Category Archives: Doing 1to1 Right

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…

 

10 Professional Learning Curriculum Buckets for Teaching and Learning with Tech

(Note: This is cross posted at the Distributed PD Project, where Auburn School Department, and friends, are rethinking how we can provide training and support to teachers.)

As we think about our teachers becoming highly skilled at teaching and learning with iPads, we could certainly generate a very long list of skills, approaches, tools, apps, strategies, and other competences we'd like them to get good at.

But if we consider how we might group that very long list into categories, I think we have 10 buckets that would make up our professional learning curriculum.

10 Curric Buckets

Three 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?
  2. Classroom Management for Tech: How can teachers insure that students are focused and on-task when using technology in the classroom?
  3. Managing the Tech: How do teachers organize the technology (or collaborate with students to organize the technology) so it works and is available to be used for learning in the classroom?

And 7 of those buckets are the pedagogical approaches that make up the 7 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 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?
  3. 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?
  4. Tech for Personalizing Learning: How does technology help us tailor the learning to the student?
  5. Tech for Supporting Independent Learning: How can technology help the student do more on their own and need the teacher less?
  6. Tech for Assessment: How can technology help us capture what students know and can do?
  7. Tech for Home/School Connection: How can technology help us stay better connected to parents?

 

Does Technology Improve Learning – No! A Keynote

I recently had the honor of keynoting at the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) conference.

My message was that technology alone will not improve learning; only teachers improve learning. But technology can be wonderful tool for teachers and for students under the guidance of teachers.

Watch the keynote here. And related resources are down below.

 

If we want to leverage technology well for learning, then these are the components we should attention to:

  • Focus on Learning
  • Deliberate, Shared Leadership
  • Community Engagement
  • How You REALLY Protect Stuff
  • Support the Heck Out of Folks

Resources

Technology:

Learning:

Leadership:

Community Engagement:

Supporting Educators (Professional Development):

 

Is Our Phases of iPad Integration Ready?

(Note: Cross posted to the Distribute PD Project)

Last August, one of our Auburn-and-friends work groups developed a draft Phases of Tech integration.

Draft Phases of iPad Integration

We wanted to think about developing teachers’ skills at leveraging iPads for teaching and learning beyond just googling topics and word processing. Beyond just projecting material. Beyond just thinking about getting good at various tools. Beyond just using apps connected to the curriculum.

We wanted to think about technology as a tool to help us customize learning. We wanted to focus more on pedagogical goals than technological goals. And we wanted to think about where technology could take us that we couldn’t easily go without technology.

So we set up our professional learning continuum, our phases of implementing technology integration, to be similar to our Phases of Implementing Customized Learning, and how such a structure helps support plementation and teachers. (Driver 1)

And we based it on our current thinking about powerful uses of technology for learning. (Driver 2)

And we tried to think about how the SAMR Model might inform our work. (Driver 3)

Now, we don’t believe any of our work is permanent. We know that as we get better at what we do, we’ll figure out how to improve our models. After we use this Phases of Technology document for a while, it will be ready for a revision.

But right now, we’re wondering if our draft is developed enough to be the one we live with for 12-18 months before we revise it again…

So, as you look at our draft,

  • Does the document adequately reflect our three drivers?
  • Does the sequence of the phases seem right? Does the progression make sense?
  • Does each phase seem to have the right elements for demonstrating mastery and moving on to the next phase? Does it adequately outline advancement (recognizing there will be plenty of support documents)?
  • Is anything missing? What should be added?
  • What needs to be edited or revised?
  • How do we make it better before living with it for a while?

We don’t need “perfect.” We’ll learn a lot by living with the model for a while. But we want to kick the tires on this version a little, and insure it is “good enough” to live with for a while.

So, what do you think?

 

Is the Problem Your Students, the Device, or Your Vision for Learning?

There has been a mixed bag of results for technology in schools lately. You certainly hear about districts creating exciting learning opportunities for their students by leveraging technology. But you also read about LA Unified's problems with their iPad initiative, or Miami-Dade schools putting their initiative on hold because of the troubles in LA and in North Carolina.

