Category Archives: Lead4Change

Lead4Change

12 Professional Learning Curriculum Buckets for Teaching and Learning with Tech

As we think about our teachers becoming highly skilled at using technology in the classroom, we could certainly generate a very long list of abilities, approaches, tools, apps, strategies, and other competences we’d like them to get good at.

But there are certain behaviors/professional learning that have been linked to fostering a quality, learning-focused 1to1 technology initiative. These become our 12 buckets that would make up a professional learning curriculum for teachers.

Four of those buckets focus on teachers’ being able to use the technology themselves and create the conditions in the classroom for students to use the technology for learning.

  1. Personal Use: Can teachers use the device themselves as their own productivity and learning tool?12 Professional Learning Buckets for Learning Through Technology
  2. Classroom Management for Tech: How can teachers insure that students are focused and on-task when using technology in the classroom (especially when every student has a device in front of them!)?
  3. Student Motivation & Engagement: How do teachers ensure that students are mentally and physically engaged? How can teachers create the conditions for student self-motivation?
  4. Teaching Digital Citizenship: How do (all) teachers help students learn how to use technology safely and appropriately? (This isn’t just the responsibility of the computer teacher!)

And 8 of those buckets are the pedagogical approaches that make up “Powerful Uses of Technology” (notice that they focus on educational goals, not technology tools):

  1. Tech for Foundational Knowledge: How can we help students learn the basics?
  2. Tech for Practice and Deepening Understanding: What tools and resources help students develop some fluency with those basics?
  3. Tech for Using Knowledge: How can we contextualize learning and make learning engaging and meaningful? How can students use their knowledge? What is the role for creating and creativity, and for project-based learning.
  4. Tech for Learning Progress Management: How do we keep track of student learning? Promote a transparent curriculum? Make learning progressions clear? Help students navigate their learning? Maintain evidence of mastery?
  5. Tech for Personalizing Learning: How does technology help us tailor the learning to the student?
  6. Tech for Supporting Independent Learning: How can technology help the student do more on their own and need the teacher less?
  7. Tech for Assessment and Evidence of Learning: How can technology help us capture what students know and can do?
  8. Tech for Home/School Connection: How can technology help us stay better connected to parents?
Remember, we’d like to promote and encourage these buckets because they focus on creating quality learning experiences for students, not simply focusing on tools, skills, and devices. This keeps learning first, ensures we are talking about learning, not the tech, and promotes the idea of “More Verbs, Fewer Nouns.”
 
How might the 12 Buckets serve your school?

Not All At Once: Breaking Your Initiative Into Phases

Leading large-scale school change is a challenge. These kinds of initiatives are often complex and include numerous parts and components. Further, the initiative often includes practices educators, the folks responsible for implementing the initiative, have never experienced themselves as learners. Such initiatives often seem overwhelming to teachers!

While I was with Auburn schools, one lesson we learned from working with other districts further along implementing Customized Learning (proficiency-based learning) than we were was “not all at once!” Although there are many components to this school reform effort, following a certain sequence seemed to lead to successful implementation more often than other processes or approaches.

We teased out those lessons about sequence into phases for implementing Customized Learning and started applying them to plans for training and supporting teachers, as well as plans for implementing a statewide requirement for a proficiency-based diploma.

Seeing the practical benefits of breaking our proficiency-based learning work into phases led us to also consider our work around learning through technology within a 1to1 environment, and we created phases for implementing technology for learning, as well.

Although there is flexibility in how districts implement each phase, or even in how they might break an implementation into phases, there seems to be real, practical advantages to thinking of a complex initiative in phases. Each phase focuses on building the capacity of teachers to implement the key components of a complex initiative, but by making the transition manageable by breaking it down into doable steps.

The Power of Breaking an Initiative into Phases (as viewed from the example of Proficiency-Based Learning)

The Phases – Customized Learning

The Phases – Technology for Learning

Are We Talking Technology or Are We Talking Learning

More and more, educators are recognizing that the true value of technology isn’t learning how to use the tools and devices, but rather using the tools and devices to learn (see here, here, and here).

