Flipping Out for Flipped PD!

As Brady Venables said in the #IMMOOC Google Hangout, “leaders go first.” Just as learners enter our classrooms daily with an assortment of learning styles/needs/interests, our teachers enter PD the same way. It is important to recognize one size DOES NOT fit all when it comes to all learning, including professional learning.

one-size-fits-all

As Brady Venables said in the #IMMOOC Google Hangout, “leaders go first.” Just as learners enter our classrooms daily with an assortment of learning styles/needs/interests, our teachers enter PD the same way.  It is important to recognize one size DOES NOT fit all when it comes to all learning, including professional learning. Yesterday, I flipped our first edtech PD. Inspired by many educators who are pushing the envelope and asking teachers to do the same with regard to innovative pedagogical models, I’ve committed to flipping each professional development model to maximize collegial collaboration, afford teachers more opportunities to think critically and reflect on their classroom practice, and to meet my learners (teachers) where they are, engaging their needs and interests individually.

Admittedly, I’ve been a proponent of flipped learning for more than five years, integrating it into my teaching and presenting nationally on the topic.  I think it’s important as a teacher and educational leader to model best practices for integrating technology and innovative pedagogy.

I recorded a video that combined about half of Eric Sheninger’s TED Talk called “Schools That Work For Kids” with the highlights of mobile learning research. I thought it was important that teachers understand that two things:

  1. Research supports technology integration in PK-12 environments
  2. Pedagogy must come first rather than sprinkling a layer of technology into an otherwise traditional, teacher-centered lesson.

Too often, I believe, teachers feel burdened by the need to integrate technology for the purposes of checking off that box in their lesson or an administrative observation. This type of technology use leads to using technology to accomplish low-level or more traditional tasks, like note-taking. This is not what our teachers want, and this is not what our students need! As Mr. Sheninger says so eloquently, “pedagogy first, technology second (if appropriate).”

With every faculty member (or most) entering the PD with a baseline knowledge of what the research says and hearing from a leader who has been integrating technology for almost a decade, we were able to roll up our sleeves to engage in meaningful discussions surrounding technology integration at our school.

The discussion centered around 3 questions or prompts:

  1. What is the goal for integrating technology into the curriculum?
  2. What does mLearning look like in your class?
  3. What goal(s) can your department set for integrating technology this year?

Although it was the end of a rainy day, I was impressed with the engagement and candor of the faculty when engaging in these discussions within their departments.  Leaving the professional development, I know that each teacher was given a chance to be heard within their department, whether brand new or a seasoned veteran, and that each department now has set a minimum of one department-specific edtech goal to strive for this school year.

Embarking on this flipped PD journey, I am holding true to several tenets:

  • Leaders must go first: In any classroom, we expect teachers to model for students.  Likewise, leaders must model for faculty, thus breaking down any impediments to innovation.
  • Provide time for the Flip: I try to send the flipped video before the weekend prior to the PD along with the goal of the upcoming PD.  This advanced notice gives teachers time to watch the video, while understanding the purpose and importance of previewing the material.  It’s important teachers understand what they should ‘get out’ of the professional learning time.
  • Flip for collegial collaboration: Don’t just send a video for the sake of sending a video! Understand that by removing the presenter-centric portion from the PD, the facilitators role changes to becoming a ‘guide on the side.’ That is the true reason for flipping-it gives teachers meaningful opportunities to engage in conversations that wouldn’t otherwise take place.

Engaged teachers, engaged conversations

This year, I embark on a new journey, as Director of Technology and Instruction at Salesianum School.  In this role, I function as part of a team comprised of the Principal, Dean of Academic Affairs, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and myself.  One of our team’s goals this year is to model best practices in teaching and learning in the digital age, in part by flipping our professional development. Our hope is that teachers will not only enjoy this professional learning model more than its traditional counterpart, but also engage in meaningful conversations throughout the year, creating a culture of collegial collaboration.

For the first attempt-our September faculty meeting-the team decided to use Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.” Admittedly, the week prior, the team kicked around many “intro” videos that would best frame what we want the faculty to take away, but we felt that Robinson’s TED Talk best challenged educators to think differently about their practice.

