Monthly Archives: November 2013

Screen Time Revisited

Recently, I posted about screen time. It seems to have become an even larger concern since the introduction of tablets, perhaps because they are becoming even more ubiquitous than laptops; perhaps because they are being used widely with young learners…

But, in my view, it is largely a misplaced concern. It is worrying about the wrong thing.

And I recently came across this article that seems to have similar views.

The article's author, Lisa Nielsen, is frustrated by recent research focused more on the devices than on the teaching strategies:

Conducting device-focused research makes as little sense as doing research on pens, papers, folders, book-binding, and three-ring notebooks. Where are the papers, studies and statistics on the negative impact of chalk dust, calling for blackboards to be limited? We must understand that it’s not about “the thing;” It is about what we do with the thing and what the thing can do for us.

She takes on several of the supposed concerns about screen time and students using technology, including childhood obesity:

It’s not the screentime that causes obesity! When we have kids locked up in classrooms all day, and locked inside with homework at night, how can we possibly blame the screens? If we want our kids to be fit, we can rethink homework, bring back significant recess, and let kids go out and play.

Much more in the full article, here.

 

The Evolving Face of Professional Development

Clearly, we've been thinking a lot lately about professional development.

Not only are we recognizing that we just don't have enough opportunities to do traditional “everyone in the same room” professional development, but we have started thinking differently about the purpose of workshops and other whole-group PD.

Until recently, I used to think of whole-group PD as the end. Teachers attend the PD session and they would leave being proficient at the skill taught in the session, ready and able to implement it well in their classroom.

That might be the case with some topics and some kinds of training, but not with the paradigm-shifting work we've been doing lately around Customized Learning, including teaching with iPads. This is definitely Second Order Change; we're doing something significantly or fundamentally different from what we have done before.

Now, I think of whole-group PD as just the beginning, an opportunity to introduce a group to a new idea and get them all “on the same page” before they begin working in their own classrooms at learning how to implement the skill well.

And that idea, the idea that these new skills are complex and need practice and that teachers need to be supported throughout their work to get good at them, has us thinking about workshops as just one small piece of professional development.

For us, professional development for our teachers needs to include some fluid combination of these components:

  • “Same Page” Trainings – These are introductory workshops, getting teachers on the same page about a new set of skills or strategies they will be working to implement.
  • Teachers Inventing – There is much to this new system that needs to be designed or invented (or at least adapted for our schools). The work teachers do to design, invent, prototype, refine, perfect, and share these systems and strategies is valuable professional learning for all of us.
  • Model & Examples – Classroom visits, videos, photos, and articles, etc., to help teachers answer the question, “But what does this look like in action?”
  • Mini-Lessons – As with teaching in the classroom, these are short, topic-specific, timely lessons, usually offered in response to an emerging need.
  • On-Demand Videos & Resources – Instead of having to wait for a workshop, or for the Tech Integrator or Instructional Coach to visit her classroom, these how-to articles, lessons, short courses, and videos are available to a teacher as she needs them.
  • Classroom Try-Outs – Play-Debrief-Replay – The chance to try a skill in the classroom, reflect on how it went and how it could be done better, and then try it out again with the improvements.
  • Coaching – a Technology Integrator, Instructional Coach, administrator, or peer who models lessons or strategies, co-designs or plans with the teacher, observes, and/or provides formative feedback to support the teacher's professional growth.
  • Focused Study Groups – Teachers select topics of interest, then work collaboratively with other teachers with the same topic on an inquiry project. Often includes creating a product that can be shared with and used by other teachers to learn about the topic.
  • PLC's, PLN's, & the Human Network – A Professional Learning Community or Professional Learning Network is the group of educators a teacher has access to in order to share experiences, ideas, and resources, as well as to ask questions and seek support. A teacher's PLN usually extends well beyond her school or district via the blogs and social networks the teacher builds and follows.

Of course, now we have to figure out how to do all of these well…

The Need for a Quality, Distributed Professional Development System

Maybe you're experiencing something similar…

We really noticed it last year when we introduced iPads to first grade.

