blended learning

Experiential Learning in Algebra I: The QR Code Experiment

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The librarian went to Algebra I class today, and I learned so much!  Not only am I now solid on identifying inequalities on the coordinate plane, but I also understand much more about the importance of technology tools applied in authentic learning experiences.

As the campus Library Media Specialist, I am extremely lucky to have such powerful professional and personal relationships with faculty across all content areas.  Technology integration is scary and make-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out frustrating at times.  Our professional relationships are an integral lifeline when seeking to innovate any instructional context–but especially when integrating technology.

Our principal began the year with three very specific instructional expectations for our campus:

1)  Engage students in learning.

2)  Seek to integrate technology in instruction.

3)  Design lessons using the VESTED format (a sheltered instructional model developed by the Kolak Group)

As a campus and as individual teams we’ve faced many obstacles to meeting these goals–especially with technology integration.  These barriers seem to stem–ironically– from technology, in particular our infrastructure’s capacity to support wireless connectivity for 30+ devices in a classroom and our very tightly-woven internet filtering software.  When faced with these barriers, many teachers understandably quit.  Those who are adaptive and responsive to these barriers, often find the support and creative solutions they need to innovate instruction through professional relationships and collaboration.

One such collaboration that has taught me tremendously has been with our Math Department Chair and Coach.  Wendi and I share a platform of trust, which is paramount in any professional relationship.  She and I also share like-mindedness when it comes to engaging students in learning.  We have different levels of comfort and experience with technology integration, which allows for a dynamic relationship.  I know next to nothing about math and instructional methods for teaching math to teenagers;  she feels that she knows next to nothing about using technology when teaching math to teenagers–our collaboration is founded on reciprocal teaching and learning from one another as colleagues.

Wendi’s spark of innovation appeared in one of her own children’s Language Arts assignments that came home one day.  The teacher had used QR codes to teach students about synonyms and antonyms.  Wendi was so impressed with the basic premise of the assignment and her experience as a parent supporting her young learner through the assignment, that she made immediate connections for adapting it for an upcoming lesson with her Algebra I team.

She showed me the assignment–a simple table with 9 QR codes that linked to a website students used to respond to the prompt. We started by talking about her content goals for her Algebra I studnets first.

Whenever I collaborate with teachers on integrating technology with learning, I ALWAYS start with the content and expected learning outcomes.  Integrating technology is not about finding ways to use iPads or QR codes in the classroom, but rather integrating technology is about identifying what tool best supports students’ learning in a given context.  (p.s., sometimes the solution has nothing to do with technology!)

Wendi’s goal for her students:  Identify inequalities on coordinate planes.

How would students demonstrate this skill to her?  By correctly identifying a shaded graph with it’s symbol.

I heartily agreed that QR codes could be an effective tool to support students with these goals.

Wendi worked over a weekend to collect images of shaded graphs, and then we sat together to put the assignment together, which involved troubleshooting certain technological barriers.

Barrier 1:  QR codes needed to link to images; however, Google Images as well as photo hosting sites such as Flickr and Tumblr  are blocked by our filter.  We needed a place to house the photos online that students could access through our network.

Solution:  We created a folder in Google Drive, uploaded the images to the folder, changed the sharing permissions for the entire folder so that anyone within the district’s Google domain could access the link, and then used the shared links for the images to create QR codes.

Creating the assignment once we had all the images took about 20 minutes.  I then showed Wendi how she could make a copy of the assignment’s Google Doc to use as a template for future assignments, saving her time in the future with formatting.

assignment

Wendi shared the assignment through Google Drive with her Algebra I team and scheduled the cart of iPads for each teacher.

We were excited to see how students and teachers responded to the activity.

The day of the assignment, Wendi and one of her teachers came to me with our next unforeseen barrier.

Barrier 2:  When using the QR scanner on the iPad with the devices connected to the student wi-fi network, the links were blocked–even though they linked to the district’s own Google Drive (exasperated sigh).  Wendi and her teacher could have given up then and there.  We had less than 20 minutes to find a solution.

One of the most important traits of a 21st Century teacher and learner is the ability to adapt and problem solve.

Solution:  …I may have found a loophole to the wi-fi issue, which I cannot entirely disclose…let’s just say I applied a little creative compliance to find a network solution…

I asked the first teacher to try the activity with students if I could stay and help support her and her students.  That way I could be available to trouble shoot anymore barriers or obstacles that may arise.  Since we were using the district’s Google Drive domain, it was necessary for one student to log in to Google Drive the first time they scanned a code, which they adapted to very easily.

