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!
We have access to amazing digital tools in our building. Those tools are here to support learning, to support the instruction that is happening throughout the building, not to replace it. These tools can streamline workflows, organize materials, ease communication, allow for more one-on-one time, differentiate product and instruction, and more. Translating our instruction into those tools, what that looks like for some skills, can be confusing. Notetaking is one of those skills.
Notetaking is essential in many of our classes, but research seems to say that digital notetaking doesn’t lead to retention of material. So what does a digital school do?
A closer look at the research shows that when notes are taken with a keyboard, students tend to retain less than when notes are handwritten (Mueller). Students tend to be more concerned with getting material recorded than engaging with the material. Still, there are those that argue that typing frees us and provides us more time to think (Chemin), but we’re assuming that the receiver is actively engaged with the material.
What can we do, as a digital school, to ensure that our students are really interacting with the material they’re noting? There are strategies that can maximize the tools available as well as notetaking skills, engagement and retention.
Digital Learning Best Practices. That’s a pretty broad topic and can revolve around many aspects of the digital learning environment like teaching, materials, infrastructure, and professional development. For teachers, the focus should be on what do we want students to know and be able to do and how do digital tools help facilitate that. The tools we use exist to support us in instruction and are not the end in themselves. Still, this is a new path for many of us and the question may remain, what are digital learning best practices?
When considering digital teaching and learning best practices, you might want to ask:
There is a digital solution to meet your needs, have you discovered it?
See the “Digital Tool Checklist” in our Google Drive folder for guidance in choosing a tool.
Remember, if you’re using a tool that requires students to create an account (even if it’s free), please follow student privacy guidelines. This applies to clubs and sports, too.
Creativity in the classroom. We want to see that happen, but sometimes it may feel like curricular benchmarks don’t allow the time for that. Sometimes we may think we need to be creative or that creativity itself needs to be taught. Creativity is one of the 4 C’s, the four skills determined as most important to prepare students for our global society by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the NEA. It’s a part of our Vision for Digital Learning. That doesn’t mean that we need to be the creative masterminds; we merely need to allow the opportunity and use of the tools which bring out the creativity in our students.
Sir Ken Robinson takes the position that we “teach for creativity.” He says that “the minute you get people to think visually—to draw pictures or move rather than sit and write bullet points—something different happens in the room. Breaking them up so they aren't sitting at the same desk and getting them to work with people they wouldn't normally sit with creates a different type of dynamic” (Azzam). He proposes that we encourage experimentation and innovation, that we don’t provide the answers, but rather provide our students with the tools to investigate and demonstrate their learning.
We have digital tools in our classrooms, in our hands, to help reimagine learning experiences. These tools are the perfect facilitators for encouraging creation, collaboration, innovation and the means for demonstrating understanding.
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.
It’s a busy time and many of us want to focus our attention on those students that are about to walk through our classroom doors. That can make it difficult to connect with the Professional Learning that happens right before that moment. That’s understandable.
Pine Creek’s Professional Learning Program provides our community with ongoing opportunities for learning, not solely isolated ones. It provides us a shared experience to expand our skills and work collaboratively. We learn how to leverage new tools and we work together towards building and department goals. It is rooted in a belief in the value of continuous learning, growth and improvement.
I encourage you to embrace your Professional Learning experience as an opportunity to work toward our building’s shared vision and not a moment away from planning. Base your session choices not only on need and expectation, but curiosity and instructional potential. We have a staff full of rich experiences that they are looking forward to sharing with you. Those experiences are designed according to feedback from you, so please continue to provide that feedback.
Ideas for your classroom
With the start of a new semester, your students may need appropriate use procedures for iPads reviewed. While at school, these are a tool for instructional purposes. Just like any tool, students need to be taught how to use it.
iPad tips and helps for the start of the semester:
1. “Screens down” – iPad not being used for the activity at hand? Tell the class “screens down.” Students place the device (iPad, tablet, phone, laptop) on the desk with the screen facing down.
2. Screens up, iPads flat on desk – Is an iPad an appropriate or acceptable device for the activity at hand? Have students place the device flat on the desk with the screens facing up. It’s easier to monitor student work that way.
3. Swipe to clear – Do you need to have a class that needs to be monitored a bit more closely? Is it an assessment day? You might want to have the students double-click the home button and swipe up to clear all apps. After they have cleared all apps, then assign the appropriate app or site to open (if using the Safari, the iBoss filter tab needs to stay open).
4. Practice procedures – It may sound elementary, but practicing procedures makes it more natural for you and your students.
5. When to remove device. If, after warning and redirection, you feel you need to take the device from the student, please remember that it may only be removed for your class period and must be returned at the end of the period. The iPad is the binder, folder, text and learning tool for other classes.
What about when it’s appropriate for students to use their devices, how do you let them know what’s OK? Many teachers use a “level” system. Levels are intended to delineate levels of appropriate use. For example:
We've looked at the "why" of what we're doing, and we're really on track with each other, but "how" do we get there?
SAMR is a tool that many, people and institutions, use to drive their transformation. It delineates the stages of transformation: substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition. It's helpful, it's clear, we can see it. The only problem is that it focuses on the technology and not the learning. Don't get me wrong, it can be a good place to start, but at some point we really need to be looking at the learning. That's where TIM comes into the picture.
TIM stands for "Technology Integration Matrix." It brings together and illustrates characteristics of learning environments and levels of technology integration in the curriculum. It's a bit more complicated at initial glance, but offers a richer experience with more detailed examples. TIM is a tool, one that provides examples, video lessons, and observation tools - the "how" that we've been looking for.
SAMR and TIM are tools to help us. Our best resource, however, remains each other. Share your experiences, what you've learned, what you've tried. Share your success and your failures. Explore the tools available to us. We aren't on this journey in a vacuum; others have been down this road, too. Let's learn from them.
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.