Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Digital Divide Between Parents and School Districts

Something I experienced last year, as I continue to integrate technology into my class, was the lack of parents capable of participating in the ways our school district and I have organized for them. 

Our school district has organized online grade books, blogs, lesson plans, handouts, announcements, assignment calendars, etc. online for parents to stay up-to-date on school happenings. With all these technology based communications in place for several years, our parent survey continues to voice their confusion about how to find information. We feel the resources are good ones. Students fully understand how to utilize all these tools. And no amount of “have your student teach you” reminders seems to work. Last September, for the first time, we attempted a parent training seminar during an open house. Based on parent contact over the course of the school year, it instigated minimal change. 
A class room specific example of this divide came when I started grading essays, saved as PDF, on my iPad, allowing me to email marked essays, comments, and rubrics directly home. My aim was to save paper, involve parents, and try to have my “teacher comments” not fall on deaf ears. Too often returned essays are glanced at for a grade and tossed. I thought that by emailing them directly home, families could sit together, review grades, and make a plan for improvement. Yet, when I grew curious if my efforts were now falling on a different set of deaf ears and decided to ask for a response from families to the latest graded essay, I received replies only from the parents who were constantly involved anyway. 
Some parents were appreciative and responsive to the emails home. However, though I received a higher amount of positive parent feedback regarding communication, the digital divide adapted. I began hearing student conversations (they never seem to know we’re listening) about how they know their parents’ email passwords. Some students were hustling home, accessing the essay, and deleting it before parents had a chance to look at it. 
Similar to my example of students outsmarting their parents with technology, here is a survey -coordinated by the computer protection company McAfee- on how teens are bypassing parental influence as well as how some parents are fighting back.
One way I plan to decrease the digital divide between parents and my use of district technology is informative videos. I recently downloaded Jing, an app that allows you to record video and audio of movements on a computer screen. Hopefully, by making some simple how-to videos on the most important communication pieces I plan to use, parents will be more capable of utilizing them and thus collaborating with their student’s progress at a higher level. 

Technology Does Not Guarantee Rigor

Often teachers integrate technology in a basic, quick and easy form, pat themselves on the back, and assume 21st century learning is occurring. Here is a great example of technology integration failing to provide rigor. More than likely, this assignment brought students to the type of boredom a simple book summary would have. 

Video Synopsis andCritique
            The student outlines the video as a “Book Share.” His/her Language Arts teacherrequires so many per school year. It appears by “summary” as part of the titlethat students are to read a book on their own and create a trailer. Thisproject has three uses. First, it can confirm the student is reading a book.Second, a collection of these videos becomes useful for other students lookingfor their next book. Finally, it is a great way to incorporate technologyconsistently, though alternative video projects could improve the end result.
            Havingnot seen the project directions from “Mrs. Roberge,” I am unaware of herexpectations. If I were to give this assignment, students would need to displaya level of thinking beyond simple summary. I’d like to see the student critiquethe book, make comparisons to other novels or movies, or speak to theirreactions at certain moments.
            Myassessment of the video using NETS-S is low. It is possible that the teacherhas a desire to integrate technology but with limited success. These “BookShare” videos, if this particular video is the norm, seem to be done outside ofclass time and with basic slideshow software. My guess is that the program isuser friendly and easily taught to students (perfect for school integration),allowing the teacher to assign these as long term projects, or as the studentsays “one every marking period.” Yet, the project does not meet many of thegoals technology integration can achieve. I see the possibility for thesevideos to reach a large audience. The project doesn’t even do this at a highlevel, judging by the 63 views and zero comments as of July 29, 2012. It wouldbe nice to see the project get into the “deeper investigations” Edutopia issaid to be targeting with their curriculum (Education Nation, 2010, p. 121).
            Apossible improvement of this project could integrate literature circles withcommon novels and requiring book reviews rather than summaries. Students couldwork collaboratively to read the book and determine what belongs in the videotogether. Then, by switching to a review format, students are using higherlevel thinking skills. In his 2011 book WriteLike This, Kelly Gallagher outlines how to use mentor texts as means togetting students writing for the real world. “If I want my students to worktoward becoming real-world writers, I need to shift the focus of my writinginstruction toward real-world writing purposes” (p. 9). To create thisreal-world purpose, students should research book reviews and movie trailersonline and model their projects after what they find. As Milton Chen writes in Education Nation, “[Students] are hungryfor information on how they might prepare to work in the entertainmentindustry, but they don’t see a pathway from their interest in the arts andtechnology to careers in film, TV, animation, or video games.” (2010, p. 108)These book reviews and trailers are a perfect marriage of the old and new.Reading extended texts like novels is critical to literacy development, butmany students complain about the “why.” The corresponding homework that “killsthe fun of a book” can frustrate even the ones who enjoy reading. Thisconcept brings together novels with real-world writing and projectcreation.