We now had double the classrooms with iPads (having introduced iPads to kindergarten the year before), but still only one Elementary Tech Integrator, had access to half as many early release Wedensdays as the year before, and had a new K-12, district-wide initiative (Customized Learning) drawing on our PD and support resources, support people, and time…

One of our team did help us implement a Workshop Model/Study Group Model approach where teachers chose topics of interest and collaborated in study groups to learn about the topic and create a video or other product to teach others what they learned. It was well implemented, yielded nice results, got good reviews in teacher follow up surveys, but still proved insufficient for meeting our training and support needs.

It was made clear again last week as we worked on planning our workshop day for the Wedensday before Thanksgiving. Teachers requested so many topics (related to both iPads and Customized Learning) and we only have a couple hours in the afternoon. We can't even afford the time to bring all the 2nd grade teachers into the same room to make sure they know how to properly download their apps (a combination training and technical difficulty we've been having lately), or the growing list of other challenges/needs we're struggling to address. And when I talked with the Tech Director about the breakout sessions he would lead, he (justifiably) responded, “Only 45 minutes per session? That's hardly enough time to get started.”

And, frankly, we face the same issue with middle school and high school where we switched from 1to1 laptops to 1to1 iPads, and they're finding the work flows are different, and we probably have to revisit integrating technology in engaging ways before students get too far down the path of using them as “weapons of mass distraction.” (Hat tip to Tom March for coining the term.)

Our philosophy is that if you are asking teachers to do things that they have never experienced themselves as students (like leveraging technology for learning), we have the moral obligation to support the heck out of them.

The question quickly becomes, if we don't have enough tech integrators to go around, and we have hardly any “everyone in the same room” professional development time available to us, and a growing list of challenges and things we're noticing our teachers don't know how to do (because we haven't taught them), how the heck do we support the heck out of them…?

So, we will be working this year on building a quality, distributed professional development system. Our idea is to build a system where teachers can get the support they need pretty much when they need it, developed and maintained by a large group of contributors, so it doesn't all fall on the shoulders of a few. We have some ideas on how to make this happen, but it's a little too early to share them (You know we will, when they're ready!).

Here's what we're pretty sure the system will need to include:

  • A professional learning curriculum & continuum – What are the (clearly articulated) knowledge and skills we want our educators to become proficient in and what scopes and sequences make sense?
  • A system for collecting and sharing examples, models, and exemplars – The system would include artifacts such as photos, articles, and videos, to help educators answer the question “But what does this piece look like in action?”
  • Learning modules built around that professional curriculum – The learning needs to be “chunked” into manageable pieces.
  • Multiple approaches to deliver those modules – Workshops, articles, videos, iTunesU courses, iBooks, etc. What ever systems we use, they should allow us to easily update the resources and push the updates to our teachers using them (things do change and evolve quickly in this business).
  • A system to “certify” teachers – The system certifies what teachers become proficient at as they move through their professional learning and keeps track of their “certifications.”
  • A system for soliciting educators to help us build and deliver the PD system – We need a team of teachers and other school leaders, both within and without our school district, to be valued contributors. We need people to help us build the professional learning continuum, the modules and related resources, and to certify teachers as they develop proficiency in the professional learning. The work needs to be developed by or borrowed from multiple people, not just the tech team.

We find it all a little scary. It does mean giving up some control. We have to trust others to help us do this work. If it is a piece that the tech integrators, the Tech Director, or I feel strongly about, then clearly we need to be part of the team that develops that piece. Otherwise, we need to trust the teachers who develop it. We can certainly review drafts of their work and offer feedback, but frankly there aren't enough of us to go around, and there is more work to do than we can actually do by ourselves.

Have any of you done some of this work? What have you tried? How'd it go? What worked and what didn't so well? What's your advice to us?

And so this chapter of our journey begins…

 

Not All Screen Time Is Created Equal – Young Children and iPads

Having a 1to1 iPad initiative in Kindergarten for almost 3 years (and currently in 1st & 2nd, as well), it's not surprising that we have heard a lot of comments and questions from parents about screen time.

The concern, of course, is that by having iPads in the primary grades (and especially 1to1, not just shared) young students are getting too much screen time.

It's understandable given the screen time research that has been around for a couple decades, mostly focused on children's television watching habits.

But in 2010, David Kleeman, President of the American Center for Children and Media, wrote, “A Screen Is a Screen Is a Screen'” Is a Meme, putting forth the idea that not all screen time is the same. Kleeman comments on at least two distinguishing factors. The first is the quality of the content. Certainly watching Sesame Street is of a different value than watching Tom & Jerry cartoons.

