Just One Thing

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

So much to do, so little time to do it. That is often how I feel, especially at certain times of the school year, and I know many of my colleagues feel the same way. Since it is part of my job to help facilitate technology integration, I tend to send a lot of ideas in their direction. While no one actively averts their eyes or quickly runs away when they see me coming, I know that some may feel like they have to explain why now is not a good time to do/add/try something new. I get it. There just is not enough time, or else the time is not right at the moment. And while there may not be time to do/try/look at everything, maybe there is time to do/try/look at/read just one thing. This week I am sharing many things, so perhaps pick one to open, read, or try.

Pass the Mic

If you are having class discussions in the form of Harkness, Socratic Seminar, Fishbowl, or the like, then this app is for you.

This first app comes at exactly the right time. I was recently sitting with one of my English-teaching colleagues talking about how her Harkness discussions are going (she loves them), and our conversation went on to talking about how cool and useful it would be to record one and then have her students watch it and break it down the way sports players watch game film. Coincidentally, and I’m going to say, it was meant to be, Equity Maps and two articles (“two” and “articles” are links to each article) talking about it, showed up in this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition. What Equity Maps does is record the conversation, play each person’s contributions, and visually shows how the conversation moves from person to person. The premium version ($9.99) even allows you to note the type of comments and contributions made by each student. Not only will this be useful for you the teachers, but also for your students to help them grow their discussion capabilities.

6 things to try- here are 2

Jennifer Gonzalez, aka the Cult of Pedagogy recently shared her 6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2020. One of the ones she mentions is Parlay. Parlay is a looks like it will work as a complement to class discussions in that it helps students practice first in an online space using either their (Parlay) or your own topics. Parlay is a paid tool but even if you are not interested in or able to purchase it for your class, the topics, links to related articles, and videos along with discussion prompts is still browsable and searchable by nine subject areas and would be easily adaptable outside of the tool (perhaps in the discussion section of your LMS, as a topic in Flipgrid, or a subject of a threaded podcast. If you are interested in using it and getting the full experience, it looks pretty robust.

The next one she mentioned that I think looks really useful and you can start using it right away is an ice-breaker, class/group activity site called PlayMeo. Playmeo has hundreds of activities searchable by type, program outcome, or learning theme and then further filterable by time, size of group, and exertion level. This is a site you can pay to have access to all the activities, or you can have access to the 44 free ones. I am all about free and feel like I could easily make use of the 44 and will potentially utilize the Paired Share Debrief at our upcoming White Fragility check-in. Each activity comes with directions, a video, variations, and other resources (like this FREE Instant downloadable book Sure-Fire Ice-Breakers & Group Games). A reminder that if you like things like this, you can check out this list of Brain Breaks sites/downloads I curated as well as Go Noodle.

Let me Count the Ways

50 Shades of Grey, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, 50 Ways to Say Goodbye,

or

50 Ways to Use Sutori

Let’s go with 50 Ways to Use Sutori. I love Sutori. It’s easy, students can collaborate on a shared timeline, there are tons of resources for all classroom subjects for all ages, you can now upload any kind of file directly from your device to your Sutori story, and it’s free. There is a paid version ($99 for a teacher) of course that you can get even more features (like inserting videos and other cool things), but to get started right away with something you can use to teach with or your students can use to write an alternative book report or share their learning, then you can easily start with the free version and go from there.

So, what will your one thing be . . .

One Size Fits All? Some?

I just read @CrudBasher’s post: The Learning Equation and began to think about a particular statement he made,

I think the goal of education should be to develop every child’s gifts and aptitudes to their furthest potential. As all children have different gifts they will all turn out differently.”

I agree wholeheartedly with what Andrew says and think that most teachers would as well. What I’m wondering is what the stakeholders in the school districts have to say is their goal for students. Because, when you look around at the classrooms that are still set up the same way they were 25 and 50 years ago, and you look at the standardized tests and the information that is deemed “necessary”* for people who want to be educated, it would seem to be that there is a disconnect between what is written, what is expected, and what is actually happening.

Here is what I mean: now, I have not actually asked superintendents of schools what their goals are for the students in their district, but I’m guessing that they have a mission to educate all children. But educate according to the standards set forth by the state. What I am confused about is the one size fits all curriculum that is then enforced (for lack of a better word). What Andrew and then Salman Khan in his video (embedded in Barras’ post) say is that even though the students are all in school for the same amount of time (give or take), some achieve better than others. Everyone is taught the same things, but not everyone comes out on top. So it is obvious that the one size fits all approach is not working.

In his comparison of education of the past (even present) and his vision of education 20 years from now, Khan said that students go to school for a fixed time from K-12, then some add 4 years for college. At that point, “you are 22, now you will not go to school anymore.” The learning is done. Andrew said something similar in his post titled Education Reform is About Time:

“Even if you factor in high school and college, you still had to be done by the time you were 22 or so.”

Schooling as it has been historically, has been about going to school from a certain age, being in classrooms with children of the same age, learning what is supposed to be taught (if one wants to be educated), and then moving out to the working world. It is no wonder that I have heard kids say they can’t wait to be finished with school. I even said it myself at one time (we’re talking many years ago while still in high school–now there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not looking to learn more).

When students are not taught material they are interested in, or are allowed to pursue their own passions, why shouldn’t they want to just be finished with school? The school is being done to them. For some, the achievers, it’s ok, they still achieve. But what about the children who learn differently, who are not motivated? What happens to them? They are in school the same amount of time (give or take) as the achievers, but they do not achieve.

And so this is where technology comes in. And differentiation. And sharing learning with others. Because it is technology which will allow for “customization” as Barras says, and “credentials” as Khan says in his video. Technology will allow us to change the question from, “what did you earn in school” (GPA), to “what did you contribute to society?”

photo credit: Derek K. Miller via photo pin cc

* Seth Godin defined “necessary” so clearly in his book, Stop Stealing Dreams when he said

For a long time, there was an overlap between the education that the professions rewarded and the education that we might imagine an educated person would benefit from. 

It’s an Uphill Climb

Photo by Michal Marcol

Time is of the essence. TIme flies when you are having fun. Just a couple clichés that concern time, but both imply that time is something elusive, we never seem to have enough of it and the time we do have is often “of the essence,” it is important that we do what we need to right away before the time is gone. Time is also often the excuse as to why some teachers do not feel that they can do technology in their classrooms. They have too many things on their plate already and not enough time to do the “essentials,” let alone add some technology into their curriculum. Time, to me, is really the key to becoming familiar with technology, and when teachers are so busy, how does one get them to see that they need to make time for their own learning so that their students can be the beneficiaries of this personal professional development? What is a technology facilitator like myself supposed to do?

Well, like I said, it is an uphill climb. It is one though, that I cannot decide I am not going to tackle; it is my job after all. So what am I doing? I am popping in to classes when I know they have the laptops (they may be using websites) to see what they are doing and I send lots of emails asking for some time to meet. Eventually, in time, my time will come.