Even a recent meta analysis of the research on 1to1 learning environments shows that when the studies focused simply on the presence of technology, there was no real improvement in learning. Yet, when a study focused on how the devices were used, certain types of use (those focused on effective instructional practices), there was a real improvement in learning.

We will never be successful having our technology help improve student learning if we continue to primarily discuss the technology.  Our technology conversations must focus on the kinds of learning we want for students. After all, if the goal of our technology initiative is simply to make sure that students have technology, when we are successful, all we have are students with devices (and perhaps distracted students at that!).

The good news is that Maine’s statewide BrightBytes data on technology and learning show that students and teachers feel they are encouraged to use their technology for learning:

Teachers and students encouraged to use tech for learning

But those data also show that, although we’ve done a pretty good job of teaching teachers and students how to use the devices and tools, we have a ways to go for implementing those tools and devices for learning:

Knowing skills and using for learning

So, our state data reinforce the need for our push for “More Verbs, Fewer Nouns” – our need to talk less about the devices and tools and more about the way we want to use them.

How can you tell if you are talking about Tech or talking about Learning?

You are talking about tech when you talk about the following:

  • Cost of devices
  • How easy it is (or isn’t) to manage
  • Wanting same device/platform K-12
  • Teaching skills or about the tools (out of context)
  • Tips and Tricks PD
  • Latest Gimmick/Gadget PD

And you are talking about learning when you talk about the following:

  • Specific academic content focus
  • Used meaningfully for learning task
  • Beyond facts to deeper understanding, to creativity and complex reasoning
  • Student engagement
  • Teaching tech skills as foundation to completing learning activity
  • PD on good instruction (with tech)

There is no doubt that we need “noun people” as part of ensuring technology is used purposefully for learning. We still need a technology infrastructure to support the learning activities for which we want to use technology. In the Maine Learning Technology Framework, they refer to that as Learning-Focused Access.

In Taking Classroom Tech Use to the Next Level: Specific Traits to Look For, the author points out that Alan November recommends six questions to determine if technology adds any value to the learning:

  1. Did the assignment create capacity for critical thinking on the Web?
  2. Did the assignment reach new areas of teaching students to develop new lines of inquiry?
  3. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
  4. Is there an opportunity for students to publish (across various media) with an opportunity for continuous feedback?
  5. Is there an option for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
  6. Were students introduced to the best example in the world of the content or skill?

OoAnd the author points out, “Three of the most important traits they look at when evaluating a lesson are whether it is discipline specific, promotes critical thinking and whether technology is used in transformative ways.”

One approach to making sure that your education technology conversations are well grounded in learning is to create a shared vision for learning with a diverse group of stakeholders (at least including educators, students, parents, and community members). That shared vision isn’t a vision for the school or a vision for education technology, but rather a vision for the kids of learning experiences the school community want for its students.

Here are two easy-to-implement strategies for creating a shared vision for learning. Neither takes a lot of time to implement. One asks participants to think about a preferred future for children they care about and then the kinds of learning that they would need to be doing now to achieve that perfected future. The other asks participants to think about a good learning experience and then about the characteristics of that experience.

 

 

Let’s Make Tech All About Learning

I have found myself lately in several conversations about the price of technology. The conversations have focused on laptops and tablets and folks wondering if we could find devices that were less expensive.

And I realized that, in their thinking, all laptops and devices were created equal, in such a way that the only variable is cost (and, if this were true, I would have to agree).

But it made me realize that we were having the wrong conversation completely. The conversation shouldn’t be about price; it should be about value.

Further, I realized that we miss the boat on the value conversation when we spend too much time talking about the technology and the tools, or about providing technology and procurement. We need to spend most of our time talking about what kinds of learning we would like to make happen with the technology. You can only get to the value conversation when you can discuss what you want to do with the devices and compare different devices around how well suited they are to those purposes.

