Needed: A focus on teaching and learning

The success of any 1-1 implementation lies less in the choice of computing device, but more in the difference that it can contribute to the overall teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. This is so important to remember, especially as more and more schools follow through with an “iPad initiative.”

While the selection of educational apps is vast (the Apple in Education website currently reads “Thousands of apps. Endless potential.”), I have come to understand that teachers shouldn’t focus only on the apps that can help with learning (intriguing as they may be). The key is to expand student thinking, not restrict it by working only within a choice selection of apps.

Appropriate instructional decisions are needed in order to take student learning to the next level. How are teachers challenging student thinking and inviting them to use their device in productive ways that will help them learn better? To what extent are students using the technology to curate their knowledge, collaborate with others, and create their own content? These are two important questions to keep in mind before deciding on an “app for that.”

The 10:5:3:2 rule in technology funding

Fundraising has been on my mind lately. I first started thinking about the challenge of funding last summer. Now, as we move from the ‘visioning’ stage to the actual ‘planning’ stage for a new high school, the question of start-up funding has been one that I have been thinking about and brainstorming with others.  Today, I spent some time reviewing Funding your 1-1 vision, a K-12 Blueprint e-book from techlearning.com.  Among the various insights that I gained, one significant take-away focused on a recommended funding distribution for the technology budget.

The 10:5:3:2 rule can be used as a guideline for the equitable distribution of funds across four different technology domains: hardware, professional development, software, and maintenance and support services. According to this rule, for every $10 spent on hardware such as computers, printers, and other equipment (50% of the budget), $5 should be allocated to teacher technology-based professional development to ensure implementation success (25%) , $3 on software (15%), and $2 on maintenance and support services to fund imminent repairs and upgrades (10%).

I like how this distribution acknowledges the need for on-going professional development in support of the technology initiative. Allocating 25% of the budget in support of the teachers and their abiilty to support learning through technology is a wise investment of funds. I can see how this is a critical component of a technology plan.

Alternatives to YouTube

I attended a webinar earlier today that focused on a framework for technology integration in teaching. A question was asked regarding YouTube alternatives, especially since many schools continue to block YouTube in the classroom. I recall my post that highlighted YouTube’s efforts to address this, however I appreciated learning about other options to consider, especially those that categorize videos by subject area. 47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom and WatchKnowLearn.org offers a number of additional good resources for teachers to consider.

A reminder for an e-school day

A winter storm arrived last weekend, and it promises to keep schools closed for the better part of this week. I was reminded of my post last April on how a hybrid approach to teaching in the classroom could keep the students learning, even during the days that schools “have” to be closed. Offering an opportunity for a synchronous discussion on a topic, or even a video chat, and then following through on some collaborative work online could keep students engaged, even after they have played in the snow.

Digital textbooks for the classroom

I recall a conversation when I learned that one of the larger annual expenditures for MCS is on textbooks. This can change with access to digital textbooks. They are on average 53% cheaper to develop and print, and this is a savings that can be passed on to the school. Equally important is the stewardship of natural resources that is involved with the publication of these texts. From a student’s immediate perspective, such texts are significantly lighter to carry around and they provide immediate 24/7 access to the materials. This infographic highlights the textbooks of tomorrow.

Virtual texts are becoming more and more interactive, and this is impacting the learning experience for students. An example that I came across was the HMH Fuse interactive text for algebra and geometry. These texts allow students to interact with the material, and include video tutorials, “scratch pads” to actually work out math problems or make notes, animated guidance in error analysis, and hyperlink access to glossaries. Books may embed games as part of the text process and inline quizzes to help students gauge their progress on the material. Texts such as these are immediately accessible and can include syncing features that allow the teachers to access assessment data on student progress from the books. This video highlights the student’s experience with such a text (I admit that this is a promotional video developed by the publisher, but it does suggest how students can take to such an interactive text).

Another version of the virtual text is one that is custom designed and created in-house. When teachers have the time and desire, it is possible to self-publish a text that meets local needs and remains completing aligned to learning standards. This article describes one school in Minnesota that accomplished just this. Their budget crisis served to motivate a group of teachers to develop a text and supporting videos for their subject area.

Reference:

Oseland, C. (2011, Sept. 28). Budget crisis inspires award winning curriculum redesign at Byron Senior High School. THE Journal, accessed Nov. 14, 2011.

The need to develop media literacy

“We no longer live solely in a print-centric world” (Baker, 2010, p. 133). We all have access to the Internet, television, music, images, movies and other emerging technologies. While this seems so evident, why is that schools often fail to help students foster the necessary critical skills that will help them properly access this media? This represents a key 21st century fluency: media literacy.

The 21st Century Fluency Project notes that media literacy is an important fluency that encompasses two components:

1) The ability to look analytically at any communication media to interpret the real message, how the chosen media is being used to shape thinking, and evaluate the efficacy of the message.

2) The ability to create and publish original digital products, matching the media to the intended message by determining the most appropriate and effective media for that message.

I am learning that teachers need to be proactive in teaching media literacy skills. Instructional recommendations suggest that this should not be a separate class, but a topic that is integrated across the curriculum. Media literacy instruction should includes lots of hands-on experiential learning to assist students as they encounter media in their research and daily lives. Through authentic exposure to various forms if media, students are offered the opportunity to develop this set of skills. This can take place as part of individual reflective work or in cooperative group settings.

Baker (2010) notes that goals of media literacy instruction are “to create critical thinkers and viewers who have the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to understand, analyze, and create media messages, as well as to comprehend their purpose and audiences” (p. 143). He offers a number of interesting classroom applications across the curriculum. It will be worth returning to this chapter again.

It is important, however, that we provide the necessary professional development to support teachers as they engage students on this necessary fluency.

Reference
Baker, F. W. (2010). Media literacy: 21st century literacy skills. In H. Hayes Jacobs (Ed.) Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world, (133-152). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

http://www.fluency21.com

The call for financial literacy instruction

An interesting news item: The Education Secretary has started encouraging the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to consider recommending that financial literacy instruction be integrated into the K-12 curriculum. Rather than only a high school elective, Secretary Duncan has even suggested that this be a core subject that students may experience in the lower grades.

President Obama convened the council to help people understand financial matters and make responsible financial decisions. This was made evident during the “Great Recession” as far too many people appear to lack the essential financial planning skills to handle their money wisely and invest responsibly for their future.

In addition to the more traditional topics of budgeting, personal finances, credit and loans, Secretary Duncan noted that a financial literacy curriculum could include topics such as the stock market, investing,  and retirement planning.

As Corbin (2011) notes, overall teacher preparedness for instruction in this area may be an issue. This highlights the need to instructioanlly support all teachers with the curricular and instructional demands that they face in the classroom.

Reference:

Corbin, K. (2011, Nov. 8). Education secretary appeals for financial literacy, planning instruction in schools. Accessed November 9, 2011 through onwallstreet.com.