out how to embed 😦

On her online tools page (http://www.schrockguide.net/online-tools.html), she has a list of infographics resources (plus a bunch of other resources as well). I tried Easelly. It was easy! Now I want to make more! And have my students do it! Give it a try.

Virtual Class Activity – Choose a resource from slides 59-65 (bit.ly/VKCfKL) to review. Share your review on a blog post (on your personal blog).