Friday, August 14, 2015

What is Your One-to-One Vision?

"What if...?" and "Why?" are inquiry sparks that ignite my curiosity. This week, during our freshmen iPad orientation, I presented the students with the following challenge;

"What if your only graduation requirement was to make a significant learning contribution to our school, what would your project be, what tools and resources would you need?"

After giving a confused look that said, "really"? The students shared some of their ideas following small group discussions. Creating a coding club, leading a green campus effort, running technology workshops for area seniors, decorating the hallways with photography, their responses were varied and ambitious.

Then, we discussed tools and resources that would be needed to turn their concepts into reality. The conversation revealed the common theme of students needing something to connect them to information and experts. That conversation pattern provided the perfect transition towards our next prompt;

"Why should each student have a device connecting them to the Internet? Why are we 1:1 at our school?"

After churning through some language, we came up with two essential themes that could support a one-to-one vision statement.
This conversation is important because there are times when it is difficult to articulate the reasons why districts purchase iPads, Chromebooks, or laptops for all of their students. A vision statement created through the conversations of all stakeholders, particularly students, is essential to guiding student learning, clarifying learner expectations, and justifying spending choices. 

Through our conversation, students came to the conclusion that the connected device, regardless of what it is, helps put their inquiry into action. Students have increased capacity to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want. Furthermore, students have increased capacity to produce, document, and share artifacts from their learning.

A vision statement helps channel the "what if..." questions, and also help answer the prevailing "why" question. Here is an example of a 1-to-1 vision statement shared transparently by Killingly High School

"Schools are challenged to prepare students for the complex demands of the 21st century. As digital citizens, people communicate, gather information, collaborate, and problem solve in a global virtual environment. One to one technology allows the KHS community the opportunity to enhance the skills necessary to compete and thrive in an ever-changing world The Killingly Professional Learning Community embraces one to one technology to engage students and practice the principals of the KHS Mission Statement: Responsibility, Excellence, and Dedication."
Because these "what if..." and "why" questions continue to occupy my thinking tells me there is more work to be done with our one-to-one vision. Our freshmen students did a terrific job of starting the conversation by sharing the types of learning experiences they would find empowering. Even though I find the ISTE-S standards helpful, I would still like more clarity on creating a 1:1 technology vision statement.

Are you at a school that has a one-to-one, or BYOD supported learning environment? Does your school or district have a technology vision statement that is clearly understood by all stakeholders? I am interested in learning more about this. Your examples and insights are appreciated. Please complete this short form if you would like to share your technology vision statement. Thank you.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Empty Trash Cans and Renewable Assignments

"...renewable assignments result in meaningful, valuable artifacts that enable future meaningful, valuable work." - David Wiley

My personalized learning routine involves skimming through a few dozen blog posts first thing in the morning. I slammed on the brakes, and adjusted my reading glasses when I came across David Wiley's discussion of disposable versus renewable assignments in higher education. What do these terms mean, what are the differences, and why should educators care about the fate of their assignments?

According to Dr. Wiley, disposable assignments are those that end up in a garbage can shortly after the instructor has graded it. This signals the learning, if there was any, has now ended. An assignment at the bottom of a garbage can adds no additional value to the world. My friend Shawn McCusker dislikes the thought of student work ending up in piles. He says, "If we want to increase the importance and validity of student work we need to extend it’s life cycle and allow individual learning to be shared, with the class, the school and the community." Students see little cause to invest in work that will likely end up in a landfill.

In a previous post, I discussed how digital contribution trumps digital citizenship. This argument is supported by Dr. Wiley's concept of renewable assignments. Renewable assignments provide opportunities for learners to create meaningful, valuable artifacts that contribute to the learning of others. These artifacts can be reviewed, revised, and renewed to perpetuate learning. Wiley goes on to suggest there is a significant amount of student production capacity that could be used to scale production of OERs (open educational resources).

Several weeks ago, at the conclusion of the school year, our own children emptied their backpacks creating a pile of paper that overflowed our recycle bin. I asked them, "Isn't there anything here worth saving?" 

"Nope.", they answered in unison.

"This looks like a lot of work. What did you learn from doing all of this?", I asked.

"Nothing.", again almost in unison.

Disappointed by the waste of time and paper, I invited the kids to show me their learning in their most usual way, by playing Minecraft and Clash of Clans. The boys willingly read books, watch videos, and chat with other players to improve their skill at these games. They are also studying how to create their own videos to teach others to improve their gaming skills. Those of you with children who are gamers know they will spend hours on end working to level up, studying their craft, and sharing their knowledge and skill with other players. Disposable or renewable?

"If learning communities, both formal ones such as school, and informal ones such as community center classes, want to take advantage of and leverage all available resources, then they would embrace a culture where educators teach learners, educators teach other educators, learners teach learners, and learners teach educators." - Dr. Jackie Gerstein

Educators, are you providing meaningful, renewable learning assignments, or do your assignments go straight into the trash after they're graded? If your trash cans are empty, what advice would you offer teachers wanting to extend learning, and the life of student work?