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The QR activity followed a quick introduction, which drew upon students’ prior knowledge of inequality symbols.  The teacher displayed a visual with four coordinate graphs and their corresponding symbol and asked students to talk to their partner about what they noticed.

As I walked through rows of students observing, I heard responses such as “if you notice where the lines are located …” and “in general, when the shaded area is beneath the line…” By inviting students to note patterns first, the teacher placed the learning experience in  the hands of students rather than delivering content knowledge.  What I really appreciated about this was how natural it came to students.  You could tell by their willingness and openness to share their thinking out loud that this type of discourse was a regular part of their classroom experience.

She then asked them what they noticed, “Why are these two lines dashed and these two solid?”  By utilizing  higher-level questions to guide them to justify their responses, the teacher drew upon students’ ability to think metacognitively.  Learning was happening at higher levels  before technology was even introduced.

graph

Students then received directions for the QR activity, and I walked them through scanning and identifying the first coordinate graph to ensure all devices were working appropriately and students felt successful using the iPads as a learning device.

The teacher and I walked around, actively supporting students if they had any issues with the QR code or device, and observing students’ conversations with their partners as they scanned and worked together to determine the correct symbol.  The initial visual remained on the board for students to use as a key.

All students were engaged in the activity as academic discourse flowed throughout the room.  As partners completed the assignment, I reminded them to check to make sure they signed out of Google Drive on the devices and cleared the scanning history in the QR reader app.  I chatted informally with groups of students about their reactions to the assignment.  All but one student reported that they felt they understood more about inequalities on coordinate planes after using the iPads than if we had provided the images of the graphs on the paper.  The one student who didn’t feel this way said that the experience would have been the same for her without the iPads.  All students reported that they felt confident in identifying the correct symbol for an inequality and commented on how fun class was that day.

photo 1

Learning did not stop when the devices were dark. Even when the activity was over,  I heard pairs talking about the graphs they had discussed.  One pair in particular was pointing to different QR codes, recalling the differences and similarities between the graphs they linked to and the inequality symbol they recorded.  Even though the visual was no longer in front of them on the screen, it was painted on their mind because of their experience with the learning task.  When looking at a QR code, they still saw the graph it represented.

Without the collaboration of the team, my relationship with Wendi, the Department Chair, and the adaptability and resiliency of the classroom teacher, this lesson may have never been actualized.

How can we ensure that teachers have the collaborative relationships and support they need in order to experiment with new technologies and innovate learning for their students?

The "True" Wave of Digital Natives

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Today in a session with Project Tomorrow’s CEO, Julie Evans, we were treated with a sneak peak at some of the data trends from the last Speak Up survey administered this past December (2012).

Now, data and I have had a rocky, tumultuous relationship.  In my early teaching years, data and I weren’t too familiar with one another–passing ships in the night.  As a graduate student, I started to flirt with data a little bit once I caught a glimpse of what he could do for me and some of the practices I was researching in my classroom. But, we hit a major roadblock in our relationship the year that data was wielded like a thick, leather belt, snapping and cracking down the hallway, forcing data-driven instruction down our throats, angrily pushing us towards practices that  did not align with our beliefs and better intuition.  Data and I broke up that year, and I admit I talked trash about data behind his back.

There was no magic moment when data came back into my life and the past was erased.  It took a lot of coaching and mentoring from leaders, friends, and mentors who had healthy, constructive relationships with data.  Today, we’re cohabitants of the same house, focused on the improvement of learning for everyone on our campus; we relate easily, flexibly, and without judgment.

So, today when Julie announced she was giving us a preview of the yet-to-be released data, my nerdy heart skipped a beat.  Our campus participated in the Speak Up survey–a difficult task in a campus of 2200 students.  Individual campus and district results will be made available tomorrow, 2/6.  I appreciate having the national trends to compare our local results to and anticipate that we’ll fall in line with those trends.

Three Key Trends for Educational Technology
1) Students want devices that allow them to personalize the educational process, the same way that they personalize their social media and web presence.  They want devices that help them be more productive and allow them to CREATE and ADAPT.

2)  We’re at a BYOD/BYOT tipping point.  The stage is set for integrating personal devices into learning.  Administration has turned a corner with its willingness to allow personal devices, teachers are curious, and students are willing and able.  How can we take advantage of the growing momentum and be thoughtful, reflective and strategic in our visions and action plans?

3)  The “true” digital natives haven’t even arrived yet on our high school campuses.  According to the findings of Speak Up’s yearly survey assessing the rolling of technology in learning, a shift has occurred in the readiness, access, and skills our 9-12th graders bring to the digital table and their middle school counterparts.  They are coming to us very soon; how will we prepare for tomorrow’s learners?

