Techs & Balances

“Yes, kids love technology, but they also love legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.”   – K.G. 1st Grade Teacher 


In my classroom, there are eight Ipads making it a 2:1 student to iPad ratio. Still with a 2:1 ratio it’s important to be aware of the challenges of unnecessary use and it’s pivotal that I explicitly stress a balance early on.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I understand that the majority of my students are using an iPad for learning for the first their very first time.  My job as an educator when it pertains to rolling out these digital devices relies upon, the emphasis on balance, the promotion of ownership and shared responsibility,  and finally, deliberate and delicate approach dedicated to unraveling the misconceptions with both students and parents.

Each our classroom iPads have two student’s names stickered onto the back. The Ipads are enclosed in Kinder friendly and Kinder proof colored coded cases. Even with a 2:1 ratio, the students are still able to develop a sense of ownership over their devices. For starters, they have agreed to all signed the responsible use agreement / Ipad essential agreement that we came up with at the beginning of the year, agreeing to be respectful, responsible. In additioneach student also has their own personal folder on their device. That folder is used for them to store their iTime work.

I think the 2:1 ratio works well with this age group for two reasons. First, it promotes group work when we are researching, recording, collecting evidence, or helping one another on big projects.  Second, when doing independent work, such as when they add content to their individual iTime folders, it ensures that only a portion of them are handling iPads for a short period of time. These folders, saved on the iPad, allow my students preserve their work and showcase the progress of their passion projects over an extended period of time. Individual iTime folders also provide them have more opportunities to have a voice in what and how they learn.

Although it’s not 1:1 in my classroom Karen Kane 41 Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Your 1:1 Classroom still had some excellent takeaways. Specifically,  Reorganize your classroom space and flipping lessons.  


Mindful Moderation & Managment

When it comes moderation both the age of my students and the 2:1 ratio are both in my favor, however, real management has to be built over time. At the beginning of the year, I emphasized the importance of ensuring that my students understand that their time on the iPad is for learning purposes only. It has been explicitly stated in class over and over that the iPad is for creating, recording, and researching.  Apps on our iPad are only centered around open-ended creation tools such as Book Creator. Recordings are done through the use of SeeSaw or the camera app. Research is done by using Google Voice and asking questions through Google’s mobile app.  What they might do with an iPad at home is vastly different then what they do with them here. This took some time to explain and enforce as due to their age, many of my students have never used an iPad in this way before.  This works in my favor but it also extremely vital that as a role model, and one who might be introducing this tool for the first time in their lives, that I promote positive and purposeful use.

At this age, it’s equally important to Educate the parents for the same reasons.  By getting involved with events such as  Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings or informal Q & A workshops like Kim Cofino mentions in her post Living with Laptops from YIS,  you get everyone on the same page and alleviate any misconceptions and fears about passive screen time. Parents can help model similar structures and limits at home, reinforcing that home-school connection. As educators, we can introduce them to resources from Common Sense Media.  They have an excellent site that has a whole section on parenting in the digital age.  The following snippet, taken from the article, “Will my child be left behind if he/ she doesn’t use technology?”, sums up how well Common Sense does in assisting and alleviating parental concerns.

“Whether kids are no-tech by choice or circumstance, it’s important that all kids are prepared for success in a technology-filled world. Even if you prefer a tech-light environment, you can still talk to your kids about healthy media habits, such as balancing screen time, and digital citizenship, such as being nice to people online

By setting the tone early on for both parents and students  I’m ensuring that everyone involved a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, thus supporting learning both on — and off — the device. 


Tech Breaks

Zooming out a bit from my Kindergarten lens, I realize that this is an issue that can potentially affect students at all grade levels. In all actuality, it’s probably a lot easier to curb the tech obsession with early years and lower primary students than it is for teens in secondary school.