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photo credit: Respect for the Law_1344c via photopin (license)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#SchoologyNEXT 2015, Reflections and Takeaways

Schoology NEXT 2015 was an amazing celebration of learning and connecting. Wednesday afternoon following the conference I was reflecting from the back of a limousine. Not my usual mode of transportation to a conference, but it was only a 45 minute ride, and parking in Chicago's North Loop can be quite expensive. So, I saved money by riding in style.

The ride home gave me a chance to check in on social media (#SchoologyNEXT), and thank those folks who hosted the event, as well as, those who had impacted my learning during the previous three days. My head is full of new ideas, practices, and questions sparking further investigation.

Suffice to say, there were many tantalizing takeaways from Schoology NEXT with the most significant being the overwhelming generosity of the presenters, attendees, and Schoology team members. Shared lessons, shared courses, shared experiences, impressive signage, amazing swag, and terrific food dominated the scene at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. 
It would seem then, that transforming what's possible begins with sharing. You don't need to be a Schoology user to appreciate the impactful experiences generated at a great conference like Schoology NEXT, but in this case, it certainly helps.

Here are a few more of my takeaways that may help you transform what's possible.

Attention to Detail - Credit the Schoology Events Planning Team, namely Jen Robustelli, Bridget Heaton, and Christina Berrios, with creating an atmosphere where there were numerous ways for attendees to engage and share their learning experiences. A sign-in wall, Twitterfall, and a helpful conference app were just three of the many ways attendees could experience real-time communication and engagement during the conference. All of the session materials were available within a purpose-built Schoology Course. Attendees tweeted shared resources, and created online documents for "live blogging" collaborative notes.

Used with permission; Ben Mountz 2015

Informative, Transformative Keynote Addresses - Schoology executives Jeremy Friedman, and Ryan Hwang kicked things off by presenting a company roadmap highlighting Schoology's growth, and sharing a vision of how Schoology is growing and transforming. Their talk drew applause as data dashboards, updated user interface, and fifty additional app partnerships were promised in the coming months. 

Tuesday morning, Dr. Fareed Zakaria captivated the audience by presenting a mixture of interesting research findings, and funny stories. His primary message, don't believe all of the hype surrounding test scores. Courage, creativity, and confidence will propel a "start-up" American economy. Being able to provide personalization on a large scale is the challenge being met by educationally-based companies such as Schoology. It's up to educators to integrate these tools in their schools and classrooms. Ken Shelton inspired the audience on Wednesday by sharing examples of learners using technology responsibly to share their learning and project their "voice" across the web. He challenged us by asking if we were teaching the same things the same way year after year. 

"Are we preparing students for their future, or for our past?"

Photo Credit; Bridget Heaton SchoologyNEXT 2015

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst - Learning can get messy, and even best made plans can get derailed. My "hands-on" Portfolios workshop was attended by a packed house of learners excited to start building digital portfolios in Schoology. Poor wireless connectivity brought those plans to a screeching halt. However, on the advice of the event organizers, I had a backup copy of presentation slides to share with the patient participants. 

Like a flat tire on your bicycle, technology will fail at the most inopportune time. Have a back-up plan ready to go. As it was, the room was so crowded the maker space activity (building and flying paper airplanes) originally planned would have been a crazy, funny, free-for-all! (My kind of learning!) Other presenters experienced challenges with inconsistent connectivity, and to their credit they adjusted, adapted, and shared incredible, interactive presentations. I was blown away by Nichole Carter's presentation on Tech Gurus. Be sure to check out her post, she did a terrific job curating material from the conference. It will take me some time to sift through all of the helpful shared materials, but at an early glance the strategies and resources are top notch. Schoology will be sharing an archive of this event in the coming days.

** It should be noted that the connectivity issues were not Schoology's fault, and yet their team worked feverishly to make prompt improvements that were evident by day two of the conference.

  • What does this accompanying picture from our workshop suggest about our learning places? Does this look like innovative, empowering instruction? How many mobile electronic devices would you guess each attendee has with them? How important then, is connectivity to the learner?

You may notice there are approximately 150 educators in this crowded room, yet only a couple appear engaged with their technology. This was not due to any masterful showmanship, or presentation style. Instead credit the participants with asking relevant questions, discovering personal meaning in the topic, and helping each other through insight and experience. #LearningTogether 

Congratulations Kellie Ady, and Nichole Carter, for being named 
Schoology Ambassadors of the Year, 2015

Congratulations Tara Amsterdam, for being named
Schoology Educator of the Year, 2015

One interesting observation from SchoologyNEXT, sketchnoting (visual note-taking) is becoming increasingly popular. Notice the sketchnote from Ben Mountz above, I can only dream of having such artistic aptitude. More importantly, these images align perfectly with our keynote recollection. What an excellent way to capture thinking visually! 

Another observation that Joe Young, an awesome Schoology Ambassador, and I discussed, was how many people were live-tweeting, or live-blogging the conference sessions. While this isn't unheard of, it was interesting to see how many conversations were occurring through social media. Asking questions, sharing resources, and seeking immediate clarifications, if not solutions, were fairly common during the conference sessions. It was interesting to see, and feel, learning happening right before our eyes. 

Transforming what's possible.

Related Reading

Schoology NEXT Resources and Reflection - Nichole Carter

In Defense of a Liberal Education - Dr. Fareed Zakaria