Wow!  I’m excited.  I’m ready.  I’m curious.

Now what?
by

On the Path to Technology Integration…We Need a Map

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Great things are happening here at The Ridge!  I’ve always believed that the leadership, innovation, and vision of individuals on this campus have the potential to make us leaders in education, especially in regards to raising student engagement and closing the achievement gap.

Recently, Fossil Ridge was awarded a KISD Education Foundation Grant.  The project titled, “Closing the Gap” was the collaborative brainchild of a handful of these leaders.  

The goals of the project are:

  1. Close the gap in access to technology that exists in our student population, allowing for equity to digital tools and resources and extending the school day to a 24/7 model.
  2. Investigate the role that technology has on learning.
  3. Inform the long-range vision for technology integration and strategic plan for our campus.

I am pleased that the community and district leaders recognize the efforts and leadership capacity on our campus and am thankful for the present and future support we will receive as we work towards these goals.

As discussions took place regarding deployment of our project, which involves selecting twenty AVID students to receive Dell tablets and Verizon mi-fi cards for use at home and at school, we all agreed that in order to truly understand how technology impacts learning.  We needed to form a leadership team, who would engage in a PLC that explores theory, methods, and tools for educational technology.  It’s not enough to simply provide students with access to technology.  Even the largest 1:1 programs in schools, without a professional development plan for teachers, will not produce the impact on learning that designers anticipate.  

This team will visit schools in the Metroplex who have adopted some kind of technology model (1:1, BYOD, etc.) and observe how their deployment model impacts learning, what type of systems are in place to support student and teacher integration of technology, and measures that can capture the data we need to inform our vision.  In addition to field trips, the team will also meet regularly to share resources, explore models, and create lessons that integrate tools.  But, it all has to come back to the same point:  How does technology impact student engagement and learning?

This past weekend I was explaining our project to another National Writing Project teacher consultant who is an instructional leader in a neighboring district that is exploring these same questions and working to support teachers as they grapple with technology that is integrated into instruction.  She suggested that we start with the SAMR model developed by Dr Rueben Puentedura.  Through this model, Dr. Puentedura demonstrates how our goal when considering a long-range technology adoption cycle on any scale, from district-level down to the classroom, should be to move from enhancement to transformation.


SAMR stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefintion.Substitution:  At this stage you are using technology as a direct substitution for another tool. Think using a word processor in lieu of a type writer without utilizing functions such as spell check, grammar check, etc.  Dr. Puentedura argues that at this level, productivity actually decreases. 
 Augmentation:  If we continue with our example of the word processor, then at this next level we would use its built-in features such as Spell Checker, word count, copy and paste, etc.  Productivity or work flow might increase at this level, perhaps students can produce a finished draft more quickly using a word processor, but how has the tool transformed their thinking?

Notice the dotted line between the Augmentation and the next level in the model.  This is meant as a target.  When considering tools and tasks that integrate technology with learning, our goal should be to be above this line.

Modification: Again, if we consider the word processor as a tool, how could we modify the tool to allow for greater productivity?  Rather than printing the file and sharing it, what if we integrated another tool such as email or drop boxes to publish and share?  Or, what if we integrated a product or feature of another tool such as a chart from Excel, digital photos of artificats, etc.  At this level, Dr. Puentedura claims, student learning begins to transform.

Redefinition:  Here’s where my mind really starts to bend…In the redefinition level, technology allows us to do things otherwise impossible to create new products in new ways.  Rather than a word processor where one student is authoring a product, what if students utilized Google Docs to collaborate in real time!  This would not have been possible before.  Students couldn’t work from their own houses from their own devices on a task at the same time.  Now, technology allows for this level of collaboration and creation.

http://msdwc.edublogs.org/files/2010/04/itlog_techlifecycle1.png


My colleague explained it to me much more simply…instead of old things in new ways, our goal is to shoot for new things in new ways.  

I did some reflecting over some of the tools I’ve highlighted in the blog that meet this goal. Below you’ll find a list of tools and links to those blog posts that help us reach the Enhancement level of learning through technology.

Google Earth

My Big Campus

GoAnimate and Sock Puppets

Socrative

Glogster

VoiceThread

Prezi



I’m curious to hear your take-away after thinking about this model and how it applies to your decision making and lesson planning process.  Limitations, drawbacks, confusions, applications?  Leave your comment!