As we sent the video to our faculty, we provided them three discussion questions to frame the video.  The questions were:

  1. Does the culture of our school foster a spirit of curiosity, individuality, and creativity in our students? What can we do, in the classroom and at a school-wide level, to further encourage growth?
  2. In what ways does our school culture promote and value the teaching profession? What are our successes in creating a positive teaching environment, and in what ways do we need to grow?
  3. How can leadership more effectively promote a climate of possibility throughout the entire school community?

We structured the faculty meetings as conversations, around a conference room table, taking place during the teacher’s open period.  Each group of roughly twelve teachers spent the 45-minute period thinking critically about our practice, both from a classroom level and from a school level.  Throughout each of the six meetings, we heard from close to 60 of the 70+ teachers who attended, about five times the amount of people that would typically speak in a traditional faculty meeting.

Toward the tail end of each session, I presented the results of an edtech survey sent out in August, which provided me feedback into their beliefs and needs regarding edtech professional development.  Through this venue, teachers felt comfortable offering me feedback, asking questions, and reaffirming the structure of edtech PD this year.

Undoubtedly, through the act of flipping our professional development, we were able to engage teachers in meaningful conversations.

 

Harnessing Effective Education Technology

As Will Richardson writes, “putting technology first-simply adding a layer of expensive tools on top of the traditional curriculum-does nothing to address the new needs for modern learners.” (2013, p.10)  Changing the focus of education is necessary to allow the best learning for today’s students; the learning they need. There is no technology that will change the way a lesson is taught and received without first reforming the pedagogical lens from which the lesson was designed. Once a teacher has successfully transitioned to a student-centered approach, they can introduce the use of technology to the classroom.

Why wouldn’t we embrace this accessibility by bringing it into our nation’s classrooms?  What year are we preparing our students for, 1980?  According to Bill Ayres, “the new millennium and new conditions challenge us to start imagining an entirely new world and new approaches to production and participation.” (2012, p. 199) As educators, we need to develop ways to use this technology to reinvent teaching and learning for the digital age.

Consider that the current freshman in high school will graduate high school in 2016, college in 2020. [Technology] will permit students to not just ‘learn at their own pace,’ as it is often heard, but to learn more or less in whatever ways they prefer, as long as they are in pursuit of necessary and required goals.” (Prensky, 2010, p. 17) These students have grown up in an increasingly mobile world.  Prominent education researcher, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, writes, “Preparation for future work situations requires teaching learners to use their minds well.” (2010, p. 11) To do this effectively, educators can no longer ignore the accessibility of information provided by technology.  According to the National Education Technology Plan (2010), to successfully compete with other nations, “[the U.S.] Need(s) to develop inquisitive, creative, resourceful thinkers; effective problem solvers; groundbreaking pioneers; and visionary leaders.” (p. 27) The best way to develop theses skills is by adding the power of technology to student-centered pedagogy.

 

Spotlight: VoiceThread

This summer, I was turned on to the webtool VoiceThread through a class I took on Multimodality.  Though I had heard of the tool before, I was quick to dismiss it for lack of understanding its capability.

As the folks at VoiceThread say, it allows you to have “conversations in the cloud.”  Capitalizing on cloud-based software, designers of the tool are filling a need for people who would like to comment (and save the comments) online.  Once I found that not only was VoiceThread literally as easy as 1-2-3 but there was indeed “an app for that,” I was hooked.

With an increase focus on flipping the classroom, I have chosen to investigate this tool due to its ease of use, iOS device friendliness and cloud storage.  Check out my journey…

As you can see, VoiceThread has major implications for:

Recently, the impact of VoiceThread was fully felt when my 7th grade social studies class began collaborating with the 3rd grade class for a unit on debating.  After watching a lively debate in my 7th grade class, 3rd graders debated the answer to which is more important: rights and responsibilities?  Due to scheduling conflicts, my 7th graders were unable to watch the 3rd grade debate live.  Quickly thinking, the 3rd grade teacher recorded the debate to a flash drive.  However, this meant that my students weren’t able to comment…in comes VoiceThread…

I uploaded the video to VoiceThread and my students recorded comments to each team there.  The third grade teacher is planning to play these comments for her students in the upcoming days.

