Empowering Student LearningAt one point in time, having a compliant classroom was what the teacher hoped to maintain. We grew from that to striving for a classroom where students were engaged with the content. The shift we're hoping for today is a student who is empowered: empowered with the knowledge and skills to pursue their own learning (Couros, The Innovator's Mindset).
How do you dive deeper into this shift? Check out the resources attached to this newsletter. George Couros book, The Innovator's Mindset is a great resource. His blog post on this topic might be a good place to start. John Spencer's video, "The Shift from Engaging Students to Empowering Learners" is a great introduction to this shift. Silvia Duckworth's Sketchnote is a glimpse into the student-empowered classroom.
Take a look. Reflect (always a good practice). Take a dip into the deep end.
Future Ready is an effort intended to bring about digital learning opportunities designed to prepare students for college, career and citizenship. It provides a framework, resources, training and support. Districts that sign the Future Ready pledge "commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their districts" (Dept. of Education). Academy School District 20 is one of those districts.
What does this mean for the classroom teacher? Much of what happens in this effort is behind the scenes in support of our students and the learning experience. To support districts committed to this effort, Future Ready Schools has a created number of programs:
At the heart of Future Ready Schools is a Framework. The framework consists of 7 gears focused around Personalized Student Learning:
At Pine Creek High School we've already taken a number of steps down this road. We have improved our infrastructure; we have established common planning for much of our staff; we have a path to determine if digital resources ensure our student's data privacy; we are developing assessment literacy and digital leaders; our professional learning weaves together our site plan with department needs; and, we are working though our assessment process and honors project. We're already taking great steps forward to be Future Ready and we're just beginning!
Time. It seems we never have enough of it. Grading, meetings, more grading, more meetings. There’s always so much to do. How does collaboration fit in to this when there are so many urgencies? Why should we give up more time for collaboration?
Collaboration focuses around the collective responsibility to improve student learning by improving teaching (Wennergren 134). “Teachers must apply their learning to themselves as well as their students.” (Wennergren 134) It’s a parallel process characterized by mutual engagement in procedures, tools, concepts, language and different ways of acting.
So we collaborate, because it helps us help our students learn. This time is especially helpful regarding digital pedagogy: what it means, how it embeds into our daily instruction, how it impacts student learning. This time together gives us the opportunity to learn, investigate, create and share resources, lessons and ideas. We have the opportunity to learn together what digital pedagogy is and what it looks like for us, in our teams, in our content area. It is professional learning differentiated for you.
Digital technologies are fundamentally changing our world. Taking advantage of their strengths to help students learn is something best done collaboratively. Technology is not our enemy. With some patience, careful planning, and thoughtful consideration, we will create more skilled students who are ready for the future, while creating a more enriching classroom dynamic where technology is just another tool for building students' success (Doyle-Jones 6). Take the opportunity, take a risk with your team, try something different, and explore the possibilities that digital resources bring to education.
As a School of Innovative Learning and Technology, our Site Plan calls for innovative, technology-embedded programs and experiences for our students. Does that mean that everything we do needs to be surrounded with technology? When is digital the right choice?
The use of digital resources in instruction needs to support best instructional practices, further your learning target, and promote deeper learning. We have amazing digital resources literally at our fingertips every class period, but not to use merely because they’re present.
Digital resources do have the ability to increase personalization, aid in differentiation, provide immediate formative feedback, increase engagement, and provide access to authentic materials (VanderArk & Schneider). Research shows that digital learning can increase achievement by as much as a grade level (Anderson). Thoughtful implementation is essential (Schapiro) in the planning process for this to occur. Merely using the technology without monitoring student use does not increase student achievement (Jacob). Our instruction has to be founded in best instructional practices. Technology shouldn’t replace the teacher, the standards or the learning targets.
As we move forward on our 1:1 journey, consider the instructional practices you are using. Is there a digital alternative? Is that alternative a substitution? Does that substitution offer additional possibilities for differentiation and application? Does that alternative actively engage students in the learning process? Does that alternative encourage collaboration? Does it encourage students to build upon prior knowledge? Does it provide for an authentic experience? Will you receive timely formative feedback through its use? Is it an additional activity or something embedded into your lesson?
Do you need help answering these questions or knowing what possibilities we have? Let’s work together with your collaborative teams to explore the possibilities.
What is digital learning? As a 1:1 school, it’s a necessary question to ask. The day-to-day of digital learning may appear different in different content areas, with different teachers, and in different grade levels, but the foundation is still the same: instructional strategies using various technologies that strengthen the student’s learning experience.
This is not using tech, because we have it. This is not about an “iPad lesson.” No. This is about effective strategies and practices that allow for deeper learning, real-world experiences, collaboration, individualized instruction, real-time feedback, equitable access to learning anytime and anywhere, and access to authentic materials.
As a School of Innovative Learning and Technology, we have a mission which calls for innovative, technology-embedded programs and experiences, Alongside our mission, we have a Digital Vision driving us to deliver experiences where our learners investigate, collaborate, create, innovate and demonstrate. Our digital tools serve to support and advance those learning experiences. Foundational are the instructional strategies which foster them.
As we take our next steps on this 1:1 journey with our mission and vision as our guide, we will work in collaborative teams to build that pedagogical foundation, increase our efficacy and craftsmanship, and add to our toolbox.
That One Thing, that one thing you do. That was the theme of our digital professional learning program this year. What was that one thing for you? Where do you find yourself in the process of technology integration? Embedding technology into instruction is supposed to support that instruction and further students' ability to demonstrate what they know and are able to do - not to take the place of instruction.