I used to teach with a really wonderful professor of elementary educational technology, named Ralph Granger. He used to say, when you go to the hardware store to buy a new drill bit, you don’t really want a new drill bit. You want a hole. When it comes to educational technology, we need to talk less about our “drill bits” and more about the “holes” we want.

Or as Marc Prensky says, we need more verbs and fewer nouns.

And, as TPACK reminds us, when we align our educational arrows, we are talking about content, pedagogy, and technology (What instructional strategies might we use to teach this learning target, and what role could our devices play?).

I believe that part of that conversation needs to be around student engagement and motivation.

So I was very happy to see that the National Association of School Boards of Education is pointing out that student engagement needs to be a critical criteria for judging the value of our educational investments (including technology). One article on their recent report starts, “Education is a $600 billion a year industry, but that investment means little unless students are physically and mentally present and engaged to benefit from it.”

How are you prepared to help make our educational technology conversations focus more on learning?

 

Shared Visioning in Action

I recently started a new job: Policy Director of the Learning Through Technology Team (LTTT) at the Maine Department of Education. It’s essentially the state tech director position, and its largest responsibility is managing the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI – 1to1 in 7th & 8th statewide – since 2001! – and making it easy for districts to buy in at other grades), and supporting schools as they think about how technology can support learning.

I have a small (but awesome!) team of 7 colleagues that help make all this happen. If you follow this blog, you already know I’m a strong believer in “Leading Beside” which includes both shared leadership and working from a shared vision. So it won’t surprise you that one of the first things I did with my new team was set aside a morning for us to build a shared vision.

We used the same process that Bette Manchester introduced to districts at the very beginning of MLTI: To think of a preferred future for young people we care about (the Preferred Future), then think about about what students need to start doing today to get ready for that Preferred Future (the Vision for Learning), then think about what teachers, schools – and the Learning Through Technology Team – need to do today so students can do what they need to do (the Strategic Plan). (A process Bette would credit to Bruce Wellman’s work.)

Building a Preferred Future

We started by thinking about a young person we care deeply about. Then thought out into the future, beyond middle school, beyond high school, beyond college or job training or military, and then a few more years, until that person was getting settled in their jobs and, perhaps, their family.

And then we thought about three questions:

  • Where would we like them to be able to work?
  • Where would we like them to be able to live?
  • Where would we like for them to be able to learn?

Here’s what the team generated:

These charts represent the Team’s Preferred Future.

 

Identifying Our Shared Vision Vision for Learning

The next step was to think about these same students today. If the charts above represent our preferred future for these young people, what do they need to do today to get ready for it?

Here is what we generated:

So, these charts represent the Team’s Vision for Learning.

 

Creating Our Strategic Plan

So, if this is what we believe students need to start doing today to get ready for the Preferred Future, what do do we believe teachers need to do, so students can do what they need to? Our thoughts:

 

And then, what do we believe schools (principals, tech directors, district administration, etc.) need to do so teachers and students can do what they need to? The Team’s lists:

These charts represent what we hope teachers and schools might adopt as their strategic plan.

But they also lead us to think about our own work and responsibility for making our Vision for Learning a reality. What does the Learning Through Technology Team need to do to support the work of students, teachers, and schools?

 

Prioritizing

Accomplishing 3 pages of strategic steps is a daunting task! (Actually, self defeating! We need a little focus!) I gave each Team member 6 dots to place on the charts. The prompt was, “Which are the most important pieces for us to work on right now.” All of them are important, and should be tackled as some time, but we needed to identify where to start. Team members could distribute their dots in an way they wanted (all 6 on one item, or spread out across items, etc.), but they each only had the 6 dots.

You can see where they placed their dots above.

That translates into the following as the Learning Through Technology Team’s Strategic Plan for the coming year:

  • Collaborate with our Vendors/Partners to give life to our Vision
  • Foster Postive Collaboration with School Leaders
  • Know the Field – where are their successes and challenges?
  • Improve Communications (Organizations, Schools, Partners)
  • Capturing data / Evidence of Impact

 

Where We’ll Go Next

It’s not enough to capture a Vision on paper. It needs to be used as a filter and a compass.

