Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Social Media in the Classroom

I think social media in the classroom is a great way to keep kids connected in ways they are (most likely) already using. Facebook and Twitter can be useful tools when used in meaningful ways. Facebook allows teachers and students to stay connected in groups to share information, assignments, and resources. Its forum-like abilities means that students can engage in meaningful conversation and respond to each other. Twitter can help students get and share small bites of information and follow hashtags that help network them with others discussing the same topic all over the world, including following current news and world events in real time, as they unfold. 

Most students are already using Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on everything else going on in their lives; having access to their classmates and teacher in an environment they're already comfortable using to continue the classroom conversation, get assignment reminders and ask questions 24/7 of other classroom members helps kids feel connected and means they are more likely to be involved and engaged in their learning. Those online conversations and interactions helps students to continue thinking about class topics even when they're not in class, and encourages them to participate anytime, anywhere. 

While there are a lot of pros to the idea of using social media in education, (with students 13 or older, the minimum age to create accounts on these networks) some groundwork needs to be laid in advance and expectations covered to address the "cons." Students need to be reminded that even when at home, they still must be respectful in these online spaces with their peers, as it is an extension of the classroom environment. (This can go hand-in-hand with digital citizenship lessons!) Teachers should create a separate, professional account to use in these situations as well, instead of friending students on their personal accounts. While some may think that students will use these networks inappropriately, or that allowing them to use Facebook and Twitter in class means they will spend class time using these networks for personal reasons, it's all about setting those expectations of access and use with students ahead of time, and outlining when and what is appropriate. When you integrate the use of these social networks in meaningful ways as part of their learning, you'll find that students WANT to engage in the assignments, because they're excited to be able to use the social networks they're already comfortable using in an educational way. Most students are already learning and exploring about world events and news from others through their social networks, so it'll be a natural extension that can encourage this desire to always keep exploring and learning. 

When used appropriately, social networks in the classroom can provide rich and meaningful experiences that students are comfortable with and can relate to, encouraging classroom participation and conversation even when they're not in the classroom.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Future Curation Tool to Explore: My Big Campus

Though I enjoy using Pinterest to curate resources, tools, professional development, and edtech articles, I have been fascinated by and interested in checking out My Big Campus for awhile now. I attended a workshop on it last fall, and am even more convinced after looking into further how bundles would be a great way for teachers to curate digital curriculum and create "digital textbooks" from a wide variety of online sources. Even better is that they can share those bundles with each other, helping to spread good sources and curriculum bundles not only across the district, but also with other teachers in the world who may be interested in what they have curated. I like that there are bundles already created, which are good starting points for a new teacher to My Big Campus. They can use those bundles as-is, or remix them and add/remove other resources to create their own bundles unique to their classroom needs. Bundles can easily be presented to students as resources to help facilitate their learning. I know that several teachers are using Edmodo at the high school, and I'm not sure what it would take to do a district-wide My Big Campus setup, but I love the idea of curating and bundling resources to share in a variety of ways.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The SAMR Model to Enhance Technology Integration

My summer of eLearning is moving right along, and this week we've been talking about authentic assessment and feedback. We know how important quality feedback is for students in order to push them to their furthest potential in the classroom, but this is true in an online environment, too. Walking hand-in-hand with this is authentic assessment. Online assessment must include more demonstrations of higher-level thinking to be truly authentic and meaningful. Online educators don't have the luxury of being in-person with students when they complete assessments, so multiple-choice assessments you may still see in the physical classroom won't work; are you assessing them on what they've learned, or if they've learned how to Google their answers? (Side note: authentic assessment and higher-level thinking should also be the goal in the physical classroom, too!)

I think this brings me to the topics that have hit the closest to home for me this summer. I really think the introduction of the SAMR model is going to be most beneficial for me to start with. We have a lot of teachers who are trying technology in the classroom, and/or who are eager to get started this next year now that we've introduced BYOD, but I think too many are under the impression that this simply means using technology for technology's sake or substituting paper worksheets for worksheets that can be filled out on a handheld device. We need to move away from the substitution level and progress up the SAMR model ladder to the redefinition level, and I think the SAMR model has given me the framework I can work from to help teachers not only see this progressive ladder, but also start to climb it.

Have you seen this pedagogy wheel by Allan Carrington? It's been updated recently to include the SAMR model around the outer band of the wheel, which is so awesome and helpful! Read more about the update that helps you integrate technology at Edudemic here.

I think as teachers begin to climb the SAMR model ladder towards more transformational integration of technology, they'll find it's a natural progression into more authentic forms of assessment AND make technology integration in their classroom more engaging for students. Right now, I think teachers feel like just having devices in the classroom and using them to do substitution level tasks is motivation enough and is engaging for students. And at the start, sure! Kids will be excited just because they're allowed to use their devices. But it's not enough. The use of technology in this way just isn't meaningful, and "using technology" in classrooms like that will get stale quickly, which will lead to frustration for both teachers and students. It's going to be hard to convince teachers to let go and let students have freedom of choice... but if they use the SAMR model as a framework to build on, they'll get there. Authentic assessment and true student engagement will naturally follow suit.

I feel like I may be rambling a bit, but I think what I've just realized is that the SAMR model is going to be the backbone of how I approach working with teachers this school year. It will help teachers who have been reluctant to take their first steps have a solid starting point, and those who are ready to transition further up the ladder will see how to take their integration to the next level. The hard parts, that is, effective (and ongoing!) student engagement and authentic assessment, will naturally fall in place as the teacher works their way up to using technology in a meaningful, redefined and transformational way, because at the redefinition level students have choice, which is motivating and engaging, and their choices will make way for teachers to authentically assess them.

I'm looking forward to putting some of the things I've learned this summer into practice with staff in the fall. I can't wait to help teachers learn how to use technology in a meaningful way that will help produce students who are equipped with the skills they'll need to tackle the 21st century workplace.