Stories like these could occur in any setting, whether in education or not, where time is a precious commodity.  With the help of VoiceThread, educators and professionals alike can move their conversations to the cloud…and store them for future reference!

Dive in!

Fair Use and Copyright in Education

Is it fair to use copyrighted material for educational purposes?

The short answer is it depends.  It depends on the context and situation for which the material will be used.  This, by its very nature, lends itself to more grey areas than 50 Shades of Grey.

Did you know copyright laws were developed to “promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge?”, according to U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

As a social studies teacher, I am often gathering resources from a variety of places for both classroom and professional development purposes with little time to pause to check for copyright licensing.  To avoid infringing a work’s copyright, I have developed a simple mantra guiding my use of others’ material, ‘Give credit where credit is due.’  However, its often not so simple…

A journey through the fair use/copyright jungle.

In preparation for the 2012-13 school year professional development days, I was asked to create and lead a PD opportunity on Flipping the Classroom, an emerging best practice in education.  The extent of my brushes with flipping have come from YouTube, Twitter and several blogs and listservs.  All of these resources had been compiled, created or curated by others.  In putting together my presentation, I decided to flip the PD through the use of VoiceThread which would house all of resources.  In doing so, I decided I would show a 3-4 minute clip from TechChef4u’s blog about flipping, a resource I used to gain my knowledge on the subject matter.  Storing this on the VoiceThread meant I had to screencast it and upload the .mov file as a video I “created.”

This experience caused me to wonder if I had been violating copyright or following fair use practices in capturing the video clip this way.  In the presentation, I decided it’s best to give credit by showing where the video (and others like it) had come from originally, the TechChef4u blog.

Though still unsure if my use of the video falls into the fair use and copyright laws, I have been able to discern it most likely doesn’t by examining Cornell University’s Fair Use Checklist.  My VoiceThread was not only educational, it was made for an entirely new purpose of professional development specific to my faculty.  Also, it uses only a small quantity of material where I am not the creator and that material is not central to the work.  Lastly, it was made for one-time, specific professional development distributed to a very limited number of faculty at my school.  Finally, according to the Center for Social Media’s Code for Best Practices of Use of Online Video, my use of the clip was part of the assembly of a new work (VoiceThread) and for the purpose of launching a discussion of how best to implement the pedagogy.  Using these two sources as a guide, I have concluded my use of the video clip was okay as it followed many parts of the fair use policy.

How about when guiding students’ creation?

As the technology use increases exponentially in my classroom and many others, I have come to use a few tools in order to be more compliant with fair use and copyrighting.

  1. Always credit the original source.  Include a link back to the original work if possible.
  2. When using media, try to use works with Creative Commons Licensing.  Use the Creative Commons Search when looking for picture, video and audio files.
  3. Only use small amounts of others’ work to enhance your own thoughts/ideas.

In my quest to discern the extent to which copyright and fair use guidelines apply to my own practice, I have come to three conclusions:

  • Though copyright law is aimed at promoting an exchange of ideas, it is in place to protect authors’ works.
  • When using unoriginal material for education purposes, it is best to adhere to the guidelines of fair use as much as possible.
  • In a world where there are constant productions and reproductions, it is important for educators to not only understand these principles but to also model and teach their students to follow the guidelines.

 

How have copyright and fair use affected your teaching and learning?

 

The Future of Learning

The future of learning is here…and surprise, it involves students using with technology.

Everyday, more and more K-12 institutions investigate adopting 1:1 technology or BYOD programs in hopes of providing their students with the most cutting edge teaching and learning.  However, with each decision, although generally a minority, there are a loud minority of teachers, families and districts hesitant to give students that power.

Since when is students having access a bad thing?!

After meeting with a majority of families for parent/teacher conferences this week, and hearing 10% or so vocalize their opposition to 0ur school’s one-to-one iPad program in some way, I wonder “are we marketing the technology correctly?”

You see, it isn’t about iPads vs. laptops, school controlled vs. BYOD.  Technology is the pathway toward changing education paradigms, as Sir Ken Robinson shows.  For decades, students have sat passively taking notes, raising their hands and waiting to be recognized to regurgitate facts.  What learning has this led to?