Adventures in iPads: Apps for Exploring

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Tapping into the natural curiosities of our students with apps to explore information


The advent of mobile devices like iPads and smart phones have ushered in a new heightened era of information for our 21st Century students.  With a swipe of a fingertip, endless amounts of information become available to us instantaneously as it streams 24/7 through our devices and into our lives .  Access to information at this rate is a double-edged sword:   At times a bombardment of messages, information can clutter our lives, leading to increased habits of multi-tasking, and letting go of a critical stance to information in favor of “more” stuff.  On the other hand, we now have access to perspectives, events, societies, phenomena, and knowledge from around the globe.  Such knowledge adds to our cultural and intellectual wealth when applied in creative ways.

For our students, Google is the main portal to the world of information.  As a self-professed Google-lover, I understand the power of an advanced search engine.  Do my students?  Well…we’re working on that.  Rather than sending students to “Google it,” I’d like to suggest a handful of apps designed for the iPad that foster academic exploration of topics, inquiries, and contexts appropriate for all content area learning.  These apps utilize multiple modes of media to enhance and engage.  Articles, videos, and resources are easily shared through the app feature, allowing for easy adaptation for BYOD projects where students may access the information from personal devices, including laptops, desktops, and mobile devices.  I suggest utilizing these tools when introducing new topics or units to students.  In a Flipped or VESTED classroom, these tools fit well into initial previewing and building background knowledge.

The following iTunes apps allow students the opportunity to explore a myriad of topics and content areas, engaging them through authentic connections to the world around them and utilizing mobile technology to access information in rapid time:

iTunes U

According to Apple, iTunes U is the world’s largest collection of free educational content.  Users can access courses from the world’s leading universities.  In addition to participating in a course through readings downloaded into iBook, videos, assignments, and podcasts, students can also select from over 500,000 free lectures, videos, and podcasts.  Teachers may utilize iTunes U as a tool to introduce a new concept or unit.  For example, students may view a demonstration of a heat engine as an introduction to thermodynamics for an upcoming physics unit.  Professor David Hoxley of La Trobe University has an entire classical physics course in iTunes U complete with video demonstrations and podcasts.  

Other contributors to iTunes U include:

  • Cambridge University
  • Harvard University
  • MIT
  • Library of Congress
  • Oxford University
  • Stanford
  • Yale
Students have free and unlimited access to ivy league courses at their fingertips.


Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a free, online collection of over 3,500 videos covering multiple disciplines including K-12 Math, Science, Humanities, and test prep.  An Economics student may have questions regarding the Fiscall Cliff and America’s economic difficulties.  A quick trip to the Khan Academy app could lead him to this engaging and simple video that utilizes diagrams, graphics, and voice-over to explain complex issues.



Khan Academy’s popularity is largely due to its simple, direct, and concrete illustrations of difficult subjects and complex concepts.  Like iTunes U, students can subscribe to courses to continue their exploration into a specific discipline, topic, or skill.  

TED “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.”

Ever wonder what is so fascinating about the dance of the dung beetle?
Intrigued about the controversies and perspectives surrounding the Second Amendment and gun control legislation?
Perplexed by the tumultuous and fragile relationship between Iran and Israel?

TED Talks capture inspiring, hilarious, creative, and informative talks by people who are pushing the envelope with their theories and actions.  Students can browse and search for videos relating to a host of topics related to technology, business, design, entertainment, science, and global issues.  TED Talks have been growing in popularity as thousands of videos are shared through social media sites.

TED-Ed is the site’s education platform with 167 videos that can be shared, edited, or flipped for classroom use. This video was created by an educator and animator to demonstrate the power of effective introductions from famous authors.

On the TED-ed site for this video, students can respond to questions and explore further resources related to powerful introductions.  Educators can even customize or “flip” the video to create a unique lesson for their students.  


Personalized Learning

For a little brain candy about the flipped classroom and blended learning check out Sal Khan’s Ted talk! (He’s much more concrete about it than I have been on the blog :-)) 


These resources are valuable tools to provide students with opportunities to explore content related topics whether in a flipped, blended, or traditional classroom.   Inviting them to explore these resources through their own curiosities supports their natural learning tendencies, allowing for a personalized learning experience.  As online learning platforms continue to expand and evolve, soon, public education will need to consider how best to meet the needs of learners who can feasibly enroll him or herself in a free online course and master the content on their own through their own devices rather than the traditional educational setting.  Public institutions have begun to integrate iTunes U courses into a traditional setting by creating unique courses for students to enroll in for a personalized experience.

But, it’s about baby steps and becoming comfortable with the sheer amount of information available, learning to control and manage the continual stream, and then become producers of solutions and innovations.  iTunes U, Khan, and TED are leading facilitators of information collection and production.