In order to do that, we’ll have to polish our Vision for Learning into a shareable document (it’s a little too rough for sharing in this current form), and create a mission statement. Then we can put together a “Compass and Filter” document (that includes our vision, mission, and strategic plan goals). We will use it to help us decide how to prioritize and do our work, and help us decide which new opportunities to take on. We can also share it with the schools, organizations, and other partners we work with (or might start working with) to see where there is alignment between our work and theirs.

But I’ll save that for future blog posts…

 

Shared Leadership Teams – The Series

The multiple perspectives, the buy-in from diverse stakeholders, shared leadership teams are a powerful tool in your arsenal for making large-scale school change stick. Shared leadership teams focus on the strategic work of the school. They focus on school change and improvement. They are not simply an advisory group. They are the decision making body.

Shared Leadership Teams: What They Are and Aren’t

Schools already have lots of groups that they call leadership teams. But many of them are not what I would refer to as “shared leadership teams,” not in the sense we're talking about here. I would probably call them “management teams.”

Schools frequently have teams that are used to help share information between building administration and teams or departments, or to decide how and when to transition between terms or trimesters, or how to handle lunch on days with special events, or how to schedule fundraisers from various groups, etc.

I am not implying that these management tasks are unimportant, because they are. Further, I believe they are best handled with teacher input and representation and not by administrative edict.

To me, however, management teams handle tasks related to the day to day running of the school.

Shared leadership teams focus on the strategic work of the school. They focus on school change and improvement.

Students learning with tablets

In Auburn, we call them “Design Teams” because of the design and planning nature of their task. Another district I work with calls them “Implementation Teams” because they will lead the implementation of their strategic initiatives (and their “design teams” serve a specific function in school construction projects). Other folks call them “Work Groups.” It doesn't matter so much what they are called, as the work that they do.

Design teams assess where in the implementation process your educators are, identify timely next steps, assist in providing formative feedback to those educators, help troubleshoot and problem-solve the challenges of implementation, and facilitate the sharing of ideas. It's roll-up-your-sleeves strategic work. It's about assessing what needs to be done right now to help your initiative be successful. And it's about collaboratively crafting the overarching systems and structures that will guide your project.

Leadership Teams

For example, when Auburn started their 1to1 iPads in primary grades initiative, the design team for that initiative met periodically to plan various aspects of the program, including: what grade level we should begin with (kindergarten); the original name of the initiative; how to handle a small exploration program in 5 classrooms to figure out how we wanted to move forward with the program; how to craft a small randomized control trial (research study) at the beginning of the project, to insure we were collecting and analyzing data on how we were doing. Later, the role of the team evolved to focus on both on-going support of teachers and the special needs of rolling out 1to1 tablets to a new grade level each year.

As stated previously, shared leadership teams are made up of diverse stake holders. The power comes from these diverse perspectives.

But they are not simply an advisory group. They are the decision making body.

And, as much as possible, decisions are made by working toward concensus. Not everyone has to agree, but, as much as possible, everyone should be able to live with a decision. And lots can be learned by asking (nicely) someone to clarify their dissenting point of view. I find that often they have some concern many of the rest of us haven't thought about, but that we should consider and plan for.

Keep in mind that lots of perspectives and shared decision making does not mean letting folks do what ever they want (if that's worrying you). If you are the administrator, you still help set the non-negotiables and parameters of a decision. As a member of the team, your perspective is one of those shared in the discussions.

So shared leadership teams are not advisory groups, management teams, nor information dissemination groups (even if these are important tasks that need to be addressed somehow within the school or district).

What shared leadership teams are is a driving force to do the following:

  • Work Out Details
  • Solve the Problems
  • Invent the Next Pieces
  • Systematic Change and Continuous Improvement