“Today’s note passing is text messages.”  writes  Larry D. Rosen   in his article, The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks ”  Later in his piece, Larry goes on to list a staggering fact from the Nielsen Company, “the average teen sends and receives 3,705 text messages per month, which translates to about 10 per waking non-school hour or about one every 6 minutes.”  Now, I’m not sure how many notes you wrote and passed in high school, but that statement sounds a bit excessive.  Rosen goes on to cite a national report by the Pew Internet and American Life  Project found.  stating that 58% of teens whose school bans cell phones have sent a text during class and 43% send texts at least once a day during class

As a member of the school’s technology committee, we have discussed the idea of rolling out Tech-Free Zones across our campus and unplugged time throughout the day. There have been talks to introduce and implement these new boundaries across the whole school at the beginning of the next academic year. Wondering now about similar resistance and backlash like the stats state above, I’m now leaning towards another unique strategy to curb teen tech enthusiasm.  Taken from the NPR article titled,  “Should College Professor GIve “Tech Breaks” in Class? , the specific method mentioned brings a whole new meaning to the term “tech break.” In this case, students are given 1-minute breaks to check in (or check out) on their mobile device. It’s certainly an interesting approach and one I’d like to run by tech committee colleagues.

It may seem radical at first but by allocating specific time for students to get their tech fix, the teacher is actually making a point to harness student attention on his watch, placing value on both his time and his students.  Periodic breaks seem to be far more reasonable then shaming or micromanaging.  If delivered consistently, I could really see this helping to maintain student focus. It’s a deal that pays respect to both parties and acknowledges the ever persistent elephant in the room.


Balancing Brain Evolution & The Digital Revolution

The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls attention, interest, motivation, and decision-making, does not fully develop until age 25. Therefore there’s still a major responsibility for teachers, teens, and parents to remain mindful of self-regulation as well as the impact that too much tech can have on the developing brains.  The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a manuscript titledThe Digital Revolution and Adolescent Brain Evolution which goes into great detail on consequences and implications for adolescents in the digital age. It’s well worth the read and applicable to all of us.

Focused attention and participation as an age-old problem in Education, the inclusive of digital devices have certainly raised the stakes. Our fast-paced culture and ever-increasing infatuation with productivity haven’t helped either.  Implementing positive habits at a young age may be effective in the early years but as children, technology, and society continue to develop and change, we must aim for a respectful balance that addresses our needs and pays tribute to a shared responsibility to maintain a human to human connection.


Final Wonderings?

Are “Tech Breaks” the antidote for teens?

This week’s final wondering is a call back to a question from a #KchatAP that I recently hosted on Twitter.


 

Principles for the Paradigm Shift

Learning looks so different now that it’s almost unimaginable to predict what the education / classroom instruction will look like in ten to twenty years time. Christiaan Henny from eLearning Industry attempted to have a stab at it here and below is a snippet. He states,  “Students will be learning outside, equipped with different devices, listening to a teacher of choice. Skills will not be assessed on paper but based on their performance in the field.”  Its certainly not 2001 Space Odyssey futuristic as some of these changes have already become changes that have already become common in the classroom but it is an overall shift from the current industrial approach. 


The Future is Now

In another article, titled,  The Classroom is Obsolete, It’s Time for Something New writer Prakash Nair proclaims that “The classroom is a relic, left over from the Industrial Revolution, which required a large workforce with very basic skills”  Prakash then goes on to make mention of a “universal list of education design principles for tomorrow’s schools.”  After poring over them and finding myself in agreement with the compilation, I couldn’t help but wonder how #FutureReady I was regarding my own teaching.  Therefore I used these dozen design principals as an archetype for my own self assessment by looking for connections between each principle and what’s occurred in my Kindergarten classroom. They are as followed :

1) Personalized;  I believe that this not  only to the learning but also the student’s learning spaces. It’s important for us as educators to allow our students to have a voice and input in set up and design of the classroom. When you do this you develop student ownership and allow them to see that the classroom as an evolving organism that can be changed to best suit our learning needs. 

In addition, iTime offers my students with a chance to create and work on projects that they are personally passionate about.

(2) Safe and Secure;  Establishing class essential agreements and a communication charter has helped my students develop a culture of speaking freely and openly without judgement. 

(3) Inquiry-Based;  Packing an inquiry cycle (like Kath Murdoc’s for example) and discussing big ideas from the PYP patiences and persistence but once children become familiarized with the language through hands on experiences overtime they begin to use the language and make stronger connections. 

