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Teachers, Please Give Actionable Feedback

We are still in the middle of the COVID19 crisis, but home learning seems to be going well. Teachers are doing a great job of connecting with students while managing their own crazy lives. In this vlog post, I recommend that reachers avoid “Good Job” or “Well Done” when giving feedback to students. Instead giving them actionable and specific feedback to encourage them, be constructively critical, and give them items to work on with a timeline for review.

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Sean Thompson – Global Conversation – Writing an EdTech Book

In this episode of the Global Conversations series, we talk with Sean Thompson about his new book, Creativity is Everything: Rethinking Technology, Schools & Humanity. Sean talks about the process of ideating, writing, editing, and publishing an EdTech (Educational Technology) book. This inspiring interview give tons of tips and tricks for aspiring educational authors.

Buy his book here:
https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Everything-Rethinking-Technology-Humanity-ebook/dp/B082QSTXTC/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=creativity+is+everything&qid=1587371590&sr=8-1

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Parents, You Don’t Need To Be a Teacher At Home

A message for parents during #RemoteLearning: You Don’t Need To Be a Teacher at Home. Home learning is a tough time for all parents, having other responsibilities, and little experience with teaching. Don’t worry about. Don’t feel like you need to be a teacher at home. Just be supportive and present with your kids. The emotional part of learning is just as important as the content and by you being there, as much as you can, you will fill that need and have a lasting impact.

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Flip Your Online Learning

During COVID19, we have lost the opportunity to engage in flipped learning because we aren’t meeting students face to face. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in this valuable approach to teaching and learning. In this vlog entry, I suggest you flip your online learning by combining office hours style video conferencing and basic pre-recorded sessions to give students better engagement and feedback on their work.

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Take Some Notes, but Don’t Give Yourself More Work During COVID19

We are all experiencing many things during this crazy time. However, there is a lot to learn and remember as a way to improve our work and lives once things get back to normal. So I suggest people take a few notes in the moment to remember some key events, knowledge, or ideas that were valuable. However, don’t make any decisions, plans, or more to-dos. Now is not the time.

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You’re Doing Great – EdTech in the Time in COVID19

You're Doing Great During #COVID19

A restart of The EdTech Vlog in the middle of the COVID19 crisis. I am currently doing work as a consultant, a parent, business owner, EdTech support, PE coordinator, and at home learning coordinator. It’s tough…yet I see others having greater difficulty and still doing amazing things. I just wanted to say, YOU’RE DOING GREAT!

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5 Tips for CyberSafety for Families During COVID-19

CyberSafety

As families are homebound due to the COVID-19 virus, cybersafety and cybersecurity have become even more important. Children are spending more time online and the cyber dangers out there seem to be increasing. This has become a challenge for parents who are managing work, online learning, and increased parenting duties.

Here are a list of 5 tips for CyberSafety for families during COVID-19.

  1. Make online time a social activity in the house. Connect with pre-teens and teens using the very social media platforms they are using – Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, etc. Parental presence as a participant will lead to greater safety.
  2. No technology use behind closed doors…for anyone. If parents are going to surf or be on Social Media they should do it in common rooms, just as the children should. Charge devices in common rooms, and don’t allow them bedrooms, toilets, or behind closed doors. This may not work for video conferencing or certain work activities, but try to avoid those hidden spaces.
  3. Encourage dialog. Talk about what you see, share funny memes, don’t judge when a child shares something inappropriate. Discuss them openly and make the habit of sharing a safe activity. Parents should also share some of their experiences with children, both good and bad (though not inappropriate or NSFW content), so children feel in partnership rather than being controlled by parents.
  4. Set rules and guidelines and try to stick to them. Child must know what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour before they engage in online activities and they need to know consequences.
  5. Monitor and review activity on devices. It is important for parents to check search histories, read messages, look through photo streams, and review content that was posted by children to make sure they are safeguarded both as victims and those misbehaving.

CyberSafety comes through intention and partnership with children, not through heavy controls or limits.

Please Contact Me for further help and advice on CyberSafety or Digital Citizenship.

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How Do Leaders Support EdTech Initiatives?