The second is how active (mentally or physically) the screen time is. Using educational or creation/productivity apps might be a better use of screen time than watching certain videos or playing certain games. Or as Kleeman points out, “David Pogue says, 'You can't play Kinect sitting down, and that's a plus.'” Kleeman refers to these as “lean forward” and “lean back” screen time. Lean back screen time is passive, while lean forward is active.

In fact, most of the screen time research and position papers seem to predate any significant introduction of the iPad, it's child-friendly touch interface and the plethora of educational and creation/creativity oriented apps (e.g. Kaiser Family Foundation 2010; American Academy of Pediatrics 2010; Common Sense Media 2011). It is easy to forget just how new an educational device the iPad really is!

There is a more recent position statement, jointly from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, which brings a balanced (or at least timely) view to the potential role of technology in educating young children.

The paper includes these position statements:

“Effective uses of technology and media are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give the child control; provide adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning.”

And…

“When used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities.”

To be clear, no one is arguing that there is no need to be thoughtful about how we leverage iPads for young student learning, nor is anyone arguing that iPads should replace hands-on, active learning (both are fears I sometimes hear expressed).

But I do want to state explicitly that the current screen time research does not contradict the (thoughtful) use of iPads with primary grades students, and in fact, there are productive, educative, developmentally appropriate uses.

 

I want to add as an aside the importance of training and professional development for teachers and other school leaders, if we are going to make primary grades iPads work. If the secret is “thoughtful” use of iPads as a learning tool, and where this post is directed to those who may want to respond to (erroneous) claims that screen time research suggests that young children should not be using iPads, I want to also share another position statement from the NAEYC paper. Educational leaders who recognize the educational value of primary grades iPads need to fully support teachers striving to meet that vision:

“Early childhood educators need training, professional development opportunities, and examples of successful practice to develop the technology and media knowledge, skills, and experience needed to meet the expectations set forth in this statement.”

 

Thanks to Sue Dorris for her contributions to this post.

Another Wonderful iPads in Primary Grades Institute Completed

It has been a (VERY) busy fall, but the (wonderful!) culmination of it all was last week's Leveraging Learning Institute.

This was Auburn School Department's third year running the institute focused on lessons learned from our first-in-the-country iPads in primary grades initiative. We had about 130 participants, mostly from across Maine, but also from North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

We had some nice press coverage:

Look over the whole Institute website here, but you might be especially interested in the resource documents from this year's sessions (we're still posting resources, so check back in a week or so to see what other resources are shared) or info about our presenters.

We don't have any details for you yet, but we have already started planning the next Leveraging Learning Institute…

Improving Battery Life in iOS 7

Maybe you're in the same boat I am.

I updated to iOS 7, and even bought a new iPad Air, and I'm just not seeing the battery last the way it used to.

So I've been looking for ways to improve my battery life. I thought I would share some of them here, since friends and colleages have mentioned being frustrated with battery life, too. So, here's what I'm doing to extend my battery life (these should work on most any iOS deviceusing iOS 7).

The ones I was aware I should be doing:

  • Shut off Bluetooth, cellular, or wifi when you don't need them (especially shut off cellular when traveling through rural areas where the phone may be constantly searching for a signal or a carrier and you arent likely to have a connection, or get a call anyway)
  • Only allow the apps you REALLY want using location services access to location services (things like maps, Find my iPhone, Find my Friends, or IMDB – so it can find theaters near you for movie times!)
  • Only allow the apps you REALLY want sending you notifications to send notifications

The ones that were new to me (and I was glad to learn about!):

  • Reduce 3D motion (Paralax and moving backgrounds)
  • Turn off Frequent Locations and location based ads
  • Reduce the number of places Spotlight will search
  • Turn off Background App Refresh (most apps become dormant when you aren't using them, but this feature lets them keep working in the background)
  • Turn off AirDrop when you aren't using it

The articles I found also recommended shutting off Siri and Background App Updating, but frankly, I like those features too much to shut them off!

I found these articles especially helpful (and they will tell you how to do the things I did, as well as some others):

What other strategies do you use to extend your battery life?