NETS-S Grades andRationale (refer to rubric)
1b. 3/4
The content of the video is on point and follows the basicassignment outline. Judging by video title, I believe the teacher is simplyasking for a summary of the book her student read. In this case, they studentdelivers scene-by-scene summaries for the rising action. The final slides leavethe viewer wondering about the ending. However, the extensive summary gave awaymuch of the plot. Thus, I docked a point, as I believe a high quality book summaryshould concentrate on character outlines, prevailing themes, and generalitiesabout the plot. This reveals too much. For example, the slides outlining thepoisoning of his wine and the girl saving his life (00:35) sounds like a greatscene in the book that has now lost all surprise for future readers.

2b. 2/4
The delivery of the information was frustrating to follow. Thesummaries typed on each screen are often difficult to read with the picturesused as backgrounds. I like the song’s urgency, making the video appealing to astudent audience.

3b. 3/4
The thoroughness of the summary shows an understanding of the plot.Yet, due to the film still shots, I can’t help but wonder if they simplywatched the movie.

4b. 3/4
I give a three out of four because the video simply summarizes thenovel. A perfect score to me would have integrated a personal review of thebook or displayed some sort of cognitive reading strategy other than plotrecall. Perhaps the student could have shared a prediction he or she madeduring reading or compared/contrasted characters with other books as a way tomodel higher-level reading skills.

5a. 0/4
The student clearly pulled still shots from the movie version to useas slide backgrounds. No credit is given to the filmmakers or the musicproduction. In fact, the video does not even provide the author of the book.
6b. 3/4
Creating aslideshow with captions is accomplished nicely. Perhaps the student could haveplaced the captions to the side of each photo for an easier reading experience.

Total: 15/24

NETS Standards for Students
Possible Points*
Earned Points

NETS-S 1. Creativity and Innovation
1b. create original works as a means of personal or group expression (content)
The video shows evidence of spontaneous fluency and originality that is recognized as high in quality.


NETS-S 2. Communication and Collaboration
2b. communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats (delivery)
The video effectively communicates the student’s knowledge of the subject matter. Presentation is well organized and flow of ideas is easy to follow.

NETS-S 3. Research and Information Fluency
locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media (cited sources)
The video shows evidence that the students did sufficient  background research

NETS-S 4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
4b. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
The video is evident of critical thinking and problem solving 


NETS-S 5. Digital Citizenship
5a. advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.

The video contained original footage or had a Creative Commons license with proper credits or citations given to authors of any artistic element used.

NETS-S 5. Technology Operations and Concepts
6b. select and use applications effectively and productively (camera techniques, video/audio editing)
The video shows that student used the camera editing software skillfully and independently, completing the work on time. Images are clear and audio level is easily heard.