How Do Leaders Support EdTech

Whenever I go into a school and they ask me what is needed to create a successful educational technology program, I tell them you need three things: resources, engaged teachers, and supportive leadership. These three items are the fertile ground in which a school can plant the strategy, IT infrastructure, learning outcomes, instructional activities, and measures of impact needed to build success with technology for learning.

Resources are vital because EdTech is tool- and system-reliant. This doesn’t mean that schools need to focus on quantities of technology or ubiquitous access to be successful. In fact, I have seen impactful programs in schools with limited budgets using only the technology at hand with the students. What sets these programs apart is that they have clearly identified the resources available and they have learned how to leverage their learning potential.

Engaged teachers are equally important as the teachers are where the rubber hits the road in technology for learning. Their engagement in professional learning, planning, and instructional activities will determine the impact on students and realized value of computers in the classroom. Without engaged and supported teachers, no amount of resources or leadership planning will gain traction in the learning experiences of the students.

These two critical factors – resources and engaged teachers – are heavily influenced by supportive leadership. Supportive leadership will find, organize, and grow the technology resources available for a school. Supportive leadership will provide clarity of purpose and vision for success which often results in greater engagement from teachers who understand the direction they are being asked to go. Supportive leadership is what initiates EdTech programs, gets them off the ground, and keeps them running after the initial phases. Supportive leadership is explicit in its backing of the efforts of the teachers and students.

Of course, this begs the question: how does leadership show its support of EdTech in school? The most effective ways come through offering resources, time, language and recognition.

Resources

The staff and school community know that school leadership use resources to enhance specific aspects of the school’s program. By allotting resources towards the access to technology and professional learning for teachers, leadership will show its tacit and lived support for educational technology. Teachers will be able to use these resources, with the implied call to action, to build technology rich lessons that enhance learning for all students. However, resource-based support can be quite dangerous if done without strategy or sustainability. Supportive leadership must develop a clear and transparent strategy for the allocation and usage of resources for them to be used effectively for learning. Further, by following the common mistake of only allotting resources at the beginning of a program rather than on a perpetual timeline, support will be viewed as fleeting or non-committal when it comes time to renew or refresh.

Of course, a key form of resource-based support comes through budgeting. Professional learning, access to technology, sustainability, and proper assessment of the impact of educational technology on the school should be found easily within the school’s budget. Regular line items that reflect the ongoing learning and operational needs should be in the expense budget and the capital budget should contain regular technology purchases for expansion or refresh. And supportive leadership will always show financial commitment to technology by fully funding its depreciation.

Time

The resource most valuable way to demonstrate support for EdTech initiatives is time. Leadership has the ability reserve, find, and even make time for teachers to focus on the teaching and learning aspects of educational technology. The most supportive leaders of EdTech will carve out formal and informal time for teachers to learn and collaborate. In formal sessions, teachers will develop new technology or pedagogic skills or author technology-enhanced curriculum. During informal sessions, teachers will collaborate to share and collaborate on best practices in their classrooms. By providing this time separate from required staff meetings and administrative tasks, leadership will demonstrate its academic and operational priority of teachers using technology effectively.

Language

However, school leadership is not simply a planning or resource allocation activity. It is one of outward demonstration of vision and priorities within a school. Good leaders, beyond technology, will embed what is important to the school in every conversation and school communication. The same applies to supporting EdTech. Supportive leaders will talk about the value of technology for learning and the school’s plans for implementing it effectively when talking inwardly and outwardly. They will use proper terminology when talking about technology-based instruction and be able to identify the key leverage points for EdTech in the school. By using words to show support, the community will see the value of technology for learning embedded in the school ethos and they will begin to look for, and expect to find, it in the actions taken by teachers and students.

Recognition

Finally, leadership can use their language to give specific and powerful support to their engaged teachers. Those who have worked in schools know that financial incentives have little effect on the engagement or impact of teachers. Instead, what motivates teachers to do the best is the belief they are doing work of value. Leadership can honor and support this value through formal recognition. Recognition in the context of EdTech can come in a number of ways; highlighting a successful project, celebrating a certification attained by a group of teachers, publicizing conference presentations by staff, or giving certain teachers additional roles and responsibilities within the EdTech program. And given these are technology-based recognitions, they can be done through school communications, Twitter feeds, or during staff meetings.