(4) Student-directed; The removal of the teachers desk in our classroom was a massive symbolic move that helped my students understand that learning just doesn’t only have to come from the teacher. By stressing that there is no center-point of the classroom, it wanted to make it clear that every spot in the room and every person in the room offers a unique and equal chance to learn something.

In addition, whenever I can I like to encourage and empower  students to teach other students by sharing their discovers or prior knowledge with their peers. 

(5) Collaborative;  When students from different grade levels come together to work on a common task it allows both parties involved to develop their interpersonal, organizational, and communication skills.  Allowing older students to come and work with younger students, like depicted in the tweet below, also promotes empathy and the concept of perspective. 


(6) Interdisciplinary;  Fluid learning Spaces, big ideas and open-ended questions with a conceptual based focus. Looking for learning in all aspect of our daily life. Transdisciplinary

(7) rigorous and hands-on;   To me this is about taking learning beyond the traditional four walls, making it multi-sensory, and authentic. At UWCT we’re fortunate to life amongst a lush outdoor learning environment,  that we try to utilize as much as possible. In addition, I think it’s also about challenging students to step out of their comfort zone. This year, I’ve made a conscious effort to extend the learning beyond the classroom wall and through a variety of of kinesthetic learning opportunities.

(8) Embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations;  To me this is all about growth mindset. To help my students learn about perseverance and the beginning stages of adopting such a mindset, we started by watching and discussing this video about Austin’s Butterfly. If you haven’t seen it already, check it out.  It’s great!

This year, I’ve also begin giving my students more opportunities for them to self-reflect on their own learning.  Allowing the students to set their own goals and celebrate their individual learning accomplishments is an effective way to promote metacognition while maintaining high expectations.


(9) Environmentally conscious;   This is a large part of our UWCT Mission Statement.  Doing our part in the promotion sustainable development this year we’ve have created and installed a garden, a compost, and invited the Phuket Farmer’s Club to come in for a two work shop to teach us more about sustainable farming and development. 

(10) offering strong connections to the local community and business;

 I’m a big advocate for service learning. This year the Kindergarten students at UWCT have developed a pretty unique friendship with the elderly residents of the Phuket Nursing Home. It’s been a rewarding, authentic, and meaningful experience for everyone involved. 

In addition, as mentioned above this year we’ve reached out to the Phuket Farmer’s Club to help them teach us how to transform our outdoor learning space into a place for sustainable farming. 


(11) Globally networked;  Clearly this has been my biggest blindspot  out of all the principles. I’ve thought it over many times but never got any Global Connections off the ground as from the participation in a few Padlets, a Global Read Aloud.

I do, however, think that my recent infatuation with Flipgrid will lead some to some big ideas centered around global connections. My students might be too young for the first ever #Flipgrid marathon but for anyone else interested have a look below!

For those like me, who are still working out how to get started connecting your classroom,  Kim Cofino has written a great piece titled “A step-by step Guide to Global Collaboration.” Have a look!

and (12) setting the stage for lifelong learning – It seems clear that the promotion of an interest in lifelong learning starts with the teacher tapping into the student’s passions then combining that with the above principles and allocating the right resources.  Having said that, however, in this ever advancing age of information, how do you prepare students to become life long learners when we’re not sure how we will be teaching and learning in 5, 10, 15 years time?   


Future Ready??

So, back to what and how teaching might look like in ten to twenty  years time?

Noticeably absent from both  Christiaan Henny  and Prakash Nair lists is any mention of virtual reality. VR and also, AR (augmented reality) is quickly making it’s way into classrooms world wide.   I’ve dabbled with some AR  apps myself namely Augment and AR Flashcards.  Last year, through the use of  Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions, I introduced VR to some of my Early Years students so we could do some exploring  under the sea, for our unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet.  What difference a year makes now  the Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive are completly changing the game and taking VR to a whole new level.  The VR arms race between Google and Apple is execrating a warp speed, both companies are primed to position themselves as the major players in the VR education.

The optimist in me thinks that virtual reality in the classroom will be blending together the best of the real world, the best of the internet and online applications.  How we find and stratal that balance may be our biggest challenge yet.