The blame for the failures in these districts is pointed in lots of directions, but includes students as “hackers” (although there was no hacking, just clever students figuring how how to make locked down devices function as designed), or lack of keyboards (don't get me started on how stupid that issue is – it comes from adults who haven't sat with a tablet long enough to know how easy the virtual keyboard is to use). Diane Ravich points to overly agressive timelines, poor project management, poor contract management, and a failure to evaluate curriculum resources, especially against district curriculum standards.

But I believe there is a much deeper problem at the root of these disasterous educational technology initiatives.

Let me come at this from a different direction… Recently a friend contacted me, saying she was working with a district that was trying to decide what device to invest in. Tablets? Chromebooks? Laptops?

Based on 13 years of working with 1to1 initiatves and all the lessons learned, my reply was to ask, “What's their vision for learning? Frankly, without such a vision, I'm not sure it would matter what they bought; it will be equally unsuccessful…”

How do you know what you want technology for if you haven't decided what learning should look like in your classrooms? A tool bought for no other purpose than to have the tool (or because you believe it is good to have the tool) fulfills its purpose by simply being there. Yet, later, purchasers are surprised that amazing things haven't happened by simply being in the tool's presence…

Or maybe you have what I have come to think of as a “default learning vision.” In the absence of a vision for learning driving the instructional use, the instuctional use becomes the vision for learning. The vision defaults to what you do when what you do isn't informed by a vision.

So, what may be the default vision for learning in these initiatives?

I look at these three well-publicized initiatives and I see a vision of learning that boils down to this: electronic workbooks.

There is no doubt that access to digital content and resources should be one slice of how schools leverage technology for learning. But workbooks (of any variety!) have always been wholely insufficient for quality learning programs. (If they were sufficient, we would have the best educational system in the world by simply dropping a box of textbooks and workbooks at each student's home each year…).

Or as Diane Ravich points out about this problem:

…the content of the tablets must allow for teacher creativity, not teacher scripting… The time will come when tablets replace the bulky, puffed-up textbooks that now burden students’ backpacks. The time will come when tablets contain all the contents of all the textbooks, as well as a wealth of additional resources, in multiple subjects. But they must encourage exploration and inquiry, not fidelity to a packaged program. Customized and individualized must become a reality, not a sales pitch for programmed learning.

Is it any wonder that these technology initiatives are a train wreck, given their vision for learning?

 

We Need Keyboards With Our iPads. Not!

This past summer, Maine's schools got the choice for the first time to purchase tablets as part of the statewide 1to1 learning with “laptop” initiative (MLTI). It has spotlighted an interesting demand related to tablets: we need to get keyboards so students can use the tablets.

I kind of understand why people might think this. The virtual keyboard on the iPad does take a little getting used to, especially if you're a pretty good typer on a regular, physical keyboard. Also, adults and students hear other adults say, “we need keyboards for our tablets.” And the idea is reinforced by the TV ads for some tablets that state theirs come with a keyboard “so you can do real work.” Locally, we even have an owner of a call center claiming (while pounding his fist on the table…) he won't hire any of our graduates because they won't be able to type on a physical keyboard.

My own experience with a full sized iPad is that it took me a couple weeks to get used to the virtual keyboard, but now I type on it as fast or faster than I do on a physical keyboard. And I have heard similar stories of parents or community leaders in other districts demanding keyboards because of the hard time they personally are having typing on the onscreen keyboard, but a couple weeks later saying “never mind” when they have developed familiarity with it.

Admittedly, if I'm doing any quantity of writing on my iPad mini, such as writing this post, I do use a bluetooth keyboard. My hands are just too big to do anything more than a modified hunt and peck on the smaller keyboard. But the core of this debate is not about the size the keyboards on the (smaller) screens, but rather about onscreen vs physical keyboards.