By showing implicit and explicit support of teachers and EdTech in the school, leaders are the tipping point for immediate and sustained success for technology in a school.

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Does the Printer Even Work?

Does the printer even work?

A few years ago, my wife had the pleasure of attending a leadership workshop at Disneyland. She and her team got to learn about the management protocols, leadership styles, and data analytics that Disney uses to maximize guests’ experience in its parks.

One tidbit stood out to me when she described her time there (and it wasn’t that she saw Johnnie Depp dressed as Jack Sparrow running around the park). She mentioned that Disney had done an extensive study on littering. Through data analysis from multiple source and long-term observation they had determined that guests will walk no more than 27 paces before throwing trash on the ground. As a result, they had strategically placed their trash cans no more than 27 apart throughout the park.

This story grabbed me because it has application in schools. Instead of trash cans and litter, it fits quite nicely with printers. And despite what you think or feel about printing, printers play a vital role in our schools.

Now, let me clarify something: I hate printing. I hate the fact that our schools are so reliant on printers to share information and display student work. I hate that we use printed materials when our collaborative technology tools offer so much more in terms of flexibility and interaction. I hate the amount of money wasted on papers, materials and machines. I hate the environmental impact of printing. I hate the fact we pay through the nose for ink after we sign up for such a great deal on our printers. I hate that despite the prevalence of technology in our schools we have actually increased our printing. And most of all, I hate the fact that I know just how vital printing and printers are to the success of our educational technology endeavors.

A colleague of mine recently confirmed a suspicion many of us in EdTech have had for years: printers are the glue that keep tech programs together. Through research into teacher attitudes towards technology, he was able to correlate a teacher’s perception about the reliability of his or her nearest printer with his or her willingness to engage in new educational technology programs. This means that if a teacher feels his or her printer is not in good working order he or she will not engage in the school’s educational technology program. In short, regardless of the planning, strategy, resources, or support a school puts into it technology, if the printer doesn’t print the way the teacher needs it to, those effort will have no effect.

This puts immense pressure on our school in the care and feeding of their printers.

However, printing is not a simple “works vs. doesn’t work” binary. Instead it is a complex aspect in a school that encompasses variables such as “color vs. black and white,” speed and print quality, downtime, location, “personalized vs. shared devices”, print centers, and ease of use.

My recommendation for every school is to take a deep look into their printing. They need to understand how the aforementioned variables play out in their settings and how to adjust them for the best experience by teachers and to meet the needs of the organization.

Let’s talk about the machines themselves. Does each teacher or group of classes need a single printer? More often than not, the answer is no. These individual devices, though very personal to a teacher, are costly and unreliable. Most teachers realize that a personal printer is a luxury that isn’t in the best interest of the school. Instead, schools should look into Multi-Function Devices (MFDs). MFDs are the latest iteration of the copiers of old. Now they copy, scan, store documents, and print all from a teacher’s individual computer. These devices, when places strategically (think about Disney’s 27 pace rule) meet the needs of teachers while being cost effective and reliable. They also allow a teacher to print wherever they are on campus, not just to the personal printer in their classroom. Though word to wise, never buy an MFD. Always lease them with a guaranteed service and replacement contract.

What about volume and quotas? This is a common discussion point in schools as we hope to move more content to online platforms. Should a school place printing quotas on its teachers? As long as quotas are fair and transparent, teachers will see their value in mitigating costs and protecting the environment.

‘I think I can solve our budget problem with the color scanner, color laser printer and this twenty-dollar bill!’

Last, we need to talk about color. Experience shows the teachers love having color printing at their fingertips, especially in primary schools. Is color printing necessary though? I have found there is no simple answer to this question. Some schools make great us of color to plaster the walls with evidence of student learning and progress. Whereas others waste money, paper, and time by over-relying on color copies. This is a decision that a school has to make on its own.