Chen, Milton(2010). Education nation. SanFrancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gallagher, Kelly (2011). Writelike this. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Granhead2. (2011, June 8). Language arts project #3: video/book summary#2… the golden compass [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtqfXswpgRY
Schulze, Patricia. Book reviews, annotations, and web technology.Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/book-reviews-annotation-technology-137.html?tab=1- tabs

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hybridize Lecture and Flipped Classrooms

Flipped classrooms have been a hot bead for debate the past few years. To create a Hybrid Education Vehicle (HEV) between the flip concept and traditional lecture, I will focus on a particular argument within this debate: the teacher loses control of content delivery by student acquisition outside the classroom.
At its core, the flipped concept is designed to deliver content to students outside of class via video, freeing class time for group work and increased teacher support of hands-on work. Traditional lecture is not student-teacher interaction. It is the teacher up front and students listening, sometimes. By students watching videos outside class time, they gain the same information but with the opportunity to rewind, pause, or restart as needed. Class time can then be used for true student-teacher interaction where students work in groups to accomplish tasks with teacher as facilitator.
A gripe with this design is the inability for the teacher to react to student understanding as they experience the lecture via video. In traditional lecture, students can raise their hands when they have questions. This can be seen as an advantage (answer the question on the spot) and as a distraction (derail the delivery of new material). So, how can components of the flipped design combine with in-class delivery for a positive HEV?
I propose taking the video delivery method of flipped classrooms and inserting them into the time allotted for in-class lecture. Provide students, or have students provide their own, Internet access for video playing. Individuals, partners, or small groups can work with one device to watch the same video a flipped class would watch at home. A necessary alteration is the mission of the video lecture. It cannot simply be information delivery. For this hybrid to work, students should be told to pause the video at checkpoints to complete an activity, have a discussion, or take notes. A positive of the flipped classroom is the increased teacher-student interaction at the individual level. During the in-class video lecture, the teacher can roam the room, answering quick questions, facilitating discussions, and offering corrections to activities. Further, the questions students are asked to note at home in the flipped model can be immediately discussed with a partner, group, or whole class.
Lecturers will appreciate the ability to monitor the consumption of material; flipped lovers will be satisfied that the videos can be archived for review outside of class, absent students can be caught up, and continued individualized learning (Bergman, Overmyer, & Willie, 2012). Of course, as with any good pedagogy, this process needs to be explicitly taught. Students need to be trained on behavior expectations. The structure can be modified for various levels of technology access and learning styles present in the classroom. I have the luxury of a 104 minute block class period to utilize this model early in the period and have plenty of class time for workshop or project based learning. Teachers with less time can video lecture once for several days of group work.

Bergman, J., Overmyer, J., & Willie, B. (2012, April 14). The Flipped Class: Myths vs. Reality. Retrieved from http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-flipped-class-conversation-689.php
psutlt. (2012, February 18). Flipping the Classroom- Simply Speaking [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26pxh_qMppE

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A “Both-And” Approach to Reading and Media/Technology

Background: This post is an assignment for my Innovations in Education class. It is in response to the various areas of education in which professionals take "either/or" mentalities and the hope that more can turn to a "both-and" mindset to combine the best of two practices. My particular topic discusses the marriage of teaching reading and media/technology literacy.  