It is 2012.  Students have access outside of the school building, why not allow access within the walls of the one area where they can learn to use it in the right way.  It is the wave of the future!  No family, whether in opposition to use of EdTech or not, can emphatically deny their child will need to communicate effectively, collaborate with peers, be creative with technology and think critically in the future.  Education technology is the means in which to teach students the 4 C’s of 21st Century learning.

On Tuesday morning, after @edmodo being down from 2-10pm Monday, I was met with many 7th grade students who couldn’t do their homework due to the outage.  So I asked, “what would we have done if it weren’t through Edmodo?”  Many said they would have written it in a notebook.  Then one student chimed in…”I did the homework, Mr. Reichert,” he said.

“Oh really, how?” I said, skeptical of where this was heading.  “I posted it on Edmodo this morning, on my way to school, using the 3G from my cell phone.”  I congratulated him on how he thought critically to solve the problem.  This is truly mobile learning.

You see, with the technology, students are not only asked to learn the content presented in new and more engaging ways, they learn how to troubleshoot minor problems as they arise quite unexpectedly.  It is stories like these which consistently reinforce that using technology to aid learning is not only the right thing to do; it is necessary to do.

To the schools, teachers and families who are so afraid of the giving power to our students, I ask, “isn’t the job of schools to prepare students for success in the future.”

“If we teach students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -John Dewey

What are you waiting for?

#edupunk

This week I learned a new term…Edupunk.  Apparently I am an edupunk (or so I think).  In its most vague terms, Jim Groom’s term Edupunk refers to “an approach to teaching and learning which results from a Do-It-Yourself attitude that avoids mainstream tools.” (Wikipedia)  In my book, that is what Ed. Tech. advocates do on a day-to-day basis.  I had called it being progressive.  Others call it bucking the trend or going against the establishment.

Before discussing my own feelings toward Edupunk, I want to distinguish how I am defining the term.  Teaching with progressive pedagogy refers to implementing new tools which advocate for best practices in teaching and learning.  For example, a progressive, technology-infused teacher would use Edmodo to allow students to post their thoughts (as a means of formative assessment).  Edupunks go a step further.  Not only do Edupunks consistently tweak their lessons, read articles and implement emerging technologies to enhance their teaching and learning like progressives.  They also advocate for their fellow educators to do the same.  For this reason, I would call myself a blossoming edupunk.

With the recent rise in popularity of MOOC’s, PLEs and using social media in education, nobody can deny there is a movement building which advocates for progressives to turn edupunk.  But it isn’t that easy…

Like any tradition, right or wrong, it’s hard to step away.  Personally, in my short career in education, I have gravitated toward progressive thinkers such as Will RichardsonSir Ken Robinson and Scott McLeod, each of whom are edupunks in their own right, consistently advocating for change in the interest of the learners.

Image

Before going edupunk, ask yourself:

Do you feel comfortable stepping away from institutionally-supported tools (like LMS)?

I struggle with this.  Though I see no point in using the archaic LMS tools like Blackboard and web portals which act as gated databases to store info, I have come to appreciate newer, hybrid models like Canvas which combines the necessary features of an LMS (grade storing, comments, document sharing) with more web 2.0 tools (wikis, blogs, etc).  Of course, in essence, it is still an LMS.

I have read many articles and case studies advocating the use of blogs or ePortfolios to track and manage learning.  This is exciting and I would love to try it!  However, in order to be successful implementing such a progressive shift, I feel the change needs to be advocated from the top and accepted by all constituencies.

What are the implications of going edupunk for learners?

I’ve been racking my brain for three days trying to come up with negative impacts on learning when teachers or schools go edupunk.  I have come up with very little.  I feel that in addition to students learning the content presented, in a much more learner-friendly way, they would also learn the soft skills needed to succeed “down the road.”  (Wherever the road takes them)  However, until colleges and universities, parents and communities are comfortable with the new normal, it will remain a fringe (punk) concept.

Like the adventurous punk bands of the 1970s, blossoming edupunks need to band together to create a new genre for teaching and learning.

Until then, meet with fellow edupunks but attending an Edcamp near you…