The Great Beyond: 

There’s no doubt we’re approaching the tipping point of the paradigm shift. Technology has advanced so rapidly that we as a society cannot keep up with it. The fusion of tech and our daily lives will grow more prevalent with each coming year. Personalized learning pods with the help of MOOCs and cloud computing will continue transcend traditional classrooms.  Digital badges will also help further personalize and enhance the individual learning amongst students. Taken from the article  Badges in Learning: Threading the Needle Between Skepticism and Evangelism  David Theo Goldberg weighs the pros on cons of badges and states that Badges in short are a means to enable and extend learning. They need not be behavioral lures so much as symbols of achievement, expressions of recognized capacity otherwise overlooked.

The overarching concept here is that as we continue to equip ourselves and our students with the best resources and tools, the reality is, we cannot forget about our human connection.  In order to best prepare for the future we must remain open-minded, adaptable, kind, caring, and curious so that we can embrace the imminent change of education together. 


Final Wonderings?

As the hardware and the software continue to develop  VR bundles become more mainstream and more affordable, I could help but wonder:

How soon do these headsets become as common as a class set of ipads?

and

How will this immersive technology disrupt and already changing landscape? 

In regards to Digital Badges, I want to explore more but I’m wondering how to make them relevant for Kindergarten students?   Any ideas??

Thanks!

@NicholasKGarvin

Purposeful Pedagogy with Tech as a Tool

It’s true that technology has transformed the way we teach and the way students learn. It has revolutionized the world with the way we receive and delivery information.  Its impact is monumental, there’s no doubt, but understanding how technology can be used effectively and purposefully in the classroom now becomes the focus.  It’s important to think of Technology as a tool to help learning ensue. Having said that, it’s also important to remember that the tools have to work for us, we don’t work for them.

Know your purpose

“Have I started with purpose and pedagogy instead of the tech?” It was this question from Drew Perkins’, 15 Questions To Ask About Tech Integration In Your Classroom that really stuck with me. It’s not about the technology, it should always be about the learning.  We as educators should be mindful of their use of technology within the classroom.  Are we using it as a tool to drive teaching and learning? I found Drew’s article to be a helpful integration barometer, right up there with  TPACK  and the SAMR model.

Last week, while perusing on Twitter, I came across this invaluable ISTE related Google Doc thanks to @techwatts.

This is a wonderful resource for teachers as it’s centered around Content & Learning Targets for students.  Whether it’s SAMR, TPACK  or another supportive and reflective tool for integration,  it’s important to remember a way to identify the purpose behind the inclusion and that purpose should always be what is best for student learning.   Remember the tool should work for us, both teachers and students. The ISTE Standards and Essential Conditions are also key to navigating one’s learning journey into proper tech integration.

Using Technology Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re Innovating 

Technology in the classroom is not about buying and using the cool new thing. A common misconception amongst both teachers and students is new tech = automatic innovation. Simply using ______ (insert latest app/device here)________  doesn’t necessary mean you’re innovating.  Technology shouldn’t be an end in itself.  Don’t allow yourself to be wooed by the latest tech toys. What might be best for consumers might not always be best for our students.

Also,  Innovation is not about using the latest hardware, software, or following the latest techie trendy.  Innovation is a mindset. As @gcouros pointed out with his new book.  George’s infographic helps provide a brief and clear snippet below.

For me, it’s these eight characters that make up a great teacher and effective tech integrator.  As a kindergarten teacher,  I want technology to inspire my students.  I use technology to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment. I’m reflective of my use and when a problem arises I include my student’s into the process of solving it. I want them to become creators of their own learning journey and understand the importance of responsible use and their digital footprint.

We are 17 years into the 21st century, sooner or later tech skills,  an innovators mindset and attitudes towards integration will become normalized the same way the digital revolution has lead to the evolution of learning. ISTE, COETAIL, and people like George Couros have already played a large role in this.  It’s up to us now, as educators, to use the tools provided, and technology as a tool, to drive student achievement and prepare them to become lifelong learners in today’s digital world.   

Final Wonderings?

What tool do you use to evaluate yourself when integrating tech into the classroom, SAMR, TPACK or something other? How do you use technology as a tool to work for you? 

@NicholasKGarvin