The “either/or debate” surrounding the teaching of reading versus media/technology can for the better be transformed into a “both-and” discussion. Even prior to the Internet’s arrival, solid teaching of reading has been heavily connected with teaching writing and speaking skills, evidence that reading should never be taught alone. Now that the nature of real world reading, writing, and speaking has been fundamentally transformed by technology, we cannot neglect to teach with a “both-and” mentality. In order to prepare students for an evolving workforce and to create the affective context with which they will engage, technology, their first language, must be the foundation of our educational discourse.
            Teaching reading, writing, and speaking are bundled under the Langue Arts umbrella. Using two as a means to teach the third allows students to grow holistically in their command of language. For example, take the basic teaching strategy Think-Pair-Share in a critical analysis-reading lesson. Following the reading of a text, students might only have a surface level understanding, and this would be shown in shallow spoken responses. However, give students a provocative question to respond to in writing, and thoughts they didn’t know they had seep onto the paper. Kelly Gallagher nails this point in his 2011 book Write Like This, “When we write, we don’t simply spit out what we already know. Often, writing leads us to ideas we didn’t know we had. The very act of writing creates new thinking…” Thus, for high rigor results, writing is connected to reading. Following writing, students are more prepared to speak with a partner, small group, or the class, weaving in the third element. So, theory and practice show us that these three need to be taught cohesively, allowing students a strong command of each to use in the real world.
            If reading, writing, and speaking must be taught together, the package, like any curriculum, must also be taught in an engaging manner, and that means technology. In the past and many current classrooms, reading is taught using novels, poems, and short stories. Writing consists of the five-paragraph essay. Speaking is largely confined to speech class and face-to-face discussions. However, kids today read and write blogs, websites, and texts. They speak via avatar over the Internet. There is a cultural connection to technology. It is not only how they interact with each other but also how they will professionally communicate post graduation. Therefore, media and technology integration in teaching language arts serves a dual purpose: engagement and workforce preparation.
            First, technology and media integration speaks students’ language. Our society in general, not just young students, is rewiring our brains away from a conventional left to right reading process and toward an interactive, fast twitch mind set of scanning and synthesizing, the way one may scan a website in a zigzag eye movement. With research showing that our brains are malleable and not set with a fixed intelligence, a concept termed neuroplasticity, technology has reconditioned our thinking process through media bombardment (21st Century Fluency Project, 2012, p. 7). Nearly everyone with Internet access and a smart phone is transforming into a digital learner. In the 21st Century Fluency Projects 2012 article “Understanding the Digital Generation,” digital learners are said to “prefer receiving information quickly from multiple multimedia sources” (p. 11). Further, the article states that, due to this preference, “They’ve developed a ‘cultural brain’ profoundly affected by digital culture…, the brains of today’s children are changing physically and chemically” (p. 5). This is how we are acquiring knowledge outside the classroom and should therefore be how we present learning in school. Separating the two by providing a technology course and language arts course doesn’t provide them the skills they need to strengthen the digital learning mindset that already comes naturally to them and one that is quickly becoming commonplace in the workforce.
            The second purpose for the marriage of media/technology and Language Arts is the modes of communication our current students will use in their future jobs. Often we hear that many of the jobs our students will perform post-graduation have not even been created yet. What we do know about this future workforce is that they will use technology, both current and yet to be created, as a means to read, write, and speak. Gallagher (2011), citing responses from participants in many of his own presentations as well as valid research, comes to the conclusion that “writing well has become a gatekeeping skill across the workforce” (p. 3). Many teachers will provide various reasons for why their content is important in the real world. However, I agree with notion that regardless of a teacher’s opinion, it all adds up to a desire for our students to become functional members of society with a comfortable living wage. To do so, they need stable employment (which will become more and more technology based), something that cannot be attained without Language Arts skills. Teachers of reading, writing, and speaking must accordingly facilitate the learning with technology. 
            The end goal of education is to prepare students to be functional contributors in society, and to do this we must use technology in a manner that speaks to an evolving digital learning and teaches them communication skills necessary to compete in a technology driven workforce. A marriage of Language Arts skills and media/technology with a both-and teaching mentality rather than the either/or view is a pathway all literacy teachers should adopt. 

21st Century Fluency Project (2012). Understanding the Digital Generation keynote perspective. Retrieved from http://www.committedsardine.com/handouts.cfm
amybethhale. (2008, October 21). Did you know? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY
Gallagher, Kelly (2011). Write Like This. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
shackletonjones. (2010, August 2). affective_context.mp4 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-jIWHfFsjI

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tech Access Fears

My school district has us middle school Language Arts teachers moving to a block style, workshop model classroom this fall. I see this as an advantageous design to implement a lot of the technology concepts I'm psyched about from my EdTech courses.

However, one predicted hiccup has persisted in my mind as of late: tech access. Wikis, blogging, video/text synthesis, etc. are some major academic draws that can strengthen engagement and supplement the intended effects of the curriculum. Yet, I fear becoming the computer hog teacher. Even at a school with well above average tech quantity, I foresee battles for computer carts and lab space.

As exciting the prospect of utilizing student owned tech, I don't see the quantity there either. Particularly when one considers the reluctance of other teachers to allow devices in class. Many kids will leave them in their lockers or simply at home. Plus, they don't have the same impact as a laptop or tablet regardless.

Throw in the fact I'm facing a required PBL assignment to create evidence of professional development, and the tech access becomes that much more vital to my classroom.