Starting at an entry level where we use digital tools to consume material, to substitute what we might have done on paper into a digital format, we begin to grow. We grow to explore and experiment and find ourselves moving beyond curating resources to creating our own and even having students create to demonstrate their learning.
How do we find that transformative place in our instruction? We find that through collaboration with educators within our department, within our building, and outside our walls, too. We find that as we explore the possibilities online. We use resources like the Technology Integration Matrix filled with models and examples. Resources like that exist for a reason: to guide you, to provide you models, to provide you structures necessary to strengthen their own practices.
Are we expected to be at that transformative place all the time? No! This is a constructive process where we build on best practices, use direct instruction and guided practice. It's a process where we scaffold learning with students as active participants, collaborating with one another in authentic, goal-directed situations.
As you reflect on your school year and plan for the next year, reflect on where you are regarding technology integration. Technology is available to support your instruction, not take the place if it. What was That One Thing for you this year? What will your Thing be next year? There are so many possibilities - Be Inspired!
The digital world is a fast-paced world that our students often navigate more fluidly than we do. How do we keep up with our students and what they’re exploring while protecting ourselves? Here are some ideas:
Whenever we go online, we leave a mark, a footprint. How do we control that mark and protect our privacy? How do we help our students create a positive footprint and maintain their privacy? This is a very involved topic, but we can look at some beginnings here.
InCtrl suggests the following questions to ask when working online, desktop or iPad: what’s the message you want to convey, what’s the best tool for doing it, what are the best techniques to use in creating that message, who is your audience. We explored some of these same questions in our Fall discussions exploring the “How” and how to choose a tool.
Protecting privacy is important for our students and ourselves. When you sign up for a reward program or an email lists, use a separate email from your personal one. Always logout of sites. Vary your passwords; there are apps and tools to help maintain your passwords or even create random ones for you. When you use any app or site that requires a student account, send me that information.
Have you googled yourself lately? Do you want to know how to affect your search results, how to have some control in what appears? Check and adjust your privacy settings on all of your personal social media accounts. On anything more public, like Twitter, LinkedIn or your website, make regular intentional posts. These regular updates will soon show up at the top of your Google search. Encourage your students to do the same and “clean up” their accounts. Colleges and employers are looking at their social media accounts! Having a positive social media presence can make a difference!
Our freshmen are learning about this in our Computer Apps classes. As we continue our journey as a School of Innovative Learning and Technology, as we learn and grow in this process, these practices will become our norm and part of our best practices.
But Our Journey is Just Beginning
This year marks the end of our pilot program. Next year Pine Creek will be a full 1:1 iPad school.
During these past three years, we have tried a lot, learned a great deal, succeeded in new endeavors, and failed at others. We started this year introducing the staff to basic iPad skills and core apps. We moved onto workflow in the classroom, managing those day-to-day tasks. We dipped our feet into Digital Citizenship and started to see the power of creation with the device.
We have a good foundation from which to build a school where digital learning, in all its forms, is transformative and is integral to what makes Pine Creek such an excellent school. This is our journey.
Almost every month I say this and I mean it - digital learning takes many forms throughout our school. Students and teachers are partnering to create, innovate, collaborate and demonstrate learning. Share your stories with each other (and with me). Talk in the pods. Visit each other’s classrooms. There are so many amazing things being done with our students. Let’s celebrate these moments!
History, Resources, and Direction for 1:1 at Pine Creek
We know that many of our students have iPads. We know that all of our students will have iPads next year. We know we have an iPad Cohort. The question that many of us have is why? Why are we doing this?
If you’re asking that, you aren’t alone. That’s why we took time in January to talk about the history of this program and dip our feet into some next steps. But perhaps we need more details regarding those statements above.
Pine Creek was the dedicated “tech” high school from the beginning. Technology has always been a part of what we do. 1:1 is a next step. From personal laptops, to tablets, to smartphones, it’s where our students are and we are meeting them there. The particular device that’s been handed to us - the iPad.
We aren’t running iPad classes, we are teaching kids. The iPad is another tool in our box to further our goals. What’s great about this journey is that we have a device to hand out to our students - all of them next year.
Yes, all of our students will have an iPad next year. Some of them will have been using them in the classroom for as many as 3 years. That can sound a bit intimidating, but you have resources and you have help.
The iPad Cohort has been working on this for the past three years. They represent all the curricular areas and all the areas of the building. They have tried, tested, learned and improved their practice over the years. They are here as experts in your curricular area and close resources in your area of the building. They are here to help.
It is from the Cohort and their experience that we determined our why which lead to our vision:
“The vision for digital learning at Pine Creek High School is focused on students as learners and teachers as their partners in the learning process. Here we use digital tools to create products, innovate design, collaborate with others inside and out of the classroom, and demonstrate learning. Our learners will be globally connected creators, communicators, collaborators, contributors, and constructivists.”
Note how the vision says digital learning, not iPad learning. We are more than an iPad school. We have amazing programs in Computer Science, Computer Programming, Graphic Design and Tech lab, too.
Visit a teacher. Listen to their digital learning stories. There are great things happening in this building!
I am a Digital Learning Coach by title, but lifelong learner by practice. An Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator, my goal is to assist educators in investigating, exploring, and investigating resources to embed in their instruction. I also hope to be a part of their journey toward an innovative and transformative practice that empowers learners and strengthens their own craftsmanship. I spends my free time with my family, my dogs and a good cup of coffee.