I do believe that some folks really do need a different keyboard or sometimes need a physical keyboard. MLTI provided keyboards in something like a 1-to-10 or 1-to-7 ratio to the number of student iPads. We have put those in a keyboard lending program in our school libraries (students can check them out as needed), and a few students with a specific need have one permanently assigned to them. We even have students and families who have bought their own keyboards or keyboard cases (but that was a personal choice rather than a universal demand).

But the real issue that keeps coming up is the question, does everyone (or even just most students) need a keyboard? Districts in Maine that have experience with 1to1 iPad initiatives had interesting things to say when the question of keyboards was posed on the state technology email list.

The Cape Elizabeth tech director reported:

In our high school, we bought around 40-50 iPad keyboards for use in English and Social Studies, and also in our Library. This was in response to concerns from teachers, rather than from students, and although they did get used, they got used primarily because the teachers wanted them to be used rather than students needing to use them. They certainly got used less and less as the year went on and even teachers who borrowed them stopped using them as they ended up finding the onscreen keyboard just more practical.

The high school in RSU 57 has had a 1to1 iPad initiative in place for about 2 years. Their tech person talked about the keyboard cases they had provided students:

This was based on concerns from the administration and staff that student's would need a keyboard especially for typing long papers. Two years later and (my opinion) most students do not use the physical keyboards. Last year's class used it less than the previous class. What I am seeing is that the more the iPad and its virtual keyboard become mainstream the more the students are used to virtual typing before they are ever issued an iPad. Had we stayed with our original plan, I was not going to purchase keyboards this year.

In South Portland, the high school has had a 1to1 initiative for about 3 years, involving about 400 iPads. They have had “almost zero 'real' keyboard use/demand for the few we had purchased to allay concerns.”

Similarly, folks from Falmouth shared:

We bought 50 keyboards for our Elementary School iPads when we started the program 2 years ago. The thought was that 5th graders were going to need them to be able to type papers. 48 of the keyboards are still sitting in a closet unopened because they just have not been needed. The other two I have loaned out to staff but they always bring them back because they don't use them.

Foxcroft Academy has had one of the first high school 1to1 iPad initatiives in Maine. Their Assistant Head of School for Academics pointed out:

We're beginning year 3 of our 1:1 iPad program for all of our grade 9-12 students. We bought a few keyboards in year 1…They've received almost no use. There are plenty of barriers to student writing, but I can assure you that the virtual keyboard is not a substantive one. And, with built-in speech-to-text on these fancy new MLTI iPads, the virtual keyboard is even less a barrier. In short – buy a few (no more than a handful) if you must, to show that you're listening, but know that they are very likely to gather dust.

The Tech Integrator from Bar Harbor responded this way:

We plan to disallow external keyboards for iPads in school, unless the school determines that a student needs one. The thinking is that students will learn the iPad quickly enough, and that we don't want to set up for “have's and have-nots,”…. also the experience of our teachers using iPads, is that even an adult can learn to process text on an iPad.

That educator went on to say that when parents inquire, they have been referencing the articles here and here.

The issue is primarily an adult issue. Surprisingly, much of the demand for keyboards came before any of the schools even had their iPads! As one educator stated in the online discussion:

Some can't understand how you can interact in an educational setting with a device that does not have a keyboard with keys on it. An English teacher here, who was using Edmodo, had a student submit a lengthy paper the student had “thumb typed” on their iPhone!! Don't worry, the kids are all ready there or they will adapt very quickly. We just need to get out of the way.

I am empathetic to folks having fears and concerns about “new” technology they have only a cursory understanding of. This keyboard issue is a common perception about iPads.

But being a common perception does not mean that we have to respond to it, especially if we have adequate reason to believe it is a MISperception. (Nor do we have to respond to a concern just because it is stated repeatedly, or loudly, or with confidence, or by condemning those who disagree, etc.)

It is on us to make the argument (politely and diplomatically) about what works (not what is perceived or guessed or intuited or philosophized…) and provide the evidence that it works (such as through the stories that have been shared here).

 

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…