Regardless, printing and the printers are items of the IT remit that need robust measurement and tracking. Schools that are most successful have a clear budget for devices and consumables that is reviewed regularly to identify the value for teaching and learning while mitigating cost and the environmental effect. These schools also use print data to maximize efficiency and to improve the reliability of the devices. And experience has shown that most of these schools also have teachers with greater trust in technology overall which results in some interesting enhancements to student learning.

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Teaching from the Back of the Room: How to Work in a Tech Rich Classroom

Personalized Learning
Teach From the Back of the Room

So, your school has taken the technology plunge – all of your students have laptops, you’ve set up your Learning Management System, you’ve been taught how to use online teaching tools, and you’ve set up your curriculum. Now what? All of you work has been in preparation for this monumental change to your teaching, but no one told you how to be a teacher in this new classroom setting.

It’s true, your role in a technology classroom will change.  

Previously, you were the maestro of learning for your students. You chose what they learned, how they learned, and you managed their learning activities in the classroom. If questions arose, they came to you first. You taught using a whiteboard or a chalkboard to document your instruction, students taking notes or completing well-crafted worksheets. Assessment, for the most part, was summative and group work was well structured. You were a sage on a stage in the front of the classroom.

Now, to draw upon the learning potential of technology in the classroom, you have to shift from maestro to conductor. You will no longer be a sage of content, rather a sage of learning. You will not know every answer or control every activity. Instead, you will know what needs to be learned and guide students towards deeper understanding. Students will now have agency over their activities and the feedback they receive, from you and their technology, will be continuous.  But don’t worry, you will still use the whiteboard.

Personalized Learning

The most powerful aspect of individualized technology for students in the ability to personalize their learning experiences. Each student will have direct access to learning materials and online resources that will allow to learn at their own pace and to meet their own needs for understanding. As a teacher, you will need to understand these tools and construct activities that allow students to work independently. You should be prepared for variable pacing from your students with some completing work quickly and others taking extended periods of time. Further, personalized learning with technology will allow for greater differentiation, which you as the teacher will have to conduct. In short, you will run the learning activities more than the content or the pacing.

Group Work and Collaboration

Though technology will personalize learning, it will encourage more group work. Students will collaborate on shared projects that run over longer periods of time. They will use their computers and online communication systems to work together on large scale projects. As a teacher, you will need to encourage positive norms of teamwork, both online and in person. You will also need to construct prompts for these larger scale group projects that allow for flexibility of the final product, but have clear evaluation criteria. It is not important that you become an expert in the collaboration tools or the technology as the learning to work together is key element of students engaging in online group activities.

Formative Assessment

Your units won’t change, the high stakes assessments won’t change, your content won’t change. However, the way you assess your students will change significantly. With online communication systems, such as Microsoft or Google, and the prevalence of Learning Management Systems in technology rich schools, students will come to expect regular feedback on their academic performance. To begin, you will be able to give real time feedback in classes as students work on their computers. You can do this by giving comments online or providing auditory feedback as you sit next to them in classroom. Next, you will be able to track and mark more student work with these systems. Utilizing an online gradebook is essential here and quite easy. Lastly, using Learning Management Systems, you will be able to provide snapshot assessments for students on their online work while also providing summative feedback as students progress through a unit. For example, you could help a student preparing an online presentation on parts of a cell if the student has shared the document with you. You could also share the student’s overall grade in cellular biology by allowing her access to your gradebook through the Learning Management System.

Teaching from the Back of the Room

Technology rich classrooms are used differently than traditional classrooms. You will find there is no central focal point of the room. Whereas before students concentrated on a whiteboard for much of the class, students in technology rich classrooms tend to move around. You will still use the whiteboard for didactic instruction, but your lectures and explanation will be shorter. Furniture will be moved regular and students will find quiet corners to work on their computers. As a teacher, you will find yourself standing behind students with a view of their screens more than you will in front of them with eyes focused on you. The most successful teachers in these classrooms are constantly moving. By doing this, you can offer individual feedback to students that need it, you get a picture of what everyone is doing, and you can gain the whole class’s attention by having them turn away from their screen to focus on you.

Being a teacher in a technology rich classroom is a departure from traditional teaching. However, it offers you the chance to deepen understanding, improve engagement, and focus